Finding Focus in Jesus

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Pentecost 2/Proper 7
SCRIPTURE: Galatians 3: 23-29 and Luke 8: 26-39
“Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.
Luke 8: 39 (NIV)

JESUS MEETS THE GERASENE DEMONIAC

The story that I want to read this morning from Luke 8 begins like this:

They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.        

Luke 8:26-29 (NIV)

And you might wonder, “Pastor Kim, here we are outside on this beautiful summer’s day when we’ve experienced the wonder of a baptism and you decide to read a passage about demons. What’s that all about?” And you know what? You may have a point. It is an odd story for this venue. But there are a lot of good lessons in this story that I want to share with you today.

So let me give you some context. Earlier in this chapter from Luke, we learn that Jesus has had a busy time preaching and healing and doing all the things that he did. It was tiring. In order to get some rest, Jesus and his disciples boarded a fishing boat to get away from the crowds. The plan was to sail across the lake of Galilee just to get a break.

But something happened. In Luke 8:22-25, as they were crossing the water, as Jesus was sleeping, a storm had come up and threatened to capsize the boat they were in. The disciples woke up Jesus and expressed their concern for their safety. This is the story of Jesus calming the storm. The wind died down and the water smoothed out and all was good again. So now Jesus really needs a break.

But what happens? As soon as Jesus steps ashore on the other side of the Lake of Galilee, hoping to get some much needed R&R, a demon-possessed man meets him. So much for some rest and relaxation.

Let’s look at the description of this man. He isn’t wearing any clothes so that would have been a bit of a shock. He also doesn’t live in a house but rather lives in the nearby tombs. Tombs were like the local cemetery except that they are more like caves because that’s what people did back then. So this guy is naked and living in a cemetery. Why does he do this? Probably because he’s burned all of his bridges with friends and family. He was clearly not an easy person to live with? The tombs at least offered shelter and some solitude for him. In fact, it was quite common in those days for ostracized people to live in the tombs.

We learn a couple more things about this man. It seems that he knows who Jesus is. He says, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” So he knows – or at least the demons know – who Jesus is and he scares them. We also learn that the demons have seized that man many times and caused him lots of problems to the point where he was chained up hands and foot but somehow found the strength to break the chains and escape. So this is one powerful man.

JESUS HEALS THE MAN

Let’s carry on with the story. Luke 8:30-31 (NIV) says this, “Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ ‘Legion,’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.”

So we learn something else. We learn the demon’s name. That’s important because, in those days, it was believed that names were more than simple monikers. Names were actually descriptions of people who had those names. Names carried with them something of the essence and character of the person.

So the name Legion is significant. Legion means many. There are many voices inside this man’s head. And I think it’s safe to presume that they weren’t all saying the same things. Some said, “Go here.” Others said, “Go there.” Some said, “Do this.” Others said, “Do that.” Many demons means many internal conflicts. And when you have many internal conflicts, it’s hard to focus on what you’re supposed to be doing. No wonder that poor man is running around naked and living in the cemetery. It is not an easy life. In fact, it is probably a very desperate and lonely existence.

And yet, the amazing thing about this man is that even though he is possessed by many demons and even though he is totally out of his mind, running around naked and living in the tombs, somewhere deep inside he knew that he had to see Jesus. He knew Jesus was special. I don’t know if he had any idea what to expect from Jesus. All he knew was that he had to go and see him. And I think he did that in spite of his demons because I don’t think they wanted to have anything to do with Jesus. But somehow, this man found the strength and the courage to face his demons and find Jesus. That all by itself is amazing.

So Jesus sees this crazy man who has fallen at his feet in the sand and he has pity on him. Let’s find out what happens. Luke 8:32-33 (NIV) says: “A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.”

I want you to think for a moment about what that means. What must it have been like for this man who was carrying the load of all of those demons? When those demons went into the pigs, the entire herd drowned itself. That’s the weight of the burden that they caused. And this lonely, naked man who lived in the tombs because no one else wanted him had carried that burden all by himself probably for a very long time.

