Luke 8:26:39; 1 Kings 19:1-15a
Luke never gives us names. For the last few weeks Jesus has healed a Roman Centurion's slave, raised the widow of Nain's son, forgiven the sinner woman who came in and bathed his feet with her tears, and today we are finally asking for a name. It is not the demonics name though, it is the name of the demons. In order to release what this thing has done to this man you have to name it. Luke does just that. Not only does he give us it's name "Legion" meaning there are many, but he gives us a story. The story of how it alienated the man from everyone because even if he was not in chains so that he wouldn't hurt the villagers, the man would hurt himself or wander away into the wilds where something might hurt him. Naming, telling what has happened is a frightful, risky, vulnerable thing, but it is also the thing which frees us.
If you visit Thistle Farms in Nashville for an education day you will hear stories. Stories of how these women ended up on the street and how they started their lives of addiction and prostitution. They are full of stories of abuse, neglect, and they help to heal. Part of the whole healing process is to tell your story again and again. It releases the power of shame that makes an addict take a hit again. It releases the years of abuse and the power of silence and internal shame. It helps to heal and make whole.
This week I have seen so many posts by people who have watched the names of the victims from the Orlando shooting. Statements of how it has made the whole event too real. Statements of how not every name was put to this awful tragedy, taut there were very many Latinos there. Stories from the survivors of how they were saved and a tearful meeting of the cop who saved one man. Naming what was happening and how much it meant to him. A first step in healing in being made whole.
Naming is important. It does mean you have to be willing to be vulnerable. Institutions are not set up for this though. They are not healers, they have no idea what to do with story. I remember being so frustrated when I was told I could have no help with food stamps even though my IRA was the thing disqualifying me and it was frozen on the divorce as I tried to get out of my abusive situation. I broke down in tears because of it and told the girl no wonder people go back to their abusers and she had no answers. Only overwhelming silence coupled with surprise.
We are the church though. The heater and receivers of story. Story, hard stories make up our very fiber. Stories of tricksters line Jacob. Stories of abuse line the rape of Tamar or Isaac being almost killed by his father. Stories like these of people from the fringes of society being healed and restored to community. You see this is where we do our best work. Being vulnerable unlike the world as a whole who asks us to be perfect. To put on our best face. To be strong and not show our vulnerabilities. Jesus is the most vulnerable person I know. He decides to die on a cross naked, humiliated, and shameful. Yet it is the story of God's love for us.
Being vulnerable,telling our times when we were most in need, letting others tell their story and receiving it, in order that they can be whole. No judgments, no condemnation, receiving and listening. It is the most important work of the church. It is transformational work. Can we join Christ in this work?