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Healing_of_the_demon-possessedFirst impressions are paramount, our life coaches tell us. Suit up, look confident and practice that opening line if you want to succeed in love, finance and influence.

What if your goal is to begin a process that transforms the world from one beholden to despotic violence to one that exhibits the wholesome fullness of a paradise based on selfless care for the environment, one another and relationship with the Ground of all Being? How does one present one’s credentials?

Jesus went to his community’s regular gathering place to teach and expand a collective vision of shalom – a marination in the peace of the reign of G-d. (Mark 1:21-28) On cue, the darkest manifestation of the tyranny that opposes this vision arises in a troubled villager and challenges him. Jesus summarily dismisses the demon and the man is healed. The crowd is amazed and Jesus has established his bona fide before the end of the first chapter in Mark’s story.

Contemporary commentary on this story tends to focus on the phenomenon of “demon possession” and “mental illness.” This misses the point. Mark’s gospel sets the stage for understanding the nature of our engagement in a conflict of cosmic proportions. Jesus is presented as the one anointed with the influence and authority to overcome all that threatens to overwhelm and destroy.