Reflecting on Aurora

submitted by Rev. Mickey T. McCandless 
Director, Church Connections and Spiritual Care

It is Tuesday after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado early Friday morning. I have thought about a variety of biblical stories that can help me, and maybe you, make sense of life in the aftermath of this tragedy. Through prayer, meditation and patience the story of the Gerasene demoniac has surfaced. This is a story in Mark 5.

The story tells of a man who lives among the tombs of the area and is inhabited by demons who give him incredible strength and deep rage. Jesus comes to the area and the demons in the man recognize Jesus who allows the demons to enter a herd of swine. The swine then drive themselves into the Sea of Galilee taking the demons with them. The man is freed and again in his right mind. The people of the town become fearful of the power of Jesus and ask him to leave. He begins to leave and the freed man asks to accompany him. Jesus refuses his request and says to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” Then Jesus departs across the sea.

The two themes that engage me with this story are the power of Jesus to heal and community. Both of these themes are helpful for me and possibly for you to move to a new place in the aftermath of this tragedy. First, Jesus has the power to be in the midst of our lives and heal us in our confusion, in our pain, in our sorry, and in our loss. Jesus allows us to again get into our right mind. Jesus also can be in the midst of the life of James Holmes, his family and friends to give them their right mind. It will take the power of Jesus to heal all of us as individuals and to heal us as a nation so that we can begin to live with one another in life-giving ways. To be healed by Jesus means that we now have the transformed life to tell a story of God’s power through Jesus to give life to us and anyone in new ways. The first step in recovering from this tragedy is to let the healing power of Jesus come into our lives, individually and corporately.

Secondly, the theme of community ends this story. Jesus does not let this now freed man walk away from the place where fear resides but instructs the man to return to his community, friends, family, and neighbors, to tell what God has done to break fear and evil. Jesus points the man back to community where his witness can be powerful, personal and transforming. Jesus was a community builder and challenges us to be faithful in building community not with those we like but with all people. Jesus as the life-giving presence of God demonstrated what it looks like to build community, to be in community, and to expand community. Our nation has lost a sense of community and claimed individuality and affinity groups as the foundational ways to live. Yet, that leads to powerlessness and destruction. The only way we get to life is to let Jesus lead us into community and what it means to live together in community even as fear, rage, evil and transformation are evident among us.

Healing and community, two themes upon which we can reflect and live with the emotions and thoughts stirred up by Aurora. May we let Jesus heal us. May we let Jesus challenge us to live in community and show us the way.