A path with trees on the side of a fence

Healing is Possible

ESPERANZA LUTHERAN CHURCH https://myesperanza.org

Epiphany 4B2024
Mark 1:21-28

In today’s gospel, Jesus and the newly-called disciples enter the synagogue in Capernaum, apparently on the sabbath, so that Jesus can teach there. Suddenly, a man with an unclean spirit confronts Jesus asking Jesus why he is there, asking if the Holy One of God had come to destroy the unclean spirit. When Jesus commands the spirit to come out of the man, the spirit convulses and cries out, and the man is freed. All are amazed at Jesus’ authority over the unclean spirit.

Whether this man was actually demon-possessed or simply struggling with a mental or physical illness, we do not know. We can assume his life had been hard, that his condition had isolated him, that even his family had abandoned him. It’s striking that the man approaches Jesus in the synagogue on the sabbath, a culturally uncouth action, to be sure. Did the man know healing was possible? Did he suspect he didn’t have to live this way forever? Did he sense that something good could come after years of struggle?


A couple years ago, I couldn’t hold onto any food. I would eat, and the food would just go right through me. I altered my diet to eat only rice, oatmeal, and meat which seemed slightly better than other foods. My GI doctor had me complete test after test, none of which came up positive. Meanwhile, I lost 20 pounds. I was so scared. I was scared that my doctor wouldn’t find the cause. I was scared that I wouldn’t ever be able to eat normal food again. I was wrapped up in the fear of not knowing what was going on. My medical issue was very minor compared to what others have endured, but I know that stuck-ness of feeling totally vulnerable, without answers, without positive action to take. One morning while I was meditating, something suddenly shifted. When I opened my eyes at the end of my meditation, even though I didn’t yet know what the illness was or what the treatment would be, I knew healing was possible.

I can’t assure any of us that God will cure us of disease, of depression, of anxiety, of hopelessness; I wish I could. But it’s both the man with an unclean spirit and Jesus who inspire me this morning. By his authority, Jesus frees the man, and the man approaches Jesus in the synagogue. The unclean spirit calls out to Jesus asking why Jesus has come to them when, in reality, it’s the man who comes to Jesus. He believed healing was possible.

If today you are stuck in anxiety or worry, if today you are stuck in hopelessness or depression, if today you are bowed down under the weight of grief or are living with illness or pain, I want you to know: healing is possible. And if we can reach, if we can reach out from our stuck, hopeless place, we might begin to imagine a world where we could be healed. And being open to healing is truly the first step in being healed.

In the year and two months I have been part of the Esperanza community, I have heard your stories of disruptive change, of fragmentation, of division. I have heard hard stories of leadership vacuums, stories of incredible loss, stories of confusion and exclusion and hopelessness. I am glad we have told these stories, that we have put our pain to words, and glad that, hopefully, we have now released the power of these stories and let them go. And today, at this moment of transition, I wonder: do we know healing is possible?

We don’t know the future. I can’t assure you what will happen at Esperanza in the rest of 2024, not about finances, not about Pastor Chris, not about how this community will face and together overcome inevitable challenges. I certainly can’t assure you what will happen in your personal lives, but this I know: healing is possible.

For today, Jesus meets a demonic force, and he is not overcome. The force that made this man’s life hard, that isolated him, that led to his abandonment will no longer wield any power in his life. Jesus frees him. Healing is possible for the man with an unclean spirit.

And healing is possible for us.

And of course, we as a community have already experienced a degree of healing. We have strengthened relationships, built new relationships, patched up relationships gone sour. We have discovered our shared joy in life together. We have given up triangulation and are experimenting with direct communication even when it’s hard. I couldn’t be more proud! We have tried to give up gossiping. 😉 We have served our community together and forged partnerships with other congregations and Kyrene de la Esperanza Elementary School. We have shown up for our neighborhood at neighborhood events. We have prayed together and Christmas caroled together and cooked and eaten meals together at times of grief and joy. Healing is possible, and there is more to come. God is at work here, calling out that which is broken, freeing us from all that would bind us.

We show up. Jesus confronts the powers of sin and death and evil. And we are freed. With Jesus, healing is possible. Thanks be to God! Amen.