Sermon – 06-23-19 – Proper 7 – Cycle C
Scriptures – Isaiah 65:1-9; Psalm 22; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39
Sermon Title – “Does Evil Have the Last Word?”
The Luke passage today tells of a man who, not of his own doing, was possessed of evil spirits which caused him to act as though he were suffering from mental illness. It was not mental illness. It was demon possession. Jesus exorcised the demons, the evil spirits, and the man was made well and Jesus commanded him to tell his own townspeople how Jesus had cured him. The man obeyed and went to spread this good news. God has given specific people, even in our day and age, the ability to exorcise evil spirits from people and from places. This is healing. It is called spiritual healing.
But today, follow me as we walk through the nature of sin which we all possess to some degree. We are human and that is how we are.
There is a person who grew up being taught not to work on Sundays. Not only did he hear that in church as he was growing up, he saw it demonstrated at home. It seemed like life stopped on Saturday night at midnight had he been allowed to be up that late. Mercifully, he was allowed to play neighborhood ball games on a Sunday afternoon. This was liberal. Otherwise, it was relax, read, and wait for the world to start again on Monday morning. This was bearable as long as Joe was a little boy and then a teen except if he still had homework. Then he needed to sneak to his room to finish homework because, you see, that was work.
But when Joe is grown and has a house with a yard and a full-time job and a wife, Joe becomes torn about this ingrained rule for obedient living. Saturday becomes too full for everything that needs to be done. This yard of grass, which is a coveted part of buying a house, will not stop growing and Saturdays will not yield enough time to deal with the extra inches on the grass.
So-o-o-o-o Joe thinks to himself, “Just this one time! Just this once, God. Will you punish me? Will I regret mowing this lawn today? Will you send some kind of punishment?” Joe starts the lawn mower, nothing happens. Joe starts mowing. Nothing happens!
Joe finishes mowing. Nothing has happened. He stores the mower after cleaning whatever needs cleaned. He crashes on the sofa. Oh, I am so tired. I will take a short nap. Oh-Oh! Time for the grill. It’s a tradition, grilling on Sunday night and of course Joe is an excellent grill chef! Forget the nap! Fast forward to Monday morning early! Surely it is not time for the alarm! Joe drags himself through the day Monday, not able to really give his best to his responsibilities.
But the rest of the week is fine. So more and more the lawn mower was heard in the land on a Sunday afternoon. Being out in nature is refreshing, is it not? Or a relative needs help with a car and Joe is handy with cars. Of course, this happens on a Sunday afternoon. And so it goes until things start interfering with church on a Sunday morning. You know how this goes on and on. Seems innocent doesn’t it? Punishment does not seem to be forthcoming. God must be okay with these habit changes. Nothing big is wrong.
Or maybe our pride is out of control. Or our spending or eating or our busyness – oops, that one hurts.
Well, that is how it goes with other disobedience to God’s word. It starts innocently, but sometimes in desperation. Just a little drink. Just one more pill. Just a glance at pornography. Just taking something very little from somewhere, someone. Just cheating on a spouse a little.
Before we know it, we have dug ourselves into a pit of needles without a comfortable escape to say the least. Satan has pulled us here even if we think we have made the choices. It works like a strong magnet.
Then there is the dark, giant cloud of evil in this world. Huge gangs; mafia; strong, harmful unions; ku klux klan; governments that don’t appear to be acting as though God is guiding them.
What is the line between little sin and big sin? Where is the line between hurting one person and hurting a whole society?
Does God lead us into temptation as our old version of the Lord’s Prayer indicates? The present Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, whom I respect in some aspects but not all, has declared that the line in The Lord’s Prayer which we changed today is not an accurate translation from the original Greek. We always wondered why God would lead us into temptation.
God created us and loves us. Instead of leading us into temptation, God is standing by to redeem us through the Son, Jesus. Jesus is our Redeemer! We have this safety net; more than a safety net! Not only are we pulled back on the track to an obedient life, we are made right with God. Our shady activities and thoughts are totally removed because Jesus died on the cross exactly for our sins. This is not a story. This is real. For those of us who have discovered this removal of sin we can testify. For those of us who have not accepted the removal of sins yet, we are missing the great forgiveness feeling.
Evil does not have the last word. God is always stronger than evil and is always the winner in the end. It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus that evil is squashed. Not only does Jesus save us from Satan, Jesus is endless helper to us. Let us look at the cover on the bulletin for a bit of time in silence. Let’s move our eyes and our minds slowly over the various ways in which Jesus relates to us when we welcome him. Redeemer, Lord of All, Bread of Life, Deliverer, Mighty One, Messiah, Lamb of God, Immanuel, King of Kings, The Way and the Truth and the Life, Good Shepherd, Prince of Peace, Redeemer!
There is salvation, a peace, a secure feeling that we are merged with Jesus. That we are more fully the persons God planned for us to be. The previous worldly things that attracted us in the past are no longer a lure for us. We are content or we are gifted with the vision to move toward contentment in Jesus.
When we come into this forgiven, renewed feeling, we are natured to share the source. That is called spreading the gospel. Let’s be about that!
Holy, strong but loving God, have mercy on us and be our comfort as we move from muddy darkness into your clear light, into your redeeming salvation! Amen.