In Mark’s gospel, Mark 9: 14–29, Mark tells of Jesus’ healing of a boy who was possessed by a spirit that made the boy unable to speak. The boy’s disease manifests itself a lot like epilepsy, but we can also think of it as a metaphor for a dominant power which silences another. 215 children at a residential school in Kamloops, 66 Palestinian children, 2 Israeli children, Joyce Echaquan, George Floyd, all were silenced by the spirit of racism, by the dominant power of the day.
In Mark’s account, the disciples were unable to drive out the spirit in the boy and return his speech. They were so bound to the dominant social habits of the day they could not believe in, trust in or imagine anything beyond the dominant power arrangements and so they were reduced to impotence. But not Jesus. He heals the boy, and the boy stands tall. Jesus says, “This kind can come out only through prayer”. About this, biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann says “Prayer is a refusal to settle for what is. But this is real prayer, down and dirty. It is not nice church prayer that refuses to ask anything because we mostly do not believe that prayers are heard or answered.” (from Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out, by Walter Brueggemann)
We are heartened, empowered by the support, the respect being given to Black Lives Matter, to those seeking equality and justice in Israel/Palestine, to the movement for truth and reconciliation between settlers and indigenous people in Canada, in response, in reaction to the silencing we have witnessed or of which we have been a part. And we are all called to follow Jesus, with a refusal to settle for what is, with real prayer, down and dirty, that the voices of those who have been silenced will be heard.
Revs. Bob and Helen Smith
A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, June 5, 2021, edition of Tidbits.