Ashes 7: Legion...

Not just one, but many...

Mark 1:14-28 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."

16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea - for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 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, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God." 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching - with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

The man Jesus encounters above, like many of us, doesn't have just one demon bearing down on him. His response, "What have you to do with us" implies the presence of multiple burdens oppressing him. The interesting part: the man, the one with the unclean spirit, is the one to approach Jesus — not the other way around. You would imagine that any being who recognized Jesus for who and what he was wouldn't be dumb enough to approach him. Yet he does, indicating that the man still has some sense of agency, of personal power. He walks up to Jesus and makes his infirmity known.

Most of us today experience the burden of busyness, of having multiple pressures weighing us down at any given moment. Currently I'm working at Target, interning at a local hospital, and preparing for a move, all while quitting smoking (again) and trying to keep my relationships healthy, as well as maintain some semblance of sanity (long gone, I promise you). But like the man above, there are times when the burdens I shoulder become too much to bear, and I cannot help but cry out for help, for aid, for assistance. Often, the response I hear is a call to a place where I now find much of my comfort...

...be silent...

In the midst of the phone calls, emails, bills, responsibilities, and basically overbearing nature of trying to be a whole person in a world moving too fast, I hear the Peacegiver tell me to calm down, slow down, and sit down. I hear him speak to my depression and self-loathing, to my paranoia and anxiety. In a gentle, subtle, almost playful yet incredibly endearing fashion, he puts a finger to my lips, stares me in the eye, and tells me kindly to shut up. "Come out of him," he says to my worries and woes. "Let me take some of that off of you." And no matter how softly he says this, the people watching me when he does cannot help but notice the sense of peace that surfaces. They hear of my ongoing struggle with mental illness and addiction and wonder how I've managed to make it so far, not just living but often thriving.

Take a moment to take stock of where you are today (or tonight). Listen to whatever noise there is surrounding you and, if at all possible, turn as much of it off as you can. Find a spot where you can either sit, or lie down if you can. Pay attention to your breathing and your heartbeat. Listen to your thoughts. Finally, calm down enough to hear Jesus' invitation to silence, surrender, and solidarity. Don't try and do it all on your own. Recognize where you need support, and ask the people you trust to provide it. Just as our burdens can feel like many, so can our strengths. We are many, and in our vastness, we are strong.