In January 1983 Marianne and I along with Ann and Veronica traveled to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, for a 16 month study tour. Our house was quite a distance from the American Embassy so every day until my staff college began, I was driven into the Embassy.
There was a traffic circle—a round-about—as they call them in the rest of the English-speaking world which was more interesting because the Bengali drivers aren’t very good at rules of the road or courtesy.
I began to notice a man who stood each day at the traffic circle. I began to notice that each day he was wearing fewer and fewer clothes. Then one day he was missing. I asked my driver what had happened to him.
I learned that the man suffered from mental illness and one of the manifestations was to disrobe. Whenever he stripped himself nude, the police called his family which came and picked him up and re-clothed him. Sure enough in a few days he was back in his position and the process began all over again.
Our gospel narrative reminded me of this because it spoke to the back story of the gospel. The man at the roundabout had a community—made up not just of his family who looked after him but also the police and probably others who noticed him. Clearly the Gerasene demoniac as he is known had no community. In fact, when he was healed, the people of his city and neighborhood asked Jesus to leave them rather than celebrate this man’s healing.
We all need community and most of us find it in many ways, rather than just one, and St. John’s is or should be a community in which you participate rather than a place where you go to church and then scoot out the door.
Somehow when I began my ministry in Bainbridge and Afton, New York, I had this strange feeling that I wouldn’t have to do a funeral any time soon. I recognized that people dying and burials were an established part of any pastor’s portfolio.
Well, suddenly a man died of complications of pneumonia and within the next 6 weeks I did 8 funerals. Between visiting people in what turned out to be their final days, coordinating the content of services and pastoral care of the families and doing the services and going to the cemetery sometimes all in the same day, it was a very busy time.
When things settled down, I went to visit the widow of the first person who had died. I found her very angry and when I inquired as to why she was mad, she said that she had been abandoned by her church. I was shocked.
I said what about Harold and Barbara, Bea and Dar who go to St. Peter’s. She snapped that doesn’t count–they’re my friends. She was missing the point that her church was part of her many community opportunities.
I think that the demoniac wanted to be a part of Jesus’ community by going with him. Who could blame him for that since his own people were so unfriendly toward Jesus? But Jesus told him to return to his home and tell others ‘how much Jesus had done for him.’
How hard that must have been for this ‘new’ man. Yet Jesus saw the greater need for this person to be a visible symbol of healing when everyone would have nothing to do with him.
Each of us can function as a visible symbol of a relationship with Jesus. How has God made a difference in your life? When have you experienced that feeling that you are not alone in the midst of trouble? That, like Elijah, you have experienced the Lord God in the sheer silence?
Sometimes we don’t recognize those God moments even when we reflect on them, but then someone in our community helps us to make the connection. We all have at least one story of God in our lives.
It’s time to do the important and share with Friends, Relatives, Associates and Neighbors. The buzz word is FRAN, and it is up to each of us to share that others might experience this or another faith community.