The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
Luke 8:26-39

FEAR IS A PROMINENT THEME IN THE GOSPEL FOR TODAY, AND, PRIOR TO THE EVENTS DESCRIBED IN TODAY’S READING, THE DISCIPLES WERE IN FEAR FOR THEIR LIVES DURING THE STORM THAT STRUCK ON THE WAY ACROSS THE LAKE. FEAR LEADS US TO THE STORY, AND FEAR ALMOST ENDS THE STORY. THE DISCIPLES WERE JUST RECOVERING FROM THEIR FEAR OF DROWNING WHEN, AS THEY PULLED THE BOAT ONTO THE SHORE, THEY WERE MET BY A FEARSOME MADMAN. THE PEOPLE OF GERASA WERE IN SUCH FEAR OF THE MADMAN THAT THEY TRIED TO BIND HIM IN CHAINS, WHICH, WITH THE STRENGTH OF THE INSANE, HE BROKE, SO THEY LEFT HIM TO LIVE IN THE TOMBS OUTSIDE THE CITY. THE POSSESSED MAN WAS AFRAID OF JESUS, AND BEGGED JESUS NOT TO TORMENT HIM. WHEN JESUS ASKED HIS NAME, HE REPLIED “LEGION,” SINCE HE WAS POSSESSED BY A GREAT MANY DEMONS, WHO WERE IN FEAR THAT JESUS WOULD ORDER THEM BACK INTO THE ABYSS. WHEN JESUS ALLOWED THEM TO ENTER INTO THE HEARD OF SWINE NEARBY, THE SWINE PANICKED IN FEAR AND RUSHED INTO THE LAKE TO DROWN. WHEN THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY HEARD WHAT HAPPENED AND RUSHED TO THE SCENE, THEY SAW THE FORMER MADMAN IN HIS RIGHT MIND, CLOTHED, AND SITTING AT THE FEET OF JESUS, WHICH FILLED THEM WITH FEAR. THEY ASKED JESUS TO LEAVE, BECAUSE THEY WERE SEIZED WITH GREAT FEAR, SO JESUS GOT BACK INTO THE BOAT TO LEAVE.

AFTER THE EVENTS IN ORLANDO EARLY LAST SUNDAY MORNING, MUCH HAS BEEN SAID, BY NEWS COMMENTATORS, PUNDITS, AND POLITICIANS, TRYING TO EXPLAIN THE WHYS AND WHEREFORES OF THE SINGLE GREATEST MASS KILLING IN AMERICA SINCE THE FELLING OF THE TWIN TOWERS ON 9/11. NOT MUCH OF WHAT HAS BEEN SAID, OR WRITTEN, ABOUT THE HORROR OF THAT NIGHT SEEMS HELPFUL. WHAT IS CLEAR, HOWEVER, IS THAT THE LEVEL OF FEAR IN OUR NATION HAS BEEN RATCHETED UP TO A NEW HIGH. REGARDLESS OF YOUR PERSONAL OPINIONS ON PERSONS WHO IDENTIFY AS LGBT, THEY ARE IRRELEVANT IN THE FACE OF THIS HORROR. THIS IS A TIME OF WEEPING AND MOURNING.

THE UNSPEAKABLE TERROR OF THOSE WHO, BELIEVING THEY WERE IN A PLACE WHERE THEY WERE ACCEPTED AND SAFE, SUDDENLY FINDING THEMSELVES BEING SLAUGHTERED BY A MADMAN, MUST CALL OUT TO OUR SPIRITS AND MAKE US WEEP IN THE DEPTHS OF OUR SOULS. WITH OUR SORROW AND PRAYERS FOR THOSE WHO WERE SLAUGHTERED AND THEIR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS, COMES THE FEAR; IF SUCH HORROR CAN HAPPEN IN ORLANDO, HOME OF THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH, HOW CAN ANYWHERE BE SAFE?

