A Sermon for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

[Ed. This is the text of a sermon I preached at St Albans Church, Ottawa, on Sunday, July 21, 2013. The texts on which my sermon was based were Amos 8.1-12 and Luke 10.38-42.]

So our lectionary occasionally provides us with readings that stop us short, I find. Our first reading, from the prophet Amos, is a pretty good example of this. He writes:

The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.

So we hear that, and then someone says at the end of it all, ‘Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church,’ and one is tempted to reply, ‘Sure, if you say so.’


An Unquiet Mind

Many thanks to Sarah for recommending this book!

Kay Redfield Jamison, the author of An Unquiet Mind, is a Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, and is a pre-eminent contemporary psychiatrist. Although I am not familiar with her, she is an accomplished psychiatrist - and a sufferer of manic depression - or bipolar disorder. Actually, she herself writes about preferring the term 'manic-depressive illness' to the newer label 'bipolar disorder', but I won't get into detail about that. At least in this marginal commentary, however, I will generally follow Dr Jamison's preference.

An Unquiet Mind may be called Dr Jamison's 'biography of mental illness', for in it she describes coping - for a long time unsuccessfully - with manic depression. In having such a focus, it is a lot more like C. S. Lewis's Surprised by Joy than it is like the other biographies I've commented upon on The Marginal Virtues, namely; Hitman by Bret Hart, The Apprentice by Jacques Pepin, and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

There is something to be said about the use of the term 'bipolar disorder', and that is the word 'disorder' - manic depression is the 'disordered' form of modes of experience and feeling that everyone experiences. I would go so far as to say, although with the caveat that I am no professional, that all of us have 'manic' and 'depressive' moments, but they are neither so severe nor prolonged, in most cases, to be in any way noticeable.

My focus, then, will be on a handful of passages in which Dr Jamison describes her illness, and what, if anything, I think it also describes of common human experience. The edition from which I cite passages was the re-published version (with a new preface by the author) of 2011 by Vintage Books.