TITLE: Saved to Save!
SCRIPTURE: Luke 8:26-39
Let’s start with a little trivia this morning, What day of the year are the most phone calls made???…… Mothers day. It seems that on mothers day everyone wants to call home.
What do you thinks happens on fathers day? Any one want to make a Guess? The most collect Calls.
Personally I believe that is ok. Dad’s like to be needed. They like to be called on for wisdom and help.
Mom’s job is to fix clothes, meals, a Wounded Body. Dads job is to fix broken stuff and defend the family, especially daughters.
I read something this week entitled 50 Reasons Why It’s Good To Be a Man. I won’t read all of them but I did put together a top-10 list:
10 You know stuff about tanks.
9 You can go to the bathroom without a support group.
8 If someone forgets to invite you to something he can still be your friend.
7 You can drop by to see a friend without bringing a little gift.
6 If another guy shows up at the same party in the same outfit, you might become lifelong buddies.
5 One wallet, one pair of shoes, one color, all seasons.
4 There is always a game on somewhere.
3 Your pals can be trusted never to trap you with, “So…notice anything different?”
2 If something mechanical doesn’t work, you can bash it with a hammer and throw it across the room.
1 You can do your nails with a pocketknife.
Dad’s are different, Dad’s just seen to be like some of the tools in the garage that are just sitting there until you need them.
Sometimes we treat Jesus as if He were one of those tools just sitting there until we need Him. Dads are different and Jesus is different. He doesn’t wait for the need to come to Him, He goes to the need.
In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus comes into Gentile territory for the only time in Luke's Gospel -- and encounters a man possessed by demons -- lots of demons. The man runs around naked and lives all alone in a cemetery.
His hometown people have tried to bring his wildness under control by binding him with chains, but he broke the chains. Finally, they wrote him off as impossibly crazy, and walked a wide berth around his cemetery home.
If Jesus had asked their advice, the neighbors would have told him that the man was dangerous. "Stay away," they would have said. But Jesus didn't ask their advice. Just as a good cop moves toward trouble and a good firefighter enters a burning building, Jesus went where the need was. Lots of people needed Jesus, but nobody needed him more than this man -- this poor, naked, lonely, wild demon possessed man. So Jesus walked into the cemetery and made his way through the tombs until he found himself face to face with the demons that were tormenting this man.
When Jesus asked their name, they replied, "Legion." A legion was six thousand soldiers -- representing overwhelming power -- power that nobody could resist. At that very moment, Roman legions occupied Israel -- their presence a foot on Jewish necks -- a knife at Jewish throats. A Roman soldier, tired of carrying his pack, could compel any passerby to carry it a mile. Roman tax collectors took the people's money and sent it to Rome to be spent on foolish entertainments.
And, in just such a manner, a legion of demons ruled over this crazy, naked man -- making him miserable -- ruining his life.
But, as powerful as they were -- and they were powerful, indeed -- the demons knew that they were no match for Jesus. When they looked at Jesus, they saw God's power at work, and they could see what was coming. They pled with Jesus not to send them back to the abyss -- begged instead to enter a herd of swine -- and Jesus allowed it. That didn't serve the demons well, however, because the demonic pigs rushed into the sea and drowned -- presumably drowning the demons too.
And the man who had been crazy became sane. The man who had been naked put on clothing. The man who had run around wildly now sat calmly at Jesus feet.
When we read a story like that, many of us are torn. We want to believe the Bible, but we question whether there are really such things as demons and wonder if this story is true. Perhaps the people saw Jesus calm this wild man and thought that he had driven out his demons. Perhaps a herd of pigs ran into the sea, and people connected that story with this man. Perhaps -- well -- we aren't sure what to think.
I'll be honest with you -- I am not sure exactly what happened that day. I am, however, going to suggest that we not too quickly dismiss this story. While I don't believe in demons as little gremlins with forked tails, I do believe demons are real. I recognize the broad outline of this story as not so different from things that happen today -- every day.
