Today we witness the collusion of state and church as a means of consolidating power. From David to Herod to Constantine the tendency to capitalize on the spirituality of a community as means to exercise one’s power is witnessed.
David in a bold effort to consolidate his power moves The Ark which represented the very presence of God, to his newly restructured city of Jerusalem. Herod, struggling with his moral failures uses his guards to intimidate the truth speakers. Constantine uses the cross as a tool of war on other nations; yet, even as all of these incidents are occurring in the main plot, deeply embedded in the sub-plot is the presence of not just a moral lapse, but the eerie presence of mental illness. David’s dance in the presence of The Ark, long viewed as an act of jubilation and license for many liturgical expressions, is viewed with distaste by the daughter of Saul who grieves deeply for her father. But, of greater concern is David’s decision to eliminate the role of the Levites, whose duty it was to move The Ark. David’s zeal and abuse of power may reflect something much more troubling within David’s soul. Herod uses his loyalty for his daughter to affect a horrible and gruesome act. What manner of man would not only execute a man by beheading him, but handing the head of the dead man to his daughter?
My friends, over the last couple weeks I have been inviting us to assist in moving mental illness outside of the proverbial closet while it wreaks havoc within our communities. We have all been touched by this tragedy in many ways. Many of us struggle with depression in its various forms. Many of us have lost loved ones to suicide. Many of us have struggled with addiction in its various forms. Yet even as we challenged the Church in the main plot to be the moral voice and not the servant of the state, so must we allow the church to be a haven for those who are struggling with mental illness. Unless we do that, then like with David and Herod both, we will collide, and this will lead to horrible circumstances. These old stories are a reflection of what is happening today. We can compare the old kings to Trump (Trump's unstable and dangerous politics/his madness) and compare the modern-day Christian left to how the old kings used the symbols of Gods strength to make war, lie and fool the people. What is our responsibility as Christians and beliers in God? Do we look at the two-dimensional trappings used by the modern-day church to find solace and forget, even ignore what the State is doing to compromise our mental health and our well-being, or do we take a three-dimensional view of God's and Christ's words, of Christ’s mission and of the miracles he performed to find the true meaning of faith? Do we forget our own power as Christians? The ability to discern what is right and what is wrong is a Christian/God given ability.
Jesus' life was a political one; didn’t he kick the money lenders from the temple? Wasn't his death due to politics gone wrong? Moses' Ten Commandments tells us we 'should not put any other God before Me'. It is up to us, the faithful, to maintain our Christian beliefs and understand the force of those beliefs to change the tide of politics to help those who are struggling with poor, deteriorating mental health.
When leaders, struggling with mental health challenges, are given state power, their actions put communities at great risks. We need priests who are willing to be prophetic even when it is unpopular. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shared “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic intensity it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.” (A Knock at Midnight, June 11, 1967).
The work of the church within our communities is to go further than helping people to be happy and comfortable in the midst of the struggles for equity in the treatment to those struggling with mental illness in our communities. We must be demanding more than providing greater access to marijuana next to the liquor stores, but demanding treatment centers and support groups that are desperately needed. Let’s not confuse kindness for equality or religious platitudes for justice.
My friends, Jesus chose to be a friend to the sick. He offered God’s mercy to the poor and comfort and healing to the broken spirited. On our own we can’t make someone get better. We can’t make someone take the necessary steps toward healing and wholeness. As much as we’d like to fix everything, we can’t. But Jesus can! We believe in the combination of faith, medicine and caring support we can be there, in whatever way we’re allowed for those who are struggling. Let them know they’re not alone.
Please join us Sunday, to fellowship in a deeper understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ teaching.