It makes me think about so many people out there who are suffering things that we know nothing about. How many people do you know who don’t act quite right. Maybe they’re not naked and living in the cemetery. But you know there’s something wrong because you can sense it. Maybe they’ve been rejected by those who were supposed to love them and care for them. Maybe they’re living with the pain of a broken relationship. Maybe there’s an illness in the family or a child whose gone astray. Or maybe their hopes and dreams have come crashing down around them. Who knows what demons haunt them and how many demons there are? We just don’t know, do we? Maybe we think we do. Maybe we think we have it all figured out but we don’t know what’s in people’s hearts and minds. We don’t know what they live with on a day to day basis.

This is a really happy day for us in Cottam. We have celebrated a baptism of Ivy Rose. Later we are celebrating the birthday of Shad Grieve, the Mayor of Cottam. And just across the soccer field is the beginnings of Murchadha House. If you haven’t been past it this week, go past on the way home today and see that the foundations have been poured. And we can rejoice and we can sing and we can eat hot dogs and cake and have a great time. But in the midst of that, I can guarantee you that there are people here today who have heavy hearts for various reasons. But somehow, despite the fact that they may have wanted to stay home today, they made it here because they expect something important to happen. And it has to do with a baptism and it has to do with birthday parties and outreach and it has to do with our singing and praying and sharing. But it also has something to do with Jesus. They’ve come because they expect to meet Jesus here.

And here’s something else that I want us to think about. None of us are really so different from the demon possessed man. We all come with our demons, don’t we? We may not have a legion of them like the poor man in today’s story but we all have a few. What are those demons? They are the things that keep us from being all that God created us to be. They are the worries, anxieties and fears that isolate us from our families, our friends and our communities.

Think about it. What demons can you name today that haunt you? What keeps you from living the full and rich life that God has in store for you?  And then think about this. If Jesus could deal with a legion of demons that possessed a naked man who lived in the cemetery, he can probably help you to deal with yours too. In fact, he wants to help you. So why not start by doing what the demon possessed man did. He fell down on his knees before Jesus and bared his soul and asked for help. And Jesus healed him.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that all you have to do is give your life to Jesus and all of your problems will be solved in the blink of an eye. But I am saying that Jesus is a good place to start. So let Jesus in. Let him look into your soul and let you know that you are not alone. He loves you more than you could ever possibly imagine.

THE PEOPLE’S REACTION

The story continues as we get the reaction of the local people who watched these events unfold. Luke 8:34-37 (NIV) says this: “When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.”

This is such an odd passage because we really don’t expect the local people to react this way. We expect them to be overjoyed that the man is in his right mind. But they aren’t. Instead it says that they are so overcome with fear that they ask Jesus to leave. Why is that? The reason is actually pretty simple. It’s because all they could think about was the lost herd of pigs. To be honest, on one hand you can’t really blame them. Someone took a financial hit when the pigs drowned in the lake.

But do you see what they’re missing? They missing the fact that the naked, crazy man is now fully clothed and sitting at Jesus’ feet, as sane as sane can be. That’s good stuff. They should be rejoicing with the man. They should be focused on the fact that he is healed and restored to his community. But for some reason they can’t get past the fact that some pigs had drowned. These people are so caught up on the negative things around them that they can’t focus on the positive. And so they are missing this incredible miracle that just happened in their midst.

Do you know people like that? Do you know people who are so focused on the negative that they miss all the positive things around them? I think we all know people like that. And some of us know that there are times when that actually describes us.

But Jesus tells us not to be like that. When faced with the option between the dead pigs and the healed man, Jesus calls us to focus on the healed man.

THE MAN’S REACTION

The reaction of the local people is that they ask Jesus to leave because they are too focused on the negative to see the positive. Let’s compare that now to how the healed man responds. Luke 8:38-39 (NIV) says this: “The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.”

What does the man do? He begs Jesus to let him join Jesus’ group. But Jesus says, “No. Instead, go back home and tell everyone how much God has done for you.”

We all have a choice of what message we share with the world. When faced with the choice between dead pigs and the gracious healing of a child of God, which one do you think we should emphasize? Where should our focus be?

Jesus is pretty clear. He tells the man to go home and tell everyone what God has done for him. What did God do through Jesus? Jesus helped him face his demons and drove them out. He restored his sanity and found clothes to put on his body. And maybe the most important thing is that he made it possible for the man to be restored to his family and friends. He enabled him to be restored to his community. And that’s way more important than all the dead pigs in the world.

