Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Deviled Ham - June 23, 2013 - Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 07) - Text: Luke 8:26-39
Just as a reminder, we are in the non-festival part of our Church year, meaning that we have had all our celebrating in Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost, so that now we are in the Pentecost season and the Sundays after Pentecost. Our liturgical color is green and will be green for another twenty or so Sundays. And let me remind you that the color green is the color of growth. I say all this to help us understand that this is the season of the Church Year that we are to grow in our knowledge of the Lord and in our faith in Jesus as our Savior. Which brings us to our message for this morning. Previously in our growing in the knowledge of the Lord, that is last week in our Gospel reading we heard the narrative of Jesus calming the sea. This week we move to the disciples landing the boat opposite Galilee.
The landing reception Jesus and His disciples received was that they were met by a demon possessed man. What a reception. Interestingly enough Luke tells us that this man had been demon possessed for some time and the people of the town had tried to deal with him as best they could, at least humanly speaking. Luke makes note that there had been unsuccessful attempts to chain the man (v. 29), both for his own good and for the protection of the townspeople.
This man has been demon possessed so long that he has lost all shame. At this time we are told that he now lives among the tombs in the grave yard which is considered to be living in unclean places, meaning that this man is in a constant state of spiritual uncleanness. His complete shame is seen in the fact that we are told that he no longer wears clothes. Actually this scene is quite a warning to us in our world today. The temptation and lure to evil abounds in our world and once a person begins to go down that road it is indeed difficult to turn around.
Of course, as we have been seeing, following along with Jesus, for Jesus to approach this demon possessed man, for Jesus to venture into a place of uncleanliness is not a problem, because Jesus is perfect cleanliness, and He is the One who brings cleanliness. As Jesus approaches, the demons recognize Jesus, which is kind of interesting as we will see that the people of the town do not want to recognize Jesus and as the Jewish religious leaders the Pharisees and teachers of the law never recognize Him either, yet these demons, these minions of Satan do recognize Jesus and they are afraid of Him. They are afraid of Him because they already know of their eternal demise.
The demon recognizes Jesus and begs Him not to torment them. Jesus asks the name of the demon and we are told his name is Legion which is really more of a description than a name. His name indicates that this man is possessed not by one demon but by many demons. This possession by many demons again shows us that the road of evil quickly leads to more and more evil.
Finally, as Jesus commands the demons to come out of the man and honoring the request of the demons to not be tormented, Jesus casts the unclean demons into the unclean swine. And yes, here I have to say it, this is the first mention in the Bible of deviled ham. The demons enter the pigs which rush down the steep bank and into the lake where they are drowned.
So, Jesus has landed in the country of the Gerasenes and having had His first reception into town being made by the demon possessed man, now He is ready to have the rest of the town receive Him. As the people of the town come out to greet Jesus they now find the once demon possessed man sitting at Jesus’ feet and in his right mind. While this is going on, the herdsmen who had witnessed Jesus cast out the demon and watched as their livestock committed suicide, told everyone what had happened.
The townspeople feared Jesus, probably because of their superstitions. These were simple people who had seen demon possession, but now they were seeing something even greater, greater enough to cast out the demons and this frightened them.
Their response to these events was that they asked Jesus to leave. They did not want anything worse to happened. They were afraid for their lives. And so Jesus honored their request and returned to the boat to leave. As Jesus got ready to leave, the previously demon possessed man asked to go with Jesus. He knew who had saved him. He knew his Savior. He also knew his former life and did not want to return to being demon possessed.
Jesus tells the man to return to his people as a missionary. Here we see Jesus’ love for these people, even though they asked Him to leave, He wanted to make sure they heard the good news of forgiveness and salvation. And as a response of faith, the man did return to his home. He did rejoice in the Lord. He did proclaim throughout the city what Jesus had done for him.
