God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My Lenten Journey Through the Healing Gospel Texts

I have been thinking about what I should do for lent, what I should give up and take on, how I should deepen my faith. One of the practices I want to challenge myself with is sharing my thoughts on health and healing. I want to set myself the discipline this lent of writing about what has been my worry, my concern, my fear. I am concerned about what will happen to my family with the continued emphasis on the repeal and replace of the ACA (Obamacare). By writing about the healing ministry of Jesus as shared with us in the Gospels I hope to release that which I cannot change and control to God. I am going to begin with Mark and move into those texts and stories that did not have Mark as their source.

I debated what counts as a healing scripture and story. Do we include those stories of Jesus setting people free from evil, the demonic?  With the mental anxiety I feel over the threatened loss of my healthcare I decided that I will include the exorcism stories.

Bon Adrien, capernaum, flickr
21They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and 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.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They 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.” 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. Mark 1:21-28 NRSV
Kevin Dooley,Anxiety, flickr
What have you to do with us, Jesus? When we are lost in our own anxiety, our fear can we even ask this question. Can we even begin to think about faith, about God, about the comfort, grace and hope that we can experience through Jesus? When we are lost, trapped in our anxiety and fear, we have a hard time seeing that anyone can help, that anyone can change what is going on in your own head. The fear of the man when speaking to Jesus is that Jesus has come to destroy him.

Jesus speaks to the unclean spirit and says, "Be silent and come out of him." While not a complete solution or a total fix except in the world of the gospels where Jesus has the ability to command spirits. This command to be silent, to hush does speak to our obsessive thoughts. We need to learn to tune them out, to let them go, to release the power and hold they have over us. For some of us this can mean learning how to be silent. Learning how to still our minds and rest in the peace and quiet of God. One of the practices that helps me in those moments comes from Thich Nhat Hahn. He has a meditation where he invites you to say the word calm on your in breath and to smile on your out breath. Calm, smile. When I practice this exercise it helps to lighten my mood. I start to release the anxiety and the simple act of smiling helps to lift my mood. For those of us who have mild anxiety and worry, to be silent, to calm and smile can change our thought patterns and help us to move on.

But for some of us anxiety is a serious mental health condition that needs access to mental health services from therapists to doctors. Under the Affordable Care Act most health plans must cover preventative services like depression screenings for adults and behavioral assessments for children. With the repeal of Obamacare the requirement for providing mental health coverage may be taken away. This law changed not just plans covered by the marketplace but plans supplied by employers. We made it possible for people to seek help.

This passage says that those who encounter Jesus in the synagogue met someone who spoke with authority, presented a new teaching and was able to cast out unclean spirits. Jesus teaches us to care about our mental health - whether you call it an unclean spirit, a demonic presence, or anxiety. He shows us a way to move out the anxiety. If Jesus teaches us to care for those who have mental health concerns, how can we do any less?

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