Easter Day 2015

Paschal (Easter) Candle - Chapel of the Cross, Madison, Mississippi

Paschal (Easter) Candle – Chapel of the Cross, Madison, Mississippi

On Thursdays since last Labor Day, my SOULWorks Group has volunteered at Manna House, a place of radical hospitality at Cleveland and Jefferson. There street folk can shower, get clean clothes and several cups of the strongest coffee in Memphis, Tennessee. I have many new friends there. I have yet to hear anyone complain about their lot. Actually, “I woke up this morning and I’m glad to be moving, today,” is the most common remark. I now know both coming and going a profound truth. Namely, having little doesn’t necessarily produce bitterness any more than having everything necessarily produces gratitude.

A young man there is tormented by voices in his head. That’s an irony as his name is Emmanuel, “God with us.” Every time I meet him, it is for the first time. He looks carefully, quizzically at my face and I introduce myself (again). Recently, I learned that his mother comes there most every day. She stands and looks at him, he looks back, but he never knows her. Yet she comes. That’s what mothers do. What she feels, she has never said.

Presentation in Temple

Presentation in Temple

Certainly Jesus knew his mother that Friday morning, as they began to crucify him. Perhaps, amnesia would have been a kindness. She stood looking up, he looking down and their eyes met. I’ve often wondered if Simeon’s words echoed in Mary’s memory that Friday noon. He had snatched Jesus from her arms over thirty years earlier, announcing to anyone who would stop and listen that this one was Messiah! His parting line, “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed,” gained strangling clarity as she stood in the mid-day sun.

That strangling clarity is exactly what we avoid knowing and especially feeling. No avoidance can protect us. It is futile. It is futile because in the deepest place in our souls, we know: Suffering is the promise life always keeps. Suffering is the promise life always keeps. Never achieving your dream Suffering is the promise life always keeps Achieving your dream, only to discover it was unworthy Suffering is the promise life always keeps Marrying and family Suffering is the promise life always keeps Unwed and solitary Suffering is the promise life always keeps In spite of our ego’s best laid plans, promoting our terminal uniqueness. Regardless our wealth, family, ethnicity, race, nationality, or zip code It is a true saying and worthy of all to be received, that all humans are more alike than we are different! Therefore, beloved… Suffering is the promise life always keeps

1 AVOIDANCE OF PAIN – PURSUIT OF POWER

The unfortunate incident in the Garden of Eden never tells how evil began. The fall of Eve &  Adam explains how humanity go entangled with evil and sin. Sin and its consequences, suffering and death is lot of all humanity just as sure as sparks fly upward. We cannot not assume that all people that have ever lived on this green Earth felt joy. We can assume that every person who has ever taken breath on this green Earth has experienced pain. The strategy for avoiding pain and sorrow, loss and suffering has always been power. We have pursued power, to protect ourselves from pain. The exercise of force, can in fact, keep many species of wolves away from our proverbial doors. ‘

But then, because power is addictive in itself, we pursue it for its own sake. Naturally, as with any competition, where everybody is driving and finally diving for the prize, there must a winner and lots of losers.

How many remember who won the final-four last year? How many remember the third runner up? How many remember last year’s runner up.

Winners are empowered and losers are not. But even the winners are empowered for a short time before it all begins again. On and on it goes. As it has ever since Cain lost God’s regard that time and enraged at his loss of power, murdered his brother Abel.

Regardless then we lose or win, we have the same fear: having enough, or not being enough or, finally not being at all, that twists us into perverse caricatures of what a human should be. There we will always trust our own ego above all others and distrust anyone else.

Power has been our strategy, Control is our universal policy. We have consoled ourselves with the idea that if we worked hard enough, learned enough built technology powerful we could in our way finally achieve what our distant ancestors could not achieve that time with the tower.

