An Encounter with Jesus
Tony E Dillon-Hansen
Sermon based upon Luke 8:26-38, Psalm 42, Galatians 3: 25-29
Today, we return to Luke. We observe someone that is so tormented and conflicted that they didn't wear clothes, was chained and lived among the dead.
Was it mental health issues, trauma or spiritual tortures as the cause? We do know what it is like to have something torturing us. Bad memories, something done to us, we did, or in our future: shame or embarrassing failure, something making us anxious. This can be consuming.
This person encounters Jesus - at first, challenges Jesus as someone deeply troubled, shackled and seized. This person pleads not to be further alienated, excluded or tortured.
That experience is all too common for some. Folks seek guidance from those they trust only to get spat at, demeaned, or simply ignored.
That isn’t what Jesus does. Jesus does something radically different. Jesus doesn’t leave him alone hiding in a hole, has him his name, conversation ensues, Jesus brings him out of the hole.
Why? We must first recognize and name our affliction whether addiction, trauma, loss, etc. Then we can begin to heal.
There is radical transformation - going from tormented individual to proclaiming disciple - a witness to the power and the hospitality of Jesus.
Jesus sends these demons into pigs to drown. How many hog operations would like that? We could ponder the meaning of this, but let’s look at the people’s reaction.
People watch but don’t understand. Something happened: a person is transformed, but he was the only experiencing it.
They see a system, a caste, slavery, segregation, class upended = an unwritten deal broken. This person was chained up and controlled away from them. They might have even thought what they were doing was good, besides it can be nice to have “out of sight out of mind” (things or people we don’t want to deal with.) Keep over there so I don’t have to see it, and I can ignore it (until one day we cannot.)
The people want things to go back to the way they were - the familiar. Change can breed fear and contempt.
We do this today. We live around so much anxiety and death, whether actual death, but dead ideas, notions that were once thought to be good. That change has spurred violence from fear - in our neighborhoods, our schools, and communities.
We watch the world spiral in real time. Worry comes easy, but also fear, anger and hate. Some feign safety for ourselves or those ideas, but people are frightened about what they don’t know, don’t understand or don’t want to understand, whether demon possession or personal transformation.
Ultimately, when guided by fear, we can make some pretty bad decisions until we cannot see truth, reality, or the loving Spirit of God.
Stop. Instead look inside, name what ails you, talk with God & break the chains,. It may just be radical to nudge ourselves and those around us with the grace and love we are taught. If I am the cause of someone’s chains, then release the chains of control.
Find God’s forgiveness. We can free ourselves in that liberating forgiveness.
For ourselves, when we look deep inside and see Jesus working, sending the demons of our hearts away, then we might experience something too. That encounter waits for us. That, Beloved, can be transform our broken bodies and our world with healing and growing in love.
Yes it starts from within and then we share that with the person next to us, and then that person gets it and shares it with someone else and on and on - The realm of God is ready for us.
Then you might understand why this once tormented soul becomes a disciple of Jesus proclaiming all that Jesus did for them.
Be image bearers of God -transforming folks into images of hope and forgiveness. Jesus transformed this one, simply by first seeing and acknowledging this person. Then let them start to hope and heal.
This passage also shows us the power of hope, healing, and love despite social chains.
Paul reminds (Galatians 3) that our faith frees us, and that faith works against all the wonderful ways society builds barriers and exclusion. The love of Christ dissolves worldly barriers to free us.
Because these words are here, the Gospel is here, hope is here! We have a challenge in this hope to dismantle sexism, classism, racism, heterosexism, political division. To heal trauma and to grow in love instead.
Don’t hide in fear. See how beautiful you are, child of God.
Be image bearers. Beloved, find the work of Jesus inside - transforming you into something new. Then reveal the possible, the love of Christ from your heart.
Thanks be to God