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Monday, June 24, 2013

The fine art of leaving

Well, this was my last Sunday at St. Bart's, and as I am 98% packed up and ready to move, I seem to have packed up my recorder, so this Sunday, I'll have to give you a written version.

This week's Gospel passage was Luke 8:26-39 which tells the story of Legion, the man who is possessed of many demons, and who Jesus exorcises.

Now, the concept of possession and exorcism and demons and so on cause great difficulty for the modern church (and well they should).  Most of the conditions which were thought to be caused by demonic possession we have now identified as a variety of psychiatric and physical ailments that require professional medical care.

To this day, for example, we still use phrases like "What possessed you to to that?" and we refer to "confronting our demons".  It is understood that we are not talking about demons per se, but of personal issues or challenges we face.

But I don't necessarily want to argue about whether or not possession and exorcism are a genuine phenomena, but I would like to point out something that never fails to move me about this story.

When Jesus asks the man his name, he responds that his name is Legion.  He had no other identity left than his "demons", his personal problems, the negative aspects of his life and personality.  He does not even seem to have his own life or identity any more.  How sad is that?

Are we like Legion in any way?  I hear people refer to themselves most often by using negative terminology about themselves.  I hear people most often talking about what they lack or dislike, more than what they have or like.  It is entirely possible to become so involved with and consumed by our negativity and problems that we cease to have any other identity.  Maybe we should spend a little more time taking an inventory of positives rather than taking an inventory of our negatives.

The other thing that strikes me about this passage is that Legion asks Jesus to take him with Him as he leaves the area.  Jesus declines, telling him to return to his home and declare what God has done for him.

This makes me think about the transfiguration, another instance where something really awesome happened, and the people who witnessed it wanted to stay in that moment as long as possible.  But the problem is that when we experience something really life-changing, we are called out of that moment of comfort and revelation.  We are called out into the world to try to bring that experience to others.

St. Bart's has been like that for me, I am sad to say that this was my last Sunday there.  I am excited to be moving on to my new parish, but I am sad to be leaving a situation that I enjoyed and was comfortable with. It is gratifying to know that that feeling was reciprocated, and I think we might all have wanted to stay in that for a while longer.

But we have had this great experience together and we are now to part ways, hoping to share those experiences with others.

I wish all my St. Bart's family and the wider community of the Sunshine Coast the best, and blessings to all my colleagues in the Diocese of New Westminster.

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