Truly it is true that never in the history of our race have so many had so much for such a long time. We split the atom looking for power, last century and we found it. The irony is that while splitting the atom produced power beyond imagination, the bitter irony is that nuclear energy is lethal. Our will to power is lethal such that it will cost us our souls. The Gospel revealed by God in Christ is that something is terribly wrong in the human heart – and before the foundation of the world, God set out to do something about it.

2 THE BIZARRE OPTION

Of course no one got what God was about. That has been clear since, the Evil One gave Jesus advice on how to get the Kingdom underway that time in the Wilderness. The disciples didn’t get it either, nor his family or the priests, scribes, Romans of every station and power. And frankly, few have ever “gotten it”! Why was that? God’s plan was so outrageous, so clever that we marvel today at the elegant equation of grave. God’s secret weapon was humility.

I believe that I speak for all of us when I state that this is, in point of fact, exactly what we are not looking for!

As Woody Allen once said, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.”

3 KILLING DEATH BY DEATH

John Behr, the Dean of Saint Vladimir’s Russian Orthodox Seminary, succinctly states Jesus’ counter-intuitive strategy of “surrendering to win,” in his recent book, Becoming Human, (I’m borrowing several passages)

  • “Christ does not show himself to be God by being “almighty,” as we tend to think of this. As moving mountains, throwing lightning bolts and so on – It is rather by the all-too-human act of dying, in the particular manner that he dies.“ BH [21]
  •  Death is, in point of fact, the only thing that men and women have in common from the beginning of the world onwards, throughout all regions and cultures of the world.
  • And thus Christ reveals what it is to be God through the only thing that we have in common. He does this not simply by dying –, he does it by the way that he has died.
  • Had Christ revealed what it is to be God in any other way – for example:
    •  by being rich and powerful (reflecting our own desires),
    •  by being poor and outcast (as we might conclude by the special place the poor have in the heart of God.)
  • Any such option will have excluded some people: for those who do not fit any such group would have had no part in him.
  • Alternatively, if it were simply because he was human, like us, that he died, but because he is also God he is able to get himself of the grave that would have been great for him, but would not really have helped others.  It is rather because he conquers death by his death that he enables all men and women also to use their own mortality to come to life in him. BH [23]
Victor Safonkin

Victor Safonkin

      Ironically, it is precisely where the world detects the most obvious example of weakness— the cross— that God triumphs over sin and death at the peak of their most deadly power. Here’s the irony: Just where the highest and holiest victim of truly undeserved suffering cries out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” victory over sin and death is taking place. This the foolishness and weakness that trump the wisdom and power of the ages! Horton, Michael S. – A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for Suffering (p. 28y).

4 ALL WE NEED DO IS BE DEAD.

You do know we are all going to die? Is this not incredible? The only thing we have to do is be dead! We begin to die by repenting.

I have told this story before in this. What I lose in novelty, let me take up by way of testimony. I want to tell you of the day that the truth the way down is the way up became more than theology, more than abstraction, a nice idea but unrealistic. It happened on this wise… In the winter of 1978, I was driving on the Bluegrass Parkway in the central Kentucky. 1978 was a brutal winter over all this country. Snow was deep and the road icy and dangerous. I say that because I was literally had seen no other car for miles and hours. Well, I was doing pretty well, having experience in icy weather. That was when it happened. Suddenly, without warning the car began to spin 360° – as the landscape began to spin, time slowed & I thought, I hadn’t planned on this what and I going to do after the car turns upside down? My foot and leg and already learned that slamming on the brake was a really bad idea. Steering wildly had no good outcome.

Then I had that moment of clarity. A thought came to me, one so outrageous and counter-intuitive I would never have entertained had I any other option. But, I was flat out of options. There was simply nothing I could do to fix my problem. I could makes things worse but not better. I took my hands off the steering wheel, held them in mid-air. No longer in charge, having given up any power I had remaining was just along for the ride. The car righted itself. Now, I was headed in the wrong direction and grateful. What I learned that day in the frozen hills of Kentucky has served me well all these years and decades in two different centuries. Dealing with matters of power and faith is like driving a car on ice. Doing what comes naturally, is almost always not the thing to do.

