This week’s tale by the sea is . . . well . . . a little bit creepy, to be honest. In a way it’s something akin to a horror movie.
Imagine that you are living in Gergesa, a little town on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s 2:00 am and it’s dark, really dark, outside. There are no streetlights. You and your family and the animals that are part of your household have been in bed for several hours now.
And you hear it again.
It’s a sound you’ve heard for years. It begins as a low moan and builds to a wail — and then to a howl. And it’s coming from the cemetery. You know what it is, of course. Everyone knows about the strange, scary man who lives among the tombs.
This is not just a story — although there are many stories about him. He’s real. People avoid the area. The children scare one another with tall tales about this man that have grown taller and taller with each passing year.
People have tried to restrain this man, but no one is strong enough to subdue him. He’s broken all the chains and leg irons anyone has ever put on him in an attempt to contain him. And night after night, he howls and wails and cuts himself with sharp stones.
Oh, he has a name. And once he had a family. But now no one knows his name and his family no longer acknowledges him. Everyone agrees — this guy is a lost cause. Too far gone. No one can possibly help him.
So you lie awake for 30 minutes or so until the howling dies down and you can finally go back to sleep.
Then, the next afternoon, there’s a commotion in town and you make your way toward the hubbub to see what’s going on. Standing there in the center of town is an itinerant teacher named Jesus. He’s from the other side of the sea. You stand there for a moment, still wondering what’s going on that has everyone so stirred up.
And then you see it. You cannot believe your eyes.
Standing next to Jesus is the man who lives among the tombs. Not naked, but fully dressed. Not wild-eyed, but perfectly calm. Not covered with filth, but clean — and standing peacefully, right there in the marketplace.
What do you do with that? In this close-knit community this man had always had his place. He was the stuff of stories — and scary ones at that. Suddenly he was . . . normal. Now no one knows what to say or how to relate to him.
How did this happen? How are we supposed to act? What will his place be now?
Sometimes these are the questions people ask in the face of a life completely transformed. Such transformation is sometimes nearly as dramatic as the Gergasene Demoniac’s experience, but the transforming work of Christ comes in many forms.
I look forward to exploring this story of transformation — and the people’s reaction — with you this Sunday in our Sanctuary worship.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster,