COLUMN BY MARY LEE TALBOT
Jesus and the disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee to the country of the Gerasenes and the first person they met was a man driven out of his mind by demons.
“I know I talked about demons on Sunday, and I don’t want to be known as the demon guy, but I don’t write this stuff — I just preach about it,” said the Rev. M. Craig Barnes at the 9:15 a.m. Wednesday morning worship service in the Amphitheater. His sermon title was “Healing Faith in Our- selves,” and the scripture text was Luke 8:26-39.
Before the man became crazy, he had a story. He was someone’s son, maybe spouse or father, but all that was hid- den behind the legion of demons that had driven him crazy.
When Jesus asked the man his name, it was the demon who responded: “Legion, for we are many.”
Barnes said, “If Jesus asked you your name, you would say, ‘Which part of me do you want to know? Do you want to know me as a mother or father, the cool or grumpy grandparent, how I make my living, my volunteer activities, what my friends see, who shows up in the mirror?’ All of these parts vie for control and they don’t necessarily get along.”
All of us, he told the congregation, have a pie chart for our time. “We have pieces for work, all the chores and errands we have to do, family, recreation or time for ourselves, sleep. We all get the same size pie, 24 hours, and we can rearrange the size of the pieces, but we can’t get a bigger pie.”
The only way to make one piece of the pie bigger is to take from another piece and make it smaller. “Work can take time from home and home can take time from work, and they might not like that,” Barnes said. “We always feel like a failure in some part of our life. We cut back, especially from time for ourselves, and that makes us crazy like the man in the story.”
Jesus never asked the man if he wanted to be healed, he just did it. The demons asked to be sent into a nearby herd of swine, and then they jumped into the sea. The owners of the swine went to tell the community what had happened and when the community arrived, they saw the man clothed, in his right mind and sitting at Jesus’ feet.
“I always thought the community got upset about the pigs, looking for compensation for the loss. But they came to ask Jesus to leave because they were afraid when they saw the crazy man sitting in his right mind,” Barnes said.
He continued, “As long as you are not crazy, you think society is working just fine. But when you meet Jesus, who can change the way things are, you ask him to leave.”
The man, now in his right mind, asked to go with Jesus. Even though he usually told people to drop every- thing and follow him, Jesus told the healed man to stay.
“The man was actually applying to be a disciple and Jesus told him to stay and proclaim what had happened to him,” Barnes said. “It takes more dependence on the grace of God to stay rather than leave, to stay with the people who hurt you.”
He told the congregation, “Jesus calls us to stay even when the church hurts us, as is the nature of the church.” Barnes said when he travels by airplane he always hopes his seat partner will not ask what he does for a living. “When they find out I am a pastor, I get one of three responses,” he said. “First, the person gets very quiet and there is an awkward silence for the rest of the flight. Second, when they find out I am a Presbyterian, they try to convert me to Jesus. Third, they give me a litany of complaints about the church.”
One time, Barnes was sitting with a man who chose the third option. The man had some well-considered concerns about the church. Barnes told him, “I spend a lot more time with the church than you do and you don’t know half the problems. It is so much worse than you know, and don’t get me started on the clergy.”
Barnes continued, “So why do I stay? To find Jesus and to gather in his name. He is always there. He called me to stay and it is not easy, but that is where the Savior is found.”
Barnes said he sometimes tries to give his seatmate a theology lesson, explaining that the church is not a school for saints, but a hospital for sinners.
“To be disappointed that the church has sinners is like being disappointed that there are sick people in a hospital,” he said. “Church is the place where sin-sick souls find the healing of the Savior. We need a savior to center us and give us a mission — even one we don’t want — to stay.”
The Rev. Mary Lee Talbot, a lifelong Chautauquan, presided. Melissa Spas, another lifelong Chautauquan and vice president for religion at Chautauqua, read the scripture. The prelude was “Master Tallis’ Testament,” by Herbert Howells, played by Joshua Stafford, director of sacred music and Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist. The Motet Choir sang “Like as the hart,” also by Howells, under the direction of Stafford and accompanied by Nicholas Stigall, organ scholar, on the Massey Memorial Organ. Stafford played “Praeludium in E minor, BuxWV 143,” by Dietrich Buxtehude, for the postlude. Support for this week’s chaplaincy and preaching is provided by the Mr. and Mrs. William Uhler Follansbee Memorial Chaplaincy.