#17: Friday, 22 March, 2019.
Friday, 22 March Luke 8:22-56
Written by Dr Graham Leo. ©2019.
Today’s reading is packed with events. As I said in the introduction to this series, Luke is a very long book, and we can't look too closely at each and every little story. For the discipline of Lent, we are trying to read the entire book, so we just have to accept that we will pass over some things. This is a Lenten reflection, not a commentary on Luke.
Do you ever get that sudden realisation that your own little world of troubles is taking place while the rest of the world whizzes around, oblivious to your concerns? It’s the kind of thing that artists have known always. Remember W H Auden, in Musée des Beaux Arts:
About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
Luke has given us here a whirlwind view of some of the “One day…” experiences of Jesus. One day, Jesus told the weather to stop being disturbed. And that was that.
And then the demon-possessed man; what a stir! First of all there is the constant threat and fear of the man’s mad rages, then the destruction of an entire village’s herd of pigs.
We’re starting to appreciate a pattern that Luke may want us to see here.
Our lives are often very disturbed. We lurch from business problem to family crisis, from physical illness to weather disaster. The news is never good news. It rushes from calamity to calamity.
But my calamity is not often your calamity. I'm much too busy dealing with my sickness and you're much too busy dealing with your financial crisis. We’re both too busy to worry about someone else’s family problems.
Luke shows Jesus entering each of the dramas in today’s reading. Bad weather, mental disturbance, physical danger, financial crisis, a dying child, a sick woman, the need for sin to be forgiven and the outsider to be welcomed back.
This is the Gospel of the Kingdom in microcosm. The good news is that Jesus’ Kingdom is a kingdom of peace. He brings peace into the world, where before there was only disturbance.
What does this have to say to us this Lent? Perhaps these two things:
Firstly, sometimes I am called to be a Bringer of Peace to others as a representative of Christ. And sometimes I am called to be a Receiver of Peace at the hands of fellow believers when I am in the midst of a storm.
Deep felicity comes from knowing which of these I am called to at any particular moment.
I use the word ‘felicity’ purposely here. Felicity is more than mere happiness. It refers to that particular It’s-OK-I'm-in-the-hand-of-God feeling that my world can be managed today. That it will be all right in the end. As Lady Julian of Norwich wrote, ‘All shall be well. All manner of thing shall be well.’
All of us find ourselves in one or the other place at any given time. There are times when our boat is severely rocked. There are times when we are participants watching another’s pain and turmoil. Sometimes, of course, we can be at both places at once.
I think that Luke is telling us that where the Kingdom of God is, there has to be a felicitous peace. It won't necessarily be an end of hostilities. You can be at peace, even when you are in the middle of a war. The felicitous peace comes from a sense that it is all going to be all right in the end – despite the bombardment going over my head.
Luke has given us his sense of living in a kingdom that is somehow overlapping with our daily life before. It’s as though we are living in this world, under this government, in this predicament, in this era, with these people, in this neighbourhood, in this job – but at the same time, we are also living in the Kingdom of God. We live constantly at two levels, sometimes focussing more on the one than the other.
The trick comes in being able to recognise that the other is just as real today as it was yesterday, when all was going well. That is how Jesus’ ministry appears to us in this long reading. We will live in turmoil, but the Kingdom of God brings peace, even if not always a resolution of our troubles, just yet.
The second thing is this: we share each other’s troubles, not only personally, but in prayer. I have just shared this morning (when I write this) with a dear friend on the other side of the world. Her school-parent prayer-group will be reading these reflections. We pray for each other though we are in opposite time zones and different hemispheres.
The Kingdom of God overlaps – perhaps better, it overlays all of our lives with the peaceful felicity of knowing that God is King. And we share that with each other via prayer. Prayer is the secret, silent ministry. (Poetry lovers will remember here Coleridge’s ‘Frost at Midnight’.)
Prayer is the conduit that enables us both to tap into the source, but also to send and receive resources from any other part or person in the Kingdom wherever they may live, and whatever they may be going through. And if you are willing to receive it, perhaps even also whenever they may have lived. Your prayers have value beyond your grave.
So, friends, who read this, let us pray for each other that we all may be healed, granted peace, given life and purpose and faith and grace to go on.
Prayer: Thank you Father, for your Kingdom which overlays our lives of daily duty and activity. Help us to always be able to see the angels and the other members of your Kingdom who are our own ministers of grace.
Help me to be conscious of my role in this ministry for others.
Some of our ministries are evident and practical, marked by bowls of soup and care; others are silent, distant, but none the less real for their effect. Amen.