June 19, 2016 – “Stay and Tell”

June 19, 2016 – “Stay and Tell”

Don’t you get confused when God seems to throw a roadblock in the plans you think He’s laid out for you? I don’t know if this only happens to me but there’re times that God, it seems, is toying with me and I’m left scratching my head.

I know of a comedian named Steven Wright. He does a bit where he talks about naming puppy. His idea is to name the puppy “Stay”. That way when he calls him he says, “come here, Stay; come here, Stay; come here, Stay!”

Well I’m guessing that like the confusion that puppy would feel or like I feel confused by God sometimes, the demon-possessed man in the gospel lesson today must’ve felt something like that. When Jesus had healed him he wanted to go with Jesus, thought it was only natural or even expected of him, but, No, Jesus told him to – stay! And that wasn’t the only thing Jesus said to the man.

He told him to stay… and tell. Stay and tell. He was to stay in that town and tell what it was that God had done for him. That idea of telling, sounds familiar to us as our mission is Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel. We’re also to stay / in this community, live the gospel before them and like this demoniac who was healed, share what God has done for us though Christ.

Look back at this story for a moment. The man is demon possessed and is released from his demons by the word of Jesus. Remember last week how the word of Jesus changes your world. And again this week that happens with this man. When Jesus goes to leave the town, at the request of the fearful people in that place, this man who’s been healed and had his world changed, naturally wants to go with Jesus who healed him. But Jesus’ comment to the man was that he was to ‘stay and tell of what God’, what God (!) had done for the man! Notice the hugely important point from these few words is… that Jesus’ work is God’s work!

Jesus knows His own identity and with this bold statement makes it clear that He understands, and does not hide the fact, that He is God – in the flesh. When Jesus heals this man with His word of deliverance, Jesus does what only God can do; He restores this man to his right mind and sets him free from the power of sin, Satan and death. Jesus is God in the flesh and here Jesus makes that clear, in these words and works, (sound familiar?).

Jesus, in showing His power over Satan and his demons in this way, also shows us that we’re in the same condition as either this man or the fearful townspeople. That is, we either live in abject fear of God and His power – just as the pig herders and people of that town expressed – or we’re like this poor fellow, bound under the power of Satan and sin, and need the deliverance that Jesus grants by His Word alone. And did you notice how the townspeople came to fear Jesus? It was by the witness of the pig farmers to what Jesus had done. The town was told! That’s the power of a witness. But in this case rather than rejoice at the work of God by the power of Jesus word, they reacted in fear.

We should all know that we need the ‘work of God’, which is the deliverance He declares in the words of Jesus, for our own lives. But some of us want God’s help and others of us want Jesus to just leave us alone. Some of us really don’t want to live free of sin and its power that both surrounds us and lives in us. This lesson from the gospel is a test of faith for me in true ‘gospel living’.

I find it a challenge to hear of Jesus ‘discussing’ anything with demons let alone listening to them and then giving them permission to destroy those swine. Surely Jesus knew what would happen. However, I also have to know that Jesus did what was best for the man, the swine, the town’s people and for who would read this. It’s a challenge to accept that Jesus is acting in His sovereign knowledge when He accepts the pleas of the demons to not send them into the abyss right then.

Now, we know and they obviously knew that going into the abyss will be their ultimate fate, but not that day. That fate will come to them eventually, as it will for all who refuse God and what He offers in the words and works of Jesus. But that judgment will come in God’s timing alone, not in yours or mine.

There are those who’ve said, or perhaps even we’ve said at one time or another, that we don’t really need God to get along in our daily life. We all know people who that think ‘religion’ is not for them. And many people are religious about believing that. In one sense they’re right. But, we do need Jesus. Everyone needs deliverance and healing through Jesus’ words and works; that is through His death on the cross and victorious resurrection to life, which He promises by His word to give us for life in heaven with Him.

But for many people, they’re just too proud or seemingly self-sufficient to ‘need’ God. Sad to say, Andrew Carnegie once said: “I don’t want a free ticket into heaven!”  To people like him, salvation by grace through faith alone is a very hard teaching.

It’s amazing to me that since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, we’ve found ways to reject God that continue to be the same. We often try and keep God out, but God always, always (!) seeks after us. We’re facing a world that, on the whole, rejects God. We need not be fearful of what happens, our future is in God’s hands; we simply open our hands to receive what He has for us.

No, the world we live in still finds ways to spurn God as it has since Eden. Think for a moment, what have you seen in the news recently or heard in a conversation that confirms this for you? How many times have you seen others, or you yourself, cover up sin and call it something else, like ‘it’s a disease – it’s a choice – it’s a lifestyle’?  No one likes the idea of sin because that would mean there’s a Judge who’s greater than we are. No one likes that idea. So it’s no different today than even in Isaiah’s day as we read in the Old Testament lesson.

