6/19/2016 Fifth Sunday after Pentecost The text is Psalm 22:19-28; Luke 8:26-39.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I usually don’t use the psalm as a text for my sermon, but after the events that unfolded last week, it just seemed appropriate as it reads like a prayer for those living in troubled times. “O Lord, be not far away; O my help, hasten to my aid. Deliver me from the sword, my life from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth! From the horns of wild bulls you have rescued me.”
There is no doubt about it – we live in a scary world. We can be minding our own business, having a good time, and a gun-wielding madman can end our life. We can be vacationing at a Disney resort, and find ourselves helplessly struggling against an alligator in a vain attempt to save the life of a child.
In our fear and weakness, it is easy for us to cast blame…to cast blame on the legislators who haven’t enacted stricter gun control laws, to cast blame on a resort managers for not providing greater protection against native wildlife, to cast blame on the wife of the madman for not turning him in, to cast blame on the parents of the two-year old for allowing the youngster to stand ankle deep in water in an area marked “no swimming.” We cast blame because we want to feel safe in a world that is as crazy as the world of the demoniac in today’s gospel.
Logically, we know that we can’t blame guns for killing the people at the Orlando night club any more than we can blame the plane that hit the World Trade Center for the death of hundreds. We know people kill people. Since the time of Cain and Abel, it has always been that way. And if a passenger plane can be used as a weapon of mass destruction, then removing all the guns in the world will not make it a safer place.
It is the evil residing within that makes the world unsafe…unsafe for the person and unsafe for those within reach. Groups, like Isis and the Taliban, have learned how to tap into the unsavory side of human life. They have learned how to rile up hatred and evil for their own intent, using their religion as an excuse and justification for doing that which is unspeakable.
Now, we know in our hearts that all Muslims are not bad, any more than all Christians were bad in Nazi Germany during WWII when our religion was perverted to provide justification for the extermination of the Jews. Any faith can be twisted and perverted, abused and misused by spin doctors who know how to appeal to the evil within in order that they can take control of the weak and gain that which they seek – power and money. So we pray, “O Lord, be not far away; O my help, hasten to my aid. Deliver me from the sword, my life from the power of the dog.”
We pray for ourselves in an unsafe world. We pray for the innocent victims of violence – for those targeted for being different and for those who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And we pray that our Lord expel the hatred and evil within in the same way that he excised the demons in the life of the demoniac in Gerasene. For, we cannot do it alone.
In the end, we know that the power of God will prevail over the forces of evil. So, we do not give up faith. Instead, we declare God’s name to the people and in the midst of the assembly, we praise him. And we do more than that – we live in hope knowing that dominion belongs to the Lord who rules over the nations. Dominion does not belong to the evil that infests the world around us.
As people of God, we strive to do as Jesus would do. We do not ignore those possessed with evil intents any more than Jesus ignored the demoniac in the Gospel. We love the person and hate the evil. We do what we can to restore people to wholeness and to protect and provide for those who cry out for help. For, many of those who are swayed to the way of violence and death have a multitude of mental, physical, social and economic problems that have never been addressed. But, we cannot do it alone for you and I are not god. So, we pray, “O Lord, be not far away; O my help hasten to my aid.”
We pray for God’s help and guidance as we live out our faith. We pray for God’s protection, as we give praise to the Lord. And we wait for that time in which “all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; [and] all the families of nations shall bow before God.”
We wait and we watch. We remember and we pray. We do what we can as we follow the example of our Lord. And, we do not give up hope. For, our Lord hears our pleas and he is not far away.
Believe and trust in the Lord – and may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.