Tag Archives: Kingdom of God

7 April – Against ‘building the kingdom’

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Lent 5

Ecclesiastes 5:1-20
Psalm 126
John 12:1-8

In a sentence:
We are not called to do God’s work, but to do and be as God has given us

We’ve heard from Jesus today what is perhaps the most scandalous thing he has to say in the gospels, at least to the ears of the modern, left-wing-ish liberal: ‘you will always have the poor with you’.

This, in fact, is heard in three of the gospels, with the exception of Luke who, perhaps because of his sense that the poor and the marginalised symbolise something central to God’s work in Jesus, omits at least this version of the story and these words, although he has a story which is similar in some respects (Luke 7). (We might note in passing that John’s remarks about Judas here are unique to him, and something of a distraction; in Mark and Matthew’s versions, it is the disciples as a whole who say what Judas says, without apparent ulterior motive).

The problem for us is that not always having the poor with us is one of the aspirational engines of modern liberal democracy, although we’d have to say, looking at the evidence, that Jesus has the right of it.

So far as our friend Qohelet is concerned, the poor don’t loom large as an explicit concern. He does lament the situation of the oppressed (cf. 4.1-3) but he comes at poverty more from the perspective of risk and unpredictability: the rich cannot know they will not one day be poor, the righteous might well be accounted unrighteous and the living might suddenly not be.

Both Jesus and Qohelet, then, are in the same place on this, even with their very different framings of the matter, and it is a place quite different from where our political efforts are typically centred.

But there are two further questions about charity raised by Jesus’ response to Judas: What is charity, and When is it? These questions arise from the contrast Jesus draws between ‘you will always have the poor with you’ and ‘you will not always have me.’

If we ‘always have the poor’, What then is the meaning or purpose of serving the poor? What is achieved if, like Sisyphus rolling a great stone up the hill only to see it roll down again, we will not see the end of poverty through our efforts? It is obvious that, in any particular instance, what we do will make a difference for that individual. This is truly wonderful but it is not our political dream: the eradication of need. Some answer to this question – to the ‘What?’ of charitable work – is important for us as we consider once again our motivations and intentions in auspicing Hotham Mission.

Related to this is the second question arising from Jesus’ word here: the ‘When?’ of charity. When do we ‘not have Jesus’, so that we are then to serve the poor? Jesus’ point seems to be that not having him is having the poor; that that is the time for charitable work. Yet this also is less straight forward than it might seem, for the ‘when’ of Jesus is always coloured by Easter. The resurrection speaks of a continuing presence of Jesus (something like what Matthew has Jesus say at the end of his gospel account: ‘I am with you always’). It is too simple – and just not correct – to say that Jesus is no longer with us. All of this indicates that what Jesus means here – what the relationship is between the worship of God and the service of those in need – is not as clear as we might first think it to be.

Elsewhere we hear from Qohelet that ‘there is a time for every purpose under heaven’, and wonder what time is it now: time for service or time to worship, time to work or time to ‘enjoy’? We’ll come to consider that text more closely on Good Friday (I think!) but the idea of a ‘time for everything’ throws over to us the pressing question of what time we find ourselves in, here and now. This is the urgent question of all politics. The cause of all human anxiety is that we might not be in the right time, doing the right thing for this particular time. Is it the time for worship or for service? Should a years’ wages of perfume be spilled on the ground or sold and the money given to the poor? What should we spend on accommodating the life of the congregation? How big a percentage of the church budget should Hotham Mission claim?

To all of this uncertainty and anxiety, a strange word from Qohelet: ‘With many dreams come vanities and a multitude of words; but fear God’ (5.7).

Vanities and multitudes of words are the ‘form’ of getting the time wrong and sustaining ourselves in the error of ‘many dreams’. It is Qohelet’s ‘chasing of the wind’ to misconstrue where we are and what we are doing. With a federal election looming, let us be prepared for a vain multitude of words!

But, while it is easy to slip into cynicism here, Qohelet is not cynical and neither is Jesus. They ‘merely’ call us to the truth. This is largely by negative means in the case of Qohelet and largely by positive means in the case of Jesus, but it is the truth nevertheless in both cases.

