Sermon, Pentecost 2C, June 23, 2019
Luke 8:26-3926 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes,[a] which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 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. 28 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!” 29 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.30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.32 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.33 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.34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 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. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 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.38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 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.
I can’t help but think of people I have come across or heard about with huge mental illness challenges when I hear of this Geresene man living outside of town in the graveyard without a thread of clothing, in a constant state of fear and alert, and scars all over his self-harmed body.
What has happened to this man? How did he get like this? What went so wrong and where are his family, his friends?
And what on earth is Jesus doing out here in this danger zone of death. He is a Jew in unclean, unknown Gentile territory on the far side of the sea.
We are watching this happen with the silent disciples. They say and do nothing in this whole account. Maybe they are still shell-shocked after that scary night on the sea they have just experienced – when even the wind and sea obeyed Jesus’ command to be silent. They are silent now…
We don’t even go into town. Instead, we head out to the fringe of this fringy place. We meet this dangerous man who cannot be chained by chains but is totally chained by the dark side, the demonic, the pain the isolation, the self-harm, the lostness.
“Legion”. His own name does not count anymore. He is ‘Legion”
For people in the ancient Roman world, “Legion” had only one meaning: a unit of approximately six thousand occupying, seemingly all-powerful Roman soldiers. Romans rule. Roman control. Roman take your freedom and use it for their gain. Same for demons. They are pretenders and parasites.
This man is controlled. There is nothing of himself left it seems.
I have to ask: Is this account anything to do with me? What is Luke saying. Is he asking hard questions: “Am I controlled? Are you?
“No”, you might quickly say. “Not like this guy, anyway!”. He is crazy. I am not crazy…….am I?”
I heard this poem…..
I AM LEGION I am the lost one trapped in depression; I am the broken one trapped in my rage; I am the hurting soul chained to addiction; I am self-harmer abused at young age –
I am the many-name victim of madness, my humanness naked, nowhere to hide; drowning like flotsam in cold seas of sadness, wracked by despair until bits of me die;
haunted by fear, or strange inner voices; tortured by dark thoughts in pitiless tide . . . Blame me? Shame me? And what other choices – fear me? Ignore me and let my needs slide?
Gerasene brother, when you met the Christ who banished the illness into the swine, your healing came without judgment or price; mercy itself helped bring rightness of mind.
But note still the fear of those who kept score, finding you clothed, sitting calm and at peace. Madness is feared, but is mercy feared more? It’s Christ, not Legion, who’s asked there to leave.
Copyright ©2016 by Andrew King
Still sure you are nothing like this “Legion” man? Maybe I am controlled by things or people like this man as his people were controlled by Rome and by evil.
Remember the Commandments? Remember the First Commandment?
Love the Lord your God with all of your strength, soul and will…..
Luther saw that this first commandment is the ONLY commandment. The rest are how you break this one. To steal is not trust God for your wealth. To sleep around is not to trust the Lord for his unconditional faithfulness to you. To gossip is to mistrust the Lord’s words about you – that you are his loved child and etc….
We all battle with trust issues – we will desire just about anyone or anything more immediate than the promises of God. And as we do this, we are as controlled by them as this man was.
CS Lewis named himself “Legion” as he describes his particular journey to faith in Jesus….
“Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side. …..[I found that] ” All my acts, desires, and thoughts were to be brought into harmony with universal Spirit (Christ]. For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.” (CS Lewis, Surprised by Joy)
“I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.”
Now we are getting to it.
Let’s say you are Legion. Let’s say that Jesus is here in our darkness and death and doubt.
Will you allow him to cast these things out or will you do what the pig-herders and townsfolk did and ask him to leave you alone. They asked Jesus to leave them alone. And he did.
They were not willing to let this Legion of trouble be healed. They were not willing to allow Jesus to make them anything different, anything new. They could not see the new story, the new thing, the new creation of Jesus’ kingdom in their midst.
All they could see was the loss of money and the loss of the story they always told the tourist about the guy out in the tombs.
But now Jesus has gone and removed the legion of pain and suffering. Now this Legion man has a new name or two – Son, Child, Brother, Friend, Called….
Friends, that is you. That is me too.
By Jesus power and grace our self-harm is replaced with healed skin, our naked exposure to demonic elements is draped with beautiful new protective clothes of calm and forgiveness and peace down to our boots.
Our scrambling around for happiness, staying ahead, satisfaction and the self-interest, isolation and fear this causes us is cast out. With Jesus there is new calling for isolated, mentally suffering, controlled people.
My “zoo of over-driven desires, bedlam of ambitions, nursery of fears, and harem of fondled hatreds” are disarmed, cast out, kept in check only by this Saviour.
It seems that mental illness and Jesus are not mutually exclusive.
He is the one who comes to your gentile, unclean places when he does not have to and when few other can or will. He is the one chained for you by the Legion of Rome. He became fettered in chains, under brutal unjust rule for you; he is the one whose body was cut, not by his own hand, but by others, and yet at his permission, for you; he is the one who was lost from the community; was dead among the tombs, cast into the unclean gentile pit of hell in your place.
He enters into my zoo, my controlling desires, my bedlam, my nursery of fears and hatreds and kills them in me to raise me – daily.
He did it once for all in my baptism and still does everyday.
Reclaim that baptism day. It was the day this Legion of death was put to death in you in the tomb of the font and the resurrection to life of the font. It was a day like this day for this man. In your new right mind with his robes of righteousness on, trust that your baptism day is still active everyday.
Enjoy the healed wounds and the new clothes of his righteousness – his forgiveness with which to forgive, his kindness by which we be kind, his peace by which we face our issues and help others do the same, his compassion to give away any day. Enjoy being back in the village among friends with good food and a holy meal.
And tell them. Tell them all. We live here. This is our village. Like this new man we are called by Jesus to simply tell them about all that he has done for us.
Friend, you are no longer legion and no longer dead. Now you are the one with mastery over death. Your desires have been re-ordered and your life has been given purpose and really counts. You count because he counts you in.
To tell all over town how much Jesus does for you. (v 39)