Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Reclaiming the Surrendered Places

“They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him…” (Mark 5:1)

“They” were the disciples, “the sea” was the Sea of Galilee and the “He” that got out of the boat was Jesus.  “The man” who met him was demon possessed, living in the tombs and tearing away the chains from his hands and feet that had been used to restrain him.

Just before Christmas Joe and I had spent a few days with family.  It was the thirtieth anniversary of my brother-in-law’s fortieth birthday and there was a party.  We can’t always get to these things in term time, but I was recovering from medical treatment and had a sick line off work.  There was also a new great nephew to meet.

We stayed in a pub in the village. The window of our room looked out over the wall and onto the gardens of the village Manor House.  I remember that they used to open the gardens every year for the village May Day celebrations and dancing around the Maypole. The back wall of the pub carpark overlooked the cemetery.  Every day I intended to take a walk through the cemetery to pay a visit to my mum’s grave.  The family have plans for a proper gravestone, but right now, which row she and my dad, David, are buried in – my sister knows, but I would only be guessing.  I didn’t visit the grave and it’s something I regret.  I didn’t have any flowers to leave so I just chose not to go.

Had I been Jewish I wouldn’t have needed flowers – just a small stone to place somewhere to show respect.  Better if the stone had come from my garden or was some coloured pebble to mark the person’s life.  Jews tend to be infrequent visitors to graveyards.  Bonding with life is more important than dwelling with the deceased.  Some days are just better suited to visiting graves than other days.

In the country of the Gerasenes there were no better suited days – no days at all for visiting graves. “The man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. He had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet.  No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.” (Mark 5:3-5)

It appeared that the nearby villagers had simply surrendered the cemetery to him.  They had tried to restrain him but he broke free.  He lived in the tombs and they let him.  Perhaps the thinking was if they left him alone, he would leave them alone, so they gave him the cemetery and stopped visiting to place their stones on the graves.

Sometimes the path of least resistance comes when we surrender something.  “For the sake of peace” we tell ourselves.  Or we convince ourselves that what we surrendered is something we don’t really miss, or it’s not really that important.  We can live, we tell ourselves, without placing our stones on their graves.   And we do…

When Jesus casts out the demons and leaves the man sitting, dressed and in his right mind, He doesn’t just restore a man. He gives back to the community a man in his right mind and He gives them back their cemetery.  The place they had surrendered to a demon possessed man has been restored to them.

It’s not just people that Jesus restores but it is the places that these people inhabit that also get restored.

Sometimes we get used to living with areas of our lives surrendered, not to God, but to other things.  We adjust to accommodate things when we shouldn’t have to and we slap a “No Entry” sign on to a door.

Maybe it’s time to ask Jesus to restore those things and those places to us so that we may live life to the full.

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