Jesus’ ‘You will always have the poor with you’ and Qohelet’s caution against vain dreams and words are statements of what is the case. There is no accusation here, unless we persist in vanity and fear not God but some lesser thing. There is no permission to passivity here with respect to the needs of the poor or, more generally, with respect to the need to work that we and others might live. These are to be held together, appropriately.

The gospels finally resolve the worship-service question by Jesus’ own self-identification with the poor. To turn to Jesus is to turn towards the outcast and oppressed, the seemingly godforsaken and all-forsaken. In the case of John’s account of Jesus, the cross of the godforsaken becomes the throne of the divine Son. To see the one is to see the other, if the ‘seeing’ is sometimes worship and sometimes loving service.

In the case of Qohelet, the ‘fear of God’ he commends matches his other principal commendation, heard again today: ‘it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us’ (5.19). Qohelet’s ‘enjoyment’ of food and drink and each other is a refusal to allow the poverties of life under the sun to be feared. It is a refusal to be distracted from what is good and worthy and approved by God.

Only God is to be feared or, what is the same thing in Judaism and Christianity at least, only God is to be worshipped, only God is God. This is freedom from all utopias and visions, from all dreams and multitudes of words, ever threatening to crush us with the responsibility of making them real.

Our vocation, whether through a structure like Hotham Mission or in our quiet assistance of our next door neighbour, is not to usher in the kingdom. Our vocation is to know what time it is.

It is the time to live and to love for life and love’s own sake, and to leave the rest – whatever ‘the rest’ is – to God.

In this, may God ever keep us occupied with the joy of our hearts (5.20). Amen.

BasisBits – Paragraph 18: The people of God on the way


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The Uniting Church affirms that it belongs to the people of God on the way to the promised end. The Uniting Church prays that, through the gift of the Spirit, God will constantly correct that which is erroneous in its life, will bring it into deeper unity with other Churches, and will use its worship, witness and service to God’s eternal glory through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

From Paragraph 18 of the Basis of Union (1992)


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BasisBits – Paragraph 17: Law in the Church


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The Uniting Church acknowledges that the demand of the Gospel, the response of the Church to the Gospel, and the discipline which it requires are partly expressed in the formulation by the Church of its law. The aim of such law is to confess God’s will for the life of the Church; but since law is received by human beings and framed by them, it is always subject to revision in order that it may better serve the Gospel. The Uniting Church will keep its law under constant review so that its life may increasingly be directed to the service of God and humanity, and its worship to a true and faithful setting forth of, and response to, the Gospel of Christ. The law of the Church will speak of the free obedience of the children of God, and will look to the final reconciliation of humanity under God’s sovereign grace.

From Paragraph 17 of the Basis of Union (1992)


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BasisBits are intended particularly for congregations of the Uniting Church in Australia but could be easily adapted for general use by congregations of other denominations. The suggested use of BasisBits is as items in the “news” section of your Sunday pew sheets or regular congregational publications; some would lend themselves to incorporation into your liturgy order itself.

BasisBits – Paragraph 16: Particular Functions


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The Uniting Church recognises the responsibility and freedom which belong to councils to acknowledge gifts among members for the fulfilment of particular functions. The Uniting Church sees in pastoral care exercised personally on behalf of the Church an expression of the fact that God always deals personally with people, would have God’s loving care known among people, and would have individual members take upon themselves the form of a servant.

From Paragraph 16 of the Basis of Union (1992)


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BasisBits are intended particularly for congregations of the Uniting Church in Australia but could be easily adapted for general use by congregations of other denominations. The suggested use of BasisBits is as items in the “news” section of your Sunday pew sheets or regular congregational publications; some would lend themselves to incorporation into your liturgy order itself.

BasisBits – Paragraph 8: Holy Communion


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The Uniting Church acknowledges that the continuing presence of Christ with his people is signified and sealed by Christ in the Lord’s Supper or the Holy Communion, constantly repeated in the life of the Church. In this sacrament of his broken body and outpoured blood the risen Lord feeds his baptized people on their way to the final inheritance of the Kingdom. Thus the people of God, through faith and the gift and power of the Holy Spirit, have communion with their Saviour, make their sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, proclaim the Lord’s death, grow together into Christ, are strengthened for their participation in the mission of Christ in the world, and rejoice in the foretaste of the Kingdom which Christ will bring to consummation.

