Stay for Me - Mark 5
Discipleship = following Jesus, right?
14The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. 15They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. 16Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. 17Then they began to beg Jesus to leave the neighborhood. 18As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by the demons begged him that he might be with him. 19But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” 20And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.
Mark 5 (NRSV; emphasis added)
Huh? Go home!? This guy begs to follow Jesus and he says, “Go home!?!”
I know that this is a theme to which I’ve returned several times, but I think it remains an important thought. Following Jesus as a disciple doesn’t necessarily entail any sort of going. Sometimes it’s about staying right where you are; growing deep roots in your neighborhood rather than uprooting yourself. Certainly there are those who are called to go. On the other hand, I’d argue that the vast majority of biblical characters (many who go unnamed) were called to stay. Almost everyone in Christian history stayed.
Instead of “Follow me,” the calling for the multitude has been, “Stay for me.”
This Sunday we’re going to talk about prayer again, but not prayer over there, out there, up there, down there, or around there . . . prayer right here. Discipleship means we imagine how we might live a life filled with Christ’s Spirit right where we are. Too often we suppose that our circumstances impede our discipleship. Perhaps, we could turn that around and declare that discipleship ought to infuse our circumstances with Christ. We need not run away. Even as Christ sails back across the sea he leaves some of himself in our midst that we might follow him without taking a step. The demoniac must re-enter a place that has been terrified of him. He must engage in a ministry of proclamation in a region that just begged Jesus to leave. The demoniac’s location is not easy territory. He’s been charged to follow Jesus in a neighborhood that represents his own fear of rejection; the place that has hurt him the most. Yet, he manages to follow Jesus in his here and now, to the point of amazement.
If Christ is not followable right where you are, perhaps he is not Christ. For Christ is the light that pierced the darkness, the God who became a baby, the friend of tax collectors, prostitutes, and centurions, the conqueror of death itself. Where could you or I possible be that is beyond his merciful reach? No. We must look for him where we are and live like him now. We must stay for him. We must learn to pray for the resurrection of Christ’s character in our home, our neighborhood, or our current circumstances.
Yes, let us meet Christ and go home.
 I cannot tell you how much I love this story. In four years, I believe I have preached/taught on this passage more than 6 times and with a completely different twist each time. It is filled with lessons and layers. It’s the kind of story that perpetually reminds me why I love Jesus.
 Twelve apostles and 72 disciples cannot possibly be the majority of the people who Jesus encountered and transformed in his earthly ministry. The book of Acts is flush with unnamed characters in villages across Palestine and Asia Minor. The text of that book gives no indication that itinerant ministry was the norm. Paul’s letters too, are filled with allusions to Christians who live a settled, steady lifestyle in their home villages and cities.
 One massive exception to this particular thought is an abusive relationship. In the case of abuse, get out. Stay in hard situations, stay in great difficulty, stay when you sense God’s call. Do not stay when staying means your senseless pain, the degradation of the very soul Christ longs to strengthen and comfort.
 Again, this is not to deny that Jesus called/calls folks to leave home and follow him. It is to say that we should not idolize that and that we should realize those are unique, minority cases. Perhaps you are sensing the Spirit’s call to go. I wouldn’t stop you. If you are not sensing that call, I hope to help you a) not fabricate that call, b) not long for that call because you think it is better than your own, and c) realize that you and I and Jesus have significant work to do in our neighborhood.