Posts Tagged ‘Mental Illness’

Jesus Is Storming That Castle 6-10-18

In this sermon, based on Mark 3:20-35, I explore the difficult issue of Mental Illness and Suicide. Jesus makes a small comment, almost throw-away. And yet it reveals a promise on our behalf.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Friday morning I found myself looking through Facebook, as I often do, and I came across a captioned picture, or meme we call it that caught my attention. It was a picture of a fish, specifically a tilapia, which is of course a very commonly consumed species…and it made a lot of pretty odd claims.
Now these claims included calling tilapia a mutant fish, which cannot be found in the wild…it is skinless and boneless…and it is killing our families…clearly the person who produced this picture is not a fan of tilapia.

Now…as I was reading these claims, I was skeptical…I won’t tell the word that came out of my mouth, but I’m sure you can guess…because in my own experience, I have eaten tilapia that was caught in the wild…fresh out of the Sea of Galilee in Israel as a matter of fact…and I CAN confirm, from the way that it was prepared…that tilapia does in fact have both skin and bones, as I had to remove both before I could eat it…and I can also attest that it is not deadly to consume, because I ate it, and I’m still alive.

My own personal experience serves as testimony to what I believe is true…now jokes and humor aside, I need to shift gears into something more serious…something that I believe falls within the personal experience of many who are here today, if not all of you. And because of that you KNOW…it to be true. Mental illness and suicide.

I bring this up because it was a topic in the news more than once this past week, as two different celebrities, one a fashion designer and one a traveling chef, fell to the powers of darkness and took their own lives. It almost seems like a trend in recent history…and as I thought about it Friday morning, I realized just how much it has touched our community in recent years.

We’ve had two here within our congregation and community in the years that I’ve been here. There are more several more who have made attempts.  Earlier this spring, during our Lenten services several of our speakers shared their stories and how suicide has touched them. I myself, in addition the 2 in which I conducted the funeral, have been connected with 3 others, one of which was my cousin.

It is an unfortunate reality, but we live in a society where pretty much everyone will be touched by suicide at some point in their life, whether in their own actions or in the actions of someone they are connected to…I can’t speak to the cause, but what I do believe is this…there are powers at work in this world. Powers of darkness and pain…powers that manifest themselves in many different ways, but in one that I don’t think any of us are really comfortable talking about…and one that the church has really come up short on…and that’s the issue of mental health.

In the situations that I’ve encountered in which the individual either committed or attempted suicide, I can only think that there was something at work…something that was so strong that it overcame their ability to think straight. I do not believe for a second that it was ever intentional or even selfish, though we can and do think that when we encounter these situations.  Rather I believe that there are forces at work that literally manage to mess up an individual’s brain chemistry.  Now mental illness takes on many forms…but it is a disease…and it is a disease that can and does kill.

I wish I knew what caused it…and I wish I was better at reading the signs of it because if I was, I know of 5 different people who might still be alive today…and if we look around this room and apply the same wish, who knows how big that number might be.

Mental illness is something that unfortunately tends to exist in the shadows…and many suffer in silence…caught up in the stigma that our society has placed upon it…considering it a weakness…one that goes against the idea of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. Perhaps some of you sitting out there right now are in this hell right now…afraid to reach out…silenced by fear or anxiety or shame…silenced by the lies that are whispered in your ear or in the back of your head by this terrible situation that you aren’t good enough to get help, or you’re not worthy of it…those same lies that can and all too often do culminate in another person…another beloved child of God lost to suicide.

I don’t know where it comes from…and perhaps the only way that we can think about it today is to recognize that there are forces in this reality that seek to hinder…to break…to destroy…to hold us back from the good existence that God has intended for each and every one of us.

We call these forces many different things…and so do the scriptures. Pain, death, sickness, disease…demons…powers, principalities…even Satan…a name that Jesus uses in today’s Gospel. Now I can’t say if Jesus thought there is some sort of physical being or entity that he calls Satan or the Adversary…or if its just some force at work that is in opposition to whatever it is that God is up to in the world. But I do believe that Jesus knows that power is out there…and it is precisely because of this power…these forces of darkness that seek to break us down…that actively work to hurt and kill and destroy, that God has sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world, empowered through the Holy Spirit to do something about it.

Jesus makes a tiny, almost throw away comment right in the midst of things today…one that it might be easy to overlook, but I think we need to zero in on it today. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. (pause)

I can’t help but think that whatever those dark forces are…whether we want to call them Satan or something else…that’s the strong man…and the house…we can call it hell…or we can say that it’s the realm where Satan has dominion…we could probably call it a lot of things…but Jesus is the one who’s coming in. Jesus is storming that castle…and he is the one who holds the power to bind the force that is actively seeking to kill and destroy…the force that seeks to hold us captive in ANY WAY it can…to hold us back from the good life…the good existence that God intends for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US upon the creation of humanity which has been called VERY GOOD.

The basis for this battle that Jesus is raging is God’s amazing love for all of us…a love which has manifest itself in the life and death and resurrection of a man who is also God…a man who willing took on the power of death and overcame it because there is nothing that separates us from that love, even in times when it doesn’t feel like it…even in those times when we are suffering silently…thinking and feeling like we’re alone…In those times when we are listening to the lies that say we are worthless…the lies that say we lack value…Jesus lived and died and rose again in order to show us that those lies are utter bullshit…my apologies for using strong language, but I think its true.

You are seen…you are claimed you are loved…and Jesus has stormed Satan’s house, tied him up, and plundered his goods…and those goods are the lives and the souls that Satan has fought tooth and nail to tie up…to hold onto…to lay claim to…those goods are God’s children…they are you…for in one way or another we are all bound up by the powers that act out against us.

But we have a God who is more powerful…who is able to bind up Satan’s power…and who has already done so because you are God’s beloved child, as you are…right here right now and nothing changes that…now matter how much the forces of darkness might try to…nothing overcomes God’s perfect love for each one us, not even death. God knows your name. God knows your pain…and God loves you through it all…even through death…and yes this might sound familiar but I think we need to hear it over and over again so that we might cling to it as a promise in the midst of the darkness that we feel.

I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing separates you from God’s love…no barrier that we try to set up…no lies or powers that the enemy puts in front of us…nothing…that’s the glory of the Gospel…that no matter what the barrier…no matter how strong of a defense the powers of darkness…Jesus Christ has already stormed that castle and called you by name.

We can’t do it alone…and its folly to think that we can…so if this hits close to home…please please please reach out…because you are loved and you are worthy and you are known. And not just to us, but to the one who will never forsake you. There is no shame in admitting that we need help…and even the gospel tells us this…that none of us are able to do it alone…but it also promises us, that we don’t have to. Amen.