From Paragraph 8 of the Basis of Union (1992)


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BasisBits are intended particularly for congregations of the Uniting Church in Australia but could be easily adapted for general use by congregations of other denominations. The suggested use of BasisBits is as items in the “news” section of your Sunday pew sheets or regular congregational publications; some would lend themselves to incorporation into your liturgy order itself.

BasisBits – Paragraph 3: Built Upon the One Lord Jesus Christ C


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The Church as the fellowship of the Holy Spirit confesses Jesus as Lord over its own life; it also confesses that Jesus is Head over all things, the beginning of a new creation, of a new humanity. God in Christ has given to all people in the Church the Holy Spirit as a pledge and foretaste of that coming reconciliation and renewal which is the end in view for the whole creation. The Church’s call is to serve that end: to be a fellowship of reconciliation, a body within which the diverse gifts of its members are used for the building up of the whole, an instrument through which Christ may work and bear witness to himself. The Church lives between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection and the final consummation of all things which Christ will bring; the Church is a pilgrim people, always on the way towards a promised goal; here the Church does not have a continuing city but seeks one to come. On the way Christ feeds the Church with Word and Sacraments, and it has the gift of the Spirit in order that it may not lose the way.

From Paragraph 3 of the Basis of Union (1992)


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BasisBits – Paragraph 1: The way into union B


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In this union these Churches commit their members to acknowledge one another in love and joy as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, to hear anew the commission of the Risen Lord to make disciples of all nations, and daily to seek to obey his will. In entering into this union the Churches concerned are mindful that the Church of God is committed to serve the world for which Christ died, and that it awaits with hope the day of the Lord Jesus Christ on which it will be clear that the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of the Christ, who shall reign for ever and ever.

From Paragraph 1 of the Basis of Union (1992)


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BasisBits are intended particularly for congregations of the Uniting Church in Australia but could be easily adapted for general use by congregations of other denominations. The suggested use of BasisBits is as items in the “news” section of your Sunday pew sheets or regular congregational publications; some would lend themselves to incorporation into your liturgy order itself.

LitBit Commentary – John Zizioulas on the Eucharist

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“In the Eucharist we can find all the dimensions of communion: God communicates himself to us, we enter into communion with him, the participants of the sacrament enter into communion with one another, and creation as a whole enters through man into communion with God. All this takes place in Christ and the Spirit, who brings the last days into history and offers to the world a foretaste of the Kingdom.”
John D. Zizioulas, Communion and Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church


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3 April – The cross as throne

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Good Friday

Isaiah 52:13-53:6
Psalm 40
John 12:20-33

Many of you will know the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus. It has come down to us in a number of versions, but generally runs something like this: Oedipus is born to the king and queen of Thebes. A prophecy is spoken over Oedipus, that he will kill his father and marry his mother. To thwart this, the child is left out to die but is found and is adopted by the king and queen of Corinth. Once grown up, Oedipus accidentally finds his way back to Thebes were he kills his birth-father in what was perhaps the world’s first road rage incident. Oedipus does not know that it is the king or his father, and no one else knows who killed the king. Oedipus then rids the city of an ongoing burden and threat, and receives as reward the hand of the widowed queen – his birth-mother – in marriage, who bears him a number of children. Eventually, however, everyone discovers the unwitting patricide and incest. Oedipus’ mother hangs herself, and Oedipus gouges out his own eyes and is exiled with the children (half-siblings) he had by his mother-wife.

It’s a story with something for all the family! For the Greeks it was about the unavoidability of fate, and modern depth psychology has made much of it in relation to family dynamics, but the important part of the myth for our purposes this morning is, first, that Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother not knowing who they were and, second, when these things are discovered to have taken place, the whole story is revealed as a tragedy: death and destruction and exile are all that can follow.

Of course, the death we gather to recall today is the death of Jesus. Yet I suspect that this death is heard by many to be a tragedy along the lines of Oedipus: the irony that Jesus was king of Israel, and yet Israel unknowingly crucified its king. Certainly the church often “sells” the story in this way. I want this morning to unpack a different sense of what happens in the death of Jesus, and why we gather for no mere tragic or ironic memorial but for “Good” Friday.

