Friday, August 8, 2008

Naming-And Claiming-My 'Pigs'

This week's scripture is Mark 5: 1-20.

Well, we're back from vacation. Apparently there were small wagers as to whether I would show up on Sunday (I guess folks thought I'd sleep in), but I fooled them all and actually managed to get there.

Last Sunday's Biblical story was about a gentile woman who came to Jesus asking for help for her daughter. As we 'unwrapped' the story we found that it was also a story about the disciples being confronted with a concrete expression of the wide gulf between their racial/religious bigotries and the love that Jesus was attempting to teach them is a cornerstone of the Kingdom of God.

This week's story from Jesus' life also takes place with a gentile. It goes a step further and occurs in a gentile territory. Jesus gets out of the boat after crossing the lake and is immediately confronted by a man with a serious mental illness. Early Hebrew material listed four characteristics of the mentally ill: walking around at night, tearing one's clothes, giving back things given to you, and hanging out in graveyards. So whether you're working out of an ancient model that say the illness is caused by 'demons', or a modern one that says there is a 'chemical imbalance', there is no argument about the resulting illness. (We'll talk some more about demons on Sunday).

What I'd like to focus on here is the fact that the 'demons' were told they could go into the herd of pigs that was nearby. In The Journeying Self Diarmuid McGann asks us what happens if we look at these pigs as a metyphor for all the things about ourselves that we project onto others. The 'demons' from this man's life are sent/projected into the pigs. That action is so destructive that the herd is destroyed.

Let me explain what I mean. I hate arrogant people. I mean I really, really hate them. They set my teeth on edge. Being in the room with one makes me want to grab them by the collar and punch them. (Some of you who know me can probably see where this is going). The problem is that the arrogance I hate in them is often my projecting my distaste/hatred of my own arrogance onto someone else. The truth is, if I've got that strong a reaction to someone....I probably need to look at what in me is pushing the intensity of this reaction. And in the case of arrogance, I am really put off by the fact that when I am feeling insecure, or scared I use my arrogance as a shield to protect me from those feelings....and from letting you see those feelings in me.

These kinds of projections are truly 'demonic' in that they are life destroying-both our lives and those of the ones we project onto. They seperate us from those we're called by Christ to love and embrace as brothers and sisters. And they block us from looking at the places in our life where we need to examine, change, and grow.

Obviously the man Jesus healed was not in a place to do that kind of self examination as long as he was roaming around the tombs and cutting himself. He needed another kind of healing first. But you and I? Maybe one of the things (not the only thing, but one of them) that this scripture is calling us to do is to 'name and claim' our 'pigs.' Where are the places that I'm blaming others, hating others, judging others that represent things in my life that I need to be exploring in prayer and meditation and bringing to Jesus for healing?

We'll be looking at some other parts of this story on Sunday. I hope you'll be able to join us. If you're away, or live somewhere else, please remember that we're posting the sermons here on our webpage (thanks to Jeremy for all that work) and you can listen to them there. Your responses are always welcome...either here in the comments section; or if you want to email me personally through the link on the home page.

Again, hope to see you Sunday.


Anonymous said...

Well, I have to say that this passage has always confused me a bit. On a practical level it seems counter-productive that, Jesus' healing of this one man resulted in the destruction of a herd of pigs - not just a loss of life for them, but I'm sure some loss of livelihood for their owner. And this story is written as a real event, not a parable or metaphor.

Even so, we live in a different time and culture so maybe the literal meanings of the story aren't as relevant to us. So while I'm not sure I believe the metaphorical interpretation was the one intended by the story, I still think it raises a good point. We do all project and it's important to remember that we do so at the risk of destruction of others.

Anonymous said...

Good points, Kara. The loss of livelihood is a problem here. I hate to read too much into these problems, as I feel like I'm trying to resolve larger issues that I honestly have little experience with. Perhaps the destruction of the pigs points directly to the sacrifices that a community must make to heal the hurt around us. Those sacrifices are sometime emotional, mental, or physical (as seen here in the economic loss).

In a less direct way, I feel that this sacrifice is a call to realize the part the community plays in an individual's continuing suffering. The community here tried to physically restrain the man and lock him up, driving him Outside. The "more real" sacrifice of the loss of a huge herd of pigs points to their part and culpability in the manner.

I, too, am unsure regarding the metaphorical interpretation - or the even the interpretation I gave above, for that matter. But projection/amplification of our faults, especially if it's culturally accepted, is an epidemic of sorts. Another escape or an out to avoid examining ourselves (which is so painful at times).

Anonymous said...

Podcast posted Aug. 14. Enjoy!