A Chance to Relive our Deliverance
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ help you to go all through your community and tell them everything God has done for you!
A Map of our Journey
Today’s message is a little different than most of those I deliver. I am going to take you on your life’s journey, seen through the eyes of the man who had been possessed not by just a demon, but whose life had been a plaything for thousands of them.
For most of us, such a journey is difficult, because, well I could joke and say it is because we are at Concordia, but because, as one philosopher once said, “life is suffering” Or so it can seem! Especially when Jesus seems like he’s moved on from us.
So let the journey begin.
The journey begins… alone and in darkness
Before we knew Christ, and even some days now, our lives seem like that of the man who found Jesus on the side of the lake. We may not live among the gravestones, or actually be the property of a horde of demons, but our lives may have been as dark.
Sin can dominate and rule us as certainly as demons, and they aren’t afraid to haunt us with temptations that seek to ensnare us
Like the man, in those dark days, we barely know anything except the emptiness. We may feel quite distant from people, and though we love them, there is a grave disconnect, as if we aren’t sure they understand us, or “get” us.
We might even hear their words of love and care as them trying to control us, to force us to change from who we are, for the brokenness we experience seems to be who we are.
When we are in bondage to sin, like when the man was haunted and owned by demons, there is this sense of walking around in the fog, disconnected from the world.
Even God seems a bit hard to communicate with.
Did you ever notice Jesus doesn’t talk directly to him at first? He addresses that which haunts him?
Joined on the Journey
On this broken journey, that is what happens next, we all of a sudden find ourselves standing in brilliant daylight, freed from what has hounded us, what has caused us to be disconnected,
We are no longer alone, as the light sines from our partner in our journey, the one that makes it come alive. The brokenness seems, for the moment to be mending, and people notice as well, something is different in your life.
Some may even be overwhelmed by the change, like the community where the man who the demons were forced to free were overwhelmed. They didn’t know what to make of it, and were so afraid, they couldn’t adjust to the glory of God that was transforming this broken man’s life and making him whole and healthy.
No wonder all the man wanted to do was to sit at Jesus feet, to hear Him speak of the Father’s love, to dwell in the sweetness of the moment, to just enjoy the peace and freedom that is here.
I think that is why little kids love to come to this rail and just sit here… I know that is why here, at the altar, or even over on the side, hiding behind the pulpit is the place where I feel the most at home in the entire world.
It is so radically different from dwelling in darkness, hounded by sin and despair.
To just sit here and know, the Lord is with you, and that because Jesus has risen, so we are risen indeed! ALLELUIA
He wants us to go where? WHY?
is then we hear the words of Jesus, as He leaves where He found us, and began
our healing, and showed His love, and the life that His gives us, freed,
forgiven, and healed/
We want to stay here, we never want to go without Him, and He says to us, as he did to the man, “No, go back to your family and tell them everything God has done for you!”
Uhm, Lord, if I walk away, what happens if the demons return? What If I can’t handle it, and I fall into temptation and sin reaches out and gets me?
I can imagine these things went through his mind. Why? Because they can go through my mind, when I forget the most important truth in my life, that the Lord Is with me.
Then there is the fear, if I was this man, I would phrase It this way. “Lord, send me to anywhere, but please not back to the people that know me and my weakness so well. Not back to the people that rejected me, and who I have hurt. I could come up with 1000 reasons, but the bottom line is that I would rather be here, in them moments to come.
I even wonder if Jesus wasn’t accepted by his family, why I would ever expect my family and my community to listen to me.
Even so, having delivered us from what oppressed us, and as He is healing us, He sends us out, to those who will recognize the change God has made in our lives, to those whom we know need what God has given us. And as we share what God has done in us, we realize the depth of His love even more, and we realize what it means that because He died on the cross, and rose from the dead, we have risen indeed, and were are given new life and the companionship of the Holy Spirit who resides in us.
The more we experience this love, the more we seek to share what God has done, and that is something we can share…. Reliving again and again what He has done, as we share these blessings… and are in awe of His love.
