Sunday, June 24, 2007

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, June 24, 2007, Luke 8:26-39

Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:26-39, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

This is a story about Jesus that hasn’t usually been read to us in church. It’s brand new for these new reading that go with the new lectionary and new hymnal. It’s one of the things I like about the new readings we get to hear stuff that we’ve not heard before in a worship setting.

Well, it is a great account of our Lord, healing someone in great need of healing. I noticed a few things about what’s going on here. First, Jesus is clearly identified for who he is. Legion the demons yells out at him, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” and later when Jesus is going to leave he tells the man to tell what God had done for him. The man recognized God’s work in Jesus by telling everyone what Jesus had done for him. Although we wouldn’t use this as a proof that Jesus is God, it clearly shows the man knew who was helping him and that God was working through Jesus.

Secondly, I noticed that the guy who Jesus was helping really needed help. It seems to me that lots of people tried to help him and failed. I’m not sure they locked him in chains and kept watch him just to protect themselves. He had family and friends that didn’t want him to hurt himself. Even if they were very selfish in trying to help him by confining him they couldn’t do anything anyway because he broke the chains and ran back the desert. This guy living naked in the graveyard, foaming at the mouth, screaming at the top of his lungs, was quite helpless and in great danger. The danger was very real.

Notice also, how everything is in turmoil in the account. Jesus comes ashore; he’s confronted in a loud voice. There’s a herd of pigs near by (they are not necessarily quiet animals). There’s the description of the man’s activities, and the argument with the demons called Legion. They are begging with Jesus and he’s telling them what they are going to do. “Please don’t cast us into hell! We don’t want to go there yet! Can’t we live in those pigs? We won’t be too much trouble there?” I picture in my mind my mother’s angry face, when I pleaded with her. I think Jesus just waved his hand and pointed to the herd. Off went the many demons thinking they had won a victory against Jesus. But instead the pigs were sent screaming into the lake to drown; noise, anger, death, drowning pigs what a commotion that must have been. No wonder the folks who saw it were afraid. Now the contrast is really what this reading is all about. The pig herders run of to tell everyone what happened. When everyone comes to see Jesus the man who had the demons is dressed, in his right mind and sitting a Jesus feet. He’s learning from Jesus. Hanging on Jesus words, it reminds me of Mary and Martha. Remember Martha busy in the kitchen working a frenzy to get everything ready and Mary sitting quietly at Jesus feet listening. Jesus says it is the one thing needful. What Mary needed, what the man who no longer had a legion of demons needed, what you and I need… is to listen to Jesus, to sit at his feet and take in his Word.

The last thing to see here is how everyone is afraid. The pig herders are afraid. The town’s people ask Jesus to leave because they are afraid. In the face of Jesus power and his ability and in recognition that he’s connected to God in some great way people are afraid of him and just want him to go away.

So that’s what we see in this account. Now the interesting thing is this one is right in the middle of two other accounts that have the same kinds of things happening. Right before this Luke tells us that Jesus and his disciples were boating across the lake and were caught in a storm. The waves were crashing over the boat the disciples were in grave danger. They were helpless, the boat was going to sink and they were going to die. Jesus was sleeping. They wake him up and he calms the storm. They are afraid. “Do you have no faith?” Jesus says.

After the Legion account Jesus is waking through crowds of people. They’ve come because of all that they’ve heard about him. Some want to be healed, some want to see the guy who casts out demons, some want to see what’s so special about a guy from Galilee. He was “almost crushed” by the crowed as he was trying to move along. A man named Jairus comes and asks Jesus to heal his sick daughter. She’s helpless, too, because she is dying. On the way another helpless person touches Jesus robe because she is just sure that if she does Jesus can heal her 12 years bleeding illness. Jesus calms the crowd to find out who touched him. She was healed by faith in Jesus. Then news of the little girl’s death comes to Jairus. “Master, don’t bother the teacher anymore, your little girl is dead.” Think of the sense of helplessness that must have fille him standing there with the person who he was sure was his last hope, and the delay caused by the crowds and a sick woman cost him his daughter. Think of the fear of facing his wife… and seeing his little girl dead…. well you know the story, Jesus arrives at the house and the mourners are shouting the grief of death. Jesus quits them and raised the girl to her mother’s arms. And again everything is calm.

