Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me" – for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" He said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him. -Luke 8:26-39
They found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. (vs. 35)
Healing requires Confrontation - and bold truth telling. If you can't name the disease, how can you find the proper cure? Perhaps it takes a radical withdrawal into the desert, or living naked among the tombs to isolate a problem so enmeshed with everything else in life and culture. Here, evil finds its name revealed, and, shouting and protesting in fear, trembles in the presence of Holiness. Here, you “take a closer look at the things and people one would rather not see, to face situations one would rather avoid, to answer questions one would rather forget” (meditation one).
And after that isolation, Restoration may require a slow crawl up from the deep. And even then, toward nothing more luminous or ordinary than starlight (meditation two).
But any restoration, any healing, any miracle of Love belongs not to you alone, but to the world - especially those most in need of the Love which you now bear (meditation three).
Healed, Restored, Sent, (again and again) -Suzanne
Meditation One (introit) confrontation If you therefore go to the desert to be rid of all the dreadful people and all the awful problems in your life, you will be wasting your time. You should go to the desert for a total confrontation with yourself. For one goes to the desert to see more and to see better. One goes to the desert especially to take a closer look at the things and people one would rather not see, to face situations one would rather avoid, to answer questions one would rather forget. -Alessandro Pronzato Meditations on the Sand
Detail, Fabulous Creatures, Romanesque Painter, Austrian, C 1220
Lord! Make our heart Thy temple in which Thou wouldst live. Grant that every impure thought, every earthly desire might be like the idol Dagon - each morning broken at the feet of the Ark of the Covenant. Teach us to master flesh and blood and let this mastery of ourselves be our bloody sacrifice in order that we might be able to say with the Apostle: "I die every day."
-Soren Kierkegaard The Prayers of Soren Kierkegaard
(Dagon was a god of the Phoenicians - half man half fish)
Healing of the Demon-possessed man, Source: Wikipedia commons. No other information available.
Excorcism, Miniaturist, Hungarian, after 1476
Meditation Two (insight) restoration For those who have dwelt in depression's dark wood, and known its inexplicable agony, their return from the abyss is not unlike the ascent of the poet, trudging upward and upward out of hell's black depths and at last emerging into what he saw as "the shining world." There, whoever has been restored to health has almost always been restored to the capacity for serenity and joy, and this may be indemnity enough for having endured the despair beyond despair. E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle. And so we came forth, and once again beheld the stars. -William Styron 1925-2006 Darkness Visible (and Dante quote)
Meditation Three (integration) going to the "opposite" side Just as Jesus went to the Gerasene, his followers today are called to step out of the boat on the "opposite" side. The mission of Jesus' followers is to take the healing and liberating love of God to broken and desolate regions, to those whose lives are bound by demonic forces they cannot control. Indeed the missional language of exorcism and healing has been a notable feature of baptismal vows since antiquity. Baptismal candidates and confirmands promise, among other things, to resist Satan and the spiritual forces of wickedness in whatever ways they present themselves. To be baptized is to commit to going to the opposite side with Jesus. -Elaine A. Heath Feasting on the Word YrC Vol 3, p. 170
The Last Word In the spiritual life, freedom is for nothing other than love. -Gerald May 1940-2005
The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him. -Luke 8:26-39
After this dramatic healing, of course the man wants to follow Jesus. Where else is he to go? What else is there to do? Wouldn't you want to go with Jesus? But Jesus refuses his company. Instead, he sends the man home, on his own, to tell his story. Home is where the impact of his healing will be most dramatic – among people who knew him as the possessed, naked, shouting man in the tombs that chains could not hold.
But to tell his story, the former demoniac must remember it - confronting the wounds which brought him to live naked among the tombs, to trace the wounds' sources and consequences, wounds so severe that even pigs could not bear to carry them.
The wounds themselves bear the source of holiness. These wounds, presented to God like a sacrifice of incense, burn upon the altar of life offering a pleasing fragrance. One by one, enough deep wounds for a lifetime of pain redeemed through an equal depth of holiness. Holy wounds, like Jesus' wounds. The former wounds of the healed man heal him in his telling of his story.
I hope most people will hear sermons today about the legions of stupidities that bring the world to the edge of apocalypse. For just one example - the environmental suicide creeping in from the edges: the swill of plastic in the Pacific ocean, deforestation, melting ice caps, torn ozone layer, carbon emissions effecting climate change. Or, the over-all scope of American food from growing practices to eating and waste. Human folly, greed, lack of imagination, graft, arrogance - our character failings adding up to a legion of madnesses which occupy us like a garrison of ignorance.
But I also hope that the story of the Geresene demoniac may open personal wounds that need air, light, and exposure to painful healing transformed to holiness.