June 23, 2019 The Real Demon Luke 8.26-39 Pastor Jacqueline Hines
You have no doubt heard your share of stories about demons, devils, and derelicts who are down on their luck, devastated with dire needs, self-destructive, treating people like door mats and chaining daughters in dungeons or downtown begging and living under damp bridges. We all have our stories, too numerous to tell.
In pristine parlors we dare not believe in demons. They are certainly to be named “fake news”, “false stories”, and “frivolous tales”. But the gospel of Luke would beg to differ with us. For he tells the real story of a man in the country for whom demons were very real and even vicious to the point that he could be found naked in the streets just like my good friend’s daughter few years ago. She was living in Manhattan working on a Master’s Degree, attending high society events, even took photos with when she suddenly slid of the grid. They called it schizophrenia. Her mom, my friend, had hid the raucous for years as long as she could. She brought her daughter home to live with her in Baltimore and lo and behold one day the police picked her up after police reports were made about her walking through the neighborhood naked, her long wooly hair covering only her face.
This was certainly not the work of God, but the work of misfired DNA, the evolution of lack of care for the environment, chemical chaos, the evil of the life and death medicines being marked up for profit for some crazy CEO rather than the wellbeing of those who need it, refusal to budget treatment for the mentally imbalanced. Why blame God, when WE can do something!
The gospel writer Luke is said to have been a physician and his care for pertinent details is particularly poignant. For this pitiful man in the country of the Gerasenes that Luke tells us about was soon detained and put on heavy guard like Jesus was one day, but even the chains that bound him could not hold him. He would escape detention again and again. He was indeed a very scary man like our neighbor on Ellis Wood Drive who would sit at the curb side looking lost and lonely and livid, not at all luscious. People were afraid and then one day, he disappeared and neighbors felt safe again.
Somehow this Gerasene Demoniac, a city boy from the Country of the Gerasenes, met Jesus at the shore – probably near the Lake of Gennesaret or the Sea of Galilee – though not really a sea – but really associated with Jesus walking on water and feeding the five thousand and now meeting a scary man.
Strangely, Jesus did not run away from him. Jesus, who sees all the people, immediately took charge and ordered the demon to come out of him.
The demon that had taken over the life of this now helpless child of God, caused him to fall down at the feet of Jesus. What a fall that must have been. The man was not himself. Because of the evil working in him, he was disturbing the peace. He was loud and argumentative, asking questions, demanding answers, saying “What have you to do with me.” In other words, “What business is it of yours that a life is being ruined?”
That is a question that comes to all of us when we witness trouble. What business is it of ours? Sometimes, Jesus makes it our business. Trouble is not always our business, but sometimes, Jesus makes it our business!
Once I frequented a grocery store in a low income neighborhood. In the evenings, all the seafood was regularly removed from the display area and kept in the back, otherwise it would be stolen. It was common to see a police officer escorting adults into the back of the store because they had a couple steaks tucked under their jackets. Besides prayer, it seemed to be none of my business.
One day, however, while checking out, I witnessed two uniformed security guards – a man and a woman – arguing outside the window. I prayed and went to the window, got as close as I dared to distract them. They did not know me, but just by poking my nose in their business, God was able to distract them and interrupt their senseless arguing that was disturbing the peace. Arguments are often demonic according to 2 Timothy chapter 2.
When Jesus saw the scary man with a demon, according to Luke’s gospel of the good news, Jesus was not there answering any questions, he was there asking questions. Jesus interrupted the demon and asked, “What is your name?” He answered, “My name is legion for we are many.” The name told Jesus something important. His name was legion. The name indicates that he suffered from many arguments, many disturbances of the peace, many chains, many wounds. That was what identified him, and he knew his name.
Real demons have real messages from the devil. Real demons communicate and instigate real chaos and rough news for no good reason. Real demons can look like and act like angels and preachers and teachers and terrorists and hair stylists. They can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. That is why we must pray all the time about everything. Because we depend upon God to guide us day and night.
This world has some bad demons. They have numbers rather than names. They are anonymous statistics, mere numbers on the edges of manila folders, characters on computer files, and many diagnosis – but few names. But the good news is that Jesus is in the world to extinguish arguments, create peace, deliver us from chains, heal our wounds, make miracles of our messes and unite us in our separateness.
When I was in seminary with a room full of ministers-to-be, green behind the ears, ready to rule the world, ready to conquer evil and cast out demons, the professor burst our bubbles real good when he said, “If you want to see the devil, look in the mirror.” The whole class was shocked. We Christians do not think of ourselves as having negative or demonic attributes.
In reality, to the degree that our lives do not reflect God’s light and love, we easily become pawns for evil.
But, in order to be in the world and not of the world, we must stay in God’s presence through prayer and soaking in God’s word. We must be thankful every hour and repent every day. We must remember that it is God who has made us, not we ourselves.
We must confess that we have not loved the lord with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done God’s will. We have broken God’s law. We have rebelled against God’s love. We have not loved our neighbors. We have not heard the cry of the needy.
Even good Christians need to be forgiven so that we can be free for joyful obedience through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that we can tell the world the good, good news that while we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us, that proves God’s love for us. That proves God’s love for US. Amen.