Sunday, June 23, 2019 – Pentecost 2

June 23, 2019  

Luke 8:26-39
Galatians 3:23-29

During Synod Assembly last week Mark Zellmer and I both attended a workshop sponsored by the Synod’s Anti-Racism Task Force, a group I co-chair. As the workshop began, the leader handed out index cards and asked us to take a minute to complete this sentence:
            I am….
So I’d like you to take a minute and do that yourselves, using the cards we have provided (or if you are at home, find some paper).
            I am….
The workshop leader had a different purpose for this exercise than what I have.
I simply want you to think about how you have categorized yourself:
Man, woman, black, white, old, young, large, small, Gay, straight, conservative, liberal, sick, survivor…
Now I want you to think about this:
Are these categories ways you think other people see you?
Do they represent how you see yourself?

After Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee, Jesus got out of the boat and was met by a naked man from Gerasenes. People hearing Luke’s story in the first century would know, a man from Gerasenes was a Gentile (so he didn’t keep religious laws). The man was naked and he lived in a cemetery.

When the naked man saw Jesus, he fell at Jesus’ feet, shouting “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me” (Luke 8:28). Then Jesus asked the man’s name, and the naked man replied “Legion.” (Luke 8:30).

When you filled out your index card, did any of you write down: naked? No? That’s a good thing. (People worshiping at home, we don’t want to know your answer to this…)
Did anyone write down “legion”?
In Jesus’ time, a legion would be 6,000 Roman soldiers.
In this story, “Legion” represents “many demons.” Many demons.

The man was a naked, demon-possessed Gentile.
And Jesus saved him.

In his letter to the Galatians the apostle Paul wrote there is no longer “Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
We live in a binary society where we see and we name male or female, straight or gay, black or white, skinny or fat, old or young…”
The reality is many in society see themselves in non-binary ways. In other words, there are many shades of grey to any category we try to create.
So, although I identify as being left-handed, I golf and bat right-handed.
Someone might appear to be Black, even though that person is a mix of Latino and African American.

As people of faith, if we follow Paul’s teaching, all of us who are baptized are freed from any categories we might name, united and known simply as “children of God.”

I find it interesting Jesus did not baptize the demon-possessed man from Gerasenes; rather, Jesus freed the man’s demons to leave the man and enter a herd of pigs.
Although he was not baptized, make no mistake, the man, and all those who were near him, knew he was free. Because after he was freed he was clothed. He was in his right mind. He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, longing to become a disciple.

What I find even more interesting than the fact that the demon-possessed man was not baptized, was the fact that what Jesus did do to him (by releasing his demons) caused everyone else to feel deeply uncomfortable. They were afraid. They were “seized with great fear.” They were so afraid, they asked Jesus to leave them (Luke 8:37).

How frightening are the realities Jesus creates?
How frightening is it to know and to believe that there is no longer “Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28)?

We live in a society and time that embraces categories. It seems people want to keep other people in “their place.” The labels we have created divide us; the labels we have created hurt us; the labels we have created are (dare I say) demonic in and of themselves. What happens because of those labels is even more evil.

Which is why it is so important for us to claim, which is why it is so important for us to live the realties that have been created by Jesus Christ. To live boldly, knowing we are all one in Christ Jesus.

We are all one. We are all God’s children.

Always and forever, we are all loved.

Amen.