Heavenly Father, help us to realize the incredible done in our lives, help us to live our lives, among those whom You have sent us, sharing all the mind-blowing things You have done for us. Help us to praise Your name while sharing it with those around us who need to escape their darkness. We pray this in Jesus name. AMEN!
Before the sermon, the Gospel had been read, and the heard again as our special guest Bob Bennett sang the song at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JIzudCJZAE I would ask you listen, as it frames the sermon well…
The Simple Christian Life – Love Hope Faith!
Delivered – So Return Home and Love!
† I.H.S. †
May the grace, that mercy and peace that comes from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, the grace which delivered you from the power of demons, be the hope you share with those you dwell among!
It bothers me….
Even as I love the story of this man being delivered from the power of demons, there is something that bothers me about this story.
No, it is not the destruction of several tons of bacon.
I mean it’s not like it would have lasted two thousand years anyway.
There is something ominous that hovers in the background of the story, that even as we celebrate one man being healed, being redeemed, being freed from thousands of demons, there is something that is frightening going on.
The reaction of the town, the community that is so paralyzed by anxiety, that they drive off the hope that is in their midst. Unlike other towns, they turn down the chance for Jesus to be in their midst, healing, teaching, the Lord God dwelling in their midst…
Living in the presence of God, that is the simple Christian life, a life full of love, hope, and faith. So why would they beg Jesus to leave?
What were their issues? Why would anyone want to reject the hope of the man of the tombs knew?
To quote Bob’s song
Underneath this thing that I once was
Now I’m a man of flesh and blood
I have a life beyond the grave
I found my heart; I can now be saved
No need to fear, I am not afraid
This Man of Sorrows took my pain
He comes to take away our sin
And bear it’s marks upon His skin
I’m telling you this story because
Man of the tombs I was
Why would they reject this for themselves?
Or the harder question to face, have you and I rejected this hope? Have we driven tried to drive Christ away? Or worse, do we ignore His presence in our lives?
Why do we avoid Jesus?
I’ve heard a lot of guesses about why this group of people begged Jesus to leave them alone, and all are really conjecture. I’ve also heard some reasons people have given me over the years. Some are more about why they want to avoid the church, because of bruises and wounds that we’ve inflicted on each other. Or they are afraid of the time commitment it will make in their life, a life already complicated and overloaded.
Others are more considered because of the idea that their lives will change. That in order to change, they will have to deal with the pains of the past, the guilt, and shame. Or that Jesus might confront them over something sinful and broken in their lives today.
That’s scary. Maybe we aren’t wandering among the tombs, yelling and screaming, but to let Jesus come to us and work in our lives? Remember – that is what Jesus told the man to share, what did Jesus do?
The man was naked, he had no home, no place to belong, he was the kind of guy that Jesus said the sheep who were welcome into the kingdom, because they helped him.
But what was it about the community that Jesus needed to address?
We say we know we need Jesus, but for what reason? For most of us, it isn’t as easily seen as it as in the case of the man Jesus met. Even so, it is there, some of us buried deep.
Don’t run! This time, don’t try to avoid Him! Come and ask, trusting in His nature, knowing He will deliver you!.
Don’t send Jesus away, don’t beg him to leave. Let the Spirit come to you…
and bring you the relief and peace you need.
He’s come to us; He heals us…
For that is what Jesus does,
You see, the beach where he directed the disciples for, he came to those people, there is no other reason for a Jewish Rabbi to come to this place, but to meet people where they are at.
To come to free a man from thousands of demons, to bring peace to a village that only new fear, and now in their anxiety, sent Jesus away.
A Second Chance?
You need to know, that Jesus doesn’t quite accept their rejection.
For after they beg him to leave, he gives them a pastor, a prophet in their midst. The man who was the possessed by the demon, which begs Jesus to come with him, is now sent to them to preach. To announce salvation, to explain everything God has crafted, the poem God made out of his life.
