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Archive for June 24th, 2013

“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” St. Luke 8: 39a

The Collect of the Day:

O God, You have prepared for those who love You such good things as surpass our understanding.  Cast out all sins and evil desires from us, and pour into our hearts your Holy Spirit to guide us into all blessedness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

The Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 65: 1-9                                                                                                   

Psalm 3

The Epistle Reading: Galatians 3: 23-4:7

The Holy Gospel: St. Luke 8: 26-39

Grace, mercy and peace be to your from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.  The text for the sermon is the Gospel.

“It was pandemonium.  “All hell broke loose.” “There’s hell to pay.”  We cannot pay the price.  Jesus Christ has bought us, redeemed us.  He did not owe the devil anything, but we owed everything according to the Law.  He redeemed us, forgave us with His own blood.  The man with a Legion of demons in his brain, heart, soul and mind and body could not pay the price to be set free.  None of us can, Jesus Christ has.  We cannot do what the Law commands to be right with the Lord. Jesus Christ has.   Jesus Christ did by His Word. His blood backs up His Word.  His body broken is for those whose hearts are broken.  God’s Word is backed up by the faith and good credit of no nation, but of God Himself for you. Right away, as soon as He lands on the other side of GalileanSea, He is met by Legion, screaming and falling prostrate before Him.  The man fell down before Him, not in adoration and devotion, faith and love, but the demons in abject fear of the miserable foulness of the demons. They brought the man to his knees.

 Pandemonium and hell and the abyss are not a good time. Always in chaos and turmoil is bad, downright evil.  The demoniac was naked, living in a graveyard, and so probably communicating with the dead, eating swine, chained by the townspeople to spare them, breaking the bonds with supernatural strength. Naked and  unclean sounds like many a TV show, so much internet content, foul rancorous profane conversations in the best of places, life in a many a church and families. Pandemonium and hell is not the condition that the Lord wills us to live in. “Go to hell?”  No the Lord has a better plan, also for the man in the Gerasenes.

 The literal meaning of “pandemonium” is “all demons”.  The man in region of Gerasene had a legion, as in a Roman legion of thousands, an occupying force in the man’s body and soul, in the constant turmoil of pandemonium. The abyss or chaos is the opposite of peace.  It is like the Nazis occupying all of Europe and on June 6th the huge invasion of D-Day, Operation Overlord, stabbing the dark empire with the light of freedom. C. S. Lewis in Letters to Malcolm wrote regarding D-Day,

“The bite so far taken out of Normandy shows small on the map of Europe.  The resistance is strong, the casualties heavy, and the outcome uncertain.  There is, we have to admit, a line of demarcation between God’s part in us and the enemy’s region.  But it is, we hope, a fighting line;  not a frontier fixed by agreement.”

Jesus Christ fought for the man in the Gerasenes. He has fought for our eternal freedom, fights for you and will fight, contends for you with His salvation He has won for  you.  He is yours and we fear no powers, not of earth nor sin nor death, He sees and blesses in worst distresses, He can change them with His breath.

I think J. K. Rowlings, the author of the Harry Potter movies, just may know a bit about the Bible. When “he who shall not be named”, Voldemort, the dark lord, an unclean spirit if ever there was one in fiction, finally occupies a body again, turns up to fight Harry with his enslaved minions, to rule all things. This initial fight in the series is in a cemetery, among the tombs, it is dark and filthy.  Isaiah tells of Israel among the tombs, eating the unclean and worshipping the unclean gods and goddesses who are really demons, communicating with the dead.  Such is evil. Evil spirits, and the devil, think they are spiritual, devoid of a body, but they need a body to function and torment and torture.  This is proof that we were created spiritually as bodies.    The Gerasene demoniac lived among the tombs, chained by the people there, but the demons broke his chains to go roaming about.  The folks were in terror.  The devil is a terrorist. We are so concerned about terrorists and terrorism, the greater threat are the terrorists of the body and soul, and the greatest terrorist is the devil and darkness.  I have no stat but I maintain that more people die from the terrorist attacks on body and soul than all the political terrorists, left or right, combined. This lesson is a lesson in stark contrasts: dark and light, naked or clothed.  Clothed and in his right mind…he was without clothes, naked.  We live in a naked society.  Our culture revels in nakedness, stripped of reason, void of holy love,  lusting for more and more. At one time it could be said, they live like pigs. But we are baptized to live as men and women freed in Christ Jesus.

 How did Israel and this man come to such a time and place and life which is not living free in Christ Jesus? Concerning the demoniac, we are not told.  The Old Testament, the reading from Isaiah, though, gives us a big clue:  they followed their own devices.  The devil never comes a’knocking, “Hi we are the powers of darkness come to enslave you.” “Oh, sure come on, slap on the cuffs.”  The fruit was a delight as sold by the serpent, we told, to Eve’s eyes.  As it is written, Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.    What harm could it do?  You know better than all those oppressive ways of mom and dad, Church, Bible and God.  You will really be free.  They come disguised as workers of righteousness and goodness, false apostles of Christ. Hey, this sounds good, it even sounds, well, spiritual. As John Milton has Satan say in Paradise Lost: “The mind is it’s own place and it can make a heaven out of hell, and a hell out of heaven.” We all know that is true, and again, left to our own devices.  As Isaiah tells us that Israel thought it was so holy in it’s evil, Oh don’t come near me, I am too holy for you.  So ‘spiritual’.

