Sermon for 3 Pentecost, Year C
Sermon for 3 Pentecost, Year C
Based on Lk. 8:26-39
By Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Some of you may remember a Fifth Estate television program, several years ago, about certain persons with multiple personalities. Toward the end of this segment of the show, the issue arose about how people suffering from this disturbing condition could be helped to integrate their various personalities and become just one personality.
Apparently, a major condition going with this multiple personality syndrome is amnesia—so that often personalities don’t know what others are doing, nor their histories. In order to be integrated, the personalities first have to become acquainted with one another and to face the truth of the terrible trauma that led to the beginning of their multiple personalities. Knowing and accepting the truth is necessary and vital if the person is going to be set free, healed, and made whole.
One person being interviewed was asked about her relation to the “core personality.” The other personality said she had tried to confront the core personality with the truth of her past, and said, “sometimes she believes it, and sometimes not; she has to believe it before she can be helped.”
So belief and acceptance of the truth is necessary to gain wholeness and freedom from her brokenness and dividedness. Also interviewed on the program was a woman who had been able to integrate her multiple personalities. When she was asked what it was like, she replied that it was like a new start or like being born again.
In today’s gospel, Luke tells us of a similar kind of story, while Jesus was visiting a region of the Gentiles on the East side of the Sea of Galilee, called the country of the Gerasenes. The first thing that happens as Jesus sets foot on this foreign territory is an encounter with a demon-possessed man. This man was an outcast of his society. We’re told that for a long time he went about naked and lived in a graveyard outside of the city. For most Jews, to associate with such a person living in a graveyard among the dead was not permitted; they believed such a person was unclean and would also make anyone who visited them unclean.
This poor man was in a lot of trouble. He is tormented day and night, week in, week out, for years by demons. He has no peace. No wonder he has no peace, for we’re told, when Jesus asks the man’s name, the answer he gets is “Legion.” In other words, the man is possessed by a legion of demons. At that time, Roman legions numbered about five or six thousand soldiers—that is a lot of demons to dwell in one man! No wonder the community is completely frightened of him! No wonder he is a dangerous, threatening power to them! No wonder chains and shackles fail to control him! If we were citizens of that city, maybe we’d feel the same way!
However, Jesus is different! He is not afraid of the man nor the legion of demons, which possess him. Notice that it is the demons who yell out at Jesus; who acknowledge his power and authority over them; who call Jesus Son of the Most High God. Notice too that the demons are not about to tell Jesus what to do. It is not they who have power and authority over Jesus. In fact, they beg Jesus not to torment them and later not to send them back into the abyss. The abyss, it was believed at that time, was the dwelling place of evil spirits below the earth, where they would be confined until the Day of Judgment. Jesus agrees to their entering a herd of pigs and once they enter them, they run off the steep bank into the lake and drown.
Meanwhile, the mad man, the Gerasene demoniac, whose life was full of divisions with a legion of demons in him, is now quietly sitting at the feet of Jesus. By quietly sitting at the feet of his Healer, The Great Physician, His Saviour; the man is a willing and eager new disciple of Jesus. He now wants to learn everything he can from his Great Teacher and Master. All kinds of new and wonderful discoveries open up to him as he sits at Christ’s feet and learns from him. On this Day of days, the healed man meets and becomes a follower of the Messiah; has a living encounter with The Truth, who sets him free; and God’s Kingdom has come to him and made him a new citizen of it. Furthermore, this healed man from Gerasene is no longer naked and out of his mind with craziness or mental illness. He is now clothed and in his right mind. He can now live a more dignified and meaningful life. He can now think straight. He is now filled with God’s peace after all of those years of torment, confusion, fear, anger and hatred. After feeling torn apart into many different pieces by the legion of demons, now there is healing and wholeness. Now he is given a total new start, like being born again after Jesus heals him.
Sometimes maybe with the hectic pace of our lives we feel a bit like the Gerasene demoniac. At times our lives may become too fragmented, too divided over the demands or responsibilities of the workplace, the home and family, the larger community organizations, personal interests and hobbies, and involvement in the church. We may feel that we are running in the wild at times like that man of Gerasene. We may feel our lives are out of control and our priorities are too confusing or conflicting. We, like the man of Gerasene, like persons with multiple personalities, may at times feel that we’ve lost or we’re losing our sense of who we are; our image of God. The daily bombardment of the mass media; as well as our peers at school or work may pressure us to conform to what’s “in”—even if deep down we know it goes against our conscience and personal integrity. In our struggles and stresses, God’s peace may seem so far away; yet we deeply yearn for it, because the Holy Spirit dwells in us. We too may long for a more sane, fulfilling, meaningful lifestyle of health, healing and wholeness. Jesus is our Great Physician and Healer too! He can give us healing and health, wholeness and peace. The Greek word Luke uses in our gospel for healed is instructive. This Greek word can also mean saved. To be healed is to be saved and vice-versa. Or, put another way, Jesus and the church are not only concerned with the soul of a person, but with the whole person—that’s why historically the church has been a leader in health and healing, and strives to be today as well by being an advocate for holistic healthcare and operating quality healthcare institutions.
So brothers and sisters in Christ, today our Great Physician invites each one of us to come to him for his healing in, with, under and through his word and the sacrament of Holy Communion. Here we are offered health and salvation; wholeness and peace; here we are invited to receive, as one early Christian theologian put it “the medicine of immortality;” here we too can sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from him, then respond, like the man from Gerasene, by telling others how much God has done for us. Then, as we too are healed by our Great Physician and Healer; we can go out into the world and be Christ’s healing presence for others. Amen.
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