Sunday October 11th Worship at Wesley Chapel

On Sunday October 11th our minister Rev. Christine Gillespie led worship at Wesley Chapel. We began worship as we sang, ‘Meet and right it is to sing in every time and place. Christine led the prayers and the Lord’s Prayer before we sang ‘How sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer’s ear.’ We then heard the reading from Matthew 8.28-34; the healing of the two Gaderene demoniacs before we sang, ‘Give to me Lord a thankful heart.’
Christine told us we often see what we expect to see. In the Bristol Hall of residence there were photos of a bunch of austere men displayed in dark frames who had been Christian leaders in another college; they had been brought to be displayed in the Bristol Hall of residence. One day a student began to prepare a prank; he carefully chose a dark frame which blended in with the display of austere men and placed a black and white photo in the frame; adding it to the display one night when no one was there. The students waited with baited breath to see what the reaction would be; however it took 2 years for anyone to notice that there was a photo of Victor Meldrew amongst the austere men! Christine was not sure if the student, whose prank it was, had left the university by the time the photo was discovered!! No one noticed it apart from the students who knew what had been done, because they saw what they were expecting to see!! Christine, when preparing her sermon had read the passage from Matthew 3 times, before realising she had been assuming what was in the passage rather than reading it properly. She realised there had been no mention of a man without clothes, no mention of the men being in chains and no mention of the demoniac once healed wishing to follow Jesus, but then told by Jesus he had to stay to minister to his people. She had expected to see those descriptions but had finally realised they were missing from Matthew’s account. Matthew simply mentioned that they were violent men who shouted at Jesus calling him Son of God and challenging Jesus about what he was going to do to them.
Matthew was more concerned about giving the reaction of the town’s people after the grazing pigs rushed into the lake and drowned. The herdsmen saw what had happened and rushed into the town to say about the heavy loss of all the pigs. Jesus came and told the demons to go from the two men and commanded them to go into the pigs, which demented rushed to their deaths in the lake. The town’s people who had seen the loss of their livelihood begged Jesus to leave the region before he caused any more problems. Matthew seemed to assume the healing of the demoniacs; were they able to work or did they wish to follow Jesus? Did the demoniacs then believe in God or just take the healing for granted? We know no details except that at the outset the two men were violent. No one apparently passed that way. Perhaps nobody cared or remembered the story. Would we have done any better? We have a problem about demon possession. Would we have remembered any better about those who lived on the edge of society? Would we have also feared such illnesses we don’t understand? Recently we have heard about the wonderful work of staff in hospices as reported by the Care Quality Commission, as that work is so rewarding. However places, like Broadmoor Secure Mental Institution, have been criticised for providing poor care, as they are understaffed. Mental health care had always been the Cinderella of the NHS, and has increasingly lower funding, having been reduced sharply in the last few years.
When I had a breakdown I had real support in retraining and rebuilding my confidence and my ability to handle stressful situations; I was funded as I learnt computer skills and after 3 years, I had to confidence to apply for jobs again. The support I was given enabled me to find part time work which I loved in a doctor’s surgery until I retired a year ago. Now adult education funding is being cut and those skills are needed in particular to support those with mental health issues, poor skills or lack of education into meaningful training for a job.
A man who collapsed in a diabetic coma was apparently ignored at first as he was considered to be drunk! The Pope has recently been speaking out for the poor and marginalised in society. He believes in serving those whom Jesus came to seek and save; being demonstrated in the time he gives to prisoners and the poor. Many of the constant streams of refugees from the war in Syria and other dangerous areas are apparently being cared for by the Methodist Church in Europe.
Christine reminded us again that we know almost nothing about the 2 demoniacs in the story. What about our society? Whose stories do we fail to see or not tell? The action occurred in a Gentile area as the loss of the large herd of pigs was quickly reported. Why were the pigs of more significance than 2 sick men? The families would have lost their jobs and incomes when they lost the pigs. It would be difficult for them to cope with the loss of their assets. The poorest are always affected first if the economy collapses.
How do we regard our own money and the resources of our society? Building up wealth and greed are more important than caring for the poor and the vulnerable. Do we actually notice the poor and the vulnerable or do we ignore their needs? Why was Jesus in the background of this story; he did not say much at all in this extract? However if we look at the whole of the chapter we learn more about Jesus, curing lepers, teaching, touching outcasts, the untouchables; those on the edge of Jewish society. Jesus healed the lowly servant of the Gentile Centurion, as he recognised the faith of the centurion. Jesus cared for people he knew and healed Peter’s mother in law. On the Lake in the storm he stood up and calmed the wind and the waves. If we look at the larger context, all Jesus does is care for people. How are we to witness? How can we make disciples of all nations? The demoniacs’ healing concludes Mark chapter 8.
The next chapter begins with the friends bringing the paralytic to Jesus. Many times people will not want to hear but there will be people who will want to come and hear. Our job is to make Jesus known; to go out into the world to make disciples.
Following the sermon we sang, ‘O Watcher in the wilderness’ before the prayers of intercession. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘Christ our king before creation, life before all life began.

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One Response to Sunday October 11th Worship at Wesley Chapel

  1. selwyngoodacre says:

    Luke of course has only one demon possessed man – and his account is a lot fuller with more detail than Matthew. typical of Matthew to make it two men!

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