Eons ago, clarinetist Acker Bilk had that marvelous instrumental hit record, "Stranger on the Shore." So different from pumped lyrics and overstuffed electronic sound of many current recordings.
Mark 5:1-20. Jesus comes ashore after weathering and calming the storm in a voyage across the Sea of Galilee. Biggest storm he has to calm is the fears in his young follwers' hearts. But as Mark will show us, it's less dangerous in the middle of a storm at sea when Jesus is aboard than safe on the shore without him.
Jesus is met by the demoniac of Gerasa (probably Gergesa in reality; texts aren't always consistent on their geography). This case of severe mental illness recognizes Jesus and calls him by name--even when the other people in the area don't. Mentally ill people have faith. Too.
How do we respond to them? Fear. How do we respond to the healing when that happens? Oft-times with fear as well. We say it's bad for the economy, coming at the price of 2,000 pigs. "Leave us," Jesus of Nazareth, "the devil we know is less threatening to us than the one we don't. It's the economy, stupid!"
Mentally ill people sometimes focus on the apocalyptic imagery of the Bible. It seems to harmonize with their overly vivid view of reality. For that, we can and must forgive them. It's when so-called sane people do the same--to the exclusion of recognizing the kingdom of God among them--that we have to step back and ask what the real definition of mental illness is.
Is it failure to recognize Jesus in the boat? Failure to recognize the stranger on the shore?