So, what does this mean? Again, with the reminder that we are in the Pentecost season and the fact that this is the season, the time of the church year that we are to grow in our Christian faith, in our knowledge and understanding of our Lord, here again we see that Jesus shows Himself to be divine, to be truly God through the signs, wonders and miracles He performs. We see that He is truly God with power over the waters and power even over demons. We see that He is truly God as even the demons, even the minions of Satan himself recognize and fear Him.
The ceremonial laws of the Old Testament all pointed to Jesus. The laws regulating clean and unclean, or clean things and common things all pointed to the distinction between the common or unclean things of the human world and the Holiness of God Himself. God is holy. We human beings live in a world tainted by sin and there were many ways one might become unclean, spiritually unclean and not worthy of entering the presence of the Holy Lord until returning to a spiritually clean state. As for Jesus Himself, He is truly God. He is truly Holy and so Jesus brings good news, Jesus brings cleansing to the unclean, especially to Gentiles, even more especially to us.
Just as the townspeople in our text who were confronted with Jesus rejected Him, or at least asked Him to leave from their presence, so too even today when people are confronted with Jesus too many either reject Him or ask Him to leave from their presence. Personally, I believe this rejection is because people know in their hearts that Jesus is the only One True God and as they are worshiping false gods and idols in their own lives they know their uncleanliness in standing before Jesus and rather than confess their sins they would rather He simply leave them. And yes, even as Christians there are times in our own lives when we reject Jesus. We reject Him while we revel in our sin, not wanting to admit nor confess our sins. We reject Jesus when we fail, neglect, and outright refuse to make use of the means of grace, that is when we neglect our own reading and hearing of God’s Word, when we neglect to remember our Baptism, when we neglect confession and absolution, and when we neglect partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
And so, for us in our world today, just as Jesus sent the healed man back to his own town to share the good news of salvation with his own family and friends, so too today, Jesus continues to send missionaries in His name and with His Word, even to us. And at times, through our vocations, as the Lord heals us of our spiritual sickness of sin, doubt, despair, and sometimes even outright unbelief, so He sends us through our vocations to be missionaries to our family and friends, to our coworkers and those whose lives we touch.
It has been said that seven days without the Lord makes one weak, meaning weak in faith. During this Pentecost Season, it is especially important that we continue to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, being in Divine Service and Bible class every Sunday, reading God’s Word every day, and hearing it proclaimed every Sunday, remembering our baptism, confessing our sins and hearing His Word of absolution, and partaking of His body and blood in His Holy Supper, because for us too, seven days without the Lord makes us weak and vulnerable. God has given us His means of grace so that we might be strengthened and kept in faith. And it is through these means of grace that God comes to us to give us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give, blessing He earned for us on the cross, giving His life for ours, especially faith, forgiveness of sins, life in this world and even more eternal salvation. Our response of faith, our response to all the good gifts and blessings our Lord gives to us is to desire even more to be where those blessings are distributed so that we might be given even more. Our response of faith is to be given too! Our response of faith is like that of the previously demon possessed man, to be with Jesus.
As our great and loving God strengthens and keeps us in faith through His means of grace, then He also sends us out in our vocations to be ready to give an answer for the hope and joy we have in Him. God does not ask us to be confrontational nor in your face about giving an answer for our faith in Jesus. He simple asks us to live lives of faith. He asks us to be given the gifts He has to give. He asks us to always be ready to give an answer for our faith and why we live lives of faith. And as He asks us to always be ready to give an answer, He also is ready to actually give us the words to speak in answer. Those words we are to speak are His Words which He gives to us and here we are back to the means of grace, His Word which we read and hear are the words which He gives us to speak.
Paul gives us our words of hope in our Epistle lesson for this morning. Paul’s words are the very words which our Lord gives to us to speak when asked to express what is the hope that we have. So we may give an answer for the hope that we have we may say as Paul says, “4But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:4-7). We are children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ, bought back by the blood of Jesus, forgiven and made saints. What a great God we have, a God of love and forgiveness. How can we not rejoice and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.