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

 


WHENEVER I READ THIS GOSPEL PASSAGE, I CAN’T HELP BUT THINK ABOUT THOSE POOR PIGS, BECAUSE I ONCE HAD A PET PIG IN VIETNAM. MY TROOPS HAD RESCUED A LITTLE PIGLET FROM THE ENEMY, AND BROUGHT IT TO ME AS A JOKE. WELL, THAT PIG BONDED TO ME LIKE A DOG, AND WOULD FOLLOW ME AROUND THE BASE, OR RUN WITH THE PACK OF DOGS ON THE BASE. PIGS GET BIG REALLY FAST, SO THE LITTLE PIGGY SOON BECAME A BIG FAT PIG, WHO LEARNED TO OPEN THE DOOR TO MY BUNKER AND WAKE ME UP AT DAWN WITH A KISS – WHICH MEANT AN IMMEDIATE SHOWER. IT SLEPT IN ITS OWN BUNKER, AND WOULD RUN TO SAFETY WHEN IT HEARD THE ENEMY ROCKETS COMING. OUR WARNING CRY TO TAKE COVER WAS, “PIG IN THE BUNKER!”

SHE WAS A GOOD PIG, AND WHEN I HAD TO LEAVE TO TAKE ANOTHER COMMAND, I LEFT HER WITH THE FIRST SERGEANT TO CARE FOR HER UNTIL I GOT BACK; A BIG MISTAKE. UPON MY RETURN, FIVE MONTHS LATER, THE HAWAIIAN FIRST SERGEANT WELCOMED ME BACK WITH A LUAU IN MY HONOR. THAT WAS A GOOD PIG IN SO MANY WAYS. OK, ENOUGH SILLINESS.

JESUS LEAVES GALILEE IN A BOAT WITH HIS DISCIPLES TO CROSS OVER TO GENTILE TERRITORY, WHICH NO SELF-RESPECTING RABBI WOULD DO, SINCE THE ENTIRE REGION WAS CONSIDERED UNCLEAN. AS SOON AS HE STEPS OUT OF THE BOAT, HE IS APPROACHED BY A MAN POSSESSED BY DEMONS. STORIES ABOUT DEMONIC POSSESSION ARE ALWAYS DIFFICULT, BECAUSE WE DON’T THINK IN FIRST CENTURY TERMS. WE DESCRIBE THINGS NOW LIKE MENTAL ILLNESS, OR ADDICTIONS WHICH COMPEL DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIORS THAT TAKE OVER THE LIVES OF THOSE AFFECTED. WHATEVER AFFECTED THIS MAN CAUSED HIS COMMUNITY TO CAST HIM OUT AND BIND HIM IN CHAINS, TO NO AVAIL, SINCE IN HIS WILD STRENGTH HE WOULD BREAK THE BONDS, CAST OFF HIS CLOTHES, AND LIVE IN THE TOMBS. POSSESSED BY AN UNCLEAN SPIRIT, HE WENT NAKED, WHICH WAS CONSIDERED UNCLEAN, AND LIVED AMONG THE DEAD, WHICH WAS ALSO UNCLEAN. HE WAS SO FAR GONE THAT HE NO LONGER KNEW HIS NAME; HIS ENTIRE IDENTITY WAS SUBSUMED BY HIS AFFLICTIONS, AND WHATEVER POSSESSED HIM MADE HIM NOT WANT TO BE RELEASED.

WHEN JESUS ASKS HIM HIS NAME, HE SAYS, “LEGION.” THIS REGION WAS OCCUPIED BY A ROMAN LEGION OF 6,000 MEN, WHICH EXPLAINS THE LOCALS RAISING SO MANY PIGS. THIS MAN WAS NOT MERELY POSSESSED, HE WAS CONQUERED AND OCCUPIED.

