Discipline the mind
1 Kings 19:1-15a – Gal 3:23 – 29 – Luke 8:26-39
The theme that runs through our readings today is discipline.
We learn that we must discipline our minds.
Now that is not the “tell-off” discipline,
but rather the ordering,
or structuring of our minds.
We must discipline them.
And it is not a draconian discipline,
where we only allow our minds to experience certain things,
but rather it is the discipline of controlling what we are exposed to,
and making sure that our minds get a balanced diet.
We don’t just want to feed our mind on junk food,
rather our minds require a balance of input.
Our reading from 1st Kings shows us that it is in the quiet that we encounter God.
We might say to God at times in our rush, hustle and bustle: “show yourself”
and expect God to shout over what is happening;
but if we are not quiet,
we are almost certain not to experience God,
and almost certain not to hear from God.
Elijah tells us that he heard from God in the small quiet voice.
That small voice that we only hear when we are quiet.
Unless we are likewise willing to give our minds some quiet,
then we are unlikely to hear from God.
Time and time again,
we like Elijah experience God speaking in the quiet.
So we need to cultivate some quiet,
some slowness in our day to hear from God.
Pauses and quiet are God’s gaps into our lives.
Our mind then requires us to discipline it,
to allow it to experience quiet,
so that it may connect with God.
If we don’t create that quiet,
then we are unlikely to experience God guiding us.
Our reading from Galatians reminds us once again,
that we are saved not through our own actions,
but through our faith in God.
So it doesn’t matter how much we rush around doing this or that,
it wont bring us any closer to God,
rather we need to discipline our mind and our life,
to realise that it is not our acts that save us,
but our faith in Jesus.
Once again, this is a discipline.
It is so much easier to do things, because it makes us temporarily feel good about ourselves.
But we don’t need this feel-good-factor,
as God cares for an loves us.
When we start to believe that God does love us,
then we start to realise that our call is firstly to faith and quietly being with God, not doing,
and that the doing happens after the being with God.
Paul reminds us of the pointless-ness of the law,
and how that living the most holy righteous life according to the law will not save us,
but rather it is our faith.
As we think about our faith,
we realise that it is what Jesus did that saves us,
not what we do;
as we realise that, hopefully there is a peace,
that means there is no pressure on us to save ourselves,
and we start to realise that we are okay with God,
that we don’t need to try hard to please God,
but rather that God is already pleased with us,
and like Elijah we can simply ask God: “Okay, what now?”
Then in our Gospel reading we see the destructive influence on someones life of the wrong things.
This man’s mind was enslaved by a multitude of different things,
all of them destructive literally pulling him and his body in different directions,
so much so that he would struggle against them and break chains.
We see vividly in this reading of an extreme of the undisciplined mind,
where if we allow everything around us to influence us,
then we will head down a path of self-destruction.
Now, so-far I have said we need to discipline our minds.
You also need to know that I firmly believe this,
that we need to discipline our minds.
I also thrive on creativity and doing new things.
God has created me with a sense of creativity,
and an ability to pull new things together into something that works.
But that doesn’t mean that every new things is good and useful.
Creativity for me also requires a sense of discernment:
of is this right or wrong,
useful or not useful,
of God or not of God,
what I should do or not.
So while I also firmly believe that we need to be open to new things,
I also believe we need to be discerning.
So there is a tight rope that needs to be walked between being open and being closed.
And where we are on that continuum,
or on that tight rope with a particular situation,
is hopefully a considered position.
If we turn to our gospel for a moment,
let me give you an example of openness and discernment.
Reading between the lines I make an assumption.
Now I have nothing to base this assumption on,
because we have no more background or insight into today’s reading than what we have heard,
but I suspect this person was open to things that he should not have been open to.
Clearly his life, and his body,
show us that he was open to things that were not life affirming.
So being open is important,
but we also need to be discerning.
As we move back to our reading from Galatians,
we discover that the key issue today is the difference between the law and faith.
Paul likens the law to a baby sitter,
or an au-pair or nanny,
and the Greek word Paul uses could literally be translated as nanny.
The law was something that helped Israel grow and mature,
and now that Israel has matured in Christ,
they now need to let the law and the baby-sitter go.
I still have vivid memories as a child of this,
of having my parents direct my life,
and then there came a point,
I can’t remember whether it was just one day,
or where it happened over time when they would refuse to make decisions for me.
I now needed to make my own decisions.
