Jesus frees a demon-possessed man
26 Jesus and his disciples sailed to the Gerasenes’ land, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 As soon as Jesus got out of the boat, a certain man met him. The man was from the city and was possessed by demons. For a long time, he had lived among the tombs, naked and homeless. 28 When he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell down before him. Then he shouted, “ What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me! ” 29 He said this because Jesus had already commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had taken possession of him, so he would be bound with leg irons and chains and placed under guard. But he would break his restraints, and the demon would force him into the wilderness.
30 Jesus asked him, “ What is your name? ”
“ Legion, ” he replied, because many demons had entered him. 31 They pleaded with him not to order them to go back into the abyss.t32 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs. Jesus gave them permission, 33 and the demons left the man and entered the pigs. The herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and drowned.
34 When those who tended the pigs saw what happened, they ran away and told the story in the city and in the countryside. 35 People came to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone. He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully dressed and completely sane. They were filled with awe. 36 Those people who had actually seen what had happened told them how the demon-possessed man had been delivered. 37 Then everyone gathered from the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave their area because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and returned across the lake. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged to come along with Jesus as one of his disciples. Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “ Return home and tell the story of what God has done for you. ” So he went throughout the city proclaiming what Jesus had done for him.
Dizzying changes have taken place in American religious life in the last half century. Yet in spite of that fact, taking a snapshot of a “typical” Christian church in America would reveal a surprising number of small-to-mid-sized congregations, rooted in a local neighborhood or community, tied to a specific denomination, where most of the members know each others’ names, and hence are blessed (and cursed) with being the church together.
In this clear-eyed, humorous appraisal, Jason Byassee contends that the “church around the corner” occupies a particular place in the divine economy, that it is especially capable of forming us in the virtues, perspectives, and habits that make up the Christian life. Not that he romanticizes these churches, however. Having been a rural, small membership church pastor, Byassee knows too well the particular vices and temptations to which they are subject. But he also knows the particular graces they’ve been given, graces like the “prayer ladies,” those pillars of the congregation who, “when one told you she was praying for you it meant something. When one hugged you, you remembered all week. When one cooked for you the casserole tasted like love. And when you were around them you were in the presence of Jesus.”
Anyone who serves, or belongs to, a “church around the corner” will find their ministry strengthened by this enlivening, inspiring book.