Vicar’s Reflection: Ordinary Sunday 12, 23 June 2019
Fear of difference is a powerful social force. We see it in various forms of prejudice, dividing one group against another, often based on skin colour or gender, but also language or accent differences, ethnicity, country or place of origin and so on. Jesus was subject to such prejudice too. When Nathanael, a future disciple was first told about Jesus of Nazareth he said “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1.46). Such attitudes pit one group against another. Those who suffer mental illness are often viewed with prejudice. The troubled man of Gerasa in today’s Gospel reading (Luke 8.26-39) was feared by his former friends and neighbours. His affliction is described in spiritual terms as demon-possession. There is good cause to think he was experiencing a form of mental illness also. What does Jesus bring to this harmful reality? Just before encountering the Gerasene man on the eastern shore of Galilee, i.e. the Gentile side, Jesus had calmed a sudden storm. A display of power over nature. Next minute he displays his power over human division and spiritual oppression. St Luke presents Jesus to us as the one who can bring peace, healing, release from bondage, reconciliation and freedom. St Paul learned this lesson well as we can see in the passage from Galatians 3 in which he teaches the power of Christ to reconcile the great divisions of humanity. Whether male or female, Pakeha or Maori, boss or worker, gay or straight Jesus unites us.