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Call to Worship
Based on Psalm 43
One: Deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.
All: For you are the God of my strength
out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, *
and bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling;
All: That I
may go to the altar of God,
to the God of my joy and gladness
One: Why are
you so full of heaviness, O my soul? *
and why are you so disquieted within me?
All: I put my trust in God; for I will give thanks to the One who is the help of my countenance, and my God.
Look upon us loving Parent who hears our every prayer. Heal those places within us that are separated from you and tormented by the forces of empire that oppress us. Remind us that we are precious in your sight; that we are not chained to the expectations of this world. Let us rise up and throw off the shackles that bind us so that we can live free in the image of God that we are made.
Teachings of Sylvanus
From now on…return to your divine nature. Cast from you these evil deceiving friends! Accept Christ, this true friend, as a good teacher. Return to your first parents, to God and God’s Wisdom, from whom you came into being.
Galatians 3.27-28 (NRSV)
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Luke 8.26-33 (NRSV)
Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.)
Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher
Click on the audio bar below to hear the recording. Text follows.
Change My Name 5:34 Lincoln Tatem A Voice, a Hope, & a Drum
Change My Name 3:35 Trading Yesterday More Than This
Unchained 2:52 Johnny Cash Unchained
I Will Change Your Name 3:16 Marilyn Baker The Ultimate Collection
Home 3:30 Phillip Phillips The World from the Side of the Moon (Deluxe)
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher
Our gospel lesson today is a story about oppression and the oppression sickness that comes with prolonged abuse in a society. Our story is not about demon possession or about mental illness being healed. It is not about Jesus taking pity on demons only to doom innocent swine to death and the farmer that owns them to poverty. When we read the story literally it just doesn’t make much sense. So let’s go a little deeper and see what we can find here.
Our first clue is in the answer to the question, “What is your name?” In the story the demon responds, “Legion.” This is a time when the Roman legions occupied the country, oppressing the people, literally enslaving them to Rome. The forces of empire, the Roman army that occupied the area during this time, perpetuated this oppressive climate. These Roman legions marched through the countryside and the people were even compelled to carry the Roman soldier’s pack a mile if it was demanded of them.
The picture we see of the Garesene man is a picture of his interior self, the self that Jesus intuitively knew was there. This is an image of a person so broken by internalized oppression that he has now come to believe that he is unredeemable. He lives outside himself unable to have intimacy in relationship, unable to see himself as an equal to anyone. He lives in shame, outside society.
Those of us who have encountered the forces of homophobia, racism, classism, sexism can understand what this man is going through. We know how self-loathing and shame can corrode our ability to have any kind of relationship. And we also know that when we can affirm our own dignity as a child of God we can climb out of the hopelessness of the oppression sickness that grips us after years of being marginalized.
Our readings today speak to concepts of identity, coming home to ourselves, discovering our Divine nature, coming to know our name. Our second reading encourages us to let go of the labels that the world uses to separate us from each other and ourselves; understanding that we are all one.
Finding our “oneness” can seem scary, like we’re going to end up the hole in the donut. But finding out that we are part of a larger whole, a diverse family of humanity, a diverse portion of God’s beautiful creation,… this kind of losing oneself can enable us to really find out who we are and how magnificent we really are.
Understanding that in Christ, we are one with every person in the entire world, can be a liberating thing. When we understand that we are connected to every other person and every part of creation then when we see oppression or suffering in others, compassion wells us in us. When we understand that we are all connected we can let go of pettiness and pretense and love our neighbor as ourselves because we know that in some sense, our neighbor IS ourself!
We are not defined by the names that others call us. We are free to choose our own name, to listen to the name that God gave us at the beginning of creation, to return home to our divine selves to find that God’s presence and the companionship of Jesus is waiting there to walk with us on our journey.
We are free to hear our true name; to claim that name for ourselves. We are free to be in the world authentically made in the image of the living God, diverse and beautiful.
When we find ourselves surrounded by people, institutions… forces that tell us we are broken and unworthy of God’s goodness we can do as our reading from Sylvanus says, “Cast from you these evil deceiving friends!” Real friends do tell us the truth and sometimes they are telling us things that we don’t want to hear. But this is a very different thing than keeping people and institutions in our lives that tear us down, that tell us we are not good enough and destroy our self worth.
God does not call us by the names the world calls us. God does not separate us from each other. God is constantly reaching out to us, constantly calling us by our true name; reminding us of our Divine nature and calling us into relationship with each other.
Today let us reflect on those forces in our lives that attempt to convince us that we are broken, unredeemable, and not worthy of God’s love. When the world calls us names we can quiet the voices of Legion and know that we are not alone, the presence of Christ is with us. We can throw off those chains, we can break the shackles that bind us and embrace our Divine nature, come home, and claim our true name.