“Be Still and Breathe with Jesus” – Sunday Preview by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell
Friends, we have made it a year. Well…” made” is a loose term, and more applicable for some than others, but here we are 1 year with our current president. You know the old joke, “I just flew in and boy are my arms tired”? That is the feeling I have after a year of this administration. I don’t need to go to the gym because I roll my eyes at the president enough to be a true work out. This all came to a head as I read Twitter this morning and caught up on the State of the Union. I did not watch it live, I try not to give ratings numbers to this president, but I did read the transcript. At the end of 5,000+ words my hot coffee was cold, my sleepy eyes were wide with disbelief, and my quiet day at the office was fueled with a need to act. So, I read this week’s scripture from Mark.
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, throwing him into convulsions 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. (Mark 1:21-28)
In me this morning was an unclean spirit. A spirit that was made with sadness and pain and fueled with disruption and chaos. And I have noticed that sometimes progressive Christians don’t like to name our sins in a way that helps us get rid of them but keep the holy anger that can often be at the root of them. So, I named my chaotic anger as an unclean spirit, closed my eyes and took a deep breath and did as Jesus commanded. “Be silent.” I stayed silent for an hour (which we all know is a long time for me). I sat with Jesus silently… For. An. Hour! and in that silence I heard the noise of the street, the beat of my heart, and the voices of a nation that don’t have the opportunity and privilege to be silent with Jesus for an hour. Through them I heard Jesus rebuke my unclean spirit. The spirit that wants to ask “why?” without putting into motion the “how?” The spirit that knows who Jesus is and what Jesus did for us and yet still asks Jesus for more. A spirit that is so grossly enraged with systemic injustice and oppression that my energy is focused on what is at the top of the system, instead of dismantling the bottom.Through the community from which these voices came, I heard, “be silent and come out of her,” …and so I breathed out that toxic energy of an unclean spirit and took a deep breath of calm… of focus…of justice…I took a big breath of Jesus. I put my energy where it was needed, into seeing Jesus in every part of every person. With the authority given to me by Jesus in that deep breath, I said “good morning” to every person I passed. I looked each person in the eye and knew the amazing God at work in each of them. A God who can bring forth hope, justice, and peace in a world so divided with despair and pain. A God who wants more from me because God wants more for the world.
Church, this will not be my last unclean spirit that I wrestle with, but the wonderful thing about God is that I know I won’t have to deal with it alone. God has given me a community of love and support, through the good times and the unclean spirits. God has given each believer permission to name and rebuke evil, and to lift up and love the good. We are a priesthood of all believers. A community and priesthood working with God to expel hate in a world created by God and called good. That is the power in community. The sustainability in church. The eternal act of love and grace that Jesus has given each one of us. So, today, if you are wrestling with an unclean spirit, I invite you to find a place in which to be silent with Jesus. Exhale that unclean spirit and toxic energy and breathe in the everlasting grace of God. Drink deep of that well friends, it is always available when you need it.