#Ecosystem is the Podcast for June 19, 2016. What do sea otters, ecosystems, demons, church boards, and Jesus have to do with each other? Quite a bit. Listen here in this reflection: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #GeraseneDemoniac #Demon #SeaOtter #Ecosystem #ChurchCouncil #Change #Luke
Ecosystem: A Reflection on Luke 8:26-39
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here
For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 6/19/2016 The 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 8:26-39.
When my oldest son was discovering the world, he (like everyone in his age group) wanted to become a marine biologist because of his love for one animal: the sea otter. He absolutely loved sea otters. He could tell you everything about sea otters. Where they swam, how they formed rafts of up to 100 to keep themselves from drifting out to sea, how they ate sea urchins which would otherwise eat sea forests and thus destroy carbon monoxide eating plants necessary for our survival. Unfortunately, they also provide food for sharks. On top of all these ecologically fun facts, sea otters are adorable.
(I have attached a video of sea otter activity that is just heart warming at MySpiritualAdvisor.com so that you can see what I am talking about.)
What my son did not know is that sea otters are what is called a “keystone species.” A Keystone species is an animal that is so important to an ecosystem that without it the entire ecosystem would collapse. The fact that the sea otter is food for sharks but also eats sea urchins and keeps their population down so that we have carbon monoxide absorbing sea forests is an incredible fact. Bees, ivory tree coral, the gopher tortoise, the mangrove-dwelling crab, and prairie dogs are other keystone species. I have posted a link at MySpiritualAdvisor.com so that you can read how these species are keystones to their ecosystem.
Unfortunately, no one has found an ecosystem for which the mosquito is a keystone species. Sure there are a few places where mosquitoes serve to pollinate and where their larvae are huge sources of food for fish and eat water pollutants, but overall scientists, and the general public, don’t care for mosquitoes. I have posted an article about mosquitoes at MySpiritualAdvisor.com as well. I think we would welcome anyone, anywhere who would find a way to rid us of disease carrying, hive causing mosquitoes. I would think that, unless I thought about them in terms of the Gospel today.
Today’s Gospel has Jesus entering the ecosystem of the region of the Gerasenes. In this region and ecosystem, there is a man who is possessed by a legion of demons, literally thousands of demons. He goes around his ecosystem like a mosquito. He is usually naked. He lives among the dead in the tombs. The locals had bound this human mosquito in chains and shackles but he would break the shackles or chains in a wild frenzy. In that frenzy, he would run off into the wild, driven by the demons to get away!
It is this guy who greets Jesus just as he gets off the boat. Knowing what we know about him, we can only guess what kind of greeting Jesus gets! It was a greeting that caused Jesus to command the demons to be removed from him. These demons beg him not to send them to the abyss. Instead, Jesus sends the demons into a swine heard that is nearby. As you heard in the reading of the Gospel, the swine heard is destroyed by running into the water by where Jesus landed. It was at this that the swine shepherds ran into the city to tell everyone what had happened.
Here is Jesus, going to a Gentile area to heal a man of a legion of demons. We know that it is not Jewish territory because there are shepherds raising pigs. That would not be kosher. So, he extends the role of the prophet into a place that would usually be ignored. Then, Jesus heals the man, thus eliminating someone that the community thought needed to be put in chains. Additionally, Jesus shows the power of God to people who would not normally be included. About the only people I could think who would have an issue with Jesus’ healing are the swine-hearders who have an economic loss here.
Yet, the people, whose ecosystem has been improved like someone removing the mosquito, they act like the demon possessed man is a keystone species. They become afraid of Jesus for the good that he is doing. They ask him to leave: “We don’t need your healing and do gooding around here!”
Now, the reason I brought up the keystone species, ecosystems, and mosquitos is because humans live in ecosystems, too. We call them families, towns, regions, countries, continents. Everyone knows their place and contribution to the human ecosystem. Even if the ecosystem is one that is caustic and unhealthy, everyone knows their place and would rather do what they know than take the chance that things could be better.
Spiritual Directors read articles on how to assist their clients through the process of change that takes sometimes weeks, months, and years. People can even be afraid to make changes that God tells us we should make because our minds have been conditioned to our family ecosystem. People will go way out of their way to protect the keystone species in their family ecosystem or town ecosystem because without that person, or family, or business, the whole local ecosystem of how people relate to each other comes crumbling down.
Just think if we had a church board meeting, or a city council meeting about healing the Gerasene demoniac who roamed our tombs, acted out so that we had to chain him up, broke those chains and ran manically into the desert around the city, scaring everyone to death. We would have the tourism bureau complain about the loss of revenue from tourists who came to hunt down and observe the demoniac. We would have his family members who would not know what to do with their time and shame after he was healed. We would have the chain makers and blacksmiths complaining about loss of wages and jobs. We would have security guards complaining that they would no longer be hired to keep the demoniac away from those who bury bodies. We would, of course, have the swine hearders union seeking redress from their economic loss. Lastly, we would have the society for the ethical treatment of demoniacs who desire that society learn to accept the demoniacs as they are-demoniacs are people, too.
We just might have someone come and advocate for the demoniac himself because they could possibly see how much of a tortured existence he had and how God has now sent someone to heal him. Yet, the fact of the matter is, that once a system is in place, no matter how aweful the values of that system, we humans tend to love it. We love it because we know our place. We know how to navigate through it, fight against it, and benefit from it. This is why local churches can fail to grow. It is why communities can fail to adapt to when a business leaves. It is why a family will undermine an addicts attempts to recover. It is why new ideas are shunned at the office. It is why a community would ask the healing Lord to leave their midst. It is why a dog returns to its vomit.
The story of the Gerasene Demoniac is one of my favorites. It is one of my favorites in part because it points out that even though we may have the most amazing God, the most healing Lord, the most loving Savior, we can still be rejected. Thank you for healing out town demoniac, now please leave. Additionally, it is one of my favorite stories because it shows that Jesus is about change and growth. When we are confronted with Jesus, it means that we will be changed. We will grow. Frankly, most of us do not want change and growth. We want comfort and stability. This is why James, Peter and John offered to build Jesus, Moses and Elijah three booths up on the mountain in the Transfiguration: they wanted to domesticate their religious experience. Jesus will not be domesticated.
This story points to a Lord who heals people. That means change. This story points to a Lord who relieves suffering. That means change. This story points to a follower who is given a better way of life. That means change. The story of the Gerasene Demoniac should cause us to ask the question, do we really want to be healed by Jesus, or do we want Jesus to validate our demons?
For those of us who realize that the keystone species in the ecosystem of the universe is God, we are dedicating ourselves to lives that are constantly being restored, renewed, and reoriented. So, we need to ask ourselves are we open to change? Are we open to newness of life? Are we open to be healed? Are we content to just look at this world around us, shrug, and accept our place? Or, are we willing to be healed of our demons and accept our place as sons and daughters of the Most High King? Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2016.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian