Re:Lent – Rebuke

“What is your name?” From the very beginning of creation, we have been given the ability to name things, including ourselves. Conversely, we have the opportunity to be known by name as well. Jesus was known by name. Known even by the demons.

In a memorable story from the book of Luke, Jesus traveled to a region called the Garasenes, a place where no respectable rabbi would ever go. And once there, he was accosted by a man Luke describes as demon-possessed. The man was naked and had lived outside for a long time, among the dead. Imagine that scene for a moment. What kinds of reactions or feelings would this scene arouse in you, were you in Jesus’ place?

Add one more element — this man knew Jesus by name. “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” Before Jesus answers, he insists on an admission of true identity.
“What is your name?”
And the demon’s response: “Legion.” (That always gives me the heebie-jeebies.)

How we define our identities matters much more than perhaps we think it does, and if we define ourselves based on untruths, we are bound to suffer. But when we are tempted to believe those lies, we can respond as Jesus did. And this kind of repentance is called “rebuke.” In contemporary culture, we rarely use that word (“Yeah, the boss totally rebuked me today.”) But it is the word that describes what Jesus does to Legion here. It is how Jesus responds to the lie that Legion was living out — and forcing one of God’s beloved people to live out too.

A few weeks ago we talked about the first miracle that Jesus did in the area of repentance — he called people to drop their nets. Nets for these fishermen were a symbol of identity. And long before they knew anything or had any reason to trust Jesus, they had to drop what and who they thought they were and let Jesus begin to re–create their identity based on the Truth.

One lie that makes it hard to “drop our nets” is that God is untrustworthy. Another lie is that God will make you do something awful, or make you sacrifice everything you love. And finally, another is that God cannot actually save you, so it’s a waste of time to give Christ your life. These are, of course, the same kinds of lies Jesus is tempted by in the wilderness.

And just as Jesus rebuked Satan in the wilderness, and just as Jesus rebuked Legion in the Garasenes, we too can rebuke the lies of God’s enemy. When we don’t, those lies can grow around us, slowly and invasively, like ivy climbing the trunk of an otherwise strong tree and sapping it of its life.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can rebuke the enemy and all his lies, and experience freedom to be the adopted daughters and sons of God through Jesus Christ that God calls us to be. We can live the truth that God redeems us to live.

For reflection:
1) Who are you? How do you define your identity? Whose influence over your identity do you allow into your life?
2) Legion tries to negotiate the terms of the exorcism — in what ways do we, even when rebuked in our own lies, still try to grasp at control?
3) Describe the man after the demon is gone. How would you describe his identity? How would you describe his experience in terms of “repentance” and “salvation”?

Many blessings,
Mike

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Godspeed: Identity

When God created the world, he called it “good.” But when he was finished with his final piece of creation — human beings — he exclaimed “Look! Good!”* Why?

“Identity” is a buzz word in our culture these days. But among the many ways people describe their identities, few people are discussing how they arrived at their description. Are we the authors of our own identity? If not, where do we find it? In the Bible, it starts…well, at the beginning. When God created human beings, he made them (male and female) in the imago Dei — the image of God. The gleeful exclamation in Gen. 1:31 is just a glimpse at how God rejoices over people, whom he creates to reflect his glory more than any other part of creation. God rejoices over you. Therein lies the core of our identity — we are the beloved of God.

But what happens when we forget, or choose to forget, or have not yet heard this great news? We become driven by a need to prove ourselves. Driven by fear of failure or inadequacy, rather than by the joy of being God’s beloved, we scrape and fight our way through the world, trying to make a name for ourselves, trying to secure a place for ourselves.

But as bearers of God’s divine image, we have a name. We have a place. This simple concept is part of the reason why the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 is one of the best in all the gospels. Here was a woman who had been given many labels. Surely she had given herself a few, and doubtless others had many names for her. Shunned from normal society, she was compelled to fetch water at midday when no one in their right mind would be out in the hot sun. It was there, in the illogical place, that Jesus met her. He broke rule #1: don’t travel through Samaria. Then he broke rule #2: don’t speak with Samaritans. And finally, rule #3: don’t share a cup with a Samaritan!

But he didn’t care. Jesus knew who all that this woman had done. He knew who this woman was. She was God’s beloved. And he wanted to tell her. As this powerful spoken word poem reminds us, “to be loved is to be known.” And so for the first time in John’s story, Jesus revealed his true title to her: Messiah (in Greek, “Christ.”) And she ran off to tell everyone she knew about him.

For reflection:
1) To know our identity as God’s beloved, we must listen for God’s loving voice — when this week could you find an extended time to set everything aside and just listen? It might take longer than you think to silence the noise in your mind.
2) To know our identity as God’s beloved, we must be reminded. Find a place to put these words somewhere you’ll see them every day: “You are my beloved child, whom I love.”
3) To know our identity as God’s beloved, we must also help others know their identity as the same. Who is a “Samaritan woman” in your life who may need to hear that she or he is loved by God? Do you have the courage to share that good news with them?

Many blessings,
MM


*Gen. 1:31, Septuagint. Most translations read “very good.”