Thursday, September 25, 2008

Will 700 Billion Do It?

For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet (Mark 5:4).

That seems to be the question this week. You can’t escape it. Congress is hashing out the details, and who knows where they’ll end up. Some voices are urgently calling for a do something and do it now approach. Others seem to be asking questions, wondering what do-it-now means. If we do-it-now, what exactly will we be doing?

Candidates are sparring over the question; a few are shaking their fingers with an air of “I tried to warn you.” Beneath the clamor and carping this much seems clear: The 700 billion will get us through, but it won’t make us right.

You don’t need a graduate degree in economics to pick up on the fact that this mess is deep and systemic. The seeds that are bearing fruit today have been germinating for a long time. In the weeks ahead Congress may come up with a plan to get us through, but it’ll take much longer to make things right. Something will have to happen deep down

In the region of the Gerasenes people probably argued about how to get a handle on the out of control lunatic who lived among the tombs. The end of the story suggests that this man was someone who lived in one of the nearby villages. Some probably knew him by name. His gradual slide into darkness and isolation and madness had been something they watched happen.

Maybe some wanted to leave him alone. Apparently others feared him. He needed to be controlled lest he harm children and destroy property. So they tried to put chains on him. They tried to contain him. They tried to keep him away from decent families and nice neighborhoods. Chains and shackles on the hands and feet should do it.

But the chains didn’t work. They never do.

Chains can only restrain what is out of control. They cannot restore wholeness. Chains keep the unsightly unseen. They cannot transform the appearance. Chains might make people feel safe, but they cannot make things right.

Sadly, chains are about the best we can do with our demons, those things that torment us deep down. We make promises to do better. We self-medicate with alcohol or food. We throw ourselves into our work to stay busy and distracted. Chains may work for a while, but eventually we break them.

Only Jesus can work change from the inside out. Real transformation isn’t imposed upon us. It emerges from within us. Jesus does this with his words, words of command and blessing. Even now, Jesus works deep within us by his Spirit and his word.

Jesus wants to work in the deep places of your life today. He wants you to be done with chains and all other imposed efforts at managing life. Jesus begins his work by inviting you to listen. His words go deep. They will get you through - but more than that, they will make you right. Thanks be to God.

Lord Jesus, we do our best to manage the mess that life can be – but our efforts are frail chains. They work for a while, but they do not work long or well. We turn to you for something more. We ask you to change us deep within and bring transformation from the inside out, that others might see your peace in our lives. Begin that life changing work today we pray. Amen.

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