Power of Pain… and Healing

Scripture: Mark 5:1-15 

New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 

This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.

Sermon

Question for community:

Why do you think they are afraid?

The people gathered around Jesus, who witnessed the healing, who saw the man healed normal. WHY…were they afraid?

(thoughts from the congregation) 

  • 2,000 pigs floating and dead down the river would be scary. To see the number and force of the demons materialized in that way would cause fear.
  • The herd owners were probably scared since their livelihood was ruined.
  • The people gathered around were scared because they had gotten used to the demoniac. His being healed meant something unknown. They could be scared of what Jesus would do to them for how they mistreated the demoniac or how Jesus would do something to them. They could be aware of their own impure thoughts or spirits.
  • They were scared of Jesus because his power was so strong. They were scared of what he would do next. 
We know from ancient texts that the Gerasene people were pagan. They did not believe in God. They probably heard of Jesus, the miracle worker, but they would not have a Jewish religious background from which to interpret these events. 

And they are AFRAID of Jesus. They are afraid of his healing power because it’s unknown to them. It’s more powerful than anything they’ve ever experienced before.

Immediately following this story, they beg Jesus to leave. They are so scared of this power he has they don’t understand that they want him to leave them. 

* * *

Fear is an important emotion because it points us to what has power. In this story, what has power OVER us.

It would make sense to us that the Gerasenes would be afraid of the demoniac man. 

This man was trapped by a legion of demons. A legion means “many,” probably 6,000 soldiers – strong, fighting spirits that keep him trapped inside his pain. 

We learn in the text that these demons are so strong that not even chains and irons could hold him. The man suffering these demons was outcasted to live among the tombs… to live among death. Because he was unsafe to the community. He wandered the tombs howling and bruising himself with stones.

The Gerasenes were scared of him and of what he could do with that power.

* * *

It would make sense for us to fear this kind of pain. These demons that control us and cause harm. 

But instead, the fear in this passage is of Jesus. 

Those gathered are scared of Jesus because his power is greater than that of the legion of demons. 

God’s healing power is greater than human pain…

* * *

There’s a physician assistant, we’ll call her “Stephanie”, in Winston Salem, NC who occasionally would need to send patients to the Baptist hospital. 

Now the Baptist hospital is huge. Four times the size of her small practice at least. And so the patients would drive to the hospital and be so overwhelmed by the size of the hospital – the grandeur – that they would turn their cars around and go home. 

They were scared…
of the size of the hospital,
of the things inside, 
of not knowing what would happen to them or how they would get the help they need. 

And so they would choose to live in their pain.  Instead of going inside where healing would take place, they chose to hold onto the control that they had. Succumbing to their fear of the unknown healing, they went home. They remained in pain. 

When Stephanie learned her patients were not going to their appointments, she talked to them. She learned that she had to normalize this new, huge hospital to her patients before she sent them. 

She would begin describing the parking lot, the shape, where they would park. She would tell them where the drinking water fountains are and the bathrooms. The colors of the walls and the names of the doctors. 

The details and preparation helped ease the fear of the hospital so that they could get to the deeper fears of the treatment and the unknown. 

* * *

We’re a lot like Stephanie’s patients, like the Gerasenes, too… we are more comfortable with pain and suffering than we we are with Jesus’ healing. We sometimes choose to stay in the pain because it’s what we know.

Healing is scary because it requires us to be open to a power that we don’t understand. God’s power – that we can’t see, or touch…but that is there for us if we’re willing to seek it out. 

* * *

In our story today, Jesus heals the man by giving permission for the evil to leave. 

Jesus power is greater than that of the legion of demons. The Legion of demons quickly recognize that fact and so the healing is a simple transaction. It’s Jesus giving permission for the evil to leave and to where they will go next.

Perhaps we also need permission to be free. Permission to let go of the evil spirits that we hold on to in fear. Permission to be free from our fear and free to trust God more fully…

Perhaps this is the healing Christ’s power offers to us.

* * *

A mentor of mine, Steve Hayner, just died. I knew Steve as the president of my seminary, a visionary, my teacher, a mentor in faith. He was one person I can honestly say I KNEW believed in the power of Jesus Christ and lived each day of his life in faith. Trusting in God alone.

Just after Easter last year, Steve’s doctors discovered that he had pancreatic cancer. He suffered pain from the cancer and from the treatments for just under one year before the cancer took his life.

As various people and organizations bid tribute to Steve, I’m amazed by how his joy for Christ breathed life into people and systems. Without fail, everyone experienced Steve as someone who deeply believed in Jesus’ power and sought to live each day in joy no matter what the sorrow, or pain or demon he was to fight.

In one of Steve’s final blog posts he talks about the pain he’s suffering and his low levels of energy. But instead of succumbing to the power of the pain and lack of energy as a “Woe is me” he asked himself this one question –

“How can I glorify God today?” 
In my pain, with little to no energy, what is worth doing that will glorify God today?

Wow! 

Steve, for me, represents a faithful story of trusting in God’s power over everything else. He stood in fear and in awe of God’s power alone. 

