Liberation and addiction

This sermon can be heard here

Gate Pa Presentation of our Lord at the Temple
4th Sunday in Epiphany
Psalm                          24                                                                                                       
First Reading:                         Malachi 3:1-5                         
Second Reading:                    Hebrews 2:14-18                    
Gospel:                                    Mark 1:21-28                         

What I want to say:
I want to briefly explore Candlemas, finishing with the importance of Christ the light  - how does light Christ enable us to see ourselves and the world we live in. I then want to use the article The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think by Johann Hari to talk about what it is that Jesus might be liberating those in the story and those hearing the story from

What I want to happen:
People to reflect on what cages Christ is both liberating us from, and what we are being invited into?

The Sermon

1.     Introduction:

today and tomorrow Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican and other churches
                        celebrate the Presentation Lord in the Temple
            found in Luke
            fulfilment of Mosaic law
                        Purification Mary – given birth – involves a lot of blood – nephesh or life
                        presentation Jesus, first born male – dedicated to God
            leads – Song Simeon – part night prayer
seen with his own eyes salvation of Lord
Candlemas also when new candles blessed
            thought have healing powers
            Ireland – lit stubs given those dying – light way paradise
not hear gospel this week
chose read Mark
            partly because online resources I use RCL rather
            partly reading heard important Mark
                        introduces two themes that hold Marks gospel together

     2.     Mark

passage heard acts kind introduction in Mark
sets out themes which rest gospel explore and open up
themes – authority
-         liberation
authority already introduced and explored – gospel up to this point
here stated – unlike authority of Pharisees and scribes – collision course is set
crowd amazed – quick observation about the two greek words used
            first time – multi layered – include sense outrage
            second time just – wooah!

     3.     Liberation

theme liberation is then introduced through story of the man possessed by unclean spirit being healed
unlike people – not quite sure about Jesus
            some up for it
            others not so much
Unclean Spirits immediately recognise Jesus authority
            not happy
Forced obey and leave man
sets up Jesus as one who has authority to liberate and heal
unlike other healers and exorcists of his time – Jesus doesn’t charge
hard one many of us
not part life experience
often feel need  to make sense of it in terms of 21st century world view
in doing so miss point Mark making – Jesus has authority to liberate.
            Jesus is presented as one who has authority even to cast out demons

     4.     Our cage

read article last week about addictions – posted Facebook page if interested.
Hari suggests that we have been misled about causes of addiction and that we need new approach
much understanding about addiction comes experiments with rats
            alone in cage
            2 bottles one with heroin
                        one with water
            drank heroin one almost exclusively
led understanding heroin hooks in them
            changes biochemistry brain
                        – need it or addicted to it
                        – until kills us
a lot of our treatment programmes and a lot drug prevention strategies are based on this premise.
1970’s another researcher Professor Alexander felt role cage left too open
set up alternative
            other rats
            big rat park – lots to do
nearly all rats tried heroin – then stuck water
not need heroin
life good
then did second experiment
rat alone in cage 51 days – addicted
returned to rat park – nearly all stopped heavy use and returned to normal life in park
Professor Alexander argues this discovery is a profound challenge understanding of addiction. Not a disease taking place in a chemically hijacked brain. In fact, he argues, an adaptation.
            ->It's not you. It's your cage.
not about humans – about rats
human experiments
applied that what happened after Vietnam war
extremely high percentage American servicemen used drugs including heroin
            many addicted
            cope stress situation
            appalling cage
fear was when return home America inundated drug addicts
95% addicted soldiers stopped when returned home
few went rehab
most just stopped
changed cage and need disappeared
Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections.
            It's how we get our satisfaction.
            If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find -- the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe.
            addiction isn’t about hooks and brain chemistry, but unfulfilled human longing to bond meaningfully with others
Cohen suggests that should stop talking about 'addiction' altogether, and instead call it 'bonding.'
            A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn't bond as fully with anything else.
So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.
“It is relevant to all of us, because it forces us to think differently about ourselves. Human beings are bonding animals. We need to connect and love. The wisest sentence of the twentieth century was E.M. Forster's -- "only connect." But we have created an environment and a culture that cut us off from connection, The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live -- constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.
We need now to talk about social recovery -- how we all recover, together, from the sickness of isolation that is sinking on us like a thick fog.

     5.     Social Isolation and Mark

one online commentaries offered this article way understanding Marks gospel in general and this story in particular
liberation offered is
            liberation from cages that isolate us from each other
Jesus not only offering liberation from
also liberation to new way building community
built on God’s mercy and justice
allowed new connections made
over rest year, invite us keep eye out way Jesus challenge all forces that separated and isolated people
            starting with demonic possession
            economic systems trapped people poverty
                                    extraordinary wealth – no less isolated
            religious systems – divided people into who in and who out
                        worked ensure barriers between people were maintained
            social systems – family honour systems made real connection between and within families hard – sought live way maintain families honour
over next few months invite you listen for each of these
invite you reflect
            How Christ light helps us recognise unhealthy cages we live in
                        and are being liberated from
            return to candle stubs given to dying in Ireland
            Where Christ the light inviting us in to
                        what is our paradise now?
                        what new forms of community that will allow us and others to bond well
            to be communities that give life rather than force isolation
what we being invited to see this year?

Finish with Song Simeon


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