Saturday, June 22, 2019

2 Pentecost Proper 7 Yr C June 23 2019

Audio  2 Pentecost Proper 7 Yr C June 23 2019
Isaiah 65:1-9, Psalm 22:18-27, Galatians 3:23-29, Luke 8:26-39

Luke’s story today is a story about God’s abundant grace and God’s unfailing love that calls us into relationship, and transforms us. This is a story shows us when we encounter Jesus; we will never be the same.

It is story of transformation. It is a story about a person on the margins of his community, abandoned and isolated. This man’s dis-ease makes him an outlier, he is unclean. And he is restored and therefore receives new life. Let’s take a minute to take a closer look at this person who is presented to us in Luke’s gospel today, where he is and why he is important.

First, we learn that this story takes place in Gentile territory, already we are not at “home,” we are in the country of the Gerasenes, opposite Galilee. Another marker that we are not at home, that we are on the margins, is the large herd of swine feeding. According to Jewish dietary regulations, pigs are unclean, so we know we are not in Jewish territory. This person did not live in a house, but in the tombs, which are also unclean, and which also makes him homeless. He had no clothes on, and was possessed by demons. The setting of this story, and the description of the person, alerts us so that we know this is a story that puts Jesus into a non-Jewish setting, it puts Jesus into a place to encounter someone who is just not like the others. This person did not have a chance in Jewish or Greek society. He was tossed out; he may as well have been dead.

We do that to people all the time. There are those who are tossed to the side, tossed out. We might not call them unclean in that technical sort of way, but they are people who do not meet expectations, or who come from other countries, or who think, love, or believe differently.

What we have in front of us is a very clear picture of what the kingdom of God looks like in the life of this one person, and what it looks like in our lives as well. So outside of Jesus’ circle, Jesus restores, Jesus transforms him and brings this person back into the community. Because of his encounter with Jesus, he is clothed, he is back in his right mind, and he can go home. Because of his encounter with Jesus, this person is brought back into the community; is no longer cast off, abandoned, or isolated. Because of this man’s encounter with Jesus, he is made whole, has new life, and is transformed. Jesus really has brought the dead back to life.

This is a story about God’s abundant grace and God’s unfailing love that calls us into relationship, and transforms us. This is a story about when we encounter Jesus; we too will never be the same.

This person didn’t seek Jesus out. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when he happened upon him. Jesus truly recognized him, and knew he was not himself; he called himself Legion, possessed by many. Jesus brought him to himself. The truth of God’s love and grace and abundance called the real person forth, the integrated person, the authentic person. And Jesus expelled all that was not real, all that was keeping him a prisoner in his own body.

Our encounter with Jesus does the same. Sometimes we seek Jesus out; more often than not our encounters with Jesus are accidental, coincidental, or providential, depending on what you want to call it. Jesus encounters us in all sorts of ways. You’ve told stories about your encounters with Jesus. You recognize Jesus in a person who points you in a different direction. You recognize Jesus in someone who struggles to overcome an addiction. You encounter Jesus in a book, or in the quiet, or in your children. And when you do, you are brought to yourself, you are truly who God created you to be.

Because when we encounter Jesus, we can never be the same. The passage we read from Paul’s letter to the people in Galatia points us to the inclusive reality of God’s kingdom. In God’s kingdom there are no outliers. Paul is not saying that we are all the same; Paul is saying that in God’s kingdom each one of us matters. In God’s kingdom each one of us is at home.

And our home for now, on this side of life, is the community of faith, the gathering of people who love and worship God, the assembly in which we share the reality of Jesus in the bread and the wine. Home is the people who patiently wait for us to realize that we are not alone in our faith journey. Home is where we can be fully alive, where we go to find ourselves, home is where each person is welcomed and honored as God’s creation. Home is where we find ourselves fully alive in Christ. Home is being in relationship with God and with one another.

And the very hard part of encountering Jesus is that we must open our eyes to living the transformed life that Jesus calls us to live. And the very hard part of living this transformed life that Jesus called the man with the demons into, and that Jesus calls every one of us into, is that our culture would have us believe a very different story. Transformation turns us away from being full of ourselves. Rather than looking out for ourselves, we look out for the other, we look out for our neighbor. We are in our right mind when we spend time in prayer, when we listen through prayer and scripture study, and when we listen to others to what God would call us to, to what God would have us do, to whom God would have us be. Rather than convincing others that we are right, that our way is right, we listen to other people’s stories, we encounter Jesus in the story telling, we are filled with the real presence of Christ.

This encounter with Jesus brings us home, when we are transformed we no longer turn away from God, but are bathed in the hospitality that Jesus offers. Home is the fullness of our relationship with God, and with our neighbors. Home is not about acquiring stuff; home is not even the place we live. Home is living fully in the unfailing love of God; home is the abundant life God has for us. Home is being a wonderful and beautiful creature in God’s eye’s, no matter what, each and every one of us, not just some of us.

Like the man in our story today, who by his encounter with Jesus is restored and made whole, who is clothed in a new garment, clothed in Christ, who is right minded, who is brought home, God loves us abundantly and unfailingly so we too are clothed with a new garment, clothed in Christ, made whole, restored to fullness in God’s amazing kingdom. Today, we are invited to live the abundant life that God has for us.

So much of what we see in our culture in these days, people put out on the margins because of who they are, people killed because of who they are, call us to listen to this story with hearts of compassion. These stories show us what life in God's kingdom look like, God’s abundant love and grace, and what new life in Jesus look like. Everyone, everyone, has a place in God's kingdom, because love wins.

Thanks be to God. Amen, Alleluia.

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