In our gospel reading this morning Jesus speaks of his approaching crucifixion as a “lifting up”: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (v.32; cf. John 3.14f; 8.28). It’s easy to hear this as a euphemism – a way of referring to the impending disaster of the crucifixion without actually naming it for what it is, a way of softening the blow for Jesus’ hearers.

Yet there is much more going on here than mere euphemism. The evangelist John loves double meanings and the ironies which come with them. The Greek word behind “lifted up” can certainly apply to being lifted up on a cross. At the same time, it can just as naturally be used for that kind of elevation which is an enthronement. A king’s coronation could be said to be his “lifting up”. This double meaning is suggested again later in the gospel when Pilate nails to the cross the charge against Jesus: “the king of the Jews” (19.19-22). Here is another of John’s ironies – and he intends us to note and to understand them. Pilate seeks to mock Jesus, or mock the Jews, yet in the evangelist’s mind Pilate unknowingly declares to all the world Jesus’ true identity.

We miss the point, however, if we read this as simply telling us that Israel unknowingly crucified its king in the same kind of way that Oedipus unwittingly killed his dad and married his mum. In the crucifixion it is not so much that a king is killed in tragic and ironic circumstances but rather that a king is created, or a particular kingdom comes into being. The ambiguity of “lifted up” allows John to present Jesus to us as both being crucified and enthroned, being crucified and being made king, in this “lifting up” in the crucifixion. Not a king mistakenly or unknowingly crucified, Jesus is the king because he is crucified, he becomes king in his very being crucified. His kingship takes its character not from what he should have been recognized to be before the crucifixion but from the fact that he has been crucified. It is as if the Son of God is not the Son of God for us, not our king, until he is crucified. Why? Because we are those who would crucify our king (cf. John 19.5), such that only a crucified king – a crucified God – could be our king, our God.

So it is that, for John’s gospel, the crucifixion is much less of a catastrophe than it is for the other gospels. For the crucifixion is the point at which the nature of God as faithfulness is laid forth for all to see: here the full extent of God’s reign – God’s kingship – is revealed. This is a kingship not abstractly over “all”, but specifically over those who crucify Jesus. Jesus is only king to those who would crucify him. (We approach again themes visited a few weeks ago [March 15]).

Just to reinforce this point, we should note one other way Jesus refers to the crucifixion in this morning’s first reading: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (v.23). The language of “glorification” here applies also to the cross, as it does elsewhere in John (cf. 12.16; 13.31f; 17.7). The glory of Christ is seen in the crucifixion. The glory is not the resurrection if that is understood as an event separate from the cross. In the crucifixion we see something about the nature of God which the resurrection by itself cannot show: a vision of God in which God’s very being – God’s very glory – is tied up with his relationship to a people which falls short of his covenant call. God’s tying of himself to his broken world goes to the very heart of what God can be, and must become; this God, this king, bears the marks of crucifixion, because we – the crucifiers – are his “subjects”.

[ASIDE: John would say to us, then, not merely that “God is love” or that “God so loved the world”, if by that is meant that God could otherwise stand aloof but in fact condescends to forgive. Rather, God is as God loves. God is the way in which he loves. This forces our language and our thinking to a strange place because a “thing”, God, becomes an action, love. It is as if a singer were to become the song. We have to say, then, not that God is “love”, as if these were two separate things we simply join together, but that the love of God is God – how God loves is itself God. Jesus upon the cross is truly Word-become-flesh, God meeting us at our lowest yet – and this is the critical point – remaining, even “becoming” God in that meeting.]

To put it differently, we might say that the gospel is the impossible proclamation that the greater the distance we place between ourselves and God, the more strained our relationship is with God, the more clearly we see God’s freedom to be God for us through all obstacles, even such a death as the cross. It is as if God becomes more “God” as we become less godly, as God overcomes the distance – overcomes the cross – that he might again be life and love for us.

Here we move within the theme of the faithfulness of God. God’s faithfulness takes its meaning from God’s response to the unfaithfulness of God’s people. That God is faithful, and that this faithfulness concerns keeping a promise of good things for God’s people, is at the heart of the biblical witness. That Jesus can be both crucified and enthroned in a single act is the meeting of our unfaithfulness with God’s faithfulness.