The death of Jesus shows us what an authentic human being looks like AND the death of Jesus releases grace, the energy, to get over ourselves and our ego. I see this power at work in lives of people every day.

Every day, Alcoholics Anonymous teaches me that what can never be done with white-knuckled will power, happens whenever any of us finally take our hands off the steering wheel, raise them in the air and surrender to the power of Christ’s death.

  • In that moment we die in the death of Christ.
  • In that moment we also rise with Christ in his resurrection.

What one repents of is sin, but sin is understood as ‘a matter of trying to block the activity of God, which entrails some curtailing of human freedom. [106] The Necessary Unity of Opposites: The Thinking of Northrop Frye – Brian Russell Graham

We first give up blocking God • We limit our ego • We take up freedom

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “here is the true Christian definition of freedom. Freedom is self-limitation: self-limitation for the sake of others.”

From Under the Rubble; Repentance and self-limitation in the lives of nations.

We are free, beloved, we are free to limit ourselves for the sake of others. Brothers and Sisters of the household of faith, I say to you this Easter day, self-limitation is true freedom.

  • The ‘particular manner’ in which Jesus died was exactly self-limitation for the sake of others.
  • And by exercising this true freedom, by pursuing humility instead of power, his suffering was transformed into salvation.
  • And now we, on this Easter Day, praise him in celebration of the downward trail he blazed.
  • We follow the way Jesus, the Christ leads by limiting ourselves, for the sake of others,
  • We do this in faith that in humility, our suffering, too, is transformed into salvation.

TO HIM, BE GLORY NOW AND FOREVER.

Alleluia, Alleluia – Christ is Risen – The Lord is risen indeed Alleluia, Alleluia

Easter III

Abraham's Oak - Henry Ossawa Turner

Abraham’s Oak – Henry Ossawa Turner

Pausing, looking back toward where the story began there is symmetry, a type–antitype. The place God began his self-revelation was at Mamre, which wasn’t much even then except for one world-class oak, In fact the place was known as the Oak of Mamre as the tree gave it about its only reason for being.

God and two archangels some say or perhaps God, the Trinity, dropped by for lunch with Abraham and his wife Sarah. Since most have not seen an archangel and no one at all has seen the Trinity, it’s a little hard to know where one left off and the other began. It is safe to say that neither wife nor husband recognized their guests until all was revealed over lunch.

Abraham & the Three Angels - James Tissot

Abraham & the Three Angels – James Tissot

Abraham bent over backwards showing hospitality that day and Sarah would have baked a cake if they had given her warning. The holy ones gravely accepted Abraham’s spread under the spreading branches and then got on to the business at hand. You know how it turned out of course. The childless couple had a boy come new-year and Sodom and environs became the Dead Sea by year end.

Turning toward home, see the script? Cleopas and his companion are running away from home and bump into Jesus and then it all becomes clearer over supper. Both stories come to the moment of insight because of hospitality. Extending ourselves in service of the comfort and welcome of the stranger will often lead to gifts unforeseen. Do not neglect hospitality for some have entertained angels unawares. So you never know who might put their wingtips under your table, either expensive shoes or feathers. Prepare to hear the good news.

Jesus came near Cleopas and his un-named companion on the road from Jerusalem and Emmaus. Let’s get the actors straight on our program before we get confused. Hegsippus (early historian) records that Cleopas was the brother of Joseph the husband of Mary and step-father of Jesus our Lords. His companion may have been his son, Simeon. who became bishop after James, Jesus’ brother, was martyred?

road-to-emmaus1

Cleopas and company are running away from the scene of the crime. Their deepest hopes have become their deepest wounds. There is no one more cynical than a deeply wounded idealist. Their eyes were “held” so they did not recognize him. When they explain their distress, Jesus showed them, beginning with Moses and so showed them that another way to read and understand the Scriptures was exactly what happened to Jesus. Thus he reframed their history and made bad news into good news.

