1 June 23, 2013 Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Denver, CO Pastor Dena Williams Psalm 42 and 43 I Kings 19:1—15 Galatians

3:23—29 Luke 8:26—39 8:26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 8:27 As Jesus 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.

2 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. Change: fear, cost, promise I have a pastor friend who never uses the word, “change”, when he speaks with a congregation. Instead, he uses words such as renewal and transformation. He thinks the word “change” is just too scary! He may well be right about that! Jesus and his followers come ashore on foreign soil. Gesarene is outside Jewish lands. The people who inhabit the country are not Jewish. That’s what “Gentile” means—not Jewish.

3 They are part of the Roman empire, but their culture, their customs, their gods are strange. Jesus and his followers have landed on foreign soil. There is a man wandering, alone, along the beach. He is naked and dirty. His behavior is odd. He runs toward Jesus and shouts at the top of his lungs, “"What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me." Terrifying behavior—naked, dirty, running and shouting. All that, yes, and something more… He knows who Jesus is—he knows that Jesus is the Son of the Most High God. He begs Jesus not to torture him. Or, rather, the unclean spirit with which he is possessed knows Jesus and begs Jesus not to torment the demons. Demons were real to the people in that time. They were responsible for mental and physical illness, addictions and bad behavior. This man’s unclean spirit is named Legion. Now a legion of soldiers numbered between 5 and 6 thousand men. Jesus casts out the unclean spirit from the man, he casts out the 5 or 6 thousand demons—all of them. The thousands of demons beg Jesus, “Do not cast us into the abyss!” (I wonder what 5 or 6 thousand shouting demons sounds like?! Terrifying, I’ll bet!) Without a body to possess, the demons know only emptiness, nothingness. They begged Jesus to save them from the abyss. And he does . . . but probably not as they hoped he would. A herd of pigs are grazing on the hillside.

4 Jesus relocates the demons into the pigs who immediately charge into the sea and drown. And so the demons die—all of them—drowned in the sea. The man sits beside Jesus, Clothed and in his right mind. renewed, transformed, changed by the power of the Son of the Most High. And there is fear. The man is afraid to return to the community. He wants to leave in the boat with Jesus. The people are afraid as well. They’ve never witnessed such power. They ask Jesus to leave. His presence has disrupted their lives. There is renewal, transformation, change, and there is fear. There is fear, and there is cost as well. The pig herders may be the most afraid of all! The livelihood of the community, under their watch, has just wandered into the sea and drowned. There is renewal, transformation, change, and there is cost. When God brings change to the man possessed and to his community, there is fear and there is cost. The outcast is one of them now—he’s clothed and in his right mind. The pigs are gone—and must be replaced with a new source of income. The power of the demons, the power of the Gentiles’ many gods is challenged by Jesus’ act of exorcism—and the old gods are overcome by the Most High God.

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The community is renewed and transformed and there is fear and cost. The community is changed and there is fear and cost. And all the people of the community asked Jesus to leave, and so he gets back in the boat and sails away from that place, never to return. That’s what happens when people allow their fear of change and the cost of change to overcome them, to steal their courage and resolve. They drive away the very one who comes to save them. They drive away the Holy One. Is that the end of the story for this community? No . . . No, because there is more to renewal and transformation and change, there is more than fear and cost. There is promise. When God brings renewal and transformation, when God brings change, God also brings promise. Jesus gets back in the boat, but he leaves a man, healed and whole. The man begs to go with Jesus, but Jesus calls him to a new and changed way of life: “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. With his renewal, his transformation came promise— the promise of the presence in his life of the Son of the God Most High.

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When change comes to our lives, our lives as individuals, when our personal demons are cast out, or when change comes in our life together as a congregation, even when that change is good and hopeful and life giving, even when we are healed, made well and whole by the change, there is fear and cost. There is fear and cost and we resist—we ask Jesus to leave, to get in the boat, to go away. We resist the change! But change, holy renewal and transformation also bring promise. And so Jesus says to us, “Return and proclaim how much Jesus has done for you.” And we go, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus has done for us. We proclaim the promise of God’s healing, life giving love for us and for all people in all times and places. Please turn to page 317 in the front of the red hymnal. The Lord be with you. And also with you. We pray together: “O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

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