from James Flaherty
The story of Jesus sending out his disciples in Mark 6 is one we’ve likely read many times. But on this reading, I’m struck by something that sits right on the surface of the story, a detail about the assignment Jesus gives his disciples that I’ve never considered: He gave them authority over unclean spirits. Hold that alongside what the disciples do: They went out and proclaimed that people should repent, and they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.
Are these things related, casting out demons and repenting from sins? My modern imagination envisions a demon, and certainly all the more so a demon exorcism, as extraordinary and unfathomable and not something that plays out in my daily life. This isn’t my calling as a disciple of Jesus, right? Is there actually much that a demon has in common with the sins that are hitched onto my life, the sins that seems pedestrian and acceptable and harmless in my day to day but that really make me unclean, that separate me from God?
God seems to take the threats to my life far more seriously than I do. Read the call to cleanliness in Leviticus 18. On the surface, not a thrilling passage. But to be clean is to prepare yourself to stand nearer to God, to be in his presence. What’s more vital than that? I’m grateful for the refrain that repeats throughout Leviticus 18. It’s love that God speaks. It’s love that he speaks into the confusion of my sexuality and yours. It’s love that he teaches “I am the Lord.”
James Flaherty lives in Jamaica Plain with Lucia, Joan, and Ursula, his family. He's reading Another Country by James Baldwin and Transcendental Style in Film by Paul Schrader.