Posted on Sun, Jun 19, 2016
June 18, 2016
Service of Healing
Gospel Text: Luke 8:26-39 “Name Your Chains”
Jesus Heals the Gerasene Demoniac
26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’— 29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30 Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. 31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.
What an amazing group of texts for today. We have a text about Jesus going to a place he normally would not travel to, in order to free demon possessed man, who has been uncontrollable even when bound with chains and shackles, living amongst the dead, and terrorizing a non-Jewish town/region. Luke gives us no reason as to why Jesus suddenly decided to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to visit the land of the Gerasenes, but he does. The only reason I could think of was to demonstrate the power and compassion of God to his disciples by going to this very different place in order to exorcise a legion of demons from this poor man. After fulfilling this particular mission, Jesus doesn't stay long as he has not made any friends among the swine herders in that region, and he immediately returns to familiar grounds. But the man who was freed from the demons, essentially healed from his demons and chains, now has an amazing story to tell about this experience about being freed from demons by this rabbi from Nazareth. Of course he would like to become one of Jesus’ followers, but Jesus needs the man to TELL HIS STORY about his ENCOUNTER WITH JESUS. The man is so full of joy, there is no fear in his returning to his village, which he terrorized while possessed with demons, to tell the story about Jesus healing him and returning him to being a man with a “right mind.” A man, or woman, with a ‘right mind’ is one who has had a life-giving encounter with God and knows who Jesus/God truly is, in their life.
You have had a life-giving encounter today, you confessed the sins, the chains that separate us from the love of God, and then you have heard the healing and therefore FREEING words of forgiveness.
The other story is actually more familiar for us, not because we have heard it so many times before, but it truly reflects the human condition of rebelliousness in the light of the presence of our merciful Creator God.
Day in day out, humankind repeats the announcement that we are stiff-necked, self-centered and greedy creatures. Willing to kill or be killed in the name of profit, prestige, religion, race, sexual orientation or even for fun. The question is, how patient is our God our Creator and Redeemer.
The prophet Isaiah speaks to us from the perspective of God, the speaker, the text moves from grief to judgment to mercy. The first movement is marked by a kind of absurdity. The God of Isaiah 65 proves to be the kind of God who places God’s self directly into the hands of God’s rebellious chosen:
God says, “I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
To be found by those who did not seek me.
God says, “I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’
To a nation that did not call on my name.”
God says, “I held out my hands all day long
To a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually … who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.”
Finally a ticked off God says, These are a smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all day long. (Isaiah 65: 1-3, 5)
A people who are aware of God’s love and can discern the true heart of God search out or actively wait on a patient and merciful God. But the people of God, for some excuse or another, were not interested in looking for their life-giving God. They weren’t interested in the fact that God was calling them so that they could be in a relationship of freedom, joy and love.
Even God calls out to them by God’s own name, ‘Here I am, here I am.’ But again, the people did even bother calling on God and what God had to offer them.
God, like a good parent or lover holds out God’s hands to welcome and hold us in our loneliness and chains, but rather than looking for healing in God’s mercy and love, they chose their self-help books, Dr. Phil, drugs, alcohol, weapons, cleverness or some other form of self-medication. And the people, who did pay attention to God, only mocked God, right to God’s face. They knew they were speaking to God in mocking God’s ways and God’s leading, even going to the point of saying, “We are too holy even for you God! Go back to your old outdated scriptures, cathedrals and seminaries. You are nothing but a fairly tale written in an outdated time, without wifi and iPhones!
Finally God is honest to us and tells us that our words and actions are like the smoke from a fire that burns our eyes and nose causing us to quickly turn away in disgust and discomfort.
The people’s rebelliousness is like an ever-smoldering fire that keeps burning; giving off the stench of whatever is burning, constantly filling the air with its noxious fumes…
What will come of these rebellious people? Some will perish for they refuse to hear their God and they will only receive that which they desire… chains and demons. But in the end, a word of mercy endures … God will bring forth descendants from Jacob.
