discovering “them”…

We spend a great deal of time worrying about who they are.
You know the people I mean
– the ones who are our source for all wisdom
-the certain path of most of the information we receive in a day.
“They say it’s going to (snow/rain/freeze etc)
“They say this new government will never last/be the best thing that’s ever happened”
“they say she visits the casino every day…

They – friends, enemies, family,
– the people you weren’t supposed to get tangled up with
the people who had all the current gossip, knew all the best stories.

That uncertain group – they – are a very present force in the gospels,
but especially in Mark’s gospel.
There is always a crowd who notice things – a crowd who follow waiting for something –
they spread the news, they seek Jesus, they run away.

When reading the gospels especially, you must keep track of who they refers to.
Are they friend, or foe?  Are they with us, or against us?
Are they seeking good?  Are they seeing God?

How often do they  become us?

I am more and more aware of how often we choose sides
– and of how easy it becomes to talk in terms of “us” and “them.”

One side has the advantage, the other the problem.
One side has the law on their side, the other is at odds with authority.
One side is white, the other black
– one straight, one gay
– authority, weakness; clean, unclean –
it is an easy habit to fall in to.

We are the people God has chosen the church
– they just need to get with the program.

And yet we have no indication that Jesus saw people that way.
Jesus seems unconcerned
with the ways in which the people have divided themselves.
He teaches them all as equals
and his authority – his manner of teaching
affects all of them in a way that the teaching of others has not.

I can only imagine the  horror of the crowd
when this unfortunate man rose up from among their very midst
and began to rage at Jesus.

Here was one of the people they were most likely to set apart as they:        one who was possessed – unclean – ritually and really unclean.

There was no room for “his kind” in this group.
No one would be willing to say – “he is one of us”

Jesus doesn’t  need to say it
– it is by his actions that He includes this man;
Expels the “unclean spirit” – restores his sanity, his dignity.

Is this story concerned with exorcism?  With teaching?  With Authority?
Or is the author trying to teach us a larger lesson?

When we stand by our right to criticize and divide,
as we casually separate our communities into “us” and “them”,
are we not risking Jesus’ rebuke?
It was not the man who was unwelcome,
but the unclean, disruptive spirit that is sent packing.

“What have you to do with us – it asks.
This spirit that would separate us from the mercy and goodness of God in Christ
the spirit that creeps into our thinking
every time we designate a brother or sister as “them”

Theologians, special interest groups, and people who work with social justice issues
have a name for this large uncertain group  –  the Other –
Those who are displaced and dispossessed among us
– those who we do not recognize as being anything like us.

But they are.
They are in our midst
– they are human as we are human
– and therefore no different from any of us in the eyes of God.

That is the lesson we can glean from this text.
The lesson Christ spent his whole earthly ministry trying to teach.
An inclusive lesson, from one who constantly challenges our idea
of who is in and who is out.

Jesus came that all might be ushered into the kingdom of God
– that all might be taught – all might be changed.

No distinctions – neither slave nor free – Jew nor Greek – male nor female.

No us – no them – no “ Other”.
Just the people of God
– imitating the Son of God
– for the Glory of God.
Amen

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