Fourth Sunday after Trinity

June 19, 2016

Introduction and Call to Worship

Wherever we have come from, and whatever our background may be, we rejoice that God’s love extends to each of us. May that love free us from fear and strengthen our faith as we worship the one who, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is reaching out to us today.

 

Today’s Readings

First Reading 1 Kings 19:1-4 [5–7] 8-15a

Elijah flees in fear, but with miraculous food and another vivid lesson about the divine in the ordinary, God reminds him of his mission.

 

Or Isaiah 65:1-9

God reaches out even to those who have turned away, and although they seem to deserve punishment there is hope for the future and a promise of redemption.

 

Second Reading Galatians 3:23-end

Whatever our race or gender or background, faith in Christ is the key that frees us to inherit our promised salvation as God’s children.

 

Gospel Luke 8:26-39

Frightening, foreign, the demoniac meets Jesus and is healed, regardless. Pigs flee as even a “legion” of evil surrenders to faith, and the one who is healed will proclaim the Gospel.

 

HOMILY         “Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.” (Luke 8:33)

 

Who said pigs might fly? Well, perhaps they can if any of these three jokes are funny…

 

What kind of pig knows martial arts? A Pork Chop

What do you call a pig with sunburn? Crispy Bacon

How did the pig get to the hospital? In an Ham-bulance.

 

After those three perhaps I need an ambulance! Please don’t flee! Well I don’t think the Gerasene people were laughing when their pigs ran down the hillside and drowned in the lake. The pigs flee – this being the origin of the phrase pigs might fly – but they are not the only ones running, so too go the swineherds who flee the scene instead of accepting the healing of the man as a miracle, they see it as a threat. After all, their livelihood is at stake and their jobs are threatened. They, and the people they tell, are afraid and why wouldn’t they be for Jesus has great power over so much that even we find it hard to comprehend today.

 

Indeed, the very concept of possession by demons is not something we find easy to accept in the scientific world of 21st century Brittain. The man who meets Jesus off the boat has so many demons that he can’t name them individually. When asked his name he replies “Legion” – referring to a unit of the Roman army of over five thousand soldiers. He is clearly overwhelmed by whatever it is that has turned his mind and overshadowed his very existence.

 

As we see again and again in the Gospels, Jesus meets the needs of people where they are and once again he recognizes the need of this tormented man, responds and heals him. Impossible as it might seem, Jesus has freed him in a greater sense than he could if he had undone the chains and shackles with which Legion had been restrained. Whether his demons are taken literally, or whether they represent mental or physical afflictions, the key is that he recognizes and acknowledges Jesus as the Son of God.

 

So when Legion begs to accompany Jesus, he is told to stay in his own community as there is work to be done – namely spreading the good news. This comes in the middle of a very busy chapter for Jesus, teaching and healing and even raising the dead. It began by naming several of his women followers, some of whom he had similarly cured of evil spirits. These included Mary Magdalene, from whom we’re told seven demons had gone out.

 

Jesus met people where they were, just as he meets us where we are today. The very presence of those pigs indicates that he was in a land of foreign settlers, where Jewish food rules were not strictly followed. As Paul was later to stress (not least in today’s epistle) keeping such laws is not the source of salvation, which can be achieved only by God’s saving action in Jesus, whatever our race or background.

 

And that is true for all of us today. We too are called to proclaim the Gospel, in word and deed, to do our bit to establish the kingdom of heaven. We can show that, impossible as it might seem, God’s saving love is for everyone. We may not all be able to cure troubled souls or heal the sick, but we can support those who do. We can give generously to medical charities, or simply offer a listening ear for people with problems.

 

Let’s not flee the task God has given us. Rather than fear or judge anyone with a mental health problem, let us practice the kind of compassion and practical support that Jesus showed towards Legion. Rather than thinking of immigration as worrying or frightening, let us meditate on today’s epistle, which tells us that Christ accepts everyone. In other words, let us learn to regard every human being as having the potential to enhance our community. Let us bring them all and ourselves to God in prayer, seeking help as Legion did.

 

Pigs might fly. Unlikely – but not impossible, for with God anything is possible. But they certainly do make lovely bacon and hamburgers!

 

SUMMARY

  1. The expression “pigs might fly” describes something apparently impossible, but the verb can also mean “flee”.

  2. It might seem impossible for Jesus to cure the demoniac known as Legion, but he did.

  3. The presence of pigs tells us that Jewish law was not followed in that place, and Legion was a foreigner. All the same, Jesus healed him. Fear and food laws gave way before faith.

  4. Other people are not threats but opportunities for us to show that God’s saving love makes no distinction between us.

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