A miracle they couldn’t deny, a life so dramatically changed that people notice. A man tortured by the life he knew, freed now and so incredibly at peace. Who lives in their midst, forgiven, saved, healed, and a testimony to the work of God, and that fact that God comes to us. God hasn’t given up on them, any more than he gave up on the man with thousands upon thousands of demons. He will come to them as he abides with this man…
That’s what the cross is all about, where Christ died to forgive us and to make us holy as we dwell in Him.
That is what this moment is about, as Christ comes to you, and saves you from the burdens that haunt you, from the life’s anxieties, from the pain you’ve endured, and even the pain you’ve caused.
For He has promised this, that you will know the serenity, both now and for all eternity. For Christ has come to ensure you of that peace, and He shall keep your heart and mind safe in that peace.
After the sermon, Bob helped us focus on the hope we have in Christ by singing this song,,, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X46ayH7Io4c
The love of a mother,
& the Love of The Father
† I.H.S †
As you go through life, may you be assured of the love God has for you, love that will go to extreme measure to free you from all that oppresses
What this isn’t about/What it is
As I preach about the gospel lesson this morning, I need to make something clear.
Yes, I know there are demons, and I am sure this lady’s story is exact and true. It isn’t some parable. Her daughter had a demon.
Okay, now onto what the story is really about, the love of a parent for their child.
The love of a mother,
and the love of the Father.
Understanding the depth of that love will reveal the cross, and the reason that Jesus took a side trip from his home into a spiritual no man’s land.
It will also make the difference in your life, for you are His beloved child.
You see, the demons in this passage – they aren’t relevant, they are a side note. Although in a way it would be easier to preach about fighting them.
It is the love that matters, the love that we so desperately need to know.
The Love of a Mother
I don’t even think Jesus had unpacked at the home he was staying at when she showed up. A desperate mom, looking for something to help her very young daughter.
I don’t have to have you imagine the pain, the desperation that leads her into Jesus presence the moment people realization it is a Jewish Rabbi – maybe even Messiah that has come into their presence.
But I will remind you that she is so desperate that she breaks every cultural norm, every piece of etiquette, and risks his very anger. For to be in the presence of a woman in such situation would render Jesus unfit to teach as a rabbi. As a man of God, being that close to someone outside the people of God would also render him unclean and able to serve, and to do a miracle for her?
She throws all decorum aside – she wants her daughter to be healed, to be delivered to, to be right. When I first read that she fell at Jesus’ feet, I thought the word there would be the root word for worship – to bow and lay prostrate before someone, a position of worship, adoration, honor.
It’s not, is the word we get Pepto in Pepto-Bismol from, she collapses in front on him, a withering wreck. And her only hope? A hyped up prophet from a country that hasn’t produced anything of value in 400 years….
She tosses everything aside, all pride, all loyalty to her people, everything if only there were hope.
She is so desperate she pleads, she begs, with everything she has. Heck, she even argues for table scraps from this prophet from that oddball place with the oddball religion.
Such is the love for her daughter.
Even a daughter who, obviously, wasn’t easy to care for, wasn’t easy to love.
A daughter who was more trouble than any can imagine, a daughter who would be un-lovable, even one most people would be afraid of, except for a parent. No one else would care, no one else would endure, but somehow she did.
As she collapses before Jesus, as she needed to depend on someone becomes more and more apparent, her responses grow stronger as if she intuitively knows that Jesus can help.
How could she know the love of God the Father, a God she was unfamiliar with, a love that would be revealed in Jesus coming near?
The Desperate Love of the Father
We have the benefit of hearing these stories, of knowing, even if we sometimes forget, a little bit about the depth of God’s love. Usually, I ask Chris to say the word in Hebrew, (cHesed) but I think I want to keep our guest musician dry this morning.
cHesed – the love that would go to any length for the one who is loved. That would go to any length to restore that which is broken,
it would drive a woman to the feet of a crazy prophet…
The same love that would drive a Father to send His only Son to her.
I want you to hear something in this passage again. I want you to see it, think about it.
