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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, June 19, 2016

Patsy Cline and I would like to say a few words about crazy. Being crazy and dealing with crazy. Disquieted souls. Mental. Whacko. This comes up on a day when our lessons include the story of the Gerasene Demoniac, who was surely crazy....I mean it's a given. Why would Holy Scripture include materials about some raving lunatic, nut job, crazy person?

Well, some would answer that the narrative is in there to show Jesus is powerful, that he can make magic. Perhaps, but I ain't so sure. Some might answer that the story demonstrates the power of God to address things that are addled and set them right. That's appealing, but still I wonder if it's the best explanation. To me, Crazy has its own focus of attention, its own field of dreams.

Patsy Cline will join us in a minute; first I'd like to share with you something said to me by an EFM student more than 20 years ago. I've never forgotten it, and believe me when I say there have been many occasions to quote that man, who knew whereof he spoke. "Pat," he said, "crazy and sane are not totally distinct. Mental health is a continuum: some days we're on this side of the line, and some days we're on that side of the line...some days we're just a little over the edge, and some days we're crazy as a loon. All of us. All of us."

So if he's right, and I believe he is, you and have much in common with this dude ranting and raving through the tombs. We must therefore pay close attention to this story, and find out for ourselves what it means.

Here is a brief summary for those of you who may be napping between now and the Amen: if you are the crazy person, go outside and pray. If you are dealing with the crazy person, go inside and pray.

First, if you are the crazy person. Clearly that could not be you or me, right? Or perhaps….let’s just say it’s possible. Ever had a divorce in the family? Ever been told you have cancer? Ever been an adolescent? Ever had an adolescent? [Hormones can make you crazy.] Ever been handed a challenging job? Ever lost a loved one? Ever taken on a home improvement project? Ever been in love? 

Here’s the part with Patsy Cline: “crazy, to think that my love could hold you.” She is just telling the God’s honest truth, folks…thinking that one’s own passion can change the ethics or behavior of another person is totally nuts. “Crazy for trying, crazy for crying, and crazy for loving you.”  Indeed, losing it or getting it or even thinking about it, love can make you crazy.

Loving a lover, a child, a parent, a political leader, an idea, whatever…love can make you crazy. Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson each know a lot about crazy. Together, they sing “Everyone gets crazy now and then.” The question is what to do when we ourselves are crazy.

Knowing the story of Jesus as we do, we have an idea, and we can quote Ann Barker’s mother: “Go outside! Go outside!” When Jesus had his heart broken by his best friends, he went out into God’s beautiful countryside, alone, to be deeply refreshed and restored, so he could face the challenges of loving them again.

Here is what we also know: creation is beautiful. Beauty is truth, laid out before us in trees and flowers and sky, in both sand and sea that make ripples, in animals that can be angels with messages. Creation is so lovely, it restoreth the soul. Moreover, if we lie on our back and look up at the stars, we get a glimpse of how puny and unimportant our enormous problems really are. As it turns out, we are not the center of the universe. As it turns out, we are loved.

When we are the crazy person, it is also essential that we submit ourselves to pray. Let’s be clear: that does not mean we give God a list of demands that God must meet, in specific ways and on a certain timetable. If you think that, please return to lying on your back and looking up at the stars! No, when we are the crazy one, it is essential to submit ourselves in the true prayer that is listening, listening for God’s voice through all the static. God will communicate, in God’s own way and God’s own good time, so our job is to shut up and listen. Seek the Source, and there will be shalom; there will be direction; there will be a way through the craziness; there will be love.

If you are the crazy person, go outside and pray.

Second, if you are dealing with a crazy person. Completely different, right? No, it is remarkably similar. In fact, when we acknowledge that we ourselves have been crazy at times, we can have much greater sympathy and empathy with those who are just a teensy bit nuts right now…but the coping skills are different. If you are dealing with a crazy person, go inside and pray.

What does that mean…go inside? It means, first and most important of all, stop talking. Stop rendering judgments and giving advice. They do not need our advice; they need to be heard. We need to shut up and listen. Really listen with our hearts open. What a crazy person needs more than anything is a kind friend who will listen the way Jesus listened to Peter. No commentary, regardless of how wise we may be. No counseling session, even if we have several degrees in counseling. Go inside ourselves to be more sensitive, listen and hear what is going on with the individual.

Then we will know how to pray…and prayer is essential. Surrounding a crazy person with prayer is the very best thing we can do for them, whatever the love affairs or life issues or diagnosis. In prayer, bring them to Jesus; bring Jesus to them. It need not be complex…the wonderful Frank Laubach had a method he called “flash prayers.” He said God already knows what is needed, so all we should do is pray a name in our heart, and God will respond with exactly the right blessings for exactly the right person at exactly the right time.

If you are dealing with a crazy person, go inside and pray. Then, watch for the results and celebrate them when they happen. Take note of the fact that we or they are back and smiling, fully clothed and in our right minds, sitting peacefully in the tombs where we once were rampaging.

There’s good news and Good News: we get to celebrate the return to sanity. [Or, in some cases, whatever passes for sanity!]  What is it that Jesus tells the Gerasene Demoniac to do, once he has become the Gerasene Disciple? Go, tell everybody!  Throw a party to celebrate the work of the God who is Love…invite everyone!  Share Good News because, whatever crazy is for you, God can help you cope with it. Then, party on!

Imagine with me what the celebration looked like in the tombs that shiny day. Are you thinking music? Dancing? Teasing? Eating and drinking? Laughter? People going outside and inside? People praying in thanksgiving? I am thinking all of that and more. And if total strangers were passing by during the party, what do you think they might have said?  Yep, “Those people are…craaaazy.”

Amen.

     -- Prof. Patricia G. Bleicher