TO WATCH VIDEOS OF ISIS THROWING HOMOSEXUALS TO THEIR DEATH FROM HIGH TOWERS, BEHEADING CHRISTIANS WHO REFUSE TO RENOUNCE THEIR FAITH IN CHRIST, WOMEN AND GIRLS BEING CAPTURED FOR USE AS SEX SLAVES, WHILE HORRIBLE AND DISGUSTING, WE ARE DISTANCED FROM IT BECAUSE IT IS HAPPENING ELSEWHERE. NOW THIS EVIL HAS COME TO US, AND FILLS US WITH FEAR. WHETHER THE KILLER WAS SELF-RADICALIZED, WHATEVER THAT IS SUPPOSED TO MEAN, OR FOUND HIS MURDEROUS INSPIRATION FROM THE TEACHINGS OF RADICAL RELIGIOUS TEACHERS, MATTERS NOT IN THE LEAST TO THOSE HE KILLED AND THOSE WHO WEEP FOR THEIR LOVED ONES; NOR DOES IT MATTER TO US. THE INSANITY OF TERRORISM HAS COME TO US, AND NOW WE FEAR.

FEAR IS THE TOOL OF EVIL; THE CHAINS THAT BIND THE POSSESSED AND THE OPPRESSED. AS THE ADDICTED ARE CHAINED BY THE FEAR OF NOT GETTING THAT DRINK OR ANOTHER HIT, THEY BECOME DEFINED BY THEIR ADDICTION, AS THE MAN WITH NO NAME WAS DEFINED BY WHAT POSSESSED HIM. THE OPPRESSED, WHO LIVE IN FEAR OF THE OPPRESSOR, LIKE THE GERASENES UNDER THE ROMAN HEEL, LIKE THOSE WHO LIVE UNDER THE CONTROL OF ISIS, FEAR ANYTHING WHICH MIGHT CALL THE ATTENTION, AND THE WRATH, OF THE OPPRESSOR TO THEM. THE PEOPLE OF GERASA WERE SO FILLED WITH FEAR THAT THEY ASKED JESUS TO JUST GO AWAY. FEAR IS THE PURPOSE OF TERROR; TO MAKE US LIVE IN SUCH FEAR THAT WE WOULD PREFER THE LASH OF THOSE WHO WOULD RULE US TO WHAT THEY MIGHT DO TO US IF WE RESIST.

AS I SAID BEFORE, FEAR ALMOST ENDS THE STORY IN THE GOSPEL FOR TODAY, BUT IT DOES NOT. THE MAN HEALED BY JESUS BEGGED HIM TO LET HIM GO WITH HIM, BUT JESUS TOLD HIM TO GO BACK TO HIS CITY AND TELL EVERYONE WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR HIM. HE WAS TO GO BACK TO THOSE WHO HAD BOUND HIM IN CHAINS, WHO WERE PROBABLY STILL FEARFUL OF HIM, AND WHO JUST SUFFERED GREAT ECONOMIC LOSS BY WHAT JESUS DID FOR HIM. WITHOUT FEAR, HE WENT BACK, AND PROCLAIMED TO EVERYONE WHAT JESUS HAD DONE FOR HIM. HE SAW, IN THE PERSON OF JESUS, THE POWER AND GLORY OF GOD, AND IN RECOGNIZING THAT GOD AND JESUS WERE ONE, HE WAS NO LONGER AFRAID.

THIS IS A TIME FOR WEEPING; A TIME FOR MOURNING THOSE MURDERED BY A MADMAN INFECTED BY EVIL, AS WE SHOULD MOURN FOR ALL WHO SUFFER AND DIE BY THE BLOODY HANDS OF TERRORISTS OR THE INSANE. WE MUST NOT LIVE IN FEAR, BECAUSE THEN EVIL TRIUMPHS. GOD HAS CALLED YOU BY NAME, AND IN CHRIST HAS MADE YOU HIS OWN FOREVER. WE MUST RESIST EVIL WHEREVER WE FIND IT, AND MUST WORK, WITHOUT FEAR, TO PROTECT THOSE WHO ARE INNOCENT AND DEFENSELESS. KNOWING THAT WE BELONG TO THE GREAT AND GOOD FATHER OF ALL WHO REVEALED HIMSELF IN CHRIST JESUS, WE CAN, AND MUST, PROCLAIM WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR ALL IN JESUS; EVEN IN THE FACE OF UNSPEAKABLE EVIL. “THE BODY THEY MAY KILL; GOD’S TRUTH ABIDETH STILL. HIS KINGDOM IS FOREVER.”
AMEN

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