I see in this story the presence of evil, and I see in it the power of God -- and those are forces with which I am well acquainted. I read all too frequently about people living demonic lives and, on occasion, I find myself in the same room with one of them. That can be frightening, but more often it is just frustrating. I want to do what Jesus did. I want to reach out and touch these wild, self-destructive people. I want to free them of their demons. I want to rid them of the evil that controls their lives. I want to calm their wildness and prepare them for normal life among normal people. I want the miracle to happen right away, just as it did for Jesus. But I must admit that it seldom happens quickly -- and sometimes it never happens at all.
And, I admit that the forces of good and evil -- of God and evil -- are at work in me too. And I admit that good and God do not always win. Even the Apostle Paul felt it. He said:
"I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.
For I do not do the good I want,
but the evil I do not want is what I do" (Rom. 7:18-19).
And, if you are fully honest, you will admit that the forces of good and evil -- of God and evil -- tear at you too. And you will admit that good and God do not always win.
Some of you will remember when Adolf Eichmann (pronounced ike-mun) was captured and tried for engineering the Holocaust. One of the most dramatic moments in that trial occurred when Yehiel Dinur, a Holocaust survivor, entered the courtroom to testify against Eichmann, who had condemned Dinur to a concentration camp many years earlier. When he walked into the courtroom, Dinur suddenly stopped. Then he began to sob uncontrollably -- and then he fainted.
Later, in a "60 Minutes" interview with Mike Wallace, Dinur explained what had happened. He had seen Eichmann sitting there in the courtroom, and had been overwhelmed at the sight. It wasn't that he had been suddenly overcome by fear or hatred. Instead, he was startled to see that Eichmann was not the god-like Nazi officer whom he remembered -- the man who, with a wave of his hand, could save you or sentence you to death. Instead, the Eichmann in that courtroom was just an ordinary-looking old man. It suddenly dawned on Dinur that there, but for the grace of God, go all of us. He said:
"I was afraid about myself.
I saw that I am capable to do this.
I am...exactly like he (is)."
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who survived the Soviet gulags to win a Nobel Prize, put it this way. He said:
"The line dividing good and evil
cuts through the heart of every human being."
And so we all need saving. And so Jesus comes to save us, just as he saved the wild man of Gerasa (pronounced GARE uh suh).
Jesus does that in a thousand different ways. The man whom Jesus healed wanted to go with Jesus -- wanted to leave his hometown to follow Jesus wherever he might go. But Jesus, who had called others to follow him, told this man NOT to follow. Instead, he told the man:
"Return to your home,
and declare how much God has done for you."
And the man did just that. He became a missionary to his hometown, telling them what Jesus had done for him. That must have been a powerful witness. It is easy to ignore a preacher's sermon, but it is hard to ignore a changed life. Every time this man's neighbors saw him from that moment on, they had to think of Jesus.
We might learn a lesson from that. Christ wants to save us, and then he wants us to tell people what he has done -- to show people what he has done -- to become living, breathing witnesses to his power. As the late Glasgow preacher, Robert Menzies, said, "We are saved by Christ to be saviors of others."
Every person in this congregation -- young or old -- rich or poor -- can be a hometown missionary for Christ. Every man, woman, and child in this congregation has opportunities daily to witness for Christ. That witness will take the form of a Christ-filled life. Just as the people of Gerasa could not ignore the quality of this man's new life, the people of (name your town) will not be able to ignore the quality of your Christ-filled life.
There is no Christian too poor or too weak or infirmed to witness for Christ. No witness speaks with more authority than that of a person who has a glad heart for Christ -- and no witness speaks more loudly than a person who has reason to be bitter but who instead lives in the joy of Christ.
Ask yourself this question this week. What can I do? Pray about it. Listen for Christ's call. And obey!
We all long for heaven where God is, but we have it in our power to be in heaven with Him right now -- to be happy with Him at this very moment.
Mother Teresa explains that being happy with Him means:
--loving as he loves,
--helping as He helps,
--giving as He gives,
--serving as He serves,
--rescuing as He rescues,
--being in touch with Him for all the twenty-four hours,
--and touching him in His distressing disguise.
All Hail the Power of Jesus' UMH #154-155
Freely, Freely UMH #389
He Touched Me UMH #367