Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Menominee - Michigan
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
June 19th, 2016
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Most any preacher will tell you that Jesus tended to offend people on occasion. He knew he was going to do it and he usually didn’t mince words when the opportunity was before him.
Because calling a spade a spade is sometimes the most effective way to get work done. In Jesus’ case, his work was to spread the news of God’s love for all and to make people aware that the Law, which was meant to direct people in their lives, not to ensure their salvation, was being used as intended.
But this story from St. Luke may take the cake in that Jesus upsets everyone except one person, and that would be the demon possessed man. He drives the demons off by allowing them to enter into pigs and then drown themselves. He upsets the pig farmers, who’ve lost their livelihood. You’ve got to figure that the hog prices are going to have a drastic change after this herd plunges into the water. Lastly, he upsets the townspeople, who are afraid and ask him to leave, which he does.
And what’s so fascinating is that Jesus comes to the country of Gerasenes and does this damage, presumably under the assumption that he wasn’t going to be staying here real long. It’s almost as if Jesus goes out of his way to make a mess of things, which is outside the box, even for him. He has come here in a boat, over the Sea of Galilee. The text makes no mention that the other disciples got off of the boat and joined Jesus, just saying that as he stepped on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. Maybe Jesus told them to stay on the boat because he knew that they wouldn’t be staying long. Maybe the disciples on the boat saw this demon possessed guy who came out to greet Jesus and simply wanted no part of him, and chose to stay on the boat. We don’t know, but, as far as we can tell, Jesus is the only one to step foot on land here. And lastly, after Jesus has done all of this, when the disgruntled townspeople ask him to leave, he simply returns to the boat and sails away into the horizon to his next encounter.
But what this whole story boils down to is that, much like the lost sheep where Jesus tells us that the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one, that Jesus will cross the sea, he’ll step on a lot of toes, and he’ll often leave a lot of collateral damage in his wake, and he’ll do this all for the sake of one person.
As disciples of Christ, are we willing to go that far as well?
Normally the flight from Nassau to Miami took Walter Wyatt, Jr., only sixty-five minutes. But on December 5, 1986, he attempted it after thieves had looted the navigational equipment in his Beechcraft. With only a compass and a hand-held radio, Walter flew into skies blackened by storm clouds.
When his compass began to gyrate, Walter concluded he was headed in the wrong direction. He flew his plane below the clouds, hoping to spot something, but soon he knew he was lost. He put out a mayday call, which brought a Coast Guard Falcon search plane to lead him to an emergency landing strip only six miles away. Suddenly Wyatt’s right engine coughed its last and died. The fuel tank had run dry. Wyatt could do little more than glide the plane into the water.
Wyatt survived the crash, but his plane disappeared quickly, leaving him bobbing on the water in a leaky life vest. With blood on his forehead, Wyatt floated on his back. Suddenly he felt a hard bump against his body. A shark had found him.
Wyatt kicked the intruder and wondered if he would survive the night. He managed to stay afloat for the next ten hours. In the morning, Wyatt saw no airplanes, but in the water a dorsal fin was headed for him. Twisting, he felt the hide of a shark brush against him. In a moment, two more bull sharks sliced through the water toward him. Again he kicked the sharks, and they veered away, but he was nearing exhaustion. Then he heard the sound of a distant aircraft.
When it was within a half mile, he waved his orange vest. The pilot radioed the Cape York, which was twelve minutes away: “Get moving, cutter! There’s a shark targeting this guy!” As the Cape York pulled alongside Wyatt, a Jacob’s ladder was dropped over the side. Wyatt climbed wearily out of the water and onto the ship, where he fell to his knees and kissed the deck. He’d been saved. He didn’t need encouragement or better techniques. Nothing less than outside intervention could have rescued him from sure death. How much we are like Walter Wyatt.
But, sometimes, we, as Christians, are the outside intervention.
Sometimes we as Christians are the persons who are required to enter into the shark infested waters to be a lifeline for another person who is fighting for his life. Maybe it’s a person who is suicidal. Maybe it’s a person who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Maybe it’s a person who is pursuing infidelity and is hurting a lot of people in the process. Maybe it’s a person who is stealing from the workplace. Maybe it’s a person who is gambling away her entire savings.
Maybe it’s a person who has simply turned his back on God and has invested his hopes and desires into the wares of this world.
Are you willing to be that person who will attempt to rescue them? Are you willing to go out of the way for a person who, like this demonic possessed person, was considered an outcast and lost cause in his community? Are you willing to upset the apple cart in order to meet this person’s needs? Are you willing to put yourself in position to be tossed out of town because your thoughts and your actions counter those of popular opinion?
There is no doubt that Jesus sets the bar kind of high today, but he does so for a reason and that reason is to remind us that there is not one person out there who is beyond his need, beyond his help, and beyond his love. There is not one person out there who was not included in the sacrifice that was made when Jesus went to the cross for the sins of all humanity. We may sometimes take it upon ourselves to deem whom we think are worthy and who are not, but Jesus reminds us here that there has not been one person who has been left out of God’s desire to redeem all that He has made. It’s just that sometimes His children need to be reminded that it is up to them to accept God’s invitation to us and for us.
Are you willing to be that person who will do that? Sometimes joy is realized in reminding our loved ones and neighbors that while God hates the sin, God loves the sinner, because sometimes the other hates the sin as well, but simply doesn’t know how to differentiate between the sin and the sinner. Sometimes the other is so consumed by the sin that they simply cannot believe that they are capable of being loved. But God says that they are; it’s just a matter of being told that they are. Are you willing to be that messenger? Amen.