In his leadership challenges, in facing the world’s challenges of violence and poverty and despair… Each day, he chose trusting in God’s power OVER trusting in the evil powers of the world. 

And in doing so, he glorified God. He didn’t let fear of anything – not even his medical scares and pain, not even death – take control of him trusting in the power of Jesus. 

* * *

Steve’s faith reminds me that our faith is a lived exercise. 

It is something we must intentionally choose every day.  It takes work and effort to trust in God’s power – not just in our heads, but in our hearts and our actions as well. 

There will be many things that hold power over us:
medical scares, 
financial scares, 
relationship scares, 
work scares. 

And in all of these circumstances, we can choose faith. We can name our fears – acknowledge their power over us – and we can ask God to set us free from those fears.

It’s a difficult thing to do, but there is healing revealed within us when we let go of the things that hold us down. There is freedom available for us when we allow for God’s healing.

My prayer for us is that as we encounter things in the world that hold power over us, things we are afraid of, we would ask for God to free us from those things. 

And as we become free from those powers, we more fully live into the faith. The ultimate healing that comes through faith.


Amen.


Hope Project

In this season of Advent, we are participating in the “Hope Project.” The Hope Project calls us to listen to our neighbors to learn about the community’s hopes and dreams. On Saturday, November 22nd, a few of us walked the streets of the Excelsior neighborhood surrounding the church and in Dolores Park listening to the hopes of those around us. Many people hoped for peace, for safety and security and for happiness. Some needed basic things like a kitchen in their apartment or a job. Others hoped for their health and for the health of their loved ones. 

The greater church community is invited to participate in the Hope Project by asking someone (a coworker, family member, neighbor, stranger on the bus), this one question: “What do you hope for?” Write their hope on an ornament during worship and add it to our tree of hope. Throughout the advent season, we will collect these hopes and include them in our worship and prayer as we hope for Christ’s return. 

Small Group Bible Study

This group gathers for dinner, bible study and prayer on Monday evenings every other week. On this particular evening, we talked about how the magi followed a star to the manger (Matthew 2:1-12). We were amazed that both the leaders in Jerusalem AND foreign wise men knew Jesus was coming. We talked about how the magi used the science of their time (stars) to discover Jesus. We spent time sharing our own stories of how we are on a journey to the manger.   

Often, we talk about our journey following Christ in his adult life and ministry or even in his persecution, death and resurrection. On this evening, we got to consider Christ the baby, the newborn, the child. Jesus in a manger is an inviting image and it is a vulnerable experience. It was a night full of sharing our own stories and learning more about this bible story together. Email us if you want to be included the next time this group meets for dinner and bible study! 

Dialogue Preaching

On Sunday, November 16th, our pastor Dawn Hyde was joined by the Reverend Christin Norman and they preached in dialogue form on Matthew 19:16-26. Christin and Dawn went to seminary together at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA. They both graduated in May of 2012 and as God would have it, they both ended up in the bay area pastoring churches! Dawn and Christin decided a few weeks ago that it would be fun to collaborate on preaching and began work on this dialogue sermon. They preached together! On Sunday morning Dawn traveled to Woodland Presbyterian Church (where Christin serves as pastor) and in the evening Christin traveled to us in San Francisco. 

Dialogue preaching reminds us that our faith isn’t a one way conversation between us and God. It’s not even just between us and the preacher and God. We are invited to open up the conversation to various perspectives and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we discern God’s word for us today. 

Check out the sermon online.

Turning Wine into Water

Twenty five people from our church participated in a day of wine tasting sponsored by Vineyards to Villages (http://gpfd.org/vineyards-to-villages/). Vineyards to Villages is a project of Global Partners and their primary goal is to help “turn Sonoma wine into African Water.” Ten family owned wineries have partnered through V2V to sponsor water initiatives in East Kenya. They’ve designated that 50% of the proceeds of a bottle of wine will go straight toward building wells in Kenya. 

Our group from Mission Bay Community Church visited three of these wineries: Viszlay, Christopher Creek and Merriam. We met the owners and learned about both their wines and their philanthropy efforts. Many of us bought wine that will help support the well-builds in Africa. 

Saturday was a day full of laughter, good food and tasty wine. We lived out the meaning of Koinonia, “Christian fellowship,” as we enjoyed one another’s company and came together to support a great cause. 

If you’d like to learn more about Vineyards to Villages, check out their webpage and plan to visit one of their ten wineries on your next trip to Sonoma! Keep an eye out in our announcements for upcoming koinonia events.

MBCC Kids! 

In baptism, we promise to help raise one another in the faith. We promise to teach the ways of Jesus and to care for one another in good times and in bad. Last Saturday, the kids of our church gathered for a day of Bible stories and play. Many of the kids referred to it as a “kids only church party.” Several adults (Colleen, Judy, Christine, Keith and Dawn) came with energy and love to uphold our baptismal promises to share our faith with MBCC kids. 
Together we learned the story of God leading Moses and the Israelites through the Red Sea to freedom (Exodus 15) and about how Jesus welcomes the children (Mark 10). Colleen helped us act out the stories and play with the themes of water, escape, freedom and welcome. 
We even got to practice how God split the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross to safety by playing with shaving cream and making a path with our hands. 
As we read, danced, played and colored together, we reminded each other of the love of Jesus Christ. A love that knows no age or ethnicity or play style. A love that welcomes all. 