CONSIDER HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE POSSESSED BY THEIR ADDICTIONS, WHETHER TO DRUGS, ALCOHOL, SEX, GREED, ANGER, HOSTILITY, ENVY. CHAINED TO THE POINT WHERE IT SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE TO BREAK OUT FROM WHAT BINDS THEM, RELAPSING AGAIN AND AGAIN. ON THEIR OWN, THEY RETURN TO WHAT POSSESSES THEM, WHICH IS WHY OUTSIDE INTERVENTION IS NEEDED, AND THE RELIANCE ON SOMETHING OR SOMEONE BEYOND THEMSELVES. THIS IS, OF COURSE, THE BASIS OF THE TWELVE STEP PROGRAM OF AA, AND MANY OTHER REHAB PROGRAMS. THE POOR MAN IN THIS STORY COMES FACE TO FACE WITH THE ULTIMATE HIGHER POWER, SO FAR BEYOND ALL THE POWERS OF THIS WORLD; HE EXPERIENCES THE COMPLETE OUTSIDE INTERVENTION.

NOW WHEN JESUS RESTORES HIM TO HIS HUMANITY, AND THE LOCAL PEOPLE FIND OUT ABOUT IT, AND THE LOSS OF THEIR HERD OF SWINE, THEY ARE AFRAID AND ASK JESUS TO LEAVE. THEY ARE AFRAID BECAUSE THEY CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT HAS HAPPENED, AND ARE POSSIBLY AFRAID OF WHAT THE ROMANS MIGHT DO WHEN THEY CAN’T PROVIDE THE FOOD THE LEGION NEEDS. SO JESUS GETS INTO THE BOAT TO LEAVE, AND THE RESTORED MAN BEGS TO GO WITH HIM. JESUS TELLS HIM, INSTEAD, TO GO HOME AND TELL EVERYONE WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR HIM. HE DOES SO, TELLING EVERYONE WHAT JESUS HAS DONE FOR HIM.

NOTE THAT THE ONLY THING JESUS HAS DONE IN THE LAND OF THE GERASENES IS TO RESTORE THIS ONE MAN TO HIS RIGHT MIND AND THUS RESTORE HIM TO HIS FAMILY AND COMMUNITY. IT IS QUITE POSSIBLE, AND MORE THAN LIKELY PROBABLE, THAT THIS WAS THE WHOLE REASON FOR JESUS TO CROSS THE SEA OF GALILEE INTO GENTILE TERRITORY. HE NOT ONLY CROSSED THE LAKE, BUT CROSSED THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN JEW AND GENTILE. HE IS STILL DOING THIS TODAY, CROSSING THE BOUNDARIES OF OUR LIVES AND, BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, BRINGING TO US THE INTERVENTION WE NEED TO FREE US FROM ALL THAT POSSESSES US. HE COMES TO FREE US FROM OUR FEARS, OUR HURTS, OUR FAILURES, AND ALL THAT MAKES US LESS THAN WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE. HE COMES TO US, AGAIN AND AGAIN, TO TELL US AND ASSURE US THAT WE ARE MUCH MORE THAN THE SUM OF OUR FAILINGS AND FEARS. HE COMES TO RESTORE US AND ASSURE US THAT WE ARE THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF THE KING OF HEAVEN. WE ARE GOD’S BELOVED CHILDREN, FORGIVEN OF OUR SINS AND FAILURES, AND BLESSED WITH AN OPEN FUTURE FILLED WITH THE PROMISE OF LIFE WITH GOD IN HIS KINGDOM.

WE CAN IGNORE ALL THAT WOULD KEEP US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD, AND WE CAN CERTAINLY IGNORE THOSE MISGUIDED PEOPLE WHO CARRY AROUND SIGNS SAYING THAT GOD HATES THIS OR THAT. THE WHOLE PURPOSE OF JESUS’ MINISTRY IS TO TELL US, AND MOST CERTAINLY TO SHOW US, THAT GOD LOVES US. WE ARE FREED FROM THE LEGION OF THE THINGS WHICH WOULD CAUSE US TO FEAR OR TO POSSESS US. JESUS HAS BROKEN THE BOUNDARIES OF OUR SPIRITS WITH HIS OWN SPIRIT, TO TELL US AND SHOW US THAT WE BELONG TO GOD. AMEN