He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret
He couldn’t keep it a secret. He wasn’t able to another translation says, The Greek uses the word from where we get dynamic, dynamo, dynamite. He was without any power in this instance. The One through whom the universe was spoken into being, the one whose words sent demons scurrying, who calmed seas, whose words brought the dead to life, who spoke forgiveness and taught with authority.
He couldn’t keep where he went on vacation secret from anyone.
It’s as if someone was letting people know – here’s the prophet, here is your hope!
Because immediately, she found him. And right after that, Jesus leaves the area and goes back to Galilee. It is as if this wasn’t really a vacation, a chance to get away, but simply a trip to her, a divine appointment.
Think about this what stopped him, what took away his power to remain incognito? What could make Jesus the Messiah incapable, powerless, vulnerable?
Jesus couldn’t keep his presence secret because God sent Him to be there, for this lady, for this daughter who would collapse at Jesus’ feet.
Because God loved her even as He loves us. He didn’t send him just to deliver the child from the demon. Jesus obediently went where the Father sent them, to deliver them from everything that oppresses them.
Even as He delivers us.
Even as Jesus was sent to us. Even as He was sent to die on the cross for us.
Even though we weren’t clean and holy. Even though Jesus would have to dwell in our sinfulness, even as He would take on every sin we committed. Even if we acted like we were demon possessed. Even if our battle with sin is beyond belief.
Isaiah prophesied that the Father would lay every sin we’ve committed on Jesus. His suffering and death would cleanse us, make us righteous, heal us.
That is what we have to understand – God doesn’t will that any would perish, God won’t let anything separate us from His love,
God gave us this ministry as well, this ministry of reconciling everything to Him, even as we plead with people to be reconciled to God.
As we enter this new school year, as we swing into fall, we are going to see this over and over, that God wants us to be in communion with Him. That He loves us, that He will deliver us from evil. And that He sends us out, with His Spirit, to bring other broken people home to Him. To free others that are oppressed, by sharing with them His love.
It’s not about getting the scraps from the table. It isn’t about our being “not good enough”
It is about even if we are there, completely collapsed, knowing God will restore us and care for us, and comfort us. That He will heal those we bring to Him.
The Father’s love is that deep. And that love is revealed to us in the cross of Christ, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, in the promises of our baptism, and the feast that is but a small sample of the feast to come.
May you dwell in God’s peace, the peace beyond anyone’s understanding, assured that you will be kept in that peace by Jesus. For He has come to us, to deliver us from all evil. AMEN.
Devotional Thought of the Day
8 I was left there alone, watching this amazing vision. I had no strength left, and my face was so changed that no one could have recognized me. 9 When I heard his voice, I fell to the ground unconscious and lay there face downward. 10 Then a hand took hold of me and raised me to my hands and knees; I was still trembling. 11 The angel said to me, “Daniel, God loves you. Stand up and listen carefully to what I am going to say. I have been sent to you.” When he had said this, I stood up, still trembling. 12 Then he said, “Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in order to gain understanding. I have come in answer to your prayer. 13 The angel prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief angels, came to help me, because I had been left there alone in Persia. Daniel 10:8-13 (TEV)
931 Saint Ignatius, with his military genius, gives us a picture of the devil calling up innumerable demons and scattering them through nations, states, cities, and villages after a “sermon” in which he exhorts them to fasten their chains and fetters on the world, leaving no one unbound. You’ve told me that you want to be a leader … and what good is a leader in chains? (1)
100 Let me tell you this. Even though you know the Word perfectly and have already mastered everything, still you are daily under the dominion of the devil, who neither day nor night relaxes his effort to steal upon you unawares and to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against all these commandments. Therefore you must continually keep God’s Word in your heart, on your lips, and in your ears. For where the heart stands idle and the Word is not heard, the devil breaks in and does his damage before we realize it.(2)
As I looked at our gospel passage for this Sunday, I realized it touched on something pastors and priests don’t like to talk about.
In it, a poor lady comes and asks for Jesus to free her daughter who has a demon. The passage is about God’s love, but it is demonstrated Jesus freeing the woman’s daughter.
