Wherever You Go

“Wherever You Go”

1 Kings 19:1-15 Luke 8:26-39


One of my favorite authors is C. S. Lewis.  I would recommend his “Chronicles of Narnia” to a child of any age and any adult who enjoys fantasy with a message.  His “Mere Christianity” is something every Christian should read…as should anyone who’s even questioning whether to be a Christian.

In “The Screwtape Letters”…his novel about the education of a young servant of Satan…” C. S. Lewis wrote…”There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe…and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.  They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist and magician with the same delight.”

In his second letter to the Corinthians…Paul referred to Satan’s devices.  This became the title of one of John Wesley’s sermons…cautioning Christians to be prepared to fend off the works of evil.  Today our United Methodist doctrine doesn’t emphasize the personalization of Satan.  Instead the focus…as yours and mine should be…is on the love and power of Jesus Christ.

Today’s Gospel story is one of three in chapter 8 of Luke that show Jesus’ love and power…stories to take with you wherever you go…stories to be prepared to share…wherever you go…along with the story of Jesus’ power in your life…wherever you go.

Jesus encountered a man who was possessed by so many demons that he was naked…showing many self-inflicted wounds where he had fought to tear off his shackles…and living in the tombs…a place considered quite unclean.

Not all evil is so obvious and so gross.  Paul wrote that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. ” (2 Cor. 11:14-15)   Sin and evil are part of all of our world today.  James wrote, “Each one is tempted by his own evil desire.”  (James 1:14)

Jesus was not taken aback by this man.  He stood firm.  He asked the spirit within the man for his name.  The reply was “Legion” because many demons had gone into him.  A legion was a large unit of the occupying Roman army…6,000 foot soldiers and 120 horsemen.  To the Jews of that day “Legion” meant a very large number…an efficient organization…of great strength.

It was time for Jesus to show his love and power.   The dramatic destruction of the pigs and the unmistakable change in the man are great proof.

In contrast to his earlier state…the man was calmly sitting at Jesus’ feet instead of roaming aimlessly in the tombs.  He was dressed instead of naked.  He was in his right mind.  He was alert…laughing and devoted to Christ.  What a testimony to the love and power of Jesus Christ.  With a word…yes…just a word…the possessed swine plunged to their death…taking the demons with them.

The night before…just one word from Jesus…had calmed the raging sea.  In Gerasa that day a spiritual storm had also been calmed with love that prompted the word of Jesus Christ.  This was work that only God could do.

Jesus had undone the work of evil.  He restored the image of God in the life of a seriously disfigured man…now a rational…controlled…at peace man…in communion with God.  This could not have been done by anyone other than God.

Do you have scars?

Do you have bad habits…perhaps a mouth that is out of control from time to time?  You have spoken and left deep wounds somewhere…in someone who is near and dear to you.

Is there some dishonesty…perhaps a clever child who has turned in to someone who is less than truthful with your spouse…children and colleagues?

Maybe there’s some other scar.  Jesus…whose love and power calmed the stormy seas and removed the demons can also calm your storm-tossed soul.  He can do it with a word.

Here’s the rest of the story.

Did you notice the response of the Gerasenes?  They didn’t rejoice.  They didn’t hold some kind of revival.  Luke wrote that they were afraid.   They were afraid of the change…that this man they had been able to ridicule and hold in bondage…was now free…like them.  Someone over whom they held power was now free to be among them…to enjoy life as they were enjoying life.

A year ago…in a church in Charleston, South Carolina…we saw the same kind of fear turned into hate…hate that left nine people dead in their church…the church they had gone to that night for Bible study.

But…the love and the power of Jesus Christ…that they had learned in that very church that was the sight of carnage…led the families of the victions…to the person…to show the love of Jesus and tell the shooter…”I forgive.”   That love and power of Jesus is with them today…wherever they go.  It’s with you and me.

The love and power of Jesus are with you and me today as we come with hearts that are heavy…still in shock, mourning and for some… fear…following last week’s tragedy in Orlando.

Jesus’ love and power will give strength to those who hurt, mourn and fear…wherever they go.

Jesus’ love and power has brought together from all over this great nation people to give support to those who mourn.

The experts on the psychology of hate tell us that any number of things could have caused the tragedy to occur.  Let us not rush to judgment…nor fall victim to the words of similar hate…or political expediency…coming from those who offer simple answers that do nothing but intensify the hatred.

Hate does not overcome hate.  Only love can do that.  The kind of love Jesus showed the man when he was possessed by demons…the kind of love Jesus gives to each of us…the kind of love Jesus commands us to give others wherever you go.  With Jesus’ love comes the power to overcome hate.

Because the people of Gerasa had seen what Jesus did they told others.  Then the leaders of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave.  They were afraid.  The power of their hate had been overcome by the love and power of Jesus Christ.  So…Jesus got in the boat and left.

Still…today…many more people than we imagine turn their backs on Christ or ask him to go away because they fear he will disrupt their lives…cause change through his love and his power.

Remember…when the Gerasene leaders asked…Jesus got in the boat and left.  He could do that again today…in the lives of those who turn from him.

The man who had been cured was a significant contrast to the others.  He begged Jesus to let him go with Jesus and the disciples.  But…he followed Jesus’ instructions and went away and told the whole town how much Jesus had done for him.  Jesus turned down the man’s request.  Instead the man turned into an effective witness for Jesus.

Years ago…an ophthalmologist…right out of college opened his practice.  He had no friends.  He had no money.  He had no patients.  He became discouraged…until…one day he met a blind man.

He looked into the blind man’s eyes and asked why he hadn’t had his eyesight restored.  He invited the blind man to go to his office the next day.

The blind man went.  The ophthalmologist performed an operation that proved to be successful.  The patient told the doctor that he didn’t have a penny.  “I can’t pay you!” the man said.

The doctor responded with an alternative payment plan.  The doctor said there was just one thing he wanted the man to do…”Tell everyone that you see…wherever you go…that you were blind and tell them who it was that healed you.  He went and did what the doctor asked him to do.  The doctor prospered…and sight was restored for many more people.

That is also what the man who was once demon-possessed did.

Jesus asks us to do the same…to share the love and power he gives each of us…wherever you go.  That’s a pretty simple payment plan for all the love and power he gives us…wherever we go.

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