June 19th 2016
Introduction: What are you afraid of? Go ahead call it out. Snakes, thunder storms, how about violence in some place that we think is safe for us? Small spaces like caves or MRI’s? Heights? Bridges?
What or who do you have faith in? God? Jesus? Family? Country? When faith casts out fear with the strength of God’s love, all things are possible!
The people surrounding the Gerasenes knew fear, but they chased Jesus away instead of listening to this new voice of hope and faith in their midst. The man possessed by the demons named Legion knew fear, but he found faith in the dramatic healing that Jesus offered. When faith meets fear, the man Jesus healed was sent forth to share his testimony of faith and God’s hope with others in his home town.
Ex. In Psalm 42:5 we read: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”
I.) What does healthy Faith look like?
A.) Jesus leaves the confines of the Galilee and indeed steps outside of the familiar region of the Jews.
1. He crosses the lake to a gentile region.
2. He does this only once during his 3 years in ministry.
3. We see Jesus challenging the cultural norms of his day in so many forms of his ministry, talking with women, healing the unclean lepers, raising the dead, on and on the stories go of his challenging the culture of his day to come to faith and put God first in all aspects of their lives.
4. In today’s lesson there are a number of taboos for a good Jew that are being challenged.
a. first is the issue of dealing with a gentile.
b. second and often overlooked, is that he is in or near a cemetery, a clean jew, especially a rabbi, would not go near such a place and especially a gentile cemetery.
Ex. The Eastern gate of the city of Jerusalem has been walled up for centuries and has a very large cemetery in front of it. Why? The Messiah is supposed to return and enter the city through the Eastern Gate. Muslims believe that the cemetery will keep this from happening. The great God of all creation can do whatever and where ever he wants and wishes to go!
B.) I would ask you a question this morning, “what’s in a name?”
1. No doubt you picked up the name of the demons mentioned in the story, Legion.
2. Much has been made in many sermons about this name and what it represents.
3. Legion means many, more than one, a whole group of demons. I would suggest that it means even more than that, our fears are many might be an even better understanding of it’s meaning.
4. When Jesus speaks to and expels this legion of demons and drives them into the herd of pigs, the local folks are not impressed with this miracle.
5. In fact they now seem to fear Jesus and want him to leave.
6. He has healed and restored their neighbor and family member and there is no gratitude!
7. They are afraid! Why?
8. Could it be because Jesus has confronted and challenged normal in their lives? They were comfortable with the man and his demons?
9. His madness had become a part of the local, social landscape so to speak.
Ex. Somebody came to visit and would ask about the man and they might respond with, “that’s just Joe, he has some issues but is harmless for the most part. A bit strange but nothing to worry about. He’s harmless.” They might excuse him away.
II.) Getting us out of our comfort zone
A.) We like the “status quo” so to speak.
1. When something out of normal happens in our lives we get upset and seek to find a new normal so we can get on with our lives.
2. We talk about walking everyday with Jesus and having him lead us, but that is until he challenges us to move in new directions that we are not comfortable with.
3. Here are some questions for us to consider as we wrestle with this story:
a. When Jesus walks into our midst and promises life, do we yearn for the false comfort of death?
b. When he offers healing do we yearn for the world where our wholeness depends on the frailty of others?
c. When he offers love, do we hold ever more tightly to the petty rivalries and broken relationships that have given our life shape but not meaning?
4. This story has a lot of twists and turns and sounds very much like some of the horror movies we see at the theater or on TV these days.
B.) There is one final twist.
1. The man that Jesus heals wants to go with Jesus.
2. Why doesn’t Jesus allow him to join his group of disciples and go with him?
3. Could it possibly be because he is not Jewish?
4. There is a phrase that I think gets at the heart of why Jesus tells the man to stay in his own community, that phrase is “bloom where you are planted.”
5. The people that we have the most difficulty sharing our faith with are those people who know us the best.
6. Those people who have seen us with all of our faults, our warts, our mistakes, our short comings, those people who know us for what we have been like all of our lives.
Ex. There is a phrase in the Bible that says “A prophet is not welcome in his own home town.” In other words it is difficult for the people who know us to accept that our faith in Jesus has radically changed our lives. It will take time and people who know may never accept that we are forgiven and set free from who we were in the past. Not only that but they will also watched to see if we are able to be better than we were before.
Another phrase is this, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” It doesn’t give us liscense to go and live however we want and use our faith as some sort of “Get out of jail free” card either. When we stumble and fail, and we all will and do, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, seek God’s love and grace and move forward again.
Conclusion to message: When faith casts out fear with the strength of God’s love, all things are possible!
I want to invite you this morning to leave your fears here in this place at the foot of the cross and move forward in faith. Amen.