The 5th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 7C (6/23/2013)

Lessons:
Isaiah 65:1-9
Psalm 22:19-28 (22)
Galatians 3:23-29
St. Luke 8:26-39

Semicontinuous Series:
1 Kings 19:1-4 [5-7] 8-15a
Psalms 42 and 43 (43:3)

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord God, we bring before you the cries of a sorrowing world.  In your mercy set us free from the chains that bind us, and defend us from everything that is evil, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

8:26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times 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 wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they 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. 36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37 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 got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.


St. Luke 8:26-39. New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Hoards of Devils

In Wittenberg, Germany, where Martin Luther spent the majority of his adult life, there stands the famous Castle Church. On its doors once hung Luther’s 95 Thesis. Under its pulpit is Luther’s final resting place. And, no doubt, it inspired Luther as he wrote his most famous hymn: “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” This week I find myself thinking of this hymn’s third stanza:

Though hoards of devils fill the land,
All threatening to devour us.
We tremble not, unmoved we stand:
They cannot overpower us.
Let this world’s tyrant rage, in battle we’ll engage.
His might is doomed to fail. God’s judgment will prevail.
One little word subdues him.

In this weekend’s Gospel lesson, Jesus travels across the Sea of Galilee to its eastern shore, and the Country of the Gerasenes. As he steps out of the boat he is confronted by a man who is possessed by a legion of demons — by a hoard of devils. For years this man has gone without food and clothing; without home and family. People have tried many times to address his situation. They have guarded him, and bound him with chains, and placed shackles on his ankles — all hoping to keep him safe (and to keep others safe from him). But to no avail: the demons would strengthen him to break his bonds and then they would drive him into the wilderness again.

Not so this time, though. Jesus speaks one little word, and “the demons come out of the man and enter the swine, and the herd rushes down the steep bank into the lake and is drowned.” It is an amazing sight. The swineherds race off and tell everyone who will listen. The people become afraid of this strange, new power. Everyone is so unsettled by the prospect of it, that they ask Jesus to leave, as if to believe it is better to live with the familiar brokenness of this world, than the uncertainty and unpredictability of this kind of power.

It is not our custom these days to describe people as being filled with many demons, but the brokenness of the world is always before us. Failing health, fractured relationships, broken dreams, lost hopes, mental illness, addiction, unemployment, abusive behavior… these are but a sampling of the hoards of devils that fill the land in our day. In the midst of this brokenness, God seeks to heal us and comfort us. God who drives the demonic influence out of this man from the Gerasenes. God who overcomes the power of death in the cross of Jesus Christ. God who loves us, who knows our pain, and who wants to be a partner in our healing and health.

May the power of God made visible in Jesus Christ one afternoon in the land of the Gerasenes, be made visible among us today. And may we, like the swineherds, and the demoniac himself, tell all who might listen of God’s power and might and compassion and love.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why were the people of the Gerasenes so afraid of this man?
  2. What did they do to isolate themselves from him?
  3. Why did Jesus’ actions cause them to be afraid?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Where is there pain and brokenness in my life?
  2. How does it feel to know that God understands? That God cares?
  3. How might I become God’s presence of compassion and hope in someone else’s brokenness?