the one where Jesus goes to the other side...
June 20, 2016, 9:00 AM

Sermon from June 19, 2016

Sermon Text: Luke 8: 26-39

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen!

So, this is a pretty powerful gospel reading that we heard today. It is powerful not only because of the healing that Jesus performs for a man ravaged by a multitude of demons. It is powerful not only because the demons know who Jesus is – which in my mind is pretty peculiar that those on the outskirts and the demons know who Jesus is, but it takes his friends so long to figure out the same thing.

All of that contributes to making this text so powerful to hear – especially today in light of the worse mass shooting performed by a single individual in this country that happened a week ago. In light of the one-year anniversary of the shooting in Charleston, SC. In light of a world that seems so focused on ‘fear’ of the unknown, the fear of the different, the fear of the stranger, the ‘fear’ of those on the other side; we get to read this incredibly important and powerful story of what Jesus did.

During this particular time in which we are looking in on during our gospel reading, the faith that Jesus was brought up in and the faith from which Christianity grew from could be very exclusionary. If you were not a part of the family to begin with, it was difficult to ‘get in.’ If you wanted ‘in’ then you had to go through quite a few steps in order to become a part of the family and nation of Israel; the people of God.

If you were not a part of the faith life in which Israel proclaimed, you were considered outside; depending which group of people you were from you might be considered unclean in the sense that you were not of the people of God. You didn’t associate with those who were not ‘of the people.’ If you did, you went through rituals to cleanse yourself to be ‘pure’ in the eyes of the people again. That is the worldview in which Jesus is living in during this time and in which he is proclaiming a vastly different message.

But, before we pat ourselves on the back about how much more civilized we are, we have to remember that we can be and sometimes are just as ‘exclusive’ into who we feel is a part of ‘us.’ A part of us as a people, a community of faith, a family, and a community.

You get the small little jabs that people often overlook – he can’t be doing this; he’s too young. Or she can’t lead that because she hasn’t been ‘here’ long enough. We can’t go there because they live ‘over there’ and we wouldn’t fit in. They can’t come be with us since they aren’t ‘like us.’ They are kin to you know who; it’s only inviting trouble.

Those are the more ‘innocent’ things we hear.

But, then – then are those things that we hear, we read of, we see, and sometimes what we say that are far more divisive, dismissive, and more. Well – look who he’s with – that just isn’t right. We can’t have that. Well, I’m not going to talk to her since she’s one of ‘those’ types. Do you know where ‘they’ are from – where they come from? I can’t believe they let those people do that – it’s wrong. I think those types of people shouldn’t be here at all. I wish they’d go away.

Those are things we hear. Those are things we have seen. Those are the underlying thoughts that have driven some to immense acts of violence and evil – acts of evil that we remember that happened a year ago and a week ago. Those thoughts and feelings – those fears of the unknown and different – drive people to commit heinous crimes of terror in places where people should feel safe, loved, and welcomed.

So, in the knowledge of all that; we get to read this gospel and this important healing that takes place in Jesus’ life and ministry.

Jesus goes to the other side.

Jesus hops in a boat and ventures across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus goes to be with those who others would have rather he not associate with. They wouldn’t want to be linked to the guy who goes to the other side. To be with the Gerasenes – the gentiles – the ones who are not like us.

Jesus crosses the body of water that separates two groups of people, and in the process crosses cultural boundaries that divide them even further.

And when he gets to the other side, he is confronted with an individual that no one - gentile or Jew -would want to associate with. He is confronted by crazy naked man. And not just any strange and naked individual, but someone who was so tormented by demons that he felt more at home among the dead and the tombs, than he did among the living in town.

But, yet we read that the town – perhaps in an attempt to ‘keep him safe’ – bound him in chains and shackles away from everyone else. And he still broke free from those bonds and ran into the wilds and the tombs.

Jesus is confronted by that guy. The guy who probably wasn’t all ‘right’ to begin with, but one who had been further set outside his community in more ways than one.

And Jesus speaks to him. Jesus heals him. Jesus sends him to proclaim God’s work.

This is a story that emphasizes the radical nature and ministry in which Jesus lives out and proclaims.

Jesus associates not only with those who his faith and culture at the time has told him not to be with, but he even associates and cares for their outcast as well.

When I read this snippet of Jesus’ life, I cannot help but think of the new commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples and in turn gave to us. John 13: 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. But, even in that something is missing. Jesus isn’t talking to a ‘single’ person. Jesus is talking to all those gathered around him that day. In fact, it would be more accurate to translate that verse as ‘I give y’all a new commandment, that y’all love one another. Just as I have loved y’all, y’all also should love one another.’

I think that is the thing that we miss so much in our life of faith. We have a world that focuses so much on the individual. That as long as I am good, then I don’t care how others are feeling. Going so far as to make sure others are put out so that I can feel better, safe, and secure.

Yet, our life of faith isn’t built on the individual. It isn’t about making sure just little ‘ol me is taken care of. The life of faith that we live and are called to is one that is lived for others. This life of faith and the love that Jesus calls us all into is one that is given, shed, and served for all those around us. All y’all.

Jesus in our gospel reading this morning, lives out the life of faith and the type of love that he calls each of us to. A life of crossing those physical and proverbial boundaries that separate us from one another. Drawing us all in together out of love, respect, and grace.

It doesn’t matter who you are. How you live. What others think. Where you come from. What you look like.

Jesus loves you. Jesus comes to you. Jesus is with you.

Jesus also calls us to step over those lines, boundaries, walls, thoughts, affiliations, identities, and more that separate us to bring healing, wholeness, relationship, and love to one another. Being able to look into the eyes of those around us and say fully and completely – You are a loved and forgiven child of God. I am a loved and forgiven child of God. We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.

We are able to do that – all of that – because of Christ. Jesus walks with us, shows us the way. God calls us into community with one another – all of us. Where we love and care for one another, showing respect, honor, and grace to each person we meet. Because we all – all of us – are wonderfully made creations of God.

It isn’t always easy – getting through the sin that lurks in our lives and world never is – but, God is there – God is here – with us. Guiding us, loving us, pushing us, calling us.

Jesus goes to the other side – to all sides. To the outskirts. To the outcast. Sharing God’s love and presence with them and us, and drawing us all into that relationship of love. Let’s join in. Amen.

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