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Crazy Love

Updated: Jan 29

“Crazy Love”

a message by Rev. Dr. Bruce Havens

Coral Isles Church, UCC

July 10, 2022

Luke 8:26-39 NRSV

26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.  27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs.  28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 

29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 

30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had

entered him.  31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.  32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission.  33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.  34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 

35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came

to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.  36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 

37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to

leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.  38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying,  39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how

much Jesus had done for him.

I was supposed to preach this sermon on Fathers’ Day, but COVID intervened. I

was hoping to speak to our increased awareness of mental health issues and concerns

as we voted to become a “WISE” church. The story of the Gerasene “demoniac”

seemed a perfect story to lift up Jesus’ concern for persons experiencing serious

mental health crises. If you will allow me the latitude to perhaps be “inappropriate,”

using the word “crazy,” let me talk about this under the title of “Crazy Love.”

I don’t mean to seem insensitive or uncaring or sacrilegious, but I want to

suggest we have to consider, is God crazy? Because if God loves us the way I believe

God loves us then God might be a little crazy. Or maybe I am crazy to claim God

loves us this way, but I will defend my belief based completely on the testimony of

Scripture. I believe in a God who has a “Crazy Love” for us. This story shows us

how God is willing to love us no matter who we are or where we are on life’s journey.

Let me recap this weird little story from the Bible. This is another story of

Jesus breaking the rules. He goes into a foreign land to interact with “others.” Others

in the sense of nationality, religion, racial background and more. Now, today we


might consider some, if not all, of these “rules” to be kind of crazy. But whatever we

think about the rules, Jesus broke them. And he always broke them by demonstrating

the compassion and love of God for people who were suffering.

These rules define who is in / out and even who people believe God loves and

who God does not love. So Jesus goes to this strange land and encounters someone

described as “demon-possessed.” It was against the rules to have contact with

someone like that. It would make one “unclean” and therefore unable to be in social

contact or even in worship with others. Remember also that before the late 19 th

Century and the study of psychology and the medical study of the brain “demon-

possession” was the way people described others whose behavior was considered

“abnormal.” Until the development of the modern medical understanding of

psychology and psychiatry – the understanding of the mind’s physical effect on a

human being we vilified people by calling them “demon-possessed.” The “witch

hunts” of the 1600’s came in part from a determination that any woman that didn’t

abide by the social customs and rules of her day was considered a “witch.”

Now, if you’ll forgive just a little more historical background, I find it both

fascinating and horrifying to know that, “The region of Gerasene is the setting of a

horrifying historical event. According to the historian Josephus, just about the time

Luke would have been writing this Gospel, toward the end of the Jewish revolt, the

Roman general Vespasian sent soldiers to retake Gerasa (Jewish War, IV,ix,1). The

Romans killed a thousand young men, imprisoned their families, burned the city, and

then attacked villages throughout the region. Many of those buried in Gerasene tombs

had been slaughtered by Roman legions. This seems to suggest that Luke’s story has

a subtext to the main narrative of a “healing.” Even as an “exorcism” story these

references to Roman soldiers suggests that they were far more the “demon-possessed”

than a man wandering through a graveyard.

My point is that, “the story sounds like a simple healing miracle. For people in

the ancient Roman world, however, ‘Legion’ had only one literal meaning: a unit of

approximately six thousand Roman soldiers, the occupying army. 1  Suddenly an

exorcism takes on social and political significance, and Luke’s word choices

throughout the story invite a closer look. When the man confronts Jesus, Luke uses a

verb that he employs elsewhere of armies meeting in battle (Luke 14:31). When the

demon “seizes” the man? That’s a verb used elsewhere when Christians are arrested

and brought to trial (Acts 6:12; 19:29).  The words for the hand and foot chains, for

binding and guarding, are the same ones that Luke uses in Acts when the disciples are

imprisoned. In short, the language of the whole episode evokes the experience of

living under a brutal occupying power.” So to that extent Luke is speaking not only of


the healing of an individual but the “cleansing” of Israel of an oppressive, evil

occupying nation.

