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The Rector’s sermon for June 23, 2019    

                                                                                                                               

1 Kings 19:1-15a; Psalm 42; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39


 

Living with Jesus was filled with surprises. I’m sure there were times when Jesus’ disciples were scratching their heads and wondering what he would be up to next.  Today’s Gospel reading is a good example.  Going back just a few verses from this morning’s reading, we find Jesus and his disciples in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee, because he wants to go to the other side.  They are not only crossing the sea; they are also crossing boundaries usually not crossed.  On the other side of the sea is Gentile country: the land of the Gerasenes. No normal, self-respecting Jewish rabbi would travel there.  But that’s exactly where Jesus goes.

 

While they were on their way, Jesus falls asleep and Luke tells us that while he slept, “a windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger.”  The disciples wake Jesus and say, “Master, wake up!  Don’t you care that we’re perishing!” Jesus wakes up, calms the wind and the waves, and says to the disciples, “Where is your faith?”  The disciples look at each other and say, “Who is this, that even the wind and the waves obey him?”  Just another day of surprises for the disciples in their life with Jesus.   And that surprise wouldn’t be the last for that day.

 

Today’s passage opens with their arrival in the land of the Gerasenes.  And what they find surely isn’t what they expected.  Their “welcoming committee” to this God-forsaken land was a man, the likes of which they had never seen before.   He was wearing no clothes, he was possessed by demons, and he lived among the tombs.  And before they could even react to this terrible sight, the man drops to the feet of Jesus and says, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”

           

A demon-possessed Gentile calls Jesus “Son of the Most High God!”  Can you image what the disciples were thinking at that point?   Jesus had not yet asked them, “Who do you say that I am?”  And only a short time earlier, the disciples themselves had said to each other, “Who is this man?”  Now, a demon-possessed Gentile calls Jesus “Son of God!”  And what the man shouts next surely leads them to have even more questions about Jesus.  The man says, “‘I beg you, do not torment me.’ He said that because Jesus had commanded the unclean spirits to come out of the man and the man was in fear that the demons would respond with anger.

 

Questions surely abound in the minds of the disciples:  what are we doing here?  This land is unclean; this man is unclean.  What’s the quickest way out of here?  Why did we come here in the first place?  The disciples may have been looking for a way out, but Jesus was looking out for this man.  He says, “What is your name?” The man replies, “‘Legion.”  At this point, Jesus commands the unclean spirits to come out of the man.  Jesus recognizes the storm raging in this man’s life. He saw that this man could handle nothing by his own power.  Jesus knew he held this man’s only hope for a normal life and for salvation.  

 

So, Jesus takes charge. As he had overcome the wind and the waves earlier, now he casts the demons out of this man.  But before they leave the man, we are privy to a short conversation between Jesus and the demons in which it looks like the demons get what they want.  Not wanting to be cast into the abyss, they beg for permission to enter a large herd of swine feeding nearby.  Jesus grants their request. But He didn’t grant them any favors. The herd rushes down the steep bank and into the lake, putting the demons exactly where they didn’t want to go — into the abyss of the deep waters.  (As an aside, there is a point to make here.  Sometimes when we take stories out of Scripture without any background, we don’t get the whole story and we come to wrong conclusions.  I’ve heard people say many times, ‘how could there have been a herd of pigs in Jewish territory?’ which is a legitimate question.  But they weren’t in Jewish territory.  They were in Gentile territory.  Gentiles had pigs!)

 

Getting back to the story, the people hear about what happened to the man and they came out to see for themselves, and what they see is remarkable.  The man they knew as naked and demon-possessed is sitting at the feet of Jesus, with cloths on,  and he is in his right mind.  And there is nothing to explain this incredible change apart from Jesus.  The whole town had given up on this man.  But Jesus had sought him out, because Jesus knew there was something to redeem.

           

With his work done, Jesus and his disciples head back to the boat.  But the man begs Jesus to let him go along too.   But Jesus sends him away with the words, “Your work is here; go home, and tell everyone how much God has done for you.”   So he goes away, proclaiming ... how much Jesus had done for him.   …just another day in the life following Jesus. 

 

But we don’t believe in demons today, right?   It’s harder not to believe in them when we see all the evil in the world: terrorist attacks, mass shootings in churches and synagogues, adults and children abused and sold for dispicable purposes.  And then there are the personal problems — demons, at least in the metaphorical sense — of depression, anger, loneliness, addiction… just add your own to the list. The fact is, it’s not hard to see, or imagine, situations and lives where hell and its demons are in an all-out battle against you.  But in that light of hell’s assault on the world, we have “a light” that never fades, never changes, can never be extinguished—that light is Jesus. 

           

Your situation may seem like hell.  You may think there is no way out.  But that’s what the devil wants you to think.  The truth is Jesus is there for you, in any and every situation.  Jesus seeks you out, even when you don’t recognize his presence.  As far as we know, Jesus had no other reason to cross over the Sea of Galilee that day other than to seek out that demon-possessed man.  He found him and he blessed the man with healing and wholeness.   And that is exactly what Jesus wants for you.  Day after day, he walks beside each and every one of his children, showering us with His love, and offering healing and wholeness.

 

Jesus isn’t asleep in the boat; he is hoping to encounter someone who might need his help.  He’s here… right now… open your heart to His Presence.  He’ll accomplish the rest.




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