Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost 4

"The Demonic Meets the Divine"

Luke 8:26-39

June 19, 2016

Some people really like scary movies. Films like The Exorcist and Ghost Busters have made a lot of money portraying the demonic. In the end, the demonic is tamed or neutralized by human wit and sneakiness. In real life the demonic is truly frightening and not so easily brought under control.

In today's Gospel reading the demonic is presented in all of its fear and terror. The poor guy who is possessed by the demonic is inhabited by several demons. He has absolutely no control over his speech or actions. Concerned and even well-intentioned people have tried unsuccess-fully to restrain him. No matter how securely they try to subdue him, the demonic within breaks the bonds.

Alone and abandoned by the fearful villagers, this man lives in the cemetery, runs around naked and utters animal-like howls and screeches. People are afraid of him and avoid him as much as he seems to avoid them. All of this changes one day when Jesus comes to town.

[Jesus and his disciples] landed in the region of the Gerasenes across from Galilee. When Jesus stepped out on the shore, a certain man from the city met him. The man was possessed by demons and had not worn clothes for a long time. He would not stay in a house but lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he shouted, fell in front of him, and said in a loud voice, "Why are you bothering me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you not to torture me!" Jesus ordered the evil spirit to come out of the man. (The evil spirit had controlled the man for a long time. People had kept him under guard. He was chained hand and foot. But he would break the chains. Then the demon would force him to go into the desert.)

Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He answered, "Legion, for many demons had entered him." The demons begged Jesus not to order them to go into the bottomless pit. A large herd of pigs was feeding on a mountainside. The demons begged Jesus to let them enter those pigs. So he let them do this. The demons came out of the man and went into the pigs. Then the herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and drowned.

It seems to me that the demonic would flee from the presence of the Lord rather than confront Him. It's like metal shavings drawn to a magnet. They cannot flee because Jesus is forcing the confrontation. They must come to acknowledge the King of the Universe and all things visible and invisible. They are forced to do His bidding.

They can only beg not to be thrown into the abyss. This is the final place of eternal torment that awaits them. For His own reasons, Jesus allows them to enter a herd of pigs. Since the purpose of the demonic is only to steal, kill and destroy, the demons do just that. They drive the pigs into their own destruction by stampeding them over the cliff into the lake. It was a scene that terrified those who were tending the herd.

When those who had taken care of the pigs saw what had happened, they ran away. They reported everything in the city and countryside. The people went to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone out. Dressed and in his right mind, he was sitting at Jesus' feet. The people were frightened. Those who had seen this told the people how Jesus had restored the demon-possessed man to health.

Then all the people from the surrounding region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave because they were terrified. Jesus got into a boat and started back. The man from whom the demons had gone out begged him, "Let me go with you." But Jesus sent the man away and told him, "Go home to your family, and tell them how much God has done for you." So the man left. He went through the whole city and told people how much Jesus had done for him.

The terrified herdsmen ran to tell what happened to the villagers who came to investigate. Much to their amazement they found the demoniac quietly sitting at the feet of Jesus. He was no longer tormented by the demons. He was clothed. Nothing about him was frightening or scary any more. Thanks to be God who restored his life back to him. He was so thankful that he wanted nothing more than to stay near Jesus.

The villagers, on the other hand, continued to be terrified. They were no longer afraid of the man but of Jesus. While the man begs to stay with Jesus, the villagers beg Him to leave. Does that seem odd to you? They understand their own sinfulness. After all, they kept herds of pigs which was against the Mosaic Law. Jesus confronts their sin by allowing the herd to be destroyed. They, like us, don't like being confronted by sin. Rather than repent, they ask Jesus to leave them. They don't want to be in the presence of the holy any more than you do.

If Jesus would stay with them, they would be expected to change their behavior and they didn't want to do that. By the time Jesus left, they were probably back to their old sinful habits. They were probably already in negotiations to replace the pigs that had drowned. We're not much different. How often so we prefer God just far enough away to be available if we need Him but not close enough to monitor our daily living? This may be why Jesus would have the restored man live among them as an on-going testimony to the love and power of God to His people.

What can we learn from this story? First, we need to remember that not things classified as mental illness are demonic. Mental illness is probably the least understood and most challenging affliction for us to deal with. Scientists are still baffled as they try to unlock the secrets of the human brain. Therapy and medication can help alleviate some symptoms but full cures still remain elusive.

While some manifestations of mental illness seem frightening, they are not demonic. As uncomfortable as we often are around those with mental illness, our response should be patience, kindness and appropriate empathy. We pray for relief from their suffering and for the Lord's help to show love and concern for the afflicted.