That’s a good lesson for us. How often do we go and tell the people we know about the positive things that Jesus has done for us? Some of us do that more than others. Some do very well and some could use some improvement.

But a lot of people think that they can’t do that at all because they don’t have a degree in theology or biblical studies or they’re too new of a Christians to do that. But does any of that really matter? Let’s be honest. The healed man didn’t have a degree. And he didn’t have a lot of practice telling his story because it had just happened. But do you know what he did have? He had the story of what Jesus had done for him. And when it comes to that story, he was the world’s expert. That’s the story that Jesus invited him to go home and share. And that’s exactly what he did.

What about you? What’s your story? What are the positive things that Jesus has done in your life? Are you willing to share them or are you waiting until you get that university degree? Or maybe you’re waiting until you’re a more mature Christian. If that’s what you think, then re-read the story of the demon possessed man. As soon as he was healed and in his right mind. Jesus sent him out and told him to tell his story to anyone who would listen.

That can be a challenge for us. But here’s the thing to think about. What Jesus has done for you, he can do for others too. The peace that you have, the hope that you have, the strength that you get from your faith is the same peace and hope and strength that can be of benefit to those you love. What he gives to you, he wants to give to others. And when you tell others what he has done for you, you might just open that door so that he can touch their lives too.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Text Heavenly Father, your voice speaks and the heavens shake. Your Spirit moves the waters of life to nourish and refresh the land. We are so thankful that we can approach you, the Creator of All. Despite your great power, you still care for us. Your grace abounds. Your mercy cleanses us. Your love remains throughout every situation of life. Hear our prayers and speak to our souls with messages of hope and healing.

We offer our thanks this morning for your Church and thank you for the baptism of Ivy Rose and all that she means to her family and to us. May the vows that they have made this day be held strong in their minds and in their hearts.

We are grateful for another year of Sunday School and the great ministry that it is in our community. Thank you for children, parents, teachers and assistants who work toward this goal of teaching our children about Jesus.

We also thank you for Shad and the important part of our community that he is on his 40th birthday.

We remember Trepainer family over the loss of their son Nolan. Give them strength and peace as they remember him and celebrate his young life.

We lift up in prayer those who are sick at home or in hospital. May your Healing Touch to be upon them. You are the One who offers healing and we are bold ask this from you even now.

You stand at the door way, O God, and you knock. Sometimes we hear but often we are too busy to pay attention and we miss your offer to come in and abide with us. The world can throw us many curves. Help us to always remember that being tested is a natural part of the maturing process of faith. Keep us strong for the times of testing and tender in the moments when we feel your presence most profoundly. You are a loving and patient Heavenly Father who will never forsake your children. We look to do your will with the guidance of your Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

June 23, 2019 / Pentecost 2 / Proper 7 / Baptism

SCRIPTURE

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a; Psalm 42 & 43; Luke 8:26-39; Galatians 3:23-29

CALL TO WORSHIP

God is with us in this time of worship.

The Spirit lives and moves within us and among us.

Let us praise the One who gives us life.

Let us worship the God whose love is from everlasting to everlasting.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

God of Creation, you touch us and bless us and call us to be your people. You provide comfort during the difficult times in life. Your Word and your promises sustain us at all times and in all places. Your Spirit is the presence of peace. Speak to our souls in the stillness of this moment. Come to us now in your great compassion and renew us by the power of your love. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

Your mercy flows and surrounds us in a blanket of grace. We are so grateful that you care less about what we have done than about what we are doing. Regardless of our past mistakes, you are always ready to hear our prayers, forgive our sins, and restore us to a right relationship with you. There are many voices that would try to tell us that there is no hope but, in you, there is always the promise of salvation in Jesus’ name. Thank you for your limitless mercy and unconditional love. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

The amazing grace of God is ours to receive. We need only confess our sins and God is willing to forgive us and redeem us from all unrighteousness. Be assured that the price that Jesus paid on the cross was for all humanity. We have new life in the power of his resurrection.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

You provide us, O God, with all that we need. We thank you for blessing us and for providing the opportunity for us to be a blessing to others. Receive these gifts for your holy purpose and use them according to your divine will. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

Jesus’ healing hand gave life to the people whose lives he touched. The healing that he offered to them is still available through us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us go to share this Spirit and this grace with the whole world.

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