"The MIGHTY Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our FORTRESS." Psalm 46:7
 
 

5 Pentecost Proper C7
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 8:26-39 Sermon
June 19, 2016

Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.


Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal, Lutheran Service Book, etc.):
TLH 658 "Onward Christian Soldiers"
LSB 801 "How Great Thou Art"
LSB 744 "Amazing Grace"
TLH 649 "Jesus Saviour Pilot Me"
TLH 233 "Come Holy Ghost Creator Blest"
TLH 518 "If Thou But Suffer God To Guide Thee"
- - - - -    "Because He Lives"
TLH 464 "Blest Be The Tie That Binds"
TLH 262  "A Mighty Fortress"  

NOTE:  This is "hymn sing Sunday;" all of the hymns are selections from the congregation. 

THE TRAGEDIES OF A SINFUL WORLD 

TEXT: (vs. 30-33) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered himAnd they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission.Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.”

 

            It almost goes without saying that things have been really busy in Florida over this past week.  People have asked me, "Pastor, what do you think about all of this?"      

            What do I think?  I have no idea as to what kind of answers they may be seeking, or what they expect me to say.  It's kind of a loaded question really.  Perhaps they're expecting me to say that this is God's judgment against Orlando.  That's what many people are thinking.  49 people are lying dead from the mass shooting that happened early last Sunday morning.  Is that God unleashing his wrath and anger against these people?

            A Sacramento, CA pastor by the name of Roger Jimenez has taken a rather anti-Christian stance on this.  He posted a video of a sermon of sorts on You Tube.  Quoting a story from the ABC affiliate in Sacramento regarding this, here is an excerpt:  In the video, Jimenez preached to his congregation that they should not be grieving the homosexual victims of the shootings, comparing those killed to pedophiles.  "Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?" asked Jimenez. "Um no. I think that’s great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job – because these people are predators. They are abusers."  Jimenez went on to criticize the government, saying he wished homosexuals would be put in front of a firing squad.  "I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put the firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out," Jimenez said.

            Evidently Pastor Jimenez's Bible is missing Romans 12:19 that says, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'"  I think the only people rejoicing besides him are the people of Westboro Baptist in Wichita, Kansas.  There the only ones who picket military funerals with "God Hates Fags" signs.

            But this Sacramento pastor isn't the only one with a poison pen.  I'm not exactly sure as to who made this statement, but it is just as disturbing:  "You weren't the gunman, but you didn't want to see gay people kissing in public.  You weren't the gunman, but you don't want gay characters on TV.  You weren't the gunman, but you think gay people are sinful and need saving.  You weren't the gunman, but you were upset when gay people gained the right to marry.  You weren't the gunman, but you use slurs for gay people.  You weren't the gunman, but you would vote against legal protection for gay people.  You weren't the gunman, but you're the culture that built him.  You're the bullets in his gun."

            Wow.  I think I've heard enough hate speech for a while.  Both sides here are way beyond the pale with their statements.  Certainly these individuals have the right to say what they said.  That's basic first amendment stuff.  But I hardly think that a person stating a position and declaring what they believe can in any way be equated to making the bullets and handing them to the gunman. 

            Christians are to be compassionate people regardless of the circumstances.  We might not agree with a particular person or stand with them on a particular position, but we have to look at people as fellow members of the human race, regardless of what we might happen to think of them.  To love somebody as a fellow human being does not mean we have to agree with them or condone their actions.

            If we look at the way Jesus reacted to those around him, he was especially attentive and compassionate to those that society otherwise rejected.  Last Sunday, our Gospel Lesson described the account of Jesus being a Pharisee's dinner guest, and the prostitute coming to him, at the utter disgust of the Pharisee.

            And this week, we meet another reject of society, somebody who few if any wanted anything to do with.  As we look at our Gospel lesson today  from Luke chapter 8,  let’s look at what was happening here:

            Jesus is with his disciples at a place called Gerasenes, on the far side of theLakeofGalilee, which was inhabited mostly by Gentiles.  When they arrived, they almost immediately encounter this demon possessed man.  And was he ever a mess!  He lived in the caves out in the wilderness, and he wore no clothes.  The demons that possessed him were so powerful that they literally controlled his whole body, and were strong enough that they could break every shackle that they used to try to restrain the man, most likely done for their own protection.  In all of Scripture, this was about the most severe case of demon possession that we encounter.

            So who or what are these demons anyway?  The Bible teaches us that demons were once angels.  God created them at some point in time along with all the other angels.  Soon after the creation, a group of angels rebelled against God.  God immediately condemned these evil angels to an eternity of punishment.  The Bible tells that God created hell specifically for these evil angels.  The Bible refers to these evil angels by several names: fallen angels, unclean spirits, evil spirits, demons, and so forth.

            Since demons are angels, they are spiritual beings; that is, they do not have bodies.  They are not subject to the laws of the physical universe.  Since demons are fallen angels, they are enemies of God.

            The problem with being an enemy of God is that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, unlimited by time and space, and so forth.  I tell my confirmation students that these are the three “omnis” of God:  omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.  Even though the demons are fallen, they are still God’s creatures.  They cannot win against God in a direct attack.  They must find some other way to express their hatred of God.  And so, the battlefield in their war against God is the human race.  We see this happening in Orlando, and it happens with the likes of you and me.

            In the case of our text for today, the demon’s person of choice was this man that Jesus and his disciples encountered.  And he was inhabited by not just one demon, but by many demons, almost without number.  The demons are referred to as “legion,” because there were so many of them, which would number into the thousands.  And what a frightening thought that is!

