|Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||August 21, 2016||Proper 16, Year C||Hebrews 12:18-29; Luke 13:10-17|
|Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||August 7, 2016||Proper 14, Year C||Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16, Proper 14, Year C|
|Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 31, 2016||Proper 13, Year C||Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23; Colossians 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21|
|Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 24, 2016||Proper 12, Year C||Luke 11:1-13|
|Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 10, 2016||Proper 10, Year C||Luke 10:25-37|
|Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||July 3, 2016||Proper 9, Year C||Luke 10:1-11, 16-20; Galatians 6:7-16|
|Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 26, 2016||Proper 8, Year C||Luke 9:51-62, Galatians 5:1,13-25, Psalm 16, 1 Kings 19:15-16,19-21|
|➤Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 19, 2016||Proper 7, Year C||Luke 8:26-39: Luke 24:13-35|
|Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 12, 2016||Proper 6, Year C||2 Samuel 11;26-12:10-13-15, Luke 7:36-8:3|
|Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||June 5, 2016||Proper 5, Year C||Luke 7: 11-17|
|Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||May 29, 2016||Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C||Luke 7:1-10|
|Trinity Sunday, Pentecost 1, Year C||May 22, 2016||Trinity Sunday, Year C||John 16:12-15, Psalm 8|
|Day of Pentecost! Year C||May 15, 2016||The Day of Pentecost, Year C||Acts 2:1-21, John 14:8-17, 25-27|
|Easter 5, Year C||April 24, 2016||Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C||Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35, Psalm 148|
|Easter 4, Year C||April 17, 2016||Easter 4, Year C||Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30|
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C
Sermon Date:June 19, 2016
Scripture: Luke 8:26-39: Luke 24:13-35
Liturgy Calendar: Proper 7, Year C
"Demon Possessed Man"
In his book, The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears, Mark Batterson writes about traveling in Peru, going to Machu Picchu and then paragliding over the Sacred Valley.
Batterson says that paragliding sounds like a great idea when your feet are planted firmly on the ground, but when you start running as fast as you can toward a cliff with a ten thousand foot drop off, one thought keeps repeating itself over and over. “This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy.”
“We ran off the cliff and caught an updraft in our parachute,” Batterson goes on to say. The next thing I knew we were sailing over the Sacred Valley at 14,000 feet.” He says that he learned that if you aren’t willing to put yourself in ‘this is crazy’ situations, you’ll never experience ‘this is awesome’ moments. If you aren’t willing to run off the cliff, you’ll never fly.”
The people of the city in today’s gospel reading who came out to see Jesus and what he had done must have gone near the edge of the steep bank of the Sea of Galilee and peered over to see all of those pigs that had drowned when the destructive demons entered them and they rushed down the bank into the lake.
And as they peered over the edge of this cliff, I am sure that these people kept their feet planted firmly and made sure not to fall into the sea themselves.
They also kept their feet planted firmly on the ground of certainty and the status quo when they sent Jesus away out of fear for what else he might do.
They asked Jesus to leave, and so Jesus got into his boat and left, and nothing changed for them.
In that moment of sending Jesus away because they were afraid, the people rejected the “craziness” of what had just happened.
In doing so, they also missed experiencing all of the powerful, healing, awesome resurrection events that Jesus would have done among them if he had stayed with them. They missed the unexpected, exciting, healing and life giving changes that Jesus would have brought to all of them—because that is who Jesus is! And what Jesus does!
“Just leave us alone and go away,” they must have said. “Leave us just like we are.”
Meanwhile, the naked man who had been possessed by many demons, who had not worn clothes for a long time and who lived not in a house, but in the tombs, is now a free man, thanks to Jesus. He sits at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.
Filled with faith in Jesus, because Jesus has set him free, the man follows Jesus. “All I want is to be with you,” he must have said.
But Jesus sends him away to return to the place from which Jesus has been ordered to leave—so that perhaps the people who sent him away will receive this man, and listen to how much God has done for him.
And so the man, full of faith, leaves Jesus in order to go do what Jesus has asked him to do. Luke doesn’t tell us anything about how this man felt about going back. Maybe he felt like he was about to run off a cliff and to crash on the rocks below. Maybe he worried that the people would lock him up again, figuring he was still demon possessed. Maybe they would they fear him as much as they had feared Jesus. Maybe they would send him away too.