Anyone who has lived for very long has come to know that sometimes the only thing worse than the disappointment of not getting what we want is the remorse of getting exactly the thing longed for only to learn how bad it was for us and our souls. Of course, hopefully we learn from the consequences of getting what we want. It may well be that our “wanter” is broken. Actually it has been since Adam at the apple. It may be that God knows better what we need and want than we do.

Emmaus - James Tissot

Emmaus – James Tissot

They come to Emmaus, perhaps to the family home, where Cleopas and his older brother Joseph were brought up. It was there it happened. They were sitting at the old family table, the very one that for all their lives on Friday they had the prayers and only the day after the Passover Supper where again they had eaten and told the story of rescue, how God brought them out of Egypt into the promised land and where they hoped for Messiah, the anointed one of God.

Here Jesus did what is always done at this table, all Christian tables, at this service of Holy Thanksgiving.

Supper at Emmaus - Abraham Bloemaert

Supper at Emmaus – Abraham Bloemaert

The four movements of the Eucharist, He took, he blessed, broke and gave.

He Took

In reply to Satan who suggested he turn loaf-shaped stones into bread Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone.” Of course he doesn’t live without it either. In the only story told by all four Gospels (other than the passion) Jesus took a lunch of 5 loaves and 2 fish and fed 5000 people. If Jesus is God, then he was on the ground floor when the Universe began and if you can make matter from scratch then he can stretch molecules of bread in hand.

Supper at Emmaus  - Diego Velazquez

Supper at Emmaus
– Diego Velazquez

What folk should have learned that day was (and is), whatever we make truly available to Jesus can (and will) be used. In addition, we should have learned by now that when Jesus takes something (any old thing) it is transformed and it becomes enough..
Now, think of all the “castoffs” of our lives. . It is a hoot seeing what Jesus does when he up-cycles what we distain into something needful. Today, look around, take inventory and then offer what we find to Jesus. He can do more with less than anyone I have ever I have ever known.

HE BLESSED

A couple makes promises and then is married but when they are blessed their relationship is filled with divine content. Having taken the bread, ordinary stuff to sustain life in the body, Jesus now makes the bread “different/holy” and it is no longer just bread, but, like Manna in the wilderness, it is the bread of Heaven.

Blessing changes things. It changes relationships. It changes effect. It changes value. To be blessed by God gives dignity and worth. If we are worthless by all human standards not so with God, divine love and blessing creates value where none existed before.

What we will give up, Jesus will take up. What Jesus takes up, he blesses as he did that day when the children came running to him. And what he blesses has merit and dignity if for no other reason, because he blessed them. If God can do that with ground wheat seed mixed with water and baked, what can God to our lives?

HE BROKE

The most solemn moment in any Eucharist is the “fraction” – the actual breaking of the bread. On a day with low humidity there is a discernible “cracking” sound heard through the room. In that moment we are confronted symbolically with the suffering of Christ.
The rubric (stage direction) in the Prayer Book is, “The celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread. A period of silence is kept.” What can we do in face of his sacrifice other than be silent? I believe that the breaking of the bread is all the broken things in our lives, our souls and bodies, those things done, those things left undone, are all (everyone) broken there as well. It is a good breaking, like re-breaking a leg that was inadequately set, in service of fullness of life.

HE GAVE

What Jesus’ taking, blessing and breaking make, he gives. It is food. It is life. It is healing. It is celebration and it is joy. Above all it is Viaticum, literally “food for the journey.” That which God requires of us, God in grace provides us. We need not grow hungry, forced to eat fast-food along the shoulder of the road. Lest we succumb to the junk-food at the Jiffy Mart, Jesus provides us nourishment such that we will arrive prepared to do what needs doing.

