12 Step Eucharist Luke 11:14-23, The Mute, the Demon, and the Hound of Heaven
Our congregation read the gospel of Luke and Acts during Lent and Easter with Episcopalians all over the world at the suggestion of our presiding bishop. A theme that kept recurring to me was how Jesus seemed attracted to demons like a cadaver-sniffing Scotch collie. He smelled them out and they without question knew his scent as well. Jesus cast out a demon who came out of a man in the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath no less. He cast out the multiple demons named Legion from the man in the tomb bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard in the country of the Gerasenes. As soon as Jesus reached the bottom of the mountain where he was transfigured to a dazzling white, he sniffed out and rebuked a demon who also immediately picked up Jesus’ scent and convulsed a young boy to the ground. Jesus released the cruel demons in the daughter of the Syrophonecian woman after her “crumbs for the dogs under the table” answer which prompted Jesus to extend his ministry to Gentiles, and of course Jesus cured Mary Magdalene of not one but seven demons.
I remember being most moved in Luke 11: 14-23 when we read how Jesus cast out only a single demon from a person who was unable to speak. Usually those who cannot speak have the root cause of deafness as well. Since they have never heard speech, they cannot imitate the sounds. They most often have an amazing mind, but people think they are useless, “dumb” is the word, because their thoughts and intelligence are locked up inside of them like a bank vault with no combination. We can understand how the crowd is amazed when they hear the man or woman in our story now freely speak and communicate.
Perhaps classic movie fans have seen Johnny Belinda where Jane Wyman plays an isolated small-town Canadian woman who is deaf and cannot speak and is branded the unfortunate word, “the village idiot.” Wyman is healed of her demon as she is taught by her country doctor, Lew Ayres, how to communicate with newly developed sign language. Wyman never speaks in her academy award winning performance and expresses herself with her hands in this classic 1948 movie about prejudice!
Of course, we have another chance to experience what it is like to be mute in this year’s academy award winning best picture, the fantasy drama, The Shape of Water, where a sea creature heals a mute “woman” named Elisa.
My mind wanders from the movies and first century Palestine to think about where in our culture today are we mute and deaf and in need of healing? People in addiction cannot speak their truth and are mute because of the anesthesia brought on by drugs, alcohol, commercialism, materialism, or whatever is filling their God hole. I lost my voice when I became an alcoholic. I knew I could not speak out or otherwise people would know I had been drinking too much. Some addicts and alcoholics become loud and noisy, but what they say makes no sense. They also are mute and indeed do say and do “dumb” things.
Lent was a special season of the year to begin to ponder where we had been deaf and had not heard the truth, had been mute to the messages from God about being the person God created us to be.
We do not have to live with our demons. There is a way out. For those caught in addiction, people all over the world are recovering, being healed, in the 12-step programs.
Maybe some of us are deaf and mute to the needs of others around us who are suffering, and we have not spoken out with our voices and our hands and our feet against their injustices. Maybe because of our social disease of busyness, some of us are deaf to those we live or work with, and have been mute, not telling them how much we care or love them.
My experience tells me that the finger of God can not only cast out demons in first century Palestine but also in twenty-first century Little Rock, on the other side of the scientific revolution.
I keep remembering that my prayers should be that the Christ within us releases the demons that keep us from forgiving others and ourselves, the demons that keep us from asking for forgiveness for the harms we have done to others. Christ, “the Hound of Heaven,” 1 has stopped to rest just behind us waiting to heal these demons. We only have to turn around and realize that it has been the outstretched finger of Love relentlessly following after us all along.
1Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven.