Emmitsburg Council of Churches

 

The Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 8:26-39

8:26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 8:27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 8:28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me"-- 8:29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.)

8:30 Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" He said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him. 8:31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. 8:32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 8:33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. 8:34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 8:35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.

And they were afraid. 8:36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 8:37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 8:38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 8:39

"Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

The Gospel of the Lord . . . praise to you O Christ


Naked Before God

Who will go to the tombs and unbind the man who lives there in a continuous life of bondage to the demons?? Who will bring clothing to this pathetic & disturbed soul who dwells there in the darkness of the stone caves?? Many have tried to tame him, but even with heavy chains and shackles they could not subdue him! He rips these bonds like mere thread and then he is back on the move . . . he roams through the darkness of his life, unable to be at peace with himself or others who wish to tame him . . . . He is the Man of the Tombs, it's all he's ever known.

But One is coming who does not fear his madness . . . One is coming who knows the soul that exists behind the demons!

Yet the Man of the Tombs goes on in his tormented estate He is oblivious to all including himself. He wears no clothing everyone can see his nakedness . . . there is no scrap of his own clothing left to cover his naked soul, but, for now, all of his mania is laid bare -- before all to see; his life of torment is revealed and his groaning conveys the tortured soul to as many as have ears to hear.

Not that anyone really wants to see him or hear him accept for those who come to gawk at him or poke fun at his shameful nakedness. He is an oddity to all who spy him out. "Keep away, he may be dangerous!" Do not go near to him for he is deranged. "Stay away from us Man of the Tombs!"

Who can blame him for escaping to the tombs?? At least there in the quietness of stone and in the darkness of caves he will be left alone . . . . For the dead have no eyes to see and to judge by, no mouths to jeer at him! There are no ligaments of life remaining on those bones with which to raise the finger and point at his strangeness, no feet with which to kick at him or to turn the heal and walk away with insult and disgust. "Man of the Tombs . . . go your way! Do not trouble our consciences with your Demons, do not disturb our peace with your groaning and do not appear on our streets to torment us with your oddity." Such may have been the thoughts of the Gerasenes -- his fellow citizens of that place.

The theme of the Delaware Maryland Synod Assembly which we attended this past Thur. Fri. and Sat. was entitled: "Marked with the Cross of Christ We are Claimed "

And so during the course of the Assembly, we spoke of this theme repeatedly as a confession of our faith and as a testimony of all that Christ has done for us.

The whole event was really impressive! From the formalities of decision making, to the passion expressed by everyone who represented their congregations, small and large alike -- all demonstrated genuine interest in the larger affairs of the Church, through the representation of their congregation. But One of the most moving portions of the Assembly was contained in several little presentations called "FAITH BYTES" interspersed between the important business sessions.

The first Faith Byte was presented by a middle aged husband and wife. The husband is a Dr. at John's Hopkins, the wife an accomplished musician. What we were not expecting to hear from this couple was that they had recently experienced the loss of their 28 year old daughter, who died of a rare condition experienced early on in her 3rd pregnancy. They went on to tell us about how their faith and church family had sustained them in hope. The promise of God through baptism remains whether we live or if we die. The remaining grandchildren, and now widowed son in law, were able to cope with the loss, because they took comfort in their faith knowing that Mom had gone to be with Jesus lessened the loneliness and provided light in what would otherwise have been a dark experience . . . . Because we are marked with the Cross of Christ at our Baptism we are claimed . . . we are disciples of Jesus -- children of God -- forever.

On Friday night, there was another "Faith Byte". This time, it was a middle aged man, by all appearances, he was a successful business man, he went on to share that he is the father of three boys and is happily married to his wife Celia. His story began by telling us that he was raised in the Jewish faith. The stories of the Bible that he learned as a young boy growing up had always been meaningful to him . . . but in later years he had fallen away from God, and was no longer practicing Judaism. However, his wife, Celia, was a Lutheran!! And she kept the faith stories alive . . . as he told his story we all got the idea that his wife also authored some new faith stories for him!! As she lovingly lived out what she was learning about Jesus, modeling for their sons and being a disciple. Slowly, his faith in God was being reborn through Celia's witness . . . but he was still weary of a Christian Church. But after many years (of nagging??) Oh no . . . it was because the growing boys were in need of religious instruction! One day his youngest son came home from church and announced to his father, "I'm getting baptized next Sunday!" To which the father replied, "CELIA!!"

He began to attend the Lutheran Church with the family. Eventually, he became comfortable with what he was learning about the Christian faith and he also became a baptized believer. As he spoke of his baptism, he began to weep which was accentuated by the great sense of humor with which he had been sharing his story up till now. Clearly, this man was sharing with us about his transformed life . . . though he did not quote the words of our favorite hymn, he could have. "I once was lost, but now am found" All because of God's Amazing Grace in Christ Jesus.

The Gerasene Demoniac could not have been farther from God. The Legion of Demons which had overtaken him presented an impossible scenario for conversion. Nevertheless, Jesus came to deliver him. After his encounter with Jesus, the Man of the Tombs was changed:

From Nakedness, he was clothed, From Demon possession he was delivered into normalcy, from living amongst the dead, he returned to his city. From being a hopeless violent man who was like a wild animal, he became peace-filled with the love of God. From dwelling among the Tombs in order to be left alone, he goes now to dwell among his own people in order to PROCLAIM the Good NEWS!! Jesus Christ is Savior of the World, He calls us out of the darkness of our tombs, he calls us out of the shame of our nakedness in the world He calls us to become children of God, inheritors of Eternal LIFE!!

In our Baptism into Jesus Name, We are Marked with the Cross of Christ forever WE ARE CLAIMED CHILDREN of GOD. LET US ALSO GO FORTH, EVEN AS THE MAN OF THE TOMBS DID WE GO IN THE HOPE AND STRENGTH OF GOD'S LOVE WHICH HAS COME TO US AS A GIFT, BY FAITH WE GO TO SHARE CHRIST'S LOVE TO ALL OF THE WORLD.

Amen

Read more writings of Pastor Jon