Pastor Chris Tweitmann
Bad neighbors. Every community has at least one. Someone who stands out to everyone else in a negative way. That person is universally regarded as being a problem, a hindrance or maybe even a threat to the wellbeing of the rest of the neighborhood.
This Sunday as we continue our Lenten series focused on loving our neighbors like Jesus, we will encounter someone who likely has been given just such a label from the community. Recorded in three of the four gospels, it’s the story of a dysfunctional, disorderly, destructive and dangerous man.
This guy terrifies everyone. He repeatedly cuts himself. He wanders through the countryside and camps out among the tombs of the city. His endless and haunting shrieks reverberate through the community at all hours of the day.
Talk about your nightmare on Elm Street. The citizen’s brigade has tried to restrain him to no avail. This guy physically overpowers everyone else in the neighborhood. No one can stop him.
To this demonized man, Jesus makes a special trip across the storm-tossed Sea of Galilee. He and his disciples leave their base of ministry in Capernaum, on the east side of the lake, to head to a place called the Gadarenes. Gadara was primarily Gentile territory. The city was part of a district called the Decapolis or “Ten Cities,” that were originally inhabited primarily by Greek people who settled in the region after the time of Alexander the Great’s conquest. It is here, in a region consisting mostly of Romans, that the lengthiest account of Jesus interacting with another person is recorded.
Join us as Jesus brings deliverance to one person and by extension, offers the same to an entire community. We will witness yet another beautiful and revealing picture of the Gospel. A neighborhood rooted in fear is about to be blessed with the gift of faith. But brace yourself. Not everyone is going to be so eager to receive such a gift.
A very scary story is only going to become more disturbing by the time we get to the end. What begins as an encounter with one bad neighbor will turn into the revelation of an even worse neighborhood. Not to worry though. All hope will not be lost. Together we will see in the transformation of one life resides the seeds for the redemption of a community.
Grace to you!