When we come for “solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal;” (BCP. Page 372) then we miss the best part. And what is the best part, you ask?
Why, the best part is going out and doing what Jesus said for us to do and seeing that indeed it is happening. What’s not to like? Join a ministry team and find out. These are the four movements of the Eucharist.

THEY WENT

In truth there is a fifth movement: they went. Having the last say, the Deacon exhorts, “Go and do what needs to doing. If you have been fed – be bread.” (My language)

emmausJesus gave them the bread, they eyes were no longer “held” and they recognized him. Then he vanished. Then, no longer tired; (interesting how that happens) Cleopas and company marched immediately from Emmaus back to Jerusalem with the news of Jesus’ resurrection. Upon arriving they discover that the risen Christ has been busy and there afore them.

Our hearts burned as he reframed the scriptures to include Messiah’s “failure” death upon a tree, they marveled. It’s really a simple matter, you see. Their unconscious got it even if their eyes were “held” and the same, beloved, is true in our own day.

Ever since Emmaus, Christians know that Jesus shows up when the bread is broken. We don’t have to see him with our physical eyes. Our hearts will tell us even when our eyes fail us. Pay attention to the awaking fascinations of your soul. The soul turns unconsciously to God, as sunflowers follow the sun. .

JWS

THE PRESENTATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IN THE TEMPLE

Presentation of Christ in the Temple - Rembrandt

Presentation of Christ in the Temple – Rembrandt

The Feast of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple is not one we know well.  So, let’s talk Theology:  The Presentation marked on February 2nd is the other half of the Annunciation marked on March 25th  (9 months from Christmas

Gabriel – Annunciation of great joy – He is Messiah   & Virgin born
[Contradiction]
Anna & Simeon – Presentation of great suffering – He will redeem his people at great cost.
Equals Paradox

The reading from Hebrew Scripture is from Malachi, the last of the prophets.  He writes,  “. . . and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight  — indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”

The prophet tells the House of Israel and us two things:  1. The Lord is coming   and   2. He is coming to the temple.

In the 1st Century the longing for Messiah was keenly felt in the era of Roman occupation. The temple of that period, the third temple was built by King Herod, the Roman puppet king. In 19 BC he began work on a new temple at Jerusalem.  He did this to win favour with his subjects and to impress the Roman world with his splendid building.  The main building was finished in ten years but work continued for the next fifty.

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The temple itself was covered with so much gold that it was a blinding sight in the bright sun.  The temple platform was extended beyond the hill to enclose an area of 35 acres. I have read that 24 or so football fields would fit on that vast platform.  It could be seen from outer space.   At its southern end, it stood 100-150 feet above ground level.  A covered cloister ran right around the outer courtyards.

 The Temple was laid out in concentric courtyards.

  • The main entrance was from the south, and led to the Court of the Gentiles.  Anyone could enter this part of the temple.  [Notices in Greek and Latin forbade non-Jews to enter the inner court of the temple.]
  • The next court was the Court of the Women.  This was as far women were allowed to go into the temple itself.   It was here where Mary and Joseph stopped.
  • Men could go further, into the court of Israel.
  • The inner court was limited to priests only.
  • In the center of the complex was the Holy of Holies where only the High priest went once a year on the Day of Atonement.

The point I want to make here about Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus in the Temple, is that it is nothing like anything we have ever seen.  You may think this is sort of like a baptism since we tend to view the Scriptural setting as identical to our own.

Not so, put that right out of your head.

