5th Sunday after Pentecost—Year C—June 23, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight oh Lord, our strength, and our redeemer.
When the people from the city came out and saw the man who had had demons “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind” they were afraid. Not happy. Not relieved. Not confused. Not even just shocked. They were afraid.
This reaction seems a little strange to me. I think I would been more afraid with the situation before the exorcism than after. “For a long time [the man] had worn no clothes” and lived among the tombs. The people had kept him “under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds.” Doesn’t that sound like a scary situation? A naked, possessed man, who was very strong, and could not be contained. A lot more scary than a sane, clothed man sitting at Jesus’ feet. So why the fear?
Is it fear that the man might relapse and be repossessed? Are they worried that the demons might return once the man has settled back into the city, next door to them, become dangerous and disruptive again without warning?
Or are they afraid just because Jesus shook up their worlds, changed the status quo? Is it simply a fear of change? They must have gotten used to knowing that the man would either be around the tombs or in the wild, naked, and hopefully shackled, but not anymore. So now they have to re-establish normality. Change their daily expectations of how things are going to be, who is going to be around, and how they are going to act.
The people of the city are afraid of the new reality and so they ask Jesus to leave. They have had enough excitement and changes for one day; they do not want Jesus making any other big changes. However, “the man from whom the demons had gone” was excited about the changes; the man has been given his humanity back, his autonomy, new life. He wants to stick around with Jesus to see what other miracles he will perform—what else he is going to shake up. The man responds to the gift of renewed life with gratitude and desire to serve!
If you were a resident of the country of the Gerasenes, how do you think you would have reacted to the exorcism?
Would you have been scared? Excited? Intrigued?
How do you tend to react to other things that Jesus shakes up?
Obviously he is not physically around to perform similar miracles today, but Jesus is not done shaking things up. God works through the church and the rest of creation to constantly shake things up, trying to get them to look ever more like they should, like the kingdom of heaven, like God intended from the beginning, instead of being rearranged and damaged by Sin.
In Jesus’ day, he exorcised demons, ate with tax collectors, was happy to be washed and anointed by sinners, advocated for widows and orphans—the lost, least, last, and lowly. Jesus shook things up with the temple authorities of his day; he reminded them that God was a god of love and forgiveness and that they did not need to lead perfect lives in order to be acceptable and have life abundant and life eternal.
Today, Jesus’ message of equality, unity, peace, abundance, life, and love continues to shake things up in the world.
When the Bible is used to include instead of exclude—that is Jesus continuing to shake things up.
When God’s people focus as much on their relationships with others—outside the walls of a church building, with strangers, those in need of food, or support, or a word of love—as much as they do on just the insider group that is within those walls—that is the embodiment of Jesus shaking up the world.
When we are excited about new or restored relationships within the family of God instead of worrying more about that things might change as a result away from the way it has always been done, or the way that we like it—we can see that Jesus is still shaking things up, overpowering Sin, breaking the kingdom of heaven into this world, into our lives, a little more every day.
Nothing that we do can stop him—Jesus shakes things up. Sometimes it is really hard to resist falling into ruts, reverting simply to traditions, following comfortable routines, and imposing personal preferences, but when we do not our Sin or selfishness begins overshadowing Jesus’ good news for the world, and so that is something we are called to struggle with.
Jesus is shaking things up in us, in you—whether that be new or renewed faith, a new mission idea of how to care for God’s people and creation, or inspiration of how to expand something already being done, so that the news and love of God is always spreading, growing, being sowed and blooming everywhere, even in the last place we would imagine.
How is Jesus shaking things up in you? And around you? If your answer is “he’s not,” think again, because nothing is the same with Jesus around. Through Jesus we re-gain our lives, our fears can be conquered, we can be opened up to new and re-newed mission and evangelism—for when Jesus is involved, love and healing and hope and justice abound and cannot be constrained by chains and shackles. The Gospel is on the lose, changing the world, our lives, and us for good and for the better! Amen.