He didn’t heal her from a mental illness, this wasn’t a medical or psychological problem. It wasn’t something that could be cured by becoing gluten free, or getting your sugar under control, or taking some supplements.
This was first class spiritual warfare.
Warfare that may be more common than we ever want to admit. More common than we eve want to face.
Heck we have enough trouble with those struggling through physical health issues or mental illness issues, dealing with cancer, dealing with being bereaved. Others whose marriages are challenges, those who are financially strapped, those whose families are damaged by criminal activity, people who are in bondage to alcohol or drugs. . It seems like the challenges to life grow and grow, peole are afficted, in ways that seem to frequent to be simply “coincidences”.
But how do you know which is a spiritual attack, and which is just “life” being a….pain. ( I so wanted to use a different word there!) I mean – there are attacks – really annoyances, just enough to distratct us from God’s presence. There are times of oppression – like the scene in daniel, and then there are the times more serious. The first two we might right off as coincidences, or just life being a pain. But the overwhelmi that darkness is looming, that God may have hidden his face from us, that isn’t just a coincidence. That is what Daniel experienced.
And we learn from his example how to deal with such times.
We pray and pray and then hear the voice of God,
“Daniel, God loves you. Stand up and listen carefully to what I am going to say. I have been sent to you.” and “Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in order to gain understanding. I have come in answer to your prayer.”
The methodology for dealing with demonic attacks is and always must be to hear the voice of God. We must hear and know and depend on His promises to us. We have to realize that He loves us and nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not illness, not jails, not losing it, not all the trials of life. He loves you – start there, hear it often (hence Luther’s comments about church) Remember your baptism, feast on God’s word, and at His table, hear his words (Not the pastor’s or priest’s) that you are forgiven, that you are His beloeved chidlren.
Hearing this changes everything for Daniel, knowing the presence of God is what is needed, for Satan can’t stand against those words. Even for the exocrcists – those skilled in dealing with demonic, the presence of God is always what makes the difference, always the necessity. The guarantees that we celebrate in the sacraments are that what tells us that there is more than our clining to thoughts and ideas given to us from those who have gone before.
He is clinging to us. He loves us. That is the message we need to know, to depend upon, to trust.
For the Lord will always answer our cry for mercy. AMEN.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2164-2167). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 378–379). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press. cited fromt he Large Catechism Explanation of the Third Commandment
devotional thought of the day;
We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to really hearing (obeying) Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (adapted from the NLT)
3 Long ago the LORD said to His People “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. Jeremiah 31:3 (adapted from the NLT)
764 Now, when the Cross has become a serious and weighty matter, Jesus will see to it that we are filled with peace. He will become our Simon of Cyrene, to lighten the load for us. Then say to him, trustingly: “Lord, what kind of a Cross is this? A Cross which is no cross. Now I know the trick. It is to abandon myself in you; and from now on, with your help, all my crosses will always be like this.” (1)
I see a lot of talk on line, and indeed, I’ve probably got 50 -75 books on Spiritual Warfare.
Some dismissing it, some exhaustive guides on what to do when you face this, face that. Books on praying for those who are spiritually oppressed, even a couple of odd guides on exorcism. ( Having read them, and knowing about the sons of Sceva… I wonder why those without experience dare write such!)
Ultimately, spiritual warfare is a fight to trust in God. To abandon ourselves, our hearts, our minds, our souls, in Christ. To realize the cross we bear… the anxieties, pains (yes physical/emotional/spiritual) we endure, are endured differently, because we are united to Jesus. That they can’t separate us from Him, that He has promised these things will be a blessing.
When I replaced the word “obeying” with “really hearing” Jesus in the quote above, I do so because that is what the Greek means. Hyper – which translates as…well “hyper”; and the work akou, which simply means to hear. We need to hear Him, we need to hear of His love, of His mercy. We need to understand that He became man, suffered under pilate, was crucified, died and was buried – not for His own personal gain, but to gain us… His people.