Going to the Temple was less like going to Church than going to the Fair!

model_36

Model of Temple

The centerpiece of temple worship was the ritual slaughter of animals: sheep, goats, bulls, and if you couldn’t afford four-legged animals a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons. By this time the Jews were no longer a nomadic people, each family with their own flocks.  But you still needed animals for sacrifice. A thriving business grew up supplying animals for sacrifice. [You recall that Jesus did something about that but that is 33 years in the future.]  So:

  1. You bought your animal, got in line and when your time came you presented your beast to the priests.
  2. They killed the animal and it’s blood poured down a special drainage system designed to drain away the vast amounts of blood spilled every day.
  3. The outdoors altar was a slaughter assembly line  with the Sun shining and the animals bellowing.
  4. Some of the meat went to the priests;
  5. Some of it was used for your family ritual meal, while the remaining parts were burned.
  6. It was a bloody, smoky, smelly place.
  7. At the same time worshipers were praying out loud,
  8. Choirs were singing psalms
  9. Religious scholars were holding forth to their students in the porches around the courtyards.

Going to the temple and going to church have little in common unless we open a stock yard at the Cathedral and hold graduate classes in theology and choir rehearsal at a continuous Pentecostal revival and barbecue!

 “ . . . And the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple!”  Certainly Simeon knew the words of the Malachi.  And then it happened one day, not perhaps the way he had imagined but nevertheless it happened.  A couple came into the temple to make sacrifice, as required by the law, for their first-born son.  Most families sacrificed a sheep or a calf.  The law made provision for people of less means.  They could get by with a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

4.The_17

The irony is that all the crowds that thronged the temple that day did not discern the presence of Messiah, the very one that they desired. They were so busy doing what was required that they missed the great day, when the Son of God had his coming out, presented to all the world and only two eccentrics whose eyes were fixed, looking for God, saw him.

Presentation_of_the_LordThe Spirit gave Simeon the gift of recognition.  So Simeon spied them and his heart, long trained to look for Messiah, discerned in the face of the little one, the face he had longed to see: the face of the holy one.  Taking the babe in his arms, he blessed God in the words we sing at evening prayer or often at the burial of a Christian, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.”

Anna, eighty-four years old, who lived in the temple and worshiping there fasting and praying day and night came in. She too recognized the child as the promised one, and began to tell the news to all who were looking for the redemption of Israel.

This Day is also called Pro Orantibus [For those who pray]   These two old people, Simeon who prayed and dreamed, Anna who prayed and fasted  may have been half blind with age but the eyes of their imagination were clearly and sharply focused.

Mark Twain once said, “

“You cannot trust your eyes, if your IMAGINATION is out of focus.”

If Renewal Works has taught us anything it is that while everyone owes God One soul, the care and feeding of your soul cannot be delegated, hired out or left to force feeding by the clergy.  It can however be neglected, starved and abused.

RenewalWorks is a process we are using to get our imaginations in focus! How?

  1. We are reading some scripture from day to day or at least regularly; not enough we believe but more scripture than we have in the past. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly! It doesn’t take much Bible to affect us!  Embedding our lives in Scripture focuses our imagination!
  2. In the breaking of bread: To discern the presence of our Lord in the bread and wine.    We believe that in this place we encounter the risen Jesus in bread and wine just as he promised.  If this is true do you see it is the most important thing we do all week!
  3. In our own inner life I believe that God is speaking to us constantly in our prayers, dreams, visions, and hunches.  But we are to busy doing our daily sacrifices of time, talent and ambition to even notice.  It is only when we are willing to slow down and focus our imaginations that we can trust our eyes.
  4. In each other:  God often seems to speak to me through the people in my life. Parker Palmer once wrote that, “Community is that place where the person you cannot stand always live.” It takes a work of imagination to see that we are all gifts of God to each other, especially those who irritate and scare us the most.
  5. In the faces of the poor and stranger: The Blessed Teresa of Calcutta spoke of Jesus in his disturbing disguises.  She said that when she encountered him in the breaking of bread that she could encounter him in his most distressing disguises.  Eyes with focused imagination see him and hear him, “If you have done to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters you have done it unto me.”
Icon of the Presentation

Icon of the Presentation

I ask you to take better care of your souls.  Please call on us. The clergy are not paid to be Christians for you.  The clergy are here as player-coaches.  We are in ministry of equipped and coaches ministers.  Please, Please, by the mercies of God come and join in this movement.

