The Healing Qualities of Freedom

23 June 2019 – Proper 7, Lectionary 12

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

The inability of the churches mutually to recognize their various practices of baptism as sharing in the one baptism, and their actual dividedness in spite of mutual baptismal recognition, have given dramatic visibility to the broken witness of the Church. The readiness of the churches in some places and times to allow differences of sex, race, or social status to divide the body of Christ has further called into question genuine baptismal unity of the Christian community and has seriously compromised its witness. The need to recover baptismal unity is at the heart of the ecumenical task as it is central for the realization of genuine partnership within the Christian communities.

–– Commentary on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, Faith and Order Paper No. 111 (World Council of Churches, 1996).

Luke 8:26-39

It is no coincidence that sometimes “demons” and “discipleship” are twin topics.

Anyone who experiences a compulsion to attain worldly goods (power, status, money) or has an active addiction (to drugs, food, work gambling, unhealthy relationships) knows how demonic these obsessions feel. Not only is there an insatiable need to always “get” more in order to be happy or successful (or even to feel better), but within short order it often becomes impossible to abandon the pursuit.

If healing occurs (through therapy, medical intervention and/or self-help groups) and the fire that stokes the demon-driven behavior is extinguished, a blissful calm often emerges in the individual that quickly becomes filled with gratitude and a desire to serve both God and mankind.

As Luke makes clear, if we are to shift from our worldly walk to the path of discipleship, then each of us must identify our personal demons and allow divine exorcism to take place.

Unfortunately, too often we cling to people, places and things that literally make us crazy and—consciously or unconsciously—choose to stay possessed. –– Judy Shepps Battle

Isaiah 65:1-9

Consider the “religious” actions that Isaiah sees around him, wrong-headed, secret rituals that mean to appease the “gods” instead of resting in God. Consider that the impetus to follow what is Not-God is linked with the demon that infests the Gerasene man in the tombs. Consider that Galatians lays out the freedom of the gospel in stark contrast to what demonic and fear-filled actions tell about a person’s or a community’s allegiances. Speak to that difference in your sermon, offering Jesus’ great healing. –– Melinda Quivik

Galatians 3:23-29

Paul explains the place of the law from a historical view. The law, he says, was our “disciplinarian” until Christ came. The Greek word for custodian or tutor (paidagogos) was the slave who took care of the child of the wealthy citizen when the child was not at school. Now that Christ has come, we don’t need that disciplinarian because we are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul implies that the law has no place in the church. But in Romans 7: 11, he describes the law as “holy, just and good.” What is the place of the law today? In the first century, it pitted Jew against Jew. Today it is often ignored. Paul says the law prepared the way for Christ. Jesus doesn’t negate the Torah but offers a new way of looking at the law. Now we can see that the Mosaic law is summed up in the command to love. Now God’s grace is open to all through Christ. There is no difference between Jew and gentile, men and women. We are all one in Christ. –– Judy Shepps Battle

Judy Shepps Battle is a mental health and addictions specialist, a former sociology professor and staff member at the Center for Alcohol Studies at Rutgers University, and an author working with Wellspring Center for Prevention in New Jersey.

Melinda A. Quivik, an ELCA pastor and former professor of liturgy and homiletics, is the Editor-in-Chief of Liturgy. Her most recent book is Remembering God’s Promises: A Funeral Planning Handbook (Augsburg Fortress, 2018).

Homily Service 37, nos. 6-7 (2004): 71-84

David Turnbloom