This man had enough faith, though, to start running toward that cliff, uncertain of what might happen, counting on being caught in the updraft of God’s saving love, about to experience flying and some “this is awesome” moments, like the one he had experienced when Jesus sent the demons out of him.
Two thousand years after Luke wrote down this story, we find ourselves in the same position that these city people were in. Every day of our lives, we have the opportunity to see what life giving things Jesus has done and to welcome the changes he could bring to us if he stayed in our midst.
The evidence throughout scripture is that Jesus is all about the life changing and life giving kingdom of God in our midst—unity rather than division, vulnerability rather than violence, love rather than hate, life rather than death.
But to choose unity, vulnerability, love and life requires that we run toward a cliff, uncertain of what will happen when we take the proverbial leap of faith into the updraft of God’s powerful, changing, life giving, resurrection love.
Keeping our feet planted firmly on the ground, like the people of the city did, is so much easier to do, and feels so much safer! The status quo, even with its death dealing and glaring flaws, is easier to maintain than to change.
For us, the status quo in this country is becoming more and more a state of division, a widening gap between the rich and the poor, distain for anyone with a different point of view, political gridlock, discrimination against people who are not like us, and an acceptance of violence as the norm, particularly the acceptance of gun violence that goes unchecked in schools, movie theaters, bars, churches, grocery stores, street corners—no place in this country is immune to this sort of violence. All of this mayhem has become the status quo that we complain about but are unwilling to change.
So we dig in our heels, keep our feet planted on the ground we know, and send our Lord and Savior, the Lord of Life, and the Prince of Peace back where he came from when he shows up to challenge the norms we’ve come to accept.
We send him away because the new resurrection life that Jesus offers us seems too idealistic to work in such a broken world, or too hard to implement, or too daunting to even consider. Our fear of change, even for the better, has become greater than our fear of death itself.
Later in Luke, after Jesus has been crucified, has died and has been buried, two disciples, battered by the violent events that have taken place in Jerusalem, leave to go to Emmaus. They talk to each other about all that has happened.
Jesus himself comes near and walks along with them, but they don’t know that it’s Jesus.
“What are you talking about?” Jesus asks them.
And they tell him about all of the violence, the mayhem, and the divisions in Jerusalem, the death of Jesus on a cross, that the One that they thought could truly bring in the Kingdom of God is now dead and gone, in spite of the fact that some had reported a vision of angels who said that he was alive. And that his tomb was empty when others went to check—but they didn’t see him. And so death must have carried him away.
It’s as if they’ve run toward that thousand foot drop off and have plummeted to the bottom of the cliff, their hopes dashed.
They are buying into the status quo. Death wins.
So Jesus talks with them. Luke says he interprets the things about himself in all the scriptures. In other words, he brings into their consciousness the unifying, vulnerable, loving life giving aspects of God that are the updraft against the storm of death that threatens to destroy them and still threatens to destroy us.
As the sun sank into the horizon, and the cool evening breezes sprang up, and they came near Emmaus, Jesus walked ahead as if he were going on.
But the disciples urged him strongly not to leave them, although they still didn’t know who He was.
“Stay with us,” they said, “because it is almost nearly evening and the day is now nearly over. Stay with us.”
Because thanks to this man, once again they feel some hope—as the evening breeze rises up and brushes against their skin, they can suddenly imagine running toward the edge of that cliff again, trusting that they will be leaping into the updraft of God’s empowering love rather than falling to their deaths on the rocks below.
My prayer for all of us here today is that when Jesus, the Lord of Life comes into our midst, and brings life with him, that we will not send him away, but that we, his disciples, even though tossed and turned by the perils and the death dealing dangers of this life, will ask Jesus to stay with us—so that we too will have the courage to run and jump into the updraft of God’s unchangeable and life giving love, to fly as witnesses to God’s healing and resurrection power even in the face of death.
Lord Jesus Christ, don’t go away.
“Stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.”
Resource: Batterson, Mark. The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.