That is where spiritual warfare begins, at the baptismal font where we are claimed by Jesus, and joined to His cross. Where we are made His people – as He desires, as He and the Father planned from before the foundation of the world. Where the promises are sealed to us, guaranteed by the gift of the Holy Spirit. (see Titus 3:1-8)
Yeah – there are spiritual battles, there are demons, and Satan, but they cannot steal someone from God. Knowing that our burdens, our battles, the things that cause our anxieties, worries, fears… they were defeated at Jesus death.
All spiritual warfare is, including exorcism (and yes, in some cases that is a necessity) , is a battle to make that known…. that we may find refuge, sanctuary, peace.
We must know our cry, “Lord, have mercy” is heard……
And we must hear, as Jesus heard at baptism, “You are my child, and in you I find great joy”
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2751-2754). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional thought of the day to be discussed.
This week in liturgical churches, we celebrate the Feast of St Michael and all Archangels. (Yes even in Lutheran Churches – check your pericope!)
Now, with the obvious disclaimer that we do not worship these beings, we can and do interact with them. Jesus talks about children having such angels in heaven, and we see one in action in the life of the prophet Daniel, and in the life of Moses. One such discussion is noted in the Epistle of Jude:
1:8 In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings. 9 But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) Jude 1:8-9 (NLT)
Herein lies a great challenge for us, for whether it be spiritual battle, or dealing with those that antagonize or berate us, we want to strike back accordingly. We want to take justice into our own very creative hands, and trash those who hurt us, or more often, hurt others. In doing so, we engage our own falseness, we do so in our weakness, we do so in a way, that is sure to find us defeated, demoralized, bitter, broken. Or we come back that way, but disguised with a sense of triumphant joy. “We showed them”, “we pounded them into the ground”, “Got’em!” we cry, and we fail to see that both they and we are bleeding from the fight. There is no winner, just more division, more pain, and another battle to fight another day.
Michael the Archangel fought Lucifer in a different manner. He didn’t go head to head – could he have? Perhaps, but we will find that angels primary vocation is not to do battle. We love to picture them, either as weak cherubs at valentines day – piercing hearts with arrows to cause love. (Interesting thought there -change the love from erotic to agape – that’s how the Holy Spirit works) or a valiant towering warriors with swords laced with purifying fire. But scripture primarily talks of them in two ways. One – bringing a message to God’s people. Secondly, and this is really their place – before the throne of God. leading the hosts of heaven, with the 24 elders, adoringly declaring the praise of God.
So Michael, who like us was designed not for battle, but for worship and fellowship, keeps it simple. “The Lord correct you!” and the battle is over.
When we put justice into His hands.. the outcome of spiritual battles is assured. Christ’s power simply overwhelms Satan’s, because Christ’s power is life, not death. It is reconciliation of God’s people with God and each other, not division. FOr someone used to living in the presence of God, the battle is simply a matter of turning it over to our Lord, who died on the cross, that no other need die, that no other need be broken. It is when we realize this, that gathering together becomes more than a country club like gathering .
But to get to that place, means we have to let Christ deal with our own “demons”. To break the power of sin and satan over us, for believers, to realize that is what happens in the sacraments, in baptism, as we feast, as we confess and are absolved. Josemarie Escriva wrote well,
“You, who see yourself so badly lacking in virtues, in talents, in abilities… Do you not feel the desire to cry out like the blind Bartimaeus, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”? What a beautiful aspiration for you to say very often, “Lord, have pity on me!” He will hear you and come to your aid.” Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 882-886). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
If we need to deal with our own pain which oppresses us, if our “personal demons” (which usually aren’t demons in the way we picture them) need to be dealt with, the cry of Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy, will see those “demons” rebuked and their hold broken, and our souls and heart and minds and bodies – freed to worship. It is a prayer that God always answers, for the promise and fulfillment of the prayer is what the cross is always about.
So Lord, have mercy on us, rebuke that which oppresses us, help us live as Your body, your people. AMEN