The other thing to bear in mind is that not all of the demonic is frightening. The devil often appears as an angel of light. Since the demonic in its raw form is truly scary, the devil rarely appears in the fullness of his evil. Most of our temptations come to us in little ways as the devil whispers, "so what's the big deal?" It's just a little of this or one of that. In small increments evil compounds itself causing bits and pieces of damage until the greater catastrophe is unloosed. By that time it may be too late to avert the disaster evil brings.

This is an admonition to all of us. The commandment tells us that we are not to murder. The explanation reminds us that we are not to hurt nor harm our neighbor in his body but defend and protect him in every physical need. If we disagree with a lifestyle we are not to physically hurt or harm. On the other hand, the gay community need to get over their faulty "moral equivalency" logic. Christian bakers declining to bake a cake for a gay wedding is NOT the same as shooting up a bar and killing people. In the first case, feelings may be hurt but life is intact. In the latter feelings don't matter if you're dead.

There is hope. The Lord comes to us even when things seem beyond hope as with the demon-possessed man. He comes to bring us relief and release, hope and restoration. He comes to you in the word and in the sacrament this morning. He comes to strengthen and equip you to face the challenges of life. He comes to heal your wounds of body and soul, refresh your parched soul and comfort you with His abiding presence now and forever. Amen.


September
09/24/2017
09/17/2017
09/10/2017
09/03/2017
August
08/27/2017
08/20/2017
08/13/2017
08/06/2017
July
07/30/2017
07/23/2017
07/16/2017
07/09/2017
June
06/25/2017
06/18/2017
06/11/2017
06/04/2017
May
05/21/2017
05/14/2017
05/07/2017
April
04/23/2017
04/16/2017
04/09/2017
04/02/2017
March
03/26/2017
03/19/2017
03/12/2017
03/05/2017
February
02/26/2017
02/05/2017
January
01/29/2017
01/22/2017
01/15/2017
01/08/2017
01/01/2017

December
12/25/2016
12/18/2016
12/11/2016
12/04/2016
November
11/27/2016
11/20/2016
11/13/2016
11/06/2016
October
10/30/2016
10/23/2016
10/16/2016
10/09/2016
10/02/2016
September
09/25/2016
09/18/2016
09/11/2016
09/04/2016
August
08/28/2016
08/21/2016
July
07/31/2016
07/24/2016
07/17/2016
07/03/2016
June
06/26/2016
06/19/2016
06/05/2016
May
05/29/2016
05/22/2016
05/15/2016
05/08/2016
05/01/2016
April
04/17/2016
04/10/2016
04/03/2016
March
03/27/2016
03/20/2016
03/13/2016
03/06/2016
February
02/28/2016
02/21/2016
02/17/2016
02/14/2016
02/07/2016
January
01/31/2016
01/24/2016
01/03/2016
01/01/2016

December
12/27/2015
12/20/2015
12/13/2015
12/06/2015
November
11/22/2015
11/15/2015
11/08/2015
11/01/2015
October
10/25/2015
10/18/2015
10/11/2015
10/04/2015
September
09/27/2015
09/20/2015
09/13/2015
09/06/2015
August
08/30/2015
08/23/2015
08/16/2015
08/09/2015
08/02/2015
July
07/26/2015
07/19/2015
07/12/2015
07/05/2015
June
06/28/2015
06/21/2015
06/14/2015
06/07/2015
May
05/31/2015
05/24/2015
05/17/2015
05/10/2015
April
04/19/2015
04/12/2015
04/12/2015
04/05/2015
March
03/29/2015
03/22/2015
03/15/2015
03/08/2015
February
02/15/2015
02/15/2015
02/08/2015
02/01/2015
January
01/25/2015
01/25/2015
01/18/2015
01/11/2015
01/04/2015

December
12/28/2014
12/21/2014
12/14/2014
12/07/2014
November
11/23/2014
11/16/2014
11/09/2014
11/02/2014
October
10/12/2014
10/05/2014
September
09/28/2014
09/21/2014
09/14/2014
09/07/2014
August
08/31/2014
08/24/2014
08/17/2014
08/10/2014
08/03/2014
July
07/27/2014
07/20/2014
07/13/2014
07/06/2014
June
06/29/2014
06/22/2014
06/15/2014
06/08/2014
06/01/2014
May
05/11/2014
April
04/27/2014
04/20/2014
04/13/2014
04/06/2014
March
03/30/2014
03/23/2014
03/16/2014
03/02/2014
February
02/02/2014
January
01/26/2014
01/19/2014
01/12/2014
01/05/2014