Saturday, April 5, 2014

Day 28: Detach, Detach, and Hatch

"This kind can come out only through prayer."  -Mark 9:29

Our reading from the ninth chapter of Mark’s Gospel follows the Transfiguration of Jesus. And I have heard time and time again that the Transfiguration isn’t the most important story in this chapter of Mark—that the most important story is our reading, the story of Jesus healing the boy with the spirit. The preference is in the imagery, and what the imagery suggests about the priorities of Christian life: instead of Jesus allowing the three disciples present at the Transfiguration—Peter, James, and John—to build shrines to commemorate and relish such a supernatural and revelatory experience, he quickly accompanies them down the mountain, from the pinnacle of ecstasy to the squalor of human depravity. The message is that the mystical should wash into the main-stream. Our mountaintop experiences should move us to sing the story of glory with the people of the valley. But, I don’t want to take that angle today.

When Jesus and the three disciples descended the mountain they came upon a man that desperately desired for his son to be released from the hold of a demonic spirit. The spirit made the boy unable to speak or hear. The father explained to Jesus that he’d petitioned Jesus’ disciples to rebuke the spirit, but to no avail. So, Jesus, seemingly a little frustrated with his “faithless” disciples told the man that, “…all things can be done for one who believes.” The man declared his belief, and Jesus rebuked the spirit. And the boy became fully integrated—he became whole. When the disciples asked Jesus, “privately,” Mark writes, why they couldn’t drive out the spirit, Jesus responded, “this kind can come out only through prayer.”

In Lent we seek to overcome those spirits or things that keep us from hearing the still small voice of God, and from speaking life, and love—the language of God—into the spaces in which we live and occupy. In Lent we rest in temporary discomfort as we long to become more whole through the resurrection of a self more in-tune with the person of Jesus, more aware of the mind of Christ. However, we can never be unbound from those things that close our ears and sully our mouths unless we enter into the heart of Christ—we can never become detached from spirits that distract us unless we practice, with Christ, detachment, unless we separate from the bustle of life that screams in our ears and causes us to the wind, and practice, with Christ, listening for the still small voice of God. To employ familiar imagery, the mountaintop experience of being with Christ in the presence of God is what we carry with us when we return to the world of noise and things.

Let us remember, this Lent, that the only way that we can drive out the spirit of noisiness, the only way that we can be raised with Christ to new life, using God’s love language, is by believing that God speaks to us and through us; and, that belief comes by way of practicing detachment, practicing prayer.

Paul Daniels, II is 23 years old and from the Diocese of North Carolina. He is the Student and Young Adult Minister at the Anglican Cathedral in Grahamstown, South Africa; as well as the Intellectual Ministries Chair for Christian's at Rhodes (C@R), a non-profit ecumenical Christian student organization at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.

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