 Recently the President said that if we want to 100% safe from terrorists, we must balance this with a forfeiture of some political liberties.  The problem is not only the forfeiture but the goal:  100% security.  It sounds good. It sounds right. Beloved in the Lord:  We cannot be a 100% safe in this world.  Ask any parent watching over and caring for their children know that.  We can do a lot for their safety but 100% will not be achieved.  But once that goal is accepted, then I will do anything to get there.  Darkness has toehold. Beloved in the Lord! We can be 100% safe in Jesus Christ from that terrorist the devil who accuses the brothers and sisters, “You can be freeing this world by having everything you ever wanted” and it is never enough. Or the devil says,  “You are no good, you are not a good Christian.”  “Tell me something, I don’t know, foul devil, but I have a Lord, His Name is Jesus Christ, He fights by our side with weapons of the Spirit, for the right hand and for the left.  To Him I confess, to Him I lay down my sin, Who has come to me a lost and condemned creature.”

 It is not incidental to the narrative that the man without clothes is clothed at the end of the narrative. We heard from Galatians:  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. It can also be rendered as “clothed in Christ”. I cannot prove it but that passage gave someone the idea of the Christening garb.  Baptized and clothed in Christ, sins covered by His soul-renewing flood.  I was not merely baptized, I am baptized.  A husband or wife will say, I am married, not I was married.  If they say  I was married, it means the marriage is over.  The Lord does not leave us to our own devices.  You are baptized and  this is our life in Christ Jesus and it is utter gift.  Now don’t get me wrong: the Lord can be terror, see Mt. Sinai.  In Romans 13, it is written that the ruling authorities are a terror to bad conduct to those who break the civil law.  The Ruler of all can be terror by His Law showing us our iniquity and He does so to show us His Son, Christ Jesus and His Cross, His blood, His righteousness. 

 At the beginning the demons had the man prostrated in front of Jesus in terror, at the end by God’s Word, the man sat at the feet of Jesus in peace. The man did nothing, could do nothing to be saved and this shows that the power comes from the Lord Himself for us all and has and will.  I have long outgrown my Christening garb, but I have not and cannot outgrow Jesus Christ.  We mature and grow into Christ and He began our lives in the Lord, not us, He made the sure beginning and He is  the sure continuing.  The man wanted to follow Jesus.  The demons begged Jesus to depart.  The man begged to abide with Him. He would by Jesus’ command, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” Telling of Christ, praying, occupied with His Word, confessing the burden of sin, receiving His Body and Blood is the safe haven from the devil, where we flee for refuge to in His infinite mercy, a refuge someone else you know might need and the refuge is Jesus Christ, His blood and righteousness, every Word of God.  Tell of Christ, tell of your baptism, tell of your life in His.  “Nothing in my hand I bring, but simply to Thy Cross I cling.

  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 7)

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COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God,through John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, You once proclaimed salvation.Now grant that we may know this salvation and serve You in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

READINGS

Isaiah 40:1-5

Psalm 85:(1-6) 7-13 

Acts 13:13-26

Luke 1:57-80

Bio:  St. John the Baptizer, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, was born into a priestly family.  His birth was miraculsouly announced to his father by an angel of the Lord (Luke 1: 5-23), and on the occasion of his birth, his aged father proclaimed a hymn of praise (Luke 1:67-79). This hymn is entitled the Benedictus and serves as the traditional Gospel Canticle in the Church’s Service of Morning Prayer. Events of John’s life and his teaching are known from accounts in all four of the Gospels. In the wilderness of Judea, near the Jordan River, John began to preach a call to repentance and a baptismal washing, and he told the crowds, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). John denounced the immoral life of the Herodian rulers, with the result that Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, had him arrested and imprisoned in the huge fortress of Machaerus near the Dead Sea. There Herod had him beheaded (Mark 6:17-29). John is remembered and honored as the one who with his preaching pointed to “the Lamb of God” and “prepared the way” for the coming of the Messiah. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:

This is the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald (circa 1515).  The Lord’s vocation to John is amply shown in the detail of John the Baptist:

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” St. John 1: 29b

The long bony finger says it all:  it is John’s sermon visualized pointing us to Jesus Christ and in particular upon the Cross.  There is our salvation, not in my heart and mind but in Jesus Christ so that the Holy Spirit bears witness to us all of so great a salvation, we must neglect the preaching (Hebrews 2:3).  The Baptizer’s sermon recorded in John 1: 29 is only one sentence!  Reading carefully the entire text,  John 1: 29-34, the Evangelist reports no other people listening to John in this paragraph.  We are the hearers of the Word.  In fact, the whole world (in Greek, “world” is cosmos), is under the Cross, objectively, existentially and really.  We are all sinners.  John the Baptizer points not to himself, not to man nor woman, not to His blessed Mother, not to our spiritualities but ever and only to Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him, we are His saints, with John, Paul, Mary and the whole company of heaven.  The Lord’s finger pointing at us is His Law and judgment.  The finger pointing to Jesus Christ and Him crucified is His finger pointing us  ever to the  pure Gospel for our lives day by day. 

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Proverbs 27: 5-6

Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

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