The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 8:28-9:1
Being priests and pastors, we have the unenviable responsibility for your souls and your salvation. It’s not my job to give you my opinion, but it is my duty to teach you the truth of the gospel as it has been delivered to us. We do what we do and teach what we teach out of love for you, so don’t be offended if we use strong words or take things seriously especially when teaching the faith. Some churches are used to sermons that are full of jokes but we are not here to joke or to laugh or even to make you feel good. We are here first, to repent and then to rejoice in who God is and what He has done and is doing in our lives.
We are all familiar with the story of the demoniacs, or the demon-possessed men that our Lord Jesus Christ encountered. If we pay attention to the details we find that in fact demons do exist and they can possess humans who allow them into their lives. That’s not Hollywood or entertainment, that’s the gospel. We find that as our compassionate Lord comes across these two demon possessed men, He is not afraid of them. He has true courage that comes from His deep and abiding faith and relationship with His Father. In fact we find the opposite to be true. Although they are called fierce, they trembled upon meeting the Lord of glory face to face. These men cried out “What have we to do with you, O Son of God?” And this question is so important for us today.
Whenever we find something that has a demonic influence, we see this common attitude. We find that we as people or as a society will divorce ourselves and our lives from Jesus Christ. We become like these demon possessed men who asked “What have we to do with you, O Son of God?” It’s a question about relationship isn’t it? The demons are asking “What is your relationship to us?” All of the dehumanizing, destructive and demonic philosophies of our time continually revisit this issue and they attempt to answer the question by saying that God has nothing to do with our day to day lives.
God has nothing to do with our sexuality. God has nothing to do with our family dynamics. God has nothing to do with our financial decisions. God has nothing to do with our government. God has nothing to do with our values. Satan, the devil, is a liar and the father of lies. He whispers to us that we don’t need God in any aspect of our lives and in that he is deceiving a whole generation but I thank God that you are here in the Ark of salvation and that as long as you are in the Ark with your body, mind and heart, you will be saved.
Did you notice what happened when the Lord sent the demons out of the men and into the herd of swine? The swine ran swiftly over the cliff and they all drowned in the waters below. That is always the goal of the demons. They want to destroy life whenever possible because life points to the Life-giver and they hate this Life-giver.
As Christians we are saved by living faith in Jesus Christ. He saves us from slavery to the demons and from slavery to their philosophies. St. Paul writing in 2 Cor 10 writes “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” We take every thought captive to Christ. We measure each thought and each action that we take throughout the day and we do everything in our power to make those thoughts and actions mesh with the teachings and the person of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. We end up slaves either way. Bob Dylan once sang “you’ve gotta serve somebody, and it may be the devil, and it may be the Lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
We hear about the lives of the saints and especially the heroic martyrs who lived through persecution in the Roman Empire. We also hear of the countless stories of new martyrs in the Soviet communist era. We are strengthened by their faith and witness to the truth of the gospel and their love for Christ. And we know that that love for Christ didn’t appear magically. It appeared because they had cultivated it daily. They made a habit of taking every thought and every moment captive to Jesus Christ. If we want to imitate the saints and martyrs when it really counts, we should get into the habit of imitating them in their daily lives.
Lately I’ve heard people asking lots of questions. What is going on in our society? What will we do to raise our kids and keep our faith? Have no fear. I know that each and every person here has been placed into this Church and into this society to fulfill a purpose. If God numbers the grains of sand and the raindrops that fall, then God has a purpose for each and every one of us from the youngest to the oldest. What is going on in this world or culture is not our primary concern. Our Lord swiftly cast out the demons and left these men, whole, sane and freed from their bondage. The Lord who had power then, has power to transform individuals, societies and countries even now.
Our primary concerns are “Who do I choose to follow?” and “How do I follow Him faithfully?” When we stop worrying about what our neighbor is doing and start focusing on our own salvation, we find that we may indeed be saved and we might even affect the salvation of our neighbors and friends around us. People will be drawn to us without any effort on our parts because they will see our REAL love, our REAL hope, our REAL courage and our REAL joy. They will see all these attributes because they come from our deep and abiding relationship in the One who is REAL love, hope, courage and joy. And glory be to God forever, AMEN.