Here is an exerpt from this upcoming Sunday’s sermon
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“….This image is related to this week’s gospel lesson which is a fascinating and detailed story about Jesus removing the demons from a suffering man. This is a remarkable text in that it is perhaps the only time in all of scripture that we get a taste of Deviled Ham!
In all seriousness, this is an intriguing text with several interesting parts to it. Once, while studying this text for a Sunday school lesson, a friend of mine said: Sometimes, I own a herd of pigs. They are my herd. I am tending them as I know best. Then God uses them in a way that does not go along with my intentions or understanding. It just feels like I have had to sacrifice what is mine and what I understand to be right for me. But in the end they are not my pigs; they are God’s.
My friend doesn’t really own a heard of pigs, she was speaking symbolically. But this perspective can make us think: Who are we in the story? Who are you?
First there are the disciples who are silent observers of all that happens at this event. Their silence might be because they are a little bit shell shocked because according to the section just prior to this, they have just come through a big storm on the way to this place and, just as they thought they were going to die at sea, their rabbi stood up in the middle of the boat and commanded the waves, wind, and storm to be still. And it was all still. They were in shock, of course.
Also in this scene are some pig herders. They are minding their own business, tending their pigs. They are Gentiles, of course, because the Hebrews do not deal with swine of any kind. It is against their food purity laws.
Then there are the people of the community, watching all of this take place. Some of them had tried to help the man, at least help him not hurt himself or anyone else by chaining him. It certainly looks awful but it was probably the best they could do. They are most likely gentiles, too, because this is gentile that Jesus and his disciples are traveling through.
There is the most prominent character: the man with the demon. He is broken, and bruised as we can imagine. What a rollercoaster life he has lived; sometimes chained up in the city, in bondage and not free but in his community, and other times wild and naked in the cemetery, where he is free from his chains but where he is in isolation. Outcast and alone but not, as it happens, alone at all. He is most likely a gentile as well.
The reason it matters that most of these people are gentiles and not Jews is because Jesus is not in Jewish territory. He has intentionally gone out of the Jewish lands and into the surrounding areas which might have the occasional Jew living there but are mostly populated with non-Jews. He has shown up in a land and to a people who do not worship the God of the Jews and do not follow Jewish law. They are not a people who grew up knowing about the prophecies of the Messiah who is to come to put the world aright. They do not know about any of God’s promises or covenants the way that the Hebrews do and the fact that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of God would have nearly no significance for them.
Then we also have the two sinister characters: the demons Legion, who are about their business of tearing things up, damaging people’s lives, breaking and destroying everything possible. An agent of chaos at work.
And lastly, we have Jesus, Son of the Most High God. He’s called by that title by these demons in this gentile land. The disciples can barely discern who this man, their friend and teacher, really is and will continue to have a difficult time grasping the truth that he is the Messiah, Son of God, but even the evil spirits in a land that does not know the God of the Jews knows the power of Jesus……..”
See you there!