5th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 7) LSB #’s 811, 643, 808
Text – Luke 8:39
“Return to your home, & declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
DECLARING WHAT GOD HAS DONE
Do you remember the story Jesus told about Lazarus & the rich man? Both men died & the rich man is suffering torment in the place of the dead. While there, he’s pictured as carrying on a conversation with Abraham. The rich man is worried about his five brothers. He asks if Lazarus could go back to earth & warn them so they don’t also end up in the place of torment.
“But Abraham said, ‘Moses & the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’” (Luke 16:29 NLT) Moses & the prophets had a special place in God’s plan of salvation for the world. Because of that, we don’t typically think of ourselves as prophets. Am I right? Raise your hand if you think of yourself as a prophet.
Feels conspicuous to be raising your hand, doesn’t it? Yet, it’s true! If you are a child of God, your calling may not be that of prophet, but you certainly do have a role to play in declaring what God has done. And that is essentially what the prophets were tasked with doing.
Your story may not have the drama of an entire legion of demons being cast out of you, but your rescue from slavery to sin is being orchestrated by the same Creator & Lord of the universe. His personal care & concern with all the details of your life is just as real.
The book of Isaiah began our reading this morning with a beautiful illustration of the grace of God. He seeks after those who have sought Him not!
“I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a nation that was not called by my name. I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually…” (Isaiah 65:1-3 ESV) It sounds very much like Yahweh is speaking of our own culture, but it provides the perfect picture of how the Good Shepherd seeks us out even when we are helplessly lost, without any ability to seek the LORD, or perhaps any notion the LORD even needs to be sought!
Still, the LORD reaches out & calls out, “Here am I!” Which is perfectly illustrated by the reading from the Gospel of Luke: “Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons.” (Luke 8:26-27a ESV) The man’s own words clarify that he was not seeking Jesus:
“When he saw Jesus, he cried out & fell down before Him & said with a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” (Luke 8:28 ESV) That’s not exactly a prayer asking Jesus to come into his heart. Yet, Jesus drives out the demons, & He sets the man free.
From our Christian perspective it’s a fascinating story of rescue & salvation. Jesus has traveled to a foreign region, engaged in a confrontational dialogue with a legion of demons, performed a violent & scandalous exorcism, & left behind a community gripped by terror.
From the perspective of our culture today, none of that would be politically correct. From the words of the Gospel it seems it was not politically correct in the country of the Gerasenes either:
“And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear.” (Luke 8:36-37a ESV) Unbelief is powerful in its ability to corrupt & destroy.
Apparently, the only thing more frightening than a naked, chain & shackle ripping,
graveyard-dwelling demoniac is this visitor from Nazareth who reigns over everything. The story ends with a man who has been saved, but a community still in need of saving. Who better, to declare what God has done, then a man of the community itself? So Jesus said to him, “Return to your home, & declare how much God has done for you.”
The tragic condition of the formerly demon-possessed man, the even more heartbreaking reaction of the unbelieving community after the exorcism, & the heart-rending denial of the Lord in our culture are marks of the great deceiver. Yet, we should notice that, as Luke writes it, it is not Jesus, nor the healed man, who relate the story of what happened. It is the herdsmen.
Jesus, & the man who was healed, are detached from all the chaos & anxiety & fear that’s surrounding them. They are remarkably calm & normal, even as everyone else is in an uproar. Such is the power of Jesus. The man had been rescued from the chaos of demon-possession, & now was being protected from the chaos of unbelief.
As you live your life in an increasingly chaotic world, a world permeated by unbelief, you too may remain calm & at peace. That peace which the Creator & Savior has offered to us, is something that people will notice. It’s true, they may not appreciate it. The world is full of people like the rich man Jesus talked about, people who refuse to trust God in this life.
Once they die it’s too late for them to be saved. There are people out there who will follow Jesus if & when they hear about Him. They will be His sheep & recognize His voice. Jesus left the man in the country of the Gerasenes so he could declare what God had done for him. That message would ring true in the ears of those who are Jesus’ sheep.
Jesus is searching for them through us. He is seeking them out in order to heal them, even if they don’t know they need it. Like the man possessed by the legion of demons, even in our lives, in the midst of crushing & overwhelming forces we cannot comprehend or battle, the power of Jesus is undiminished. The Gospel reading this morning falls within a series of four miracles Jesus performed – calming a storm, casting out demons, healing a woman, & raising a girl from the dead. Together, these show Jesus’ power & reign over every sphere of danger & calamity: nature, spiritual powers, disease, & death.
And the power Jesus displays is not might in the worldly sense of things, fighting fire with fire, or responding to power with even more overwhelming power. The Lord responds with a word, with peace, with calm, with, dare we say, a normal, everyday life. The demon possessed man is simply healed & then asked to declare what God has done.
And that is what it means to be a prophet. As you are a child of God, you are a prophet too, by the grace, power & wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sent forth by God’s blessing, our true faith confessing, the people of God from His dwelling take leave. The Supper is ended. O now be extended the fruits of this service in all who believe. The seed of His teaching, receptive souls reaching, shall blossom in action for God & for all. His grace did invite us, His love shall unite us to work for God’s kingdom & answer His call. With praise & thanksgiving to God ever living, the tasks of our everyday life we will face. Our faith ever sharing, in love ever caring, embracing His children of each tribe & race. With Your feast You feed us, with Your light now lead us; unite us as one in this life that we share. Then may all the living with praise & thanksgiving give honor to Christ & His name that we bear. Amen. LSB 643.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet