Saturday, December 28, 2013

And They Were Afraid (Luke 8:26-39)

Seeing is believing.  We have all said it . . . maybe not out loud, but we have all said it to ourselves.  Most of us have a healthy dose of skepticism flowing through us.  We are all from Missouri--the "Show Me" state.  I think that the Gerasenes region is located in our scripture region . . . northeast Missouri, I think.  The reason that I think this, is because Jesus encounters a huge dose of skepticism upon performing a miracle for a man who had long been possessed by evil spirits.  The people see the results of the miracle, but they cannot believe it . . . in fact, it scares them.

     Jesus and the disciples come upon a man . . . apparently a crazy, possessed man.  It seems that all the locals knew of the man, knew of his peculiar and erratic behavior, and, had even attempted to deal with the man . . . they bound him in chains, moved him out of the community, and tried to forget him.  Nothing seemed to help . . . the man broke the chains . . . his behavior grew worse . . . he was crazy.  Who wouldn't be crazy if possessed by a multitude of demons who tormented you day and night?  The man was not himself.

     It is not the man who confronts Jesus, but the demons that possess him.   Jesus commands the demons to leave the man, and allows them to basically "infect" a herd of pigs.  Immediately the pigs hurl themselves off the cliff into the ocean where they all drown.  Like a rescued puppy, the man sits at the feet of Jesus in deep gratitude.  No longer is he being tortured by the demons . . . no longer is he displaying "crazy" actions . . . no longer is he a threat.  It is a complete 180 from what the townspeople know, from what they expect . . . this was not what they were used to.  Their skepticism rises up . . . they are skeptic of what they witness in the man, and they are really skeptical of what they know of Jesus.  They could not believe their eyes.  They were scared.  They want Jesus out of there . . . and, now.

     We are all wired differently . . . we all handle situations and people differently.  I cannot speak for anyone in this sanctuary . . . I can only speak for myself.  When it comes to the real difficult things in life, those situations that make life real uncomfortable, that challenge me, that are going to be hard and make life difficult for me . . . I want to bury somewhere . . . I want to ignore . . . I want to disappear and never come back.  I want that because such things scare me.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I'd probably would have done the same thing with the crazy guy . . . chained him up out of sight.  Out of sight and out of mind.  But the reality is that the issue is still, the problem is still there . . . the crazy man is still there.  Maybe some of you are just like me . . . it seems to be a pretty human way of dealing with things.

     It is scary because it is hard work . . . hard work to change.  None of us like change.  It is scary because I might fail . . . what if I can't do it?  It is scary because I don't know how things are going end up . . . I don't know the ending to the story.  I don't know how it is going to work out. What if I fail . . . what if I let others down . . . what are others going to think and say?  It is easier to ignore the pebble in my shoe until it becomes a boulder that can no longer ignore.

     Jesus scares these people . . . scares them to death.  He scares them because he solves the issue of the crazy man . . . restores him to being himself.  They weren't ready for that.  He scares them because he simply states a few words and solves the problem . . . the demons flee the man.  Scared because they see the power and action of his words . . . it is almost as if it is magic . . . they hear Jesus speak, they see the pigs run over the cliff to their deaths.  This is not an everyday occurrence.  It is not commonplace.  It is magic and magic is scary . . . the scriptures tell the people that magic is not of God.  They are scared.  Scared despite the fact that everything that Jesus has done has been helpful to them and the man.  Scared because they are skeptical . . . about Jesus, about themselves, about everything.

    It is not easy to let go of everything that we have been taught through the years of our lives . . . it is not easy to let of all the experiences we have had and the lessons we have learned . . . it is not easy to step over the edge of the cliff and know that we are going to be caught.  It is not easy to let go even though we have heard the words of assurance . . . that we have seen the miracles . . . it is not easy to let go, believe, and follow Jesus.  Our skepticism comes into play.

     That is why the people wanted Jesus to leave.  They did not want to deal with what they had seen or what it meant for them. That is why Jesus wouldn't let the man come with him.  To allow the man to come with him, the man would not deal with the issues that were at hand.  He would be running away.  The problems do not go away by ignoring them . . . they will never go away until they are confronted and dealt with.  That includes faith.  There is nothing to fear in Jesus, nothing to be scared of.

     So, why are scared?  Why are we scared to let God and allow God through Jesus to have us completely . . . body, mind, and soul?  What are we afraid of?
     Yes, it will mean change.

     Yes, it will not be easy but Jesus never said that it would be easy.

     Yes, we might fail . . . but Jesus said he would be there to pick us up over and over and over again.  Ours is a gracious God who allows as many "take overs" as it takes to succeed.

     Yes, people might talk about us . . . but, who cares?  Who cares what anyone else thinks when we only have to consider what it is that God thinks.

     And, yes, we do not know how the story will end . . . but we do know whom we will end up with.  That is the adventure of life that God calls us on . . . to journey forth in faith.

     It is okay to admit that faith is hard . . . that faith can be scary . . . but, it is not okay to allow our fear to control our relationship with God through Jesus.  It is not okay to allow fear to build a barrier between us and God.  We have to trust and believe . . . we have to let Jesus have control.  We are not from Missouri . . . we are from God.  Let us live our lives as if we are.  Amen.

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