June 19th, 2016: "Growing Up In Christ"

Text: 1 Kings 19:1-4, 8-15a; Psalm 42 and 43;            5th Sunday after Pentecost                  Sandy Nuernberg

Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39                                 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time             Pastor

Title: “Growing Up in Christ!”                                     Presbyterian Men; Father’s Day

First Presbyterian Church                                          Sunday, June 19th, 2016                       Pardeeville, WI


Please pray with me, Lord, as we seek to live in peace in this world of turmoil, you disturb us and insist that we think differently; that we change our routine(s) of life. Bring your Spirit upon us now to see and experience your valuing all human life over the swine. Help us to trust your ultimate power, O God, for our love and salvation and not our own selfish control. Lead us to know that in being baptized into Christ Jesus, we are heirs to your promise.   AMEN.

            In this ordinary (green) time in our church calendar, we Christians experience many pathways of sharing and receiving the good news of the Gospel. Today, about a dozen Sundays into ordinariness (5th Sunday after Pentecost), we hear one un-ordinary, strange, rather disturbing story, as we celebrate Father’s Day. I am not sure of the connection here—perhaps it’s maturity! 

            Whether we ponder this biblical story as good vs. evil, love vs. hate/fear, or power vs. struggle/insecurity, there is a faithfulness we hear in growing up in Christ. More importantly, it seems we hear about God’s awesome power in Christ Jesus that promotes energy for purpose and mission in the world; a kind of transformation into maturity!

            In this ‘miracle’ chapter 8 of Luke’s gospel Jesus is on a whirlwind of teaching, healing, and commissioning those with whom he comes in contact. Last week it was an unnamed woman of faith, and this week it’s an unnamed demon-possessed man coming out of the caves who doesn’t want to be tormented; both ultimately spread the good news of their faithfulness to Jesus, ‘Son of the Most High.’

            Our first registering with demons might include that which is unfriendly, downright ugly and devastating in mind, body, soul, and spirit; Jesus is portrayed as exorcising demons, or evil spirits, in all of the gospels. The Greek for demons is daimon and in Mark and Luke demons are termed ‘legions’ and The Message (translation of the Bible by E. Peterson) calls demons ‘mobs.’ Being possessed meant you did not have control over your own self—in any way, and specifically contrary to divine will. Today, we might think of them as initiating persons to do ‘unordinary ‘things such as convulsions, devilish, or evil deeds.

            Honest to goodness, I felt like I was possessed with something ‘strange’ the other day; I did something totally out-of-the-ordinary. I’ve been, like many of you, raised at mealtime to eat everything I take on my plate, and as a kid, we didn’t get dessert until our plates/bowls were clean—you know the phrase from our Mom, “Do you know how many starving kids there are in the world?” Well, a neighbor-friend gave us a gallon of 1%milk they couldn’t use, as they were traveling to Fiji and China. Products have expiration dates in today’s world, and I honored that by throwing almost all of it away when we didn’t finish it up for meals (….guess what? I don’t even drink milk!). Yes, I felt terrible---but, I didn’t want us to become ill either! Sometimes our decisions help us to do what we think is good. Does that come with maturity?

            We do know something good comes out of Luke’s version of this strange, strange story; we might ask more questions than we receive good news of God’s power over demons, pigs, fear, and yet the ultimate joy in declaring what God has done for us.

            Let’s look at three significant areas to recall; that of places, people, and periods of time. Generally, the place is the Gerasene countryside, the people are in their comfort zone all-knowing about this Gentile, an unnamed demoniac person who is violent, naked and quite miserable in life. It is a time when and where those lost find power and wholeness in Jesus; they are inter-related, I think. Yet specifically, these areas reveal to us so much about the power and love of God for all people. In discerning this story, relating it to today’s world, I’d like us to think of a place, person(s) or the time for any event of this nature right in our nation. (hint: massacre in Orlando, FL, Thursday, or recent violence, shootings in our nation’s cities).

            We focus closely here on a geographic place, Gerasa, away from or ‘opposite’ Galilee, whereby Jesus is with ‘opposite’ people as well, in Gentile country across the Galilean Sea. Jesus steps out on land to meet a caveman in misery for a long time; he doesn’t have a home, just a cemetery of tombs for homeless people, where evil and death inhabit. Also, Jesus is in a place where he knows he is not liked, yet he is actively, publicly healing others.

             Truth be known, the Gerasenes especially don’t like what they see; a man from whom the unclean spirit has gone away and is now in his right mind. He’s healed. In their fear of Jesus’ power, these Gerasenes are the speed-demons in their asking Jesus to go away. The clincher here is that Christian faith was fearful, not liked; in this ancient period of time, in this world of the Gerasenes, where the power of Jesus Christ was seen and watched in healing, teaching, caring, commissioning, Christianity was repulsive to many.

            Moreover, Jesus’ healing and saving are one in the same mind; for Jesus to say to the clothed man in his right mind to go out into the countryside and declare what God had done was yet different than his usual, ‘follow me.’ What Jesus desired was for them, for us watching, listening, to grasp onto what had happened to them in their own lives, and to tell others, not for them to be fearful and withdrawn. We might ask ourselves if we are fearful and withdrawing from atrocities in today’s world?

            What do we learn from this story for our lives today? We certainly know of the miraculous power Jesus has had in our lives; places, people, periods of time in our life where we know God is near, or maybe why something happened the way that it did. Granted, there are times when we ask our God why things happen the way that they do. To the Galatians, Paul describes growing up in Christ as being faithful, trustworthy, and serving reliably in our daily living. He says, earlier we had ‘disciplinarians’ in the Mosaic law, but no more; we are justified by faith (v. 24) as God’s people---through faith. It’s  about being mature “grown-ups” and no longer being children.

            An example: a friend told me this week she had extreme pain in her back (sciatic nerve pain), so bad she made more than one trip to the ER. Monday, in the very early morning she somehow got to her car, opened the garage door and her neighbor came walking by, and said she’d take her—three hours later her neighbor took her home. She told me, “it was a time that was meant to be that she calmed my fears and helped me, I was in so much pain!” She repeatedly said, “It is what it is.” It reminds me of a neat little book of simple words entitled, “Seuss-isms-Wise and Witty Prescriptions for Living from the Good Doctor” (Random House, New York, 1997). Dr. Seuss titles this one,

   ‘On facing up to adversity’:


  “It’s a troublesome world.

All the people who’re in it

are troubled with troubles

almost every minute.


Just tell yourself, Duckie,

you’re really quite lucky!

Some people are much more…

oh, ever so much more…

oh, muchly much-much more

unlucky than you!”   

--Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?


            We are sometimes in awe, surprise, and wonder in our experiencing the miraculous power of God in our lives. You know what? That’s what makes us Christians, I believe; we don’t need to know all the answers in our relationship with God in Christ. We are commissioned as early as our baptism to go out into the world and tell others of God’s covenantal love. Jesus sent the demonic man out into the world to serve others as a witness to God’s healing hand, God’s love. Do we have a strange, healing story like this to tell others?  Let it be so!


                                                            Thanks be to God.                                AMEN. 









  August 2018  
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