In our baptism we are given the gift of the Spirit, who penetrates history and existence in order to focus our imaginations will come into focus. With clear eyes it is easy to discern the Holy One in us, between us and to holy hands for the care those in need.

I see you.  I see him in you. Look around you will see him too. To him be glory now and forever.  Amen

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Aside

We continue in our careful consideration of the Gospel of Luke in the long sequence of Sundays of Ordinary Time before the First of December. It is useful to look at the texts immediately before the reading for today and then those that follow directly.
BEFORE

  • The True Kindred of Jesus  – 21 But he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
  • Jesus Calms a Storm – 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”

JESUS HEALS THE GERASENE DEMONIAC

AFTER

2 Healings

  • Woman with issue of blood
  • Jarius’ daughter

Were I to name this I might call who’s in and who’s out.  The prepostions in and out get used a lot by Luke.  What might they tell us?

I am indebted to Ann-Janine Morey for this insight of the dominant use of Out in the first half and In in the second half.

  • Jesus goes out of the boat
  • Man out of the tombs
  • Jesus prepares to tell demons: out
  • Don’t send us out of the region
  • Send into the pigs
  • Demons come out of man & into the pigs
  • Pigs go into the sea and are drowned in the sea
  • Pig-herds go to tell what happened in the city and country
  • Residents beg Jesus to “get out of here.”
  • Jesus gets into boat
  • The healed man goes into the city/Gadara  [Mark:5:1-20 – He testified in all the ten cities what Jesus had done for him]
Map of Roman Palestine with the Decapolis citi...

Map of Roman Palestine with the Decapolis cities labeled in black. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is this the end of the story. No, actually not.

The Gadarene swine fallacy

The GSF is the fallacy of supposing that because a group is in the right formation, it is necessarily on the right course; and conversely, of supposing that because an individual has strayed from the group and isn’t in formation, that he is off course. The individual may seem lost to the group but not off course to an ideal observer.

The fallacy is  illustrated  in R.D. Laing’s Politics of Experience. Here is an excerpt from that work:  From an ideal vantage point on the ground, a formation of planes may be observed in the air. One plane may be out of formation. But the whole formation may be off course. The plane that is ‘out of formation’ may be abnormal, bad or ‘mad,’ from the point of view of the formation. But the formation itself may be bad or mad from the point of view of the ideal observer. The plane that is out of formation may also be more or less off course than the formation itself is.

I learned this very thing from just such a family.  Many years ago  a fine perfectly normal
family brought me their crazy member, as I recall,  to “be fixed.”   After quite a lot of work I realized finally that in this family the only healthy response was to be crazy! The “crazy” one was indeed crazy but was not nearly as scary as the so-called “healthy” family members.

  • Note the Pigs are in perfect formation just as they run off the cliff
  • The Gadarans are in perfect formation just as they tell Jesus to get lost

The healed demoniac went throughout the ten cities [Mark says] preaching the Gospel.   End of story?    No, not at all.

James the Just, brother of Jesus, was the first Bishop of Jerusalem for almost 40 years beginning shortly after the resurrection until he was martyred ca.68 AD.

In 70AD Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple burned, and  Jewish state ended. Just after 70 Simeon bar Cleopas,  first cousin of Jesus, was elected the second Bishop of Jerusalem.  During the second rebellion against Rome, Bishop Simeon led the Church out the burning Jerusalem to Sanctuary in Pella. It turns out that Pella was  just south-west of Gadara and is one of the 10 cities of the Decapolis. There is evidence of a very early church there. Who do you suppose started that?

I’m Just Saying.

Remember:

  • The Gadarene swine fallacy:  Just because a group  are ‘in formation,’ doesn’t mean they are necessarily ‘on course.’
  • Sewell’s Corollary to the Gadarene swine fallacy:  In the economy of heaven the crazy ones, who know they can’t make it on their own are the very ones God chooses to use.”

And so it is.  In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.