            There are several notable things about this account.  The first thing that stands out is that the demons knew right away who Jesus was.  In verse 28, the demon fairly shouts:  “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”  That was a shout of terror!  The demons were afraid, because they knew that Jesus had the ultimate power and authority over them.  Jesus didn’t even have to speak so much as one word.  Just the sight of Jesus made the demons shudder.  They knew they couldn’t win.

            The second thing that stands out is the dialogue that Jesus has with the demons.  It seems odd, at least to me, that Jesus would want to have any sort of conversation with these demons.  After all, isn’t the whole idea just to get rid of them, the "line 'em up and shoot 'em" logic, and get them out of this man’s life?  And why would Jesus in any way accommodate their request to go into a herd of pigs instead of being destroyed?

            To answer this, I think there were two good reasons.  First, this happened in front of the disciples.  They needed to see just how completely this man was possessed, and what a large task this man’s exorcism would be.

            The second reason is the witness of the people herding the pigs.  They saw what happened, and they went and told many others what Jesus had done.  When Jesus complied with the demons’ request, it showed just how powerful Jesus was against the forces of Satan.

            The whole concept of the demons going into a herd of pigs is also very interesting.  The witness of the herders and the disciples was a good enough reason alone.  But it also shows just how ignorant the demons were.  By going into the herd of pigs, the demons thought that they would be spared; and how wrong that idea was!  I doubt if they knew that they would be the cause of the pigs committing mass suicide.

            Of course we need to always recognize what Satan does in our own lives.  His whole idea is to completely choke God out of our lives and lead us to our demise.  That suits his purposes to a tee.

            In 1 Peter chapter 5 verses 8-9, Peter gives us a short but valuable warning:  “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith…”

            We know that Satan is at work all the time in the lives of all people.  There are those who leave themselves open to his attacks by denying his power and ignoring his influence.  This is one of Satan’s greatest tools.  He gets us to believe a lie that we have concocted ourselves!  The demons’ main weapon is deception as Jesus said in John chapter 8 verse 44:  “…When [the devil] lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  It wouldn’t be much of a temptation if the devil appeared to us dressed in a red leotard with horns and a pitch fork.  Demons present temptations in ways that make sense to our logic in ways that seem like the right thing for us to do, even in ways that have a certain beauty. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians chapter 11, verse 14:  “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

            One of the main things we can learn from our story today, is that regardless of how powerful Satan is at any given moment, God is always more powerful.  He always has the upper hand.  He always wins, and that’s guaranteed.

            Jesus came to this earth to defeat Satan, and death, and hell.  Satan tempted Jesus with all he could throw at him, and Jesus never gave in.  He showed his strength in ways and at times that make us marvel!

            He did it for you and he did it for me.  His love for us took him all the way to the cross where he suffered and died to take away our sin and defeat death, hell, and Satan on our behalf.  The grave could not hold him either.  He descended into hell, literally put himself in the middle of Satan’s living room, and he thumbed his nose at Satan’s power.  He led a victory march, declaring his absolute sovereign power over everything, and rose victorious.

            When Satan beats us up and makes us think that he has won us over, we cannot believe his lies.  Jesus speaks the truth, and shows his ultimate power.  When he rid the man of his demons, the man experienced a joy and freedom he never knew before. 

            This man who was healed wanted to be one of Jesus’ followers, to go with him.  Instead, Jesus told him to go and be a witness.  Even though the people of the town were scared because of the power he had, reacting violently to the pig herder’s story, what Jesus had done to this man remained one of the strongest testimonies you could imagine.  Here was a man who had been shackled and violent.  People were very frightened of him and his violent ways.  But that was no more.  A new man had arisen from the soul Satan had previously claimed as his own.  Jesus had given this man new life in a way that only he could do.  And that’s what he gives us too through faith alone.

            We know that Satan is behind the tragedies in Orlando as well.  Did you catch that I used the plural here, "tragedies?"  The incident at the Pulse nightclub was only one of three incidents that happened in Orlando in so many days. 

            The first incident, which happened on Friday the 10th, was the senseless murder of the Christian vocalist Christina Grimmie.  Here was a young and exceptionally talented 22 year old woman who regularly appeared on NBC's "The Voice."  She was singing about her Lord and Saviour.  She was out there witnessing her faith in Jesus.  As she was giving autographs and posing for "selfies," a delusional 27 year old Kevin Loibl shot her in the head, and then turned the gun on himself.  I wonder who was making the bullets and handing them to him?  Pardon the sarcasm.

            And then there was the tragic accident on Monday, where two year old Lane Graves was snatched by an alligator and killed.  A child from a devoutly Christian home who had his short life come to an abrupt end, and nobody was really to blame for it.

            In the midst of tragedy there is hope.  We can't look past the fact that we live in a sinful world.  It affects everything and everybody.  But we have this hope through faith in Jesus our Saviour.  Our sins are forgiven, are lives are restored, and we live our lives as his disciples.  When we do this, we do as he commanded, to "love our neighbors as ourselves."  We don't react out of vengeance; rather, we show compassion and love to those who are hurting and grieving.  We share this hope that we have.  And even though the devil will attempt to derail that hope and try to point us in the wrong direction, we have a Saviour who is more powerful than anything Satan can throw at us.

            Today Jesus shows us this power over Satan.  He freed a man with many demons.  He conquered and won then as he does today, and as he always will.  Thanks be to God! 

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