Jesus reminds us that children often see and experience the Kingdom of God better than we do as adults (Matthew 18:3). My prayer is that as we continue to share our faith with one another, we learn and experience Christ’s kingdom breaking in today! 

Contemplative Prayer Group

Remember the movie Twister, that tornado movie from the 90s? Cheesy or not, it’s one of my favorites, and having grown up in Iowa, tornadoes have always been a part of life. I’ve always found them truly awesome—in the fullest sense of that word—as though this otherworldly finger is coming down from the sky to touch the ground.

I love Twister’s final scene. Unable to escape the tornado, the two lead characters strap themselves to a metal pipe and allow the tornado to pass right over them. The world swirls around them. Wood, metal, doors, tractors, farm animals, and more hurtle through the air. They’re lost in a cyclone of dust, debris, and noise.

That is until they get to the eye of the tornado. There is perfect silence. A blue sky. And peace.

Remaining centered has been a challenge for me. Life can be noisy—with text messages, emails, city noise, and bus rides. Life can be chaotic—through career changes, life transitions, relationships, health, depression. Life can be full of “stuff.” But I’ve found that silence—especially intentional silence—can be a wonderful gift and an opportunity to rediscover that center.

On Tuesday nights, MBCC hosts a Contemplative Prayer Group, and we invite people to sit in the eye of the tornado and find the blue skies while the world swirls around them. For one hour, we engage in various types of spiritual exercises (through prayer, meditation, and scripture) that invite God to spend time with us and invite us to spend time listening to God. Our practice focuses on Centering Prayer, a type of silent prayer that comes from early Christianity and the Catholic tradition. During this time, we spend 20 minutes in silence with the intention of resting in God’s presence and allowing God to work inside us.

It is my experience and my deepest hope that this Centering Prayer time overflows into our every day and allows us to experience peace and communion with God as we walk through life’s beautiful chaos.

~ Sam Lundquist

Food Pantry Re-Opens!

We have incredibly GOOD NEWS to share with you! The Excelsior Community Food Pantry will reopen 2 weeks from today on Saturday, September 13th!!  We are partnering with the Jewish Home of San Francisco to serve the hunger needs in our community. The pantry will reopen at their location on Mission St. and Silver (302 Silver Ave. SF 94112), just a few blocks from us. 

We are overjoyed to announce this next chapter in the life of our pantry. Members of our community have been working tirelessly to find the pantry a new home. Hayley Lam and Amelia Zimmerman especially have put hours of their time and energy into this process. Please send them a word of thanks!  Also, special thanks to Tom Pack and Jennifer Stringfellow for their legal guidance and to Michael Beadle for helping us with public relations. 

As we move forward, here are a few ways for you to be involved:

(1) Pray for the pantry. 
We give thanks to God for this new partnership with the Jewish Home and we ask that God continue to strengthen our relationship with them. We pray for our clients who have gone without food the two months between pantry closure and reopen. We pray for our volunteers (old and new) as we come together and serve our community.

(2) Come serve!
All volunteers are invited next Saturday, September 6th from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM to help us move to our new location and do a mock pantry set up. We’ll meet at our church and then move to JHSF. Also, on Saturday, September 13th (our opening day!) we’ll need extra volunteers to help provide a smooth transition. It’s simple to volunteer! Any Saturday, just show up at JHSF at 10 AM and ask how you can help!

(3) Behind the scenes.
If you have some time during the week and want to help with behind the scenes logistics of reopening the pantry, please contact Hayley Lam (hayleylam@gmail.com)

Welcome New Members

Today during worship, we welcomed 7 new members: Thomya Goode, Chris Kardish, Ellen Burroughs, Esther Lee, Brian King, Leigh Carter and Newton Lih. We celebrated this step in their faith journey by laying hands on them and praying for them. 

Membership is an opportunity for anyone who feels called to publicly commit to following Jesus and to being a part of our community as we seek to follow Jesus. During the worship service, our community commits to these individuals as well. We commit to grieve with them as they grieve and to rejoice with them as they rejoice. 

Our community of faith is a gift from God and we give thanks to get to walk this life of discipleship together! 

Spend or Invest?

The Reverend Doctor Ken McFayden led a seminar on Investing in the Kingdom of God. He challenged us not to spend any more money! Not on our ministries or worship or on our staff. Instead, he called us to invest. He encourages us to view each penny we give or spend as a church in the investment of God’s kingdom. We invest in our staff so that they can invest in the gifts of this community and in the world. We invest in our  worship and ministries so that we can grow as disciples. We invest in mission so that we can be a part of how God is building the kingdom of love in this world. Ken also encouraged us to reflect and clarify why we exist. Why do we, Mission Bay Community Church, exist? Our leadership team has articulated that we exist to facilitate connection to God through worship, community, and service. We have articulated that we receive Christ’s radical hospitality and then we share that hospitality with the world. 

Say Hello!