Lectionary Text for Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 65:1-9: “I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am’, to a nation that did not call on my name. 2 I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; 3 a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and offering incense on bricks; 4 who sit inside tombs and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, with broth of abominable things in their vessels; 5 who say, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you. These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all day long. 6 See, it is written before me: I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their laps 7 their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together, says the LORD because they offered incense on the mountains and reviled me on the hills, I will measure into their laps full payment for their actions. 8 Thus says the LORD: As the wine is found in the cluster and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it’, so I will do for my servants’ sake and not destroy them all. 9 I will bring forth descendants from Jacob and from Judah inheritors of my mountains; my chosen shall inherit it and my servants shall settle there.”
Luke 8:26-39: “Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 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. 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’— 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.) 30 Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
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. 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. 34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 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. 36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 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. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 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.”
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost Comment: C. S. Lewis, famous author of children classics, “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” also wrote a short story called, The Screwtape Letters
. This work consists of letters of advice from the senior demon named ‘Screwtape’ to ‘Wormwood’ a novice demon, on the best way to tempt and accomplish the damnation of a human, whose in the letters is named ‘Patient.’ In the preface C. S. Lewis states, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
In our day I think it is safe to say that many would rather believe that individuals suffer from mental illness rather that demon possession. Through science we learn that there is a chemical imbalance in the brains of those suffering from mental illness, further minimizing the possibility of demon possession. I find it interesting that the mentally ill sometimes behave like the man ‘demon’ possessed in this gospel story. Instead of finding these tormented people in graveyards, they sit on the sidewalk outside of convenience stores, begging. Often they are dirty and have wounds in various stages of healing on their arms, legs and feet. No one in their right mind would wear a winter coat and hat in the middle of July.
However, what do we call it when we live life-styles of consumerism rooted in the obsession for material gain? Our thrill-seeking appetites are insatiable. We are deluded into thinking that social status determines our worth and we relentlessly strive for celebrity. What we proudly call ‘multi-tasking’, is really the inefficient way we attempt to channel our perpetual internal restlessness. Self-indulgence isolates our thinking from including the needs of others. If we add the emotions of envy, resentment, suspicion, bitterness, rivalry and hostility, our brains secrete stress hormones, which at high levels produce negative effects in our bodies. If cannot say that we are not possessed, can we say that we are pursued by “Legion?”
“I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am’, to a nation that did not call on my name.” Isaiah 65:1. When Jesus meets the demonic man he reflects the spirit of this text. This tortured soul was totally controlled by his personal ‘demons.’ In Luke’s gospel Jesus states as part of his mission, “to let the oppressed go free…” (Luke 4: 18-19). We read that Jesus fulfilled his mission by healing this man. “…they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. (v. 35)
The question is how does Jesus continue to heal in our day? All those who believe in the healing power of God in Jesus, wherever they are found in the world, through them Jesus says, “Here I am, here I am.” Every time you and I are willing to listen without judgment to a hurting soul before he or she slips into the darkness of mental illness Jesus says, “Here I am.” Every time we give an encouraging word or celebrate an accomplishment that dispels self-doubt, Jesus says, “Here I am.” When we forgive and break the grip of guilt to mend broken relationships Jesus says, “Here I am.” When we respect all those we meet as image bearers of God we, “proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Ordinary People living in Ordinary times, but loving in ‘Extraordinary’ ways…
©June 18, 2010
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