And I can remember feeling a little abandoned,
in the sense that now no one was there to make my decisions and protect me.
That was of course a silly thought,
because my parents didn’t kick me out of home,
they were definitely still there,
as they are today,
but there was this realisation that the old way nolonger worked,
and I would have to make my own decisions.
Israel and the Law
And it was like this for Israel.
They were in a time of transition,
between the law that kept them safe,
and the finishing of the law now the Messiah had come.
The baby sitter of the law is still a respected partner in the family,
and memories formed are looked back upon,
but Israel is mature now,
and now needs to start living a mature life,
a life of faith.
Now the hard yards start,
this mature Israel must now go out,
and gather all people to God.
That was God’s call on their life all along,
and today we have heard in our reading from Galatians of the initial struggle of living that way.
Israel now have grown up,
their au pair, their guardian, their baby-sitter, the law, is no longer needed.
They now need to live in the faith of the messiah.
And living in that faith means two things:
1) firstly it means believing the faith
2) secondly it mean being part of the faith.
Believing means being able to confess: “Jesus is Lord.”
means being part of the body of Christ.
And that means being baptised.
The sign of your acceptance by God is not the law,
it is not circumcision,
but rather it is baptism.
It is being able to confess Jesus is Lord,
and being baptised.
when we are children our parents carry the weight of responsibility for us and our safety.
As we grow though,
we become responsible; and their comes a day when we are full responsible.
In NZ law, we see that age of responsibility as age, 16, 18, 20;
depending on what we are talking about.
In a similar way we become responsible for our place in God’s family,
or as Paul calls it: Abraham’s family.
When he says Abraham’s family, he is referring to the phrase:
“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
It is our baptism then that allows us to mature,
to come into the family of God and have the assurances of being part of God’s family.
Maturity in Christ then has to do with faith,
and that means making our own decisions and being responsible for them.
Discipline – chosing what we nurture ourselves with
And to do that,
we must be disciplined.
in the sense that we choose what we will allow our life to be nutured with
do we stay with the old ways?
Or do we move to what God is doing with us now?
The challenge to the Galatians was to allow the faith or Jesus to nurture them,
and not the law,
to allow their maturing relationship in Gods family to guide them,
not their parents, baby-sitter or nanny,
but rather their new relationship with God as it started to develop in the faith community.
This was a time of uncertainty and risk for the Galatians,
but it is something we all go through if we wish to mature in our faith.
Maturing in our faith then I think has to do with making our own decisions,
and that means taking time for discernment,
and taking time for discernment as we hear from Elijah means being still,
and being quiet so we may hear from God.
We also need to remember that we need to be disciplined,
whatever shape that might take in our life,
and however we might choose to nurture ourselves.
Let us pray:
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
we thank you for inviting us to be part of your family,
help us to respond well to this invitation.
Send the right people that we may be disciplined,
in how we nurture ourselves.
And as we still ourselves,
may we know your presence, your call, and your will for our lives. Amen.
Galatians 3:23 – 29
The Law controlled us and kept us under its power until the time came when we would have faith. In fact, the Law was our teacher. It was supposed to teach us until we had faith and were acceptable to God. But once a person has learned to have faith, there is no more need to have the Law as a teacher.
All of you are God’s children because of your faith in Christ Jesus. And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman. So if you belong to Christ, you are now part of Abraham’s family,[f] and you will be given what God has promised.
Jesus and his disciples sailed across Lake Galilee and came to shore near the town of Gerasa. As Jesus was getting out of the boat, he was met by a man from that town. The man had demons in him. He had gone naked for a long time and no longer lived in a house, but in the graveyard.
The man saw Jesus and screamed. He knelt down in front of him and shouted, “Jesus, Son of God in heaven, what do you want with me? I beg you not to torture me!” He said this because Jesus had already told the evil spirit to go out of him.
The man had often been attacked by the demon. And even though he had been bound with chains and leg irons and kept under guard, he smashed whatever bound him. Then the demon would force him out into lonely places.
A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. So the demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and Jesus let them go. Then the demons left the man and went into the pigs. The whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.
When the men taking care of the pigs saw this, they ran to spread the news in the town and on the farms. The people went out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they also found the man. The demons had gone out of him, and he was sitting there at the feet of Jesus. He had clothes on and was in his right mind. But the people were terrified.
When Jesus got into the boat to start back, the man who had been healed begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him off and said, “Go back home and tell everyone how much God has done for you.” The man then went all over town, telling everything that Jesus had done for him.