Another point to remember is that “Jews regarded pigs as unclean, so this detail

is a reminder that Jesus is in Gentile territory. It may well carry a more political

meaning also. One of the emblems of the Roman “Legio 10 th  Fretensis” on banners

and coins and bricks — was a pig. The 10 th  Fretensis participated in the siege and

destruction of Jerusalem, took the lead in reconquering Palestine, and was stationed in

Jerusalem after the war. For the people of the area, pigs would have seemed a fitting

description for Legion. Here the story takes a darkly humorous turn for Luke’s first

hearers. Legion, thinking that it has avoided the abyss, promptly charges into the deep

and drowns.”

“From the moment that the demoniac first confronts Jesus, the whole episode

invites us to consider what Jesus has to do with the forces that occupy and control

us?” The writer I am quoting asks, “How many people in our world are haunted by a

traumatic past and tortured by memories? How many live unsheltered and

inadequately clothed because of social and economic forces that they cannot

overcome, no matter how hard they struggle? How many are imprisoned, regarded as

barely human, excluded, cast out? How many are enslaved by addictions no longer

knowing where the addiction ends, and their own selves begin? Where do the

governing authorities separate people from their families, denying them the

opportunity to seek better lives? Where do occupying armies still brutalize entire

communities and hold them captive to fear?

She points out that, “Jesus comes to challenge and cast out every power that

prevents us from living fully and freely as human beings created in God’s image.

Jesus claims sovereignty not just over our souls, but over our lives here on earth.

Many among us resist that news. [Despite the promise of freedom from illness, they

find] deliverance from Legion too frightening…. But those whom Jesus has healed

and freed know that his liberating love is indeed good news, the gospel that he

commands us to proclaim throughout our cities and towns. Still today God is at work

in Jesus, bringing God’s kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven. [ Rev. Judith Jones,, June 23, 2019 ]

Another one of my favorite writers [ Karoline Lewis,, June 18, 2019

], said, “We all know where mental illness still stands these days — misunderstood.

Made responsible for all sorts of incidents by persons, leaders of nations even, without

empathy or understanding. Judged. Stigmatized. Best to hide it than to risk any

additional chains that brand you unfit, that cause you to question whether relationships

are possible, that make you wonder if who you truly are will ever be recognized again.


“If you are, or someone you love is, one of those diagnosed with an ‘out of

control’ kind of disease, as we like to categorize mental illness, well, living in the

tombs becomes a way of life, even a [“chosen”] way of life. Sometimes, you feel like

you are dead. At its very worst, you would rather be dead. You can actually imagine

that the world would be a better place without you — and you eventually give in to

the demons that have convinced you of this truth. We know those for whom this

ended up being true. We mourn those for whom this was the only way. And perhaps,

we’ve known it ourselves. We’ve gotten close, too close — but somewhere, somehow,

someone heard you. Someone listened. Someone came along willing to sit among the

tombs with you and helped you imagine a way out. A life unchained. A life free to be

you. A life always meant to be yours. Somehow, you heard the good news.” And it

made life possible again.

So this “demon-possessed” man, this “Legion” discovers good news. The love

of God is just as real for him as for all those who fear him, reject him, and judge him.

He is so moved by this that he wants nothing more than to hang with Jesus no matter

what. He wants to go where Jesus goes. He can’t keep quiet! A moment when, by the

grace of God, you see a way forward from “how can this be” to “please, please, let it

be.” Jesus made this promise to us, God had sent him “to proclaim release to the

captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” And when

you are no longer chained, you can’t help but shout and share, praise and worship.

Jesus sends him home to tell people the good news. Shockingly, they aren’t all

thrilled. In fact, the hometown folks want Jesus to leave, and fast. That is one aspect

of the cost of being healed we might have never considered. Some people don’t want

others to be healed, especially if it might cost them something economically, as the

death of those pigs cost the owners.

So is it crazy to believe God loves us so much God is absolutely committed to

healing us? I believe that is the message of the cross and the resurrection. Now, I

realize not everyone experiences healing in this life. And there is a difference

between healing and curing. Some cannot be cured in this physical world. Sometimes

the healing has to happen in a different realm, in a separate reality. For me that is part

of my hope in what we call “the resurrection.” I believe God loves us so much that

God will not let the physical, mental, and even spiritual forces in this world defeat

God’s intention to make us whole. Our illnesses and suffering are not God’s will,

they are not God’s judgment or God’s punishment. Call me crazy, but I believe in a

God who loves us so passionately illness, not even mental illness, not even death can

defeat God’s intention for life, for wholeness, for love to win. Maybe you think that is

a crazy love, but I believe that is God’s love for you and for me and for all. AMEN.

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