Good morning! I really didn’t prepare a sermon today since Pastor Gary got sick last minute but I couldn’t let the day pass without at least saying a few words about the Gospel this morning, especially since it comes on the day we celebrate Father’s Day and Juneteenth and Gay Pride Month…all amidst a chaotic time in our country as we struggle with inflation and the never ending pandemic and we remember the Emmanuel 9…the 9 people who where killed in the Baptist Church in Charleston 7 years ago during bible study and the 106 people who die every day from gun violence in the US. But I promise I’ll be brief.
When I read the lesson today I was taken aback by the sheer chaos of the story. Let’s face it, it is an amazing scene. Jesus just got off the stormy sea and steps onto land and is immediately accosted by a man with Demons. Relegated to living in the tombs outside of the town, this man had been possessed for many years. Naked and ranting and living in a cave he approaches Jesus and shouts at him “What have you to do with Me Jesus!’ Then there’s literally one of the craziest scenes of healing in the bible with a herd of pigs and demons leaving the man and entering the pigs and the pigs running into a lake to drown themselves. I mean it reads like a bad movie.
There’s a ton there to preach on for another Sunday but for today I just want to focus on the chaos because I can relate. I don’t know about you but I’ve been kinda stressed out lately. Between COVID and mass shootings and Jan the 6th hearings and a news media whose only job seems to be to make us more and more anxious…and being in a service business which means my day entails constant dealings with other stressed out people…it’s all a bit much. My sleep has not been great, I’ve had this lingering dumb cough and I’m breaking out with pimples like I’m 15. I know you’ve all got your own lists and I don’t think I’m unique. And in all of this it’s easy to fall into feeling sorry for ourselves and believing the lie that no-one understands and that we’re all alone in our stress.
If nothing else, the lesson today reminds us that we’re never alone. Chaos is where we find Jesus. Whether it’s on stormy sea or on a hill with 5000 hungry people or in a herd of possessed pigs jumping in a lake…the bible reminds us that where there is chaos…there is Jesus. It’s so easy to say and so hard to do but if we can manage to at least look for Jesus when we’re in the storm of our own lives…we might actually find him…and some measure of peace. Because if we look, Jesus promises to be there. Always.
And then there’s the naming thing. Jesus asks the demon possessing the man “what is your name” and they respond: LEGION which must refer in some way to the Roman occupiers at the time. Before Jesus dispels the demons…he names them. I think it’s important for us, as Christians, to always name the demons that plague us and our society. On Juneteenth as we celebrate freedom from bondage for millions of African Americans…and thank God we’re finally acknowledging, as a country, the damage done…we also need to name the demons of Racism and White Supremacy that still plague our county today. This chapter is not closed in America sadly. And as we celebrate pride month and the great gifts of this community, we also need to name the demons of homophobia and trans-phobia and xenophobia that still exist and even today make it less safe for LGBTQ+ people to live in America. On the day when we remember the Emmanuel 9 we also need to name the demon of our unhealthy fascination with guns and gun ownership in this country along with the demons of apathy and cowardice in our elected officials who fail to do anything about it. As we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Hoboken Shelter and lift up our Lunchtime Ministry we also need to name the demons of greed and excess accumulation of wealth that result in 40 million people in America suffering from food insecurity every day and a million people experiencing homelessness, all in the richest country on earth. There are legions of demons and they need to be named so that they can be exorcised. I know it seems like we sometimes concentrate on the negative from the pulpit but naming these demons is important.
The good news today and every day is that the answer is love…a radical love that was exemplified and personified and modeled for us by Jesus. This kind of love calms us amidst the chaos and equips us for service. This type of love frees the captives and heals the sick and restores community for the people living in the tombs that surround our towns. As we take in God’s love and acknowledge it as the truth, we are left with no choice but to do as Jesus told the healed man in the story to do: return home and tell others how much God has done for you.
I know it’s hard amid the flying demon pigs of today…but I think the reason we come here…the reason we worship and preach and support each other…the reason Jesus came…was to remind us that the chaos is not the final reality and that if we all work for it we can realize Paul’s vision of a world where all can live in harmony. Ad we can create right now a world where:
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ.
In that reality there is no chaos.
Wishing a happy Father’s Day to all those lucky enough to be one or to still have one or who remember one fondly. Happy Juneteenth!