The God with whom the church deals is always the crucified God, because the church is composed of those who crucify, even God. And yet because God still wills to be our God, the crucifixion becomes an enthronement: the kingdom of the crucified God is a kingdom over crucifiers.

This is good news. We are those who lift Jesus up upon the cross, but not with the tragic consequences of Oedipus: exile in horror unto death. For the death of Jesus is as much God’s act as ours: the enthronement of Jesus as king over those who crucified him, that we might not be lost; even with that as part of our history, we remain his.

We cannot fall outside of God’s desire to be God for us, to heal and to restore even us. In the crucifixion we are named and judged, and forgiven and owned. And so we remember not the tragic fate of a good man, but a goodness which subverts and overcomes the ironies and tragedies of human existence: the very faithfulness of God who will not let us go.

And so, we call this not Tragic Friday, as if it were the symbol of human weakness and the dark necessities of fate. It is Good Friday because, unlike what was tragically inevitable for Oedipus and his family, here the tragic is swallowed up. Any choice we might make for death in our lives or in others’ is put behind us in the one death which really matters: the death in which death ceases to be only our end and becomes a new beginning in a relationship to a new kind of king, a new kind of God.

For this surprising, life-giving end to the tragic human story, all thanks and praise be to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and always, Amen.

1 February – Demons

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Epiphany 4

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28

1973, The Exorcist: an archaeological dig in Iraq, a young girl, shaking beds, pea soup vomit, a 360 degree head turn – demon possession! Central to the action are a couple of priests, indicating the roots of this kind of story in the church and its Scriptures. While New Testament references to demons or evil spirits are something of an embarrassment to many modern Christians, they seem be the source of an endless fascination for movie makers.

The demonic in the movies is all pretty laughable, although the chances are we laugh at the wrong thing. What seems so funny is that there are no such things as demons, but it is fun to have the b’Jesus scared out of us occasionally. But what is “funny” from a New Testament point of view is that demons are treated these days as something like diseases. In popular imagination there is no difference in substance between the battle the exorcist has with the demon and the battle immunology scientists have with a new rampant virus threatening to destroy the whole human race – another familiar storyline for films and TV series. The movies are straightforward and moralistic: human person = good guy, possessing demon/lethal virus = bad guy; human person = free agent, demon/virus = enslaving agent. The drama is resolved when the bad guy is finally dealt with, with the implication that the exorcised victim will now returned to her fundamental, free self. When it comes to looking at the New Testament, then, the stories of demon possession seem little more than quaint interpretations of illness. Jesus appears now as a gifted therapist, able to put a finger on the problem and relieve these sufferers of their illness; off they then go, happy ever after.

But we do little justice to the stories, and rob ourselves of a great deal, if we simply reduce New Testament demonology to primitive medicine. The exorcisms in the New Testament are stories of the liberation of people who find themselves inextricably entangled within things greater and more powerful than themselves. And the emphasis must fall on inextricably, for while we typically draw clear distinctions between the demon and the demon-possessed, the stories themselves show how the spirit and the person become confused, to the extent that it is not really clear where the person actually is and where the demon is, other than that they are wrapped up in each other.

Listen again to the first part of today’s reading
1.23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us…”
While it probably sounds straightforward, in fact it’s not at all clear who is speaking here. If it is the man who cries out, “what have you to do with us”, why the “us” which seems to include the man himself with the demon? This confusion is even more dramatic a little later, in chapter 5 (vv6ff). When a possessed man sees Jesus, he shouts “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For we are told that Jesus had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” That is, Jesus has addressed the spirit, but it is the man who speaks; or is it? Has Jesus been “tormenting” the man, or the spirit? The account then goes on: Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” While it might seem that Jesus has addressed the man and asked his name, “the man” replies, “My name is Legion; for we are many”. Presumably here the demon speaks, though it is the man’s reply. Finally we hear, “He” earnestly begged Jesus not to send “them” out of the country. Who is the “he” here? If it is the man, why does he refer to “them” as a group distinct from himself? Does the man not want to be exorcised?

