Lesson One:The Exorcism in Gerasa
Scripture: Luke 8:26–36
“Jesus’ presence and human vulnerability can result in a personal and communal transformation”
In the Suggestions for Leaders for this lesson, Wilma Angélica Quiñonez Cubero points out that although we cannot understand a demonic possession or distinguish it from neurological or psychological conditions, we can empathize with the pain of people who feel they are not in control of their minds (see the Examine the Characters section). Even when an affliction we have escapes our understanding, nothing can separate us from the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. In the Exorcism in Gerasa story in Luke 8, Jesus recognizes the image and likeness of God in the demon-possessed man. When Jesus responds to the situation with dignity, respect, and compassion, Jesus serves as an example for us of how to listen and attend to the needs of others.
In 2008, the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), approved Comfort My People: A Policy Statement on Serious Mental Illness. This statement points out that millions of people live with mental illness and that mental illness is the leading cause of disability for those between the ages of fifteen and forty-four in the U.S. and Canada. In any given year, approximately one-in-four adult Americans has a diagnosable mental illness and although “mental disorders are widespread in the population; the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion.” According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one-in-seventeen or 6 percent of Americans have what can be called a “serious” mental illness (see https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness).
It is serious mental illness that is the subject of this policy statement. In its widespread wake, few families and congregations are left unaffected. Definitions of “mental illness” and “serious mental illness” vary greatly. In fact, the standard diagnostic manual used by mental health professionals does not even make a distinction between serious mental illnesses and non-serious ones.
All PC(USA) congregations, mid-councils, and seminaries are eligible to apply for Mental Health Ministry Grant Program one-time seed grants to initiate projects that will help educate, equip, and empower churches to reach out to, and with, people with mental health concerns and their loved ones. The grant program is intended to expand mental health awareness, understanding of mental health issues, and advocacy for mental health services. Its goals are to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health, especially serious mental illnesses, and for churches to become more welcoming, inclusive, and supportive faith communities for people living with mental health concerns
author of the 2023-2024 PW/Horizons Bible Study
Additional resources to use with this lesson:
- Click to download and read the document, Comfort My People: A Policy Statement on Serious Mental Illness.
- For a list of mental health resources and a grant application, click here.
This blog is the first in a series of nine blogs written by the study’s author Olive Mahabir. A new blog will be posted every month between now and April 2024.
Presbyterian Women in the PC(USA), Inc. publishes an annual Bible study. Sacred Encounters is the study for this year. You can purchase a Sacred Encounters Bible study book (HZN23100) and study along with us. Call 800/533-4371 or order online.