SERMON TITLE: “A Story of Freedom”
SERMON TEXT: Mark 5:1-20
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: July 1, 2018, at FUMC
At this time of year, we celebrate the freedom of our nation. We think about how our founding fathers rose up in opposition to laws that were oppressive, wrote the Declaration of Independence, and then fought the Revolutionary War to realize that freedom. Even at church, we pray the blessing:
My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
Of course, the definition of freedom isn’t only one nation’s separation from another. Just this past week, I encountered persons who were gaining independence from many situations: a job misunderstanding that was creating too much stress, a childcare center that wasn’t providing appropriate supervision, and two different family situations that were emotionally and physically unsafe. I also prayed with two people who were leaving their sick, limited, and mortal bodies behind, as they journeyed with God into the expansive freedom of eternal life.
This morning’s gospel reading from Mark 5 is like that. The man who came out of the tombs to meet Jesus was deeply troubled by an unclean spirit that tormented him. Other people had been so bothered by this man’s difficulties that they had tried to restrain him with shackles and chains, but nothing and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day, he howled and bruised himself with stones. You get the sense that this trauma had been going on for years. Today, we’d probably call this man mentally ill. In Jesus’ day, they didn’t know anything about psychology. To them, this man was demon possessed. He was a lost cause, a sad story. He was controlled by something neither he nor his society could fix—until Jesus gave him a new story of freedom.
Fortunately, most of us don’t struggle with difficulties as great as those experienced by this Gerasene man. But recent celebrity suicides indicate to us that you don’t have to live among the tombs or on the streets to be deeply troubled. The truth is that many people struggle with mental and physical illnesses, addictions, and work and family circumstances in which we feel like we’re trapped. Here in the United States of America we proclaim independence, cherish our individual liberties, and frequently fight for our freedom. Still—more often than we’d like to admit—we can’t seem to overcome feelings, anxieties, fears, habits, pains, tendencies, and expectations that limit who we are and what we can do. Despite the fact that our United Methodist theology upholds belief in free will, and our LDS neighbors remind us often about free agency, all of us frequently struggle to do the good we think we should and to avoid the evil we wish to shun. Because we sometimes lack the strength we need, I invite you to consider this miracle of healing. Let’s see how Jesus can provide us all with a story of freedom.