5th Sunday after Pentecost, 2016

5th Sunday after Pentecost, year C, (preached 6/19/16)

first reading:  Isaiah 65:1-9

Psalm 22:19-28

second reading:  Galatians 3:23-29

gospel reading:  Luke 8:26-39


This has been one hell of a week.  And when I say that, I mean it literally.

I know I’ve been preaching on Galatians the past few weeks, but where I feel led today is the gospel.  It’s not a nice, warm-fuzzy gospel which is surprising because it’s a healing story, and we should all rejoice in that.

gerasene demoniac, 2I mean, this man, tormented by demons, shackled and banished by his own people, is healed!  But there is very little rejoicing in this story.  Sure, the healed man is thrilled, BUT NO ONE ELSE IS.

Jesus demonstrated unequaled power here.  But Jesus shows us the Savior he is by using his divine power to heal. Jesus brings this man back to his true self.  Within a short period of time the man is clothed, in his right mind and sitting at Jesus’ feet.

There should be rejoicing right?  Partying like the prodigal son who was gone and has now returned – right?  NO. Not at all.  What is the reaction of the people to this amazing healing?  FEAR.  “They were AFRAID.”

They saw the man they had known for years, the man they had been able to “control” by putting him in shackles and banishing him outside of the city – HEALED – CHANGED.

And they couldn’t cope.  Jesus had upset their “controlling the situation” apple cart.  They couldn’t deal with Jesus’ power, even IF it appeared that Jesus used his power for good.  The people couldn’t handle that power among them. They didn’t know what to do with themselves – or Jesus.

We read, “Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear.”  So he left.  Jesus will not force himself where he is not wanted.  Through their actions the people showed they preferred the darkness to the light of Christ.

We have a phrase, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.”  Well, in this case, the people literally chose the devil over GOD.  They preferred the man wild with demons, and in shackles, over Jesus’ healing.  AMAZING.

And because they banished Jesus, because they chose the comfortable darkness they knew over the new light they didn’t know – they robbed themselves of any other healing Jesus could’ve brought them.  They robbed themselves of hearing the gospel.  They robbed themselves of learning how much Jesus LOVED them.  They robbed themselves of the power of the gospel to heal, love and save.

This has been one hell of a week.  All around us are examples of people accepting the comfortable darkness over the power of the light.  All around us are examples of evil forces, forces we usually “think” we can control, except we really can’t.

One week ago today 49 children of God were massacred in Orlando in an act of hatred because of WHO and WHAT they were.  A few days after that at Disney a family trip turned into a nightmare as a child was killed by an alligator.

This week, a young man at my daughter’s school was arrested for possessing pre-pubescent child pornography and for sexual contact with a 13 year old.  My daughter KNOWS this young man.  And he is now out on bail.

Friday was the first anniversary of the massacre in Charleston, when another young man opened fire and killed 9 people in a CHURCH who were having a Bible study, for being who they were.

One hell of a week.  Evil seems all around, and the WORLD seems very dark.

We’re understandably afraid.  WE are like the Gerasene people, going about our business, keeping the evil at bay. Except we can’t.  We can’t possibly shackle it the way they were able to with that poor man. We can’t shackle evil.

We have a choice, you and I.  What will we do with our fear?  Because in our lives there is a power which IS greater than evil, a power greater than our fear.  Will we choose the light, or will we choose to go on living in the darkness?

It seems like a ridiculous question, but it’s not really.  Because living in the darkness, though it’s painful, is easier. It’s easier because we know the script – back to the phrase, “the devil you know…”  Changing patterns, behaviors and thinking – going from darkness to light – choosing the light, is HARD work.

It’s hard to choose love and kindness instead of giving in to the instinct for revenge, or “tit for tat.” There are times when our fear of being hurt prevents us from loving one another.  Times when our instinct to protect ourselves keeps us from doing the thing that will bring ultimate healing instead of momentary relief.

The gospel is not easy.  In times like this, we ARE tempted to tell Jesus to let us handle it and LEAVE. Because calling us to love in the midst of hate is just wrong God!*  We want an eye for an eye!**  Jesus telling us to turn the other cheek is just stupid.**

But in the end it’s only love that will heal us.  Only love that will let us sleep.  Only love that keeps us from becoming the very thing we fear.  Only love that saves us.

Jesus did an amazing work of healing for that whole community and they rejected him.  EXCEPT for the healed man himself.

He begged to go with Jesus.  I’m sure he didn’t want to go back to the same community who rejected both him and the Savior.  But Jesus said no.  Jesus sent him back to the very community that banished and shackled him TO BE A WITNESS.  And he did.

I hope and pray WE choose to be that man.  “Proclaiming through the city how much Jesus [has] done for [us].” Going in peace and serving the Lord by showing THE light and BEING light amid the darkness of our world.

AMEN.


*Matthew 5:44, **Exodus 21:24, Matthew 5:38, ***Matthew 5:39

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