The important thing here is the slippage between the identity of the man and the identity of that which possesses him, such that the one is addressed, but the other answers, but the one answering seems to speak also for the one possessed, and so on. In these stories we encounter something much more subtle than what features in popular representations of the demonic. If all a demon can do is throw you into convulsions and twist your head 360 degrees on your shoulders then, by comparison with what the gospels describe, you’ve really nothing to worry about(!). The demons of the New Testament are far more dangerous than this, for they suppress their victims in such a way that the victim seems almost to embrace his oppressor. By contrast, the neat separation of the powers which possess and those possessed by them does not speak the truth about our condition. It imagines that I exist independently of the things which have formed me, or that I am clearly distinguishable from the things which bear down on me from without. This portrayal of the demonic imagines that, fundamentally, I am free but occasionally limited by some external and unfriendly force: just deal with that and I’m free again.

When we look to see what Jesus the liberator encounters in this broken world, it is rather a confusion of identities, such that it is not clear whether I am myself, or the things which have happened to me. Am I as free as I and others imagine, and so responsible for what I have done; or is my hand forced by things beyond my control, such that I don’t know how I could have done differently? Although we speak of “I” here, perhaps we should learn also to say “we” – not to be inclusive of each other but to be inclusive of all the powers which seem to direct our lives – those things the New Testament calls the demonic: “What is your name?” My name is Legion, for we are many.

For most of us, identity- and freedom-blurring “possession” is much less dramatic than that of the man in the synagogue in Capernaum. But it is there, and it is powerful. Consider our love of democracy – that “worst form of government except for all [the] other forms”. This is the only political system for us and yet the source of endless political and social frustration as senators are elected on a fraction of the vote and outgoing governments can knowingly expose a community to enormous compensation payments, without any accountability.

Or we might consider our situation as a congregation, enjoying both the benefit and suffering the burden of buildings like these. We know that the church is not its buildings, and yet also that a gathered community needs a place to gather. Our buildings have generally served us well and, yet, they also constitute an enormous burden, particularly at a time when most congregations’ fortunes are declining. What does freedom look like in the tension between the call to be the church, and the call to maintain structures (of all kinds – buildings, committees, reporting regimes) which are not of the essence of being the church? If we were to make a simple statement, what most has us as a congregation in its possession? Clues might be found in what we spend most of our time talking about when we get together, or what we spend most of our money on.

The “demonic” is symbolic of what is external to us and yet also within us in such a way that we are both distinguishable from it, and not. To understand what Mark has to say about powers is to able be to see more, and less, clearly than the simplistic demonologies of the movies and of contemporary politics and moral discourse. That is, we are learning to see how hard it is to see clearly here; we and our demons are not easily prised apart. While the political “right” pins everything on the free individual, and the “left” on the binding structures of society, the New Testament is less optimistic about our capacity to know which is which.

This is the realism of the gospel, although, perhaps it also seems to be the pessimism of gospel: what can save us from this body of death, this ever being enthralled by things which are not us, this never being fully ourselves? Yet this realism is a necessary preamble to the good news, and what causes the response of the people to Jesus in the synagogue: here is a teaching with authority, and not what we have been used to. The authority has nothing to do with whether Jesus has a deep voice or penetrating eyes as he speaks, but with his being “author” of those he addresses. A truth is expressed which is not merely true but which resonates, which moves. Here is a surgeon who understands what we are, who can separate flesh and bone, preserving what matters and excising what is wrong. In a modest and derivative way this is also the ministry of the people of God, but it is derivative from Jesus, and it is modest. For it is Jesus who expels and heals, and not us. The heart of New Testament demonology is seen in a place where no demons are actually manifest: in the crucifixion of Jesus. Here, for all the right reasons, the wrong thing takes place. When most clear-sighted, the people of God take a wholly wrong course. Here is the same kind of confusion the possessed man has with his demon. As it is unclear what is good and bad in us, where we end and the powers begin, so also a broken thing is made a sign of healing: “This is my body broken by you” becomes “This is my body broken for you”.

To be called to into the kingdom of this God is to be called to a discovery of the true nature of the kingdoms within which we already live, the powers to which we are already subject, our incapacity to extract a pure “me”. To be called into the kingdom of this God is to hear a promise that, despite all which seems to envelope us, we belong to God: You are mine and I am yours (to recall our Advent reflections last year). God discerns and claims us even in the midst of all the world’s confusion.

For such healing and liberation, and such a share in the life and work of God, all thanks and praise be to him, now and always. Amen.