Welcome Darklings!

A Life-Changing Revelation!
February 17, 2023
New Life – Born of Water and Spirit!
March 4, 2023
A Life-Changing Revelation!
February 17, 2023
New Life – Born of Water and Spirit!
March 4, 2023

In our Lenten study this week, we explored the story about Jesus healing the man possessed by demons in Gerasene, taken from Luke’s gospel, 8:26-39.  The text was presented from the perspective of the man possessed by demons who then found himself healed by Jesus.   The man’s description of his wilderness of demon possession was profoundly moving.  He described himself as:

… whispering my names to myselves….Laughing in the tombs, hoping another darkness might join our tribe.  Welcome darklings.  We were Legion.  We were terribly strong.  Terribly lonely.  Terrible.  We were Legion.

And as Jesus landed on the shore:

We watched a rolling wave of love coming to engulf us and change us…we were terrified.

I begged him to let me follow and he told me to find my home and tell my story.  He said he had no home but that I could find one.  A little of the light spilled from his eyes into mine and I was welcomed into a dance I am yet learning the steps of.  I am not afraid. (ABM p.14-16)

I thought about this description as I reflected on Jesus’ wilderness experience when he was tempted.  I wondered what his wilderness was like during those extraordinary 40 days and nights; what demons harassed him as he thought through what was being asked of him and how he would respond following his baptism.  Jesus spent time thinking about his identity and his response to God’s invitation. 

I am also convinced Jesus was completely aware and understanding of the impact of wilderness on our lives, the reality of our demons and the brokenness frequently overwhelming the people around him because of his own experiences.  This gave him profound, lifechanging insights into the choices facing all of us as his love and compassion continue to spill over, abundantly and without ceasing, for all who come into contact with him. 

The story of Jesus’ temptations is a powerful reminder of what its like to choose our identity, our character, our life’s path, often in very difficult, challenging and uncertain circumstances.  Choices can also seem too easy and we make them carelessly and sometimes, it can feel like we have no choice.  The description of Jesus’ temptations, and the responses he gives to all of us as we face our own temptations, and his chosen Way which took him to his death and passion tell us, in the face of all that seems contrary, actually we do have a choice.  The choice to choose God whatever life and death we face. 

We ask ourselves:  Who are we?  What is my, your, our identity?  How are we choosing to live as Christians?  We know Jesus had been identified at his baptism by God in an epiphany.  He was called and he accepted his messianic vocation.  His baptism saw him anointed as a new kind of king, who showed God’s love to people and people to God through service and suffering. 

As we listen to the story of his temptations, we too can consider the choices Jesus made, was his promise and potential realised?  Like John the Baptist, we ask: is this the true Messiah or simply a pretender?  Which of the identities is Jesus going choose?  What will be the character of the Son of God?  What is God inviting from Jesus and from us? 

Jesus tells us to find a home in God, as God’s people, and tell our story of God’s love for us in the wilderness, just as Jesus did to man from Gerasene and to all the people Jesus healed.

Matthew describes three temptations, among the many I am sure Jesus faced during his life and ministry, concerning his own prosperity, security and power.  These are the same choices we have today.  

We find ourselves frequently liking and wanting choices of prosperity, security and power to be determined in our favour, and perhaps we love God for these reasons. In which case we are as far from God as we have ever been.   There is a very unsubtle difference between celebrating the good gifts of God and turning them into idols we choose to worship. Like us, Jesus was tempted to place God under his command, but he shows himself as the true Messiah by remaining always, at God’s command. 

It’s important to use this Lenten time, as we journey with Jesus, to understand and recognise the challenges and difficulties in our own lives when learning about the relationships between God, Jesus, our church in our faith identity, and the character of our own discipleship, in this place and time. The nature of our temptations personally and collectively can highlight where our vulnerabilities are most concentrated as we start our next chapter, the new season for this parish.

Its important to remember also, temptations never go away.  As Jesus hung on the cross, we see a near verbatim repetition of the words used by the tempter from those who taunted and mocked Jesus appallingly while he hung dying: ‘If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ (Matt. 27:4)

Peter did the same thing to Jesus as he argued, Jesus as the Son of God, should not suffer through the passion and death and Jesus fiercely rebukes him: ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ (Matt.16:23)  It seems as we discern the pattern of our choices and the temptations which are repeated, we can see our own vulnerabilities more clearly and where God’s love is strongest in helping us to cope.  The temptations of wealth, prosperity, its connection to ‘being blessed’ in our minds, the privilege and entitlement we feel in our yearning for divine favour, and the need for power to control our destinies are real, and daily experienced, and always need to be given to God.  I ask myself, does the Spirit lead us or drive us into the wilderness of discipleship?  It’s worth hearing Jesus invite us to follow him and as we choose what we will be like as disciples in God’s kingdom, with God’s love and support.

We will be tempted to doubt God in this time of Lent, to reach for power, prosperity and safety, rather than living as a child of God, serving God and our neighbours, even when times are hard.  This is when we choose what it means to be a child of God.   Augustine reminds us about God: ‘You have made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in You.’   

The Lord be with you.

Bibliography

Augustine. 1961. Confessions, trans. R.S. Pine-Coffin, London, Penguin.

Daughtry, S., Daughtry, V. 2023.  The Imaginary Doorway Stories and studies from the Gospel of Inclusion. ABM, Australia. [Lenten Study for 2023]

Jarvis, C.E., Johnson, E.E. [Gen. Eds].  2013.  Feasting on the Gospels Matthew, Vol. 2 Chapters 14-28.  Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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