Do you see the pattern? Chaos, trouble, helplessness, Jesus, calm. In fact in these four short stories (that actually happened!) Jesus shows that he’s more powerful than nature, Satan and his demons, sickness and even death.

Chaos, trouble, helplessness… that where we are most of the time in our lives isn’t it? Surgery doesn’t just cause us pain, it takes away our ability to care for ourselves and we have to depend on someone else. It may even mean a change of how we’ve always done things. The wind blows and the house creaks and the water rises. We panic about all our stuff we’re going to loose in the storm. We send out storm spotters to watch so we can scurry to cover and protection. Murderers live closer than we care to even talk about. News of father killing mothers and unborn children leave us wagging our heads and feeling well out of control. Drug dealers are selling to our kids. Not to mention that we let our kids go out and party on Friday nights closing our eyes to the danger. “They’re going to do it anyway.” Talk about helpless… and danger. My heart aches for the families that will be hurt when Satan’s handiwork comes to its fullness. Death hovers over us. We’ve not done a funeral here in quite awhile but sooner or later another casket will be lifted up our high stair case and set before this altar with broken hearts. All of these dangers are real. We get sick, we can’t control or even predict the weather, there’s real evil out there, and people die every day. Satan is constantly trying to get us to focus on our troubles instead of Jesus. We need money for the roof. So be it. The roof isn’t more important than God’s word proclaimed under it. We think we’ve got to do something to make people give more money to fix it… well remember that everything is in God’s hands…

Chaos, trouble, helplessness… Jesus. Jesus on the cross. He hung on the cross because of all that chaos trouble and helplessness would be all that our lives were about if we were left in our sin. The epistle lesson said we were “captive under the law.” That’s a way of saying that whatever we get, chaos, trouble, helplessness we deserve because of sin. But that’s not what God wants. This story of Jesus casting out Legion and sending them drowning in the lake is to show us that Jesus is in control. That God is in control. Jesus suffered, he cried out in pain, he was helpless, there on the cross bearing our sin. He lay in the coldness of death in the tomb, but he overcame it all. He is in control of it all, the whole time. Nothing is more powerful than our God and Savior Jesus Christ, not even chaos, trouble, pain, death, taxes and church budgets.

Jesus bring us here… to be calm; to receive his word; very specifically his word about sin. It’s not a word of judgment. It’s a word of forgiveness. The chaos we face, and oh boy, do we face it, isn’t to punish us, it’s to remind us that He has it in his hands. He can and does control all things. He’ll take care of all things when he will take care of you. Psalm 46 says it… though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam… though kingdoms totter… be still and know that I am God.

That man that Jesus saved from the Legion of demons was dressed, in his right mind and sitting at Jesus feet, listening to his word. That’s what God wants for you.

Are you afraid of what Jesus can do and does? Well, join the crowds… what Jesus does is frightening. Fear is a natural reaction to God’s Word. But dear brothers and sisters in Christ, your panic, and planning, and fighting, and trying to control others is never going to change your life (or this church). That’s trying to chain up chaos. The chains just get broken and we end up living in the cemetery again. If you want calmness in your life and among us here in the church, it is only going to come through the gifts that God gives: Sitting at Jesus feet, listening to him, eating his meal, his very body and blood, pouring water, and in the name of Jesus receiving the forgiveness of our sins.

That’s what the man had to say about Jesus. Jesus said, “Go home and declare how much God had done for you.” He says that to you do. So let’s start right here. Say this with me:

“Jesus is in control. Jesus has forgiven my sin.” Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Now let’s confess our faith in what God has done through Jesus by turning to the catechism printed in our hymnal (p. 300). We are going to read the Creed together including Luther’s explanations. Notice, how it’s all about God being in control and dealing with chaos, trouble, and helplessness…

The Creed

As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.

The First Article: Creation

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean?
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.
This is most certainly true.

The Second Article: Redemption
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Plate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
What does this mean?
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord. Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
This is most certainly true.

The Third Article: Sanctification

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean?
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.
This is most certainly true.

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