Isaiah outlines ways that people offend God. And in the townspeople in the gospel lesson we see what Isaiah describes. Look back at the Old Testament lesson. In verse 1 Isaiah tells us that God ‘reveals Himself to a people who did not ask for Him’. Isaiah also points out that there are people who, as he says in verse 4 sit among the tombs. It’s uncanny how this passage from Isaiah has elements in it from the gospel lesson. It even speaks of pigs! The condition of our world, as seen in the Old Testament, hasn’t changed.

The question is… will we recognize the condition we’re in? Will we receive the healing that God brings to us in Jesus’ words and works and be set free like the demoniac, or will we, like the townspeople and like Isaiah said, reject God – out of fear? That’s an important question to consider.

We need to recognize that fear is what those around us live in – those that we’re to be sharing with. Fear is why they reject God and His love in Jesus Christ. We too have done that in our own lives in various ways. You’ve heard me say it before, living in the grace and mercy of God puts God in control and not us. It’s a Hebrew way of thinking that we are both totally free and at the same time totally under the control of God, in His grace. Falling back on fear as an excuse isn’t for those who live under God’s grace.

I know that for me fear of not doing the right thing is often what prevents me from living in the freedom Christ has died to give me. Fear is that thing that can paralyze me into inaction just because I’d rather not do anything rather than do the wrong thing. Wayne Gretzky, the hockey star, once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

Well, not ‘taking shots’ is wrong for me since I claim to be free in Christ. If I believe the truth that I profess to be found in scripture, then I need not fear. I am free to try and do the right the right thing and if I make a mistake in trying to do what I believe God wants me to do, then I trust in Him to both forgive me and to correct me.

God does correct us when we do the wrong thing, but that’s done out of His love for us, not punishment. I need not fear His punishment that way. Jesus has taken that on the cross. Christ has taken away all divine punishment for all my wrongs, all my sins…all my fear. Just as He’s done for you, for our church, town and world! Jesus didn’t punish the demoniac for doing wrong; rather Jesus took away what it was that caused him to live as he did. Jesus removed the source of his torment. Jesus does that for us. Jesus removes our fear.

So, we gather here today not in fear. We all know the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers right? Well there’s a parody of that song that goes: “Onward Christian soldiers, running from the war. With the cross of Jesus hid behind the door.”

Well, that is not us. We don’t hide the Cross of Jesus behind the door and we don’t run from the war we’re in. We gather together here in faith, faith in the power of God’s words and works to deliver us, because we know we’ve been delivered from our fear, and from being the possession of Satan. The blood of Jesus from the cross has accomplished that and delivered faith to us. The epistle lesson today says “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed”.

We know what it is to have been locked up, being fearful and rejecting God just like many in the community we seek share the gospel with. But by faith coming to us, coming to us through the declaration of God’s word, we are set free of fear.

We have been released. We’re not confused about our name like that puppy called ‘Stay’. We’re not held in bondage like the townspeople in the gospel. We’re not like Andrew Carnegie, we embrace the ‘free ticket’ to heaven that’s ours through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and His victorious resurrection to life again. We’re now soldiers of that cross and we’ve been given our right mind and been clothed like the demoniac. Now don’t miss this!

We’ve been clothed in the righteousness of Christ and been given the mind of Christ. So for us, we hear today Jesus’ words to the demoniac for ourselves. Jesus says for us to stay and tell. We get to tell what God has done for us in our town.

And that brings us back to the subtle power of the statement that Jesus made. What Jesus’ work has done for us, He’s done because He is God in the flesh. His power and work has been revealed to us as Isaiah said, even though we were once a people who didn’t ask for God to reveal Himself to us. Yet in love He has done just that. I love that He has sent our demons to drown. We have been freed of that deadly fear that once possessed us. We’re now in our right minds and Jesus wants us to stay and tell by Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel. What form will that take for you this week? How will you be intentional about sharing; about telling the gospel?
In Jesus name, Amen.

Sermon #832 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading                                                                                   Isaiah 65:1-9 65 “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’ 2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations- 3 a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; 4 who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of impure meat; 5 who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’ Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.

6 “See, it stands written before me: I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps—7 both your sins and the sins of your ancestors,” says the Lord. “Because they burned sacrifices on the mountains and defied me on the hills, I will measure into their laps the full payment for their former deeds.” 8 This is what the Lord says:

“As when juice is still found in a cluster of grapes and people say, ‘Don’t destroy it, there is still a blessing in it,’ so will I do in behalf of my servants; I will not destroy them all. 9 I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live.

Epistle Reading                                                             Galatians 3:23-4:7

23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

4 What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Holy Gospel                                                                                              Luke 8:26-39

26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.                                                                                                                            30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”                                                                              “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.                                                                        32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.               34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.             38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.