Ashes 12: Go home...

And show them how you've changed...

Mark 5:1-20 1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3 He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; 4 for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; 7 and he shouted at the top of his voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me." 8 For he had said to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" 9 Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "My name is Legion; for we are many." 10 He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; 12 and the unclean spirits begged him, "Send us into the swine; let us enter them." 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.

14 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. 17 Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 But Jesus refused, and said to him, "Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you." 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

After moving to the Chicago region in 2002 for college, the idea of going home was often a scary one, especially as I became more solid and grounded in my identity and in the changes I was experiencing — changes that I imagined others with whom I'd grown up might not take so well. In those first couple of years before coming out, going home felt almost like a reset, as if I had to start over after every visit. But as time passed, the changes started sticking. And for a long time, I made sure my visits home were less frequent.

Most of us have heard the phrase, "We all have our demons." Well in today's passage, our main character seems to have them in abundance. Calling themselves Legion, they have spent years inside our guy, distancing him from those he loved, those who cared for him and supported him. By taking charge of him, he'd become someone they didn't recognize. He was an outcast.

Jesus shows up, and Legion recognizes him for who he really is. Knowing Jesus' reputation, Legion asks for some degree of mercy and leniency. Legion knows that its host is about to be transformed, and there's no stopping Jesus. The demon(s) end up in a herd of pigs, and this man weighted down for what we can only assume is a significant chunk of his life is restored to his true self, the man he was created to be. When the news spreads, people (in typical Bible fashion) show up to see it for themselves. Rather than rejoicing with this man, rather than welcoming him back into the community, they almost seem to not even notice him.

But Jesus — they notice him, and they're scared.

...horrified...

If this guy can do this to this one man, imagine what he can do to us?!?! Imagine if our demons made themselves known... what would happen to us? 

So the demons are gone, the man is made whole, the pigs have run off, the crowds are terrified, and Jesus is literally getting on a boat to leave. Our guy, restored and transformed, asks... begs Jesus to come with him. Jesus response is probably the most horrifying piece of this whole story: go home...

Let them see how you've changed...

Let them see who you are, who I made you to be...

Go home and be real, be transparent, be authentic...

Let go of your demons, be free to be yourself, and let your world be transformed just as you have been...

So, what are your demons? How long have you been burdened by them? What will it take to let them go so that you can finally be free, truly free? Are you scared? Anxious? Worried? Or have you simply been waiting for a very long time for someone to look at you, call you by name, release you, and tell you to go home?