Following in Place

Monday, October 13, 2014 – Proper 23, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 1, 2, 3 (morning) // 4, 7 (evening)

Micah 7:1-7

Acts 26:1-23

Luke 8:26-39

Jesus so often concludes his encounters and healings with the invitation, “Follow me.” The man in today’s gospel who had just been liberated from chains and demons might have expected a similar offer to follow the footsteps of Jesus and to become the Lord’s close companion. How thrilled this man might have been to leave his hometown and never look back. Isn’t that what Jesus asks of his followers?

Well, not today. When Jesus didn’t ask this man to follow, the man “begged that he might be with him.” But instead, Jesus “sent him away” with these instructions: “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”

The gospel tells us that this man did proclaim to the whole city “how much Jesus had done for him.” But I wonder whether the man was crushed at first when Jesus told him to stop following and to stay home.

The man was going to miss out on the sense of freedom, adventure, and focus that the other followers of Jesus would get to experience. The man was going to lack the familiarity and constancy of Jesus’ presence that the other disciples would know. Instead, the man had to stay in the same old place.

Worse, he had to stay with the same old people. He had to live among people who had once kept him in chains. He had to live among people who had seen him full of demons . . . and who had seen him completely naked, since “for a long time he had worn no clothes.” He had to live among people who, when they saw him “clothed and in his right mind,” were not happy for him, but afraid.

How tempting it would be to pull up stakes and start a new life somewhere else, like God calls many people to do. It is sometimes much more difficult for us to proclaim a gospel right where we are today, in the same old place, with the same old people, even when they’ve seen us at our worst . . . and even when they misperceive us, or when they fear our transformation.

Following Jesus by staying in place can sometimes feel like trying to run a marathon while stuck on a treadmill: all the exhaustion with none of the progress. But even when we stay put, Jesus might still be leading us, and we might still be becoming the people we’re invited to be. So today, let’s spread the good news of our freedom, even if the only place that God ever sends us is right where we are.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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