Rev Dr John McCulloch
St. Andrews Jerusalem and Tiberias
Sunday (year C) 23/6/2019
Isaiah 65: 1-9; Galatians 3: 23-29 & St Luke 8: 26-39
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable to you o Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
In our gospel reading from Luke 8, Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee to the region of the Gerasenes, and encounters a man possessed by demons. We are told in Luke’s account of how this man had been living amongst the tombs, bound by chains and shackles which he would break out of, naked, and tormented.
The story is well known. Jesus casts out the demons, and allows them to enter a herd of swine who rush down the hillside into the Sea and drown. When news spreads around the villages of what has happened, they came and saw the man who had been set free, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind.
Someone once said that character is defined by how we help those who can do nothing for us. And Jesus’ ministry of healing, completely backs this up; for he went around touching and healing those who were marginalized and excluded from society, bringing wholeness to them.
We do not know much about the possessed man, except that he was living among the tombs, naked, shackled and chained; but we do know that he had a home; for after he was healed we read in verse 39 of Luke 8 the words of Jesus addressed to him: ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you’.
We live in a world where many people are estranged from home, from that place of belonging and peace, where we can find rest and be restored.
We live in a world where many live, as it were, amidst the tombstones of death, despair and fear.
We live in a world where many are vulnerable, who live in shame and confusion; like the naked man in our gospel reading.
We live in a world where many are tormented by the spirit of the age; the spirit of fear, the spirit of unregulated consumption that thrives in an unfair world where some have too much, and the majority have hardly anything to live on.
We live in a world where we can become overwhelmed and confused by the many voices, within and without, clamouring for our attention and allegiance, offering us no peace.
And it is into his world that Jesus comes.
And he does not just come to identify and stand alongside all who suffer and live within the tombstones of despair; but he comes to bring healing, reconciliation, hope and peace. He comes to call us home.
St Augustine said: ‘You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in thee’.
No longer are we to live amongst the tombstones of fear.
No longer are we to be tormented by the spirits of the age.
No longer are we to wander naked and vulnerable through this world, shackled and bound-up by the pressure to live in the expectation and opinions of others.
The Dalai Lama once said: ‘Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace’.
Christ calls us home, he calls us to himself; for He is our peace, who has broken down the dividing walls.
In him all are accepted and loved, and there are no rivalries, for as we read in one of the most paradigm-shifting verses in the NT, Galatians 3:28, ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’.
But it is not only in the NT that our God reaches out to those at the margins and on the edge. Throughout the Hebrew scriptures we read of how God is a God who liberates a people enslaved for 400 years. God is on the side of the widow and the stranger. And in our OT reading from Isaiah 65, we read of how God reaches out ‘to a people who do not seek him’. Look at again at the opening verses of Isaiah 65:
I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not call on my name. 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 […] a people who sit inside tombs, and spend the night in secret places.
God is longing to reach out to all, even to those who do not seek him, or to those who reject him; for all are made in the image of the divine. But this image has become marred and tarnished because of our own rebellion and sin. And yet God still reaches out, longing to draw us home to himself.
But later on in this same passage, there is a serious warning of judgement. In verses 6&7 we read: ‘I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their laps their iniquities and the ancestors’ iniquities together, says the Lord’.
Do we not live in a world, where our actions, for good or for bad, have repercussions for those who live in our world, for we are all part of the human community?
Is it not the case, that the ‘sins of the fathers’ are visited on the descendants?; in the sense that how we care for Creation, how we treat each other; has huge repercussions for our world? Our actions today affect not only the present, but the future.
The God we worship, who was drawing to himself even those who did not seek him; our Lord who set free and liberated the man tormented by demons, who healed the sick and raised the dead is with us now; here in this place. Here to bring freedom, here to bring forgiveness. Amongst us to clothe us in his righteousness, and to send us out into our world; with peace on our lips and love in our hearts.
Father Henri Nouwen says: ‘In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds’.
May God grant each and everyone of us here, to be signs of his love, in such a world as ours.
Glory be to the father, and to the son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now, and evermore shall be. Amen.