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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 1:21–28

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 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.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 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.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. (NRSV)

One stigma (of many) that I would love to remove from society is that of mental health. I do see it becoming a less taboo topic, but phrases such as “pull yourself together,” or “get over it” are still all too common when it comes to anxiety, depression, and the like. It would be inappropriate to respond similarly if someone broke their arm or especially if they had a terminal disease. So why do we question the authenticity of a person’s mental health or, worse, ostracize a person for a condition we simply don’t understand because we ourselves do not experience it?

In today’s reading, Jesus flips the script on how society traditionally reacts to the existence of mental health. As Jesus gains fame during his teachings, more people take notice of his unconventional approach to ministry and his reaching out to those who are typically outcasts from society.

With all eyes and attention on Jesus’ response to a man battling an “unclean spirit,” Jesus silenced the crowd by ministering to him and healing him without doubt or question that he was in need of care. While those in the synagogue found this odd, especially on the sabbath, Jesus found it a necessity.

The scribes would avoid this form of ministry and, as interpreted today, human right. However, Jesus does not outline any requirements, any eligibility, or any prices to receive this blessing from God. His love and faith are not only more powerful than any unclean spirit but also greater than preconceived notions or judgments turned into a skewed truth by society.

As we witness this skepticism or judgment bubbling up in ourselves or overhear it among others, let us remember Christ makes no mandates when it comes to being a child of God. Regardless of ability or health, we are all welcome to receive abundant blessings.

Christ of boundless love, remind us to open our hearts and our lives to all those who need our care. Let us minister to their mind, body, and soul and remain free of judgment and condemnation. Amen.

Written by Jackie Lorens Harris, Director,
Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center

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