6 See, it is written before me: I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their laps
7 their* iniquities and their* ancestors’ iniquities together, says the Lord; because they offered incense on the mountains and reviled me on the hills, I will measure into their laps full payment for their actions.
8 Thus says the Lord: As the wine is found in the cluster, and they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it’, so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all.
Now, I want to move from chains described as a demon, or as just arrogant rebellion, to the chains of emotional bondage.
#7 STEPS TO BREAK THE CHAINS OF EMOTIONAL BONDAGE:
Our thoughts can often become our obstacles, blocking us, from achieving true happiness and spiritual growth. We can become stuck in negative patterns, saying negative things about ourselves, and others. We begin to grow angry and bitter, lashing out on the very ones we love. In essence, we are our problem, but the good news is, we are our answers and God heals. Here are seven simple steps to help you break the cycle of emotional bondage.
#1 MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR PAST~ We all have wounds from our past and by repeatedly thinking about them we reconnect ourselves to the pain. By doing constantly justifying our thoughts and actions with the wounds from the past, we form an injustice to ourselves because this action keeps our wounds open, and our thoughts focused in the past, not the present. They can also become weapons (hurtful words) said in order to inflict pain on others. Forgiveness is about the forgiver and by forgiving what has happened, you allow the door to open again, cutting the strings that bind you to it and move you forward. In Isaiah 43:25 God reminds us that he takes away our transgressions and remembers our sins no more. So why is it, we have such a hard time doing the same? People can be more forgiving that you can imagine. But you have to forgive yourself. Let go and move on.
#2 GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO HEAL~ For some reason we tend to think that being vulnerable is a sign of weakness and avoid it like the plague, when in actuality, it is a sign of strength. We all have wounds from our past and some go deep, and if we do not stop and take the time needed to heal those wounds, we can’t turn them into battle scars of victory. Pretending that your injuries don’t exist is damaging to your mental health and prevents you from being true to yourself. Emotional wounds can sometimes hurt more than physical ones, and they are equally important. “Scars are not injuries,” Tanner Sack. “A scar is healing. After the injury, a scar is what makes you whole.” China Mie`ville
“Only time can heal your broken heart, just as time can heal your broken arm or leg.” ~ Jim Henson.
#3 DON’T CONCERN YOURSELF WITH WHAT OTHERS THINK OF YOU~ Everyone, wants to be liked and fit in, this is part of our nature. Pretending you’re someone your not, out of fear you won’t be accepted or liked, sets you up for a standard you can never reach and a price you will ultimately pay. This action is called “people pleasing” and by doing this you give your power to someone else and you will exhaust yourself, continually looking outward instead of inward. Living without integrity will make you miserable and depressed. “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem be sure that you are not first, in fact, surrounded by assholes.” ~William Gibson. “You’re and ass, I’m and ass,” Anthony de Mello. Remember you were made to shine not to hide your light under a bushel basket Matthew 5:15,16.
#4 BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN HAPPINESS~ The only person that can make you happy is you. Don’t look for someone else to complete you or make or break your day and affect your moods. Don’t wait for situations to make you happy either. Love yourself unconditionally, by accepting yourself right where you are, mistakes and all. Isaiah 43:4 “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” ~ Steve Furtick
#5 DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS~ We all have issues and situations in life, and no matter how good someone else’s life may appear, the grass is not always greener on the side. You may find, they don’t have grass at all, but plastic sod. We all have different talents and gifts, don’t envy those of others, appreciate and value your own. It’s by these different gifts that make us members of the one body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 Surround yourself with people who are aware of your greatness. Believe in yourself and let your faith anchor you.
#6 STOP THINKING NEGATIVE~ You believe what you tell yourself, and there is unstoppable power in your thoughts and your words. They become magnified. If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will. ~ Abraham Lincoln. That includes you. Catch yourself in your negative thinking and reverse the pattern by replacing the negative thought with a positive one. By doing this regularly, you will begin to break the cycle and change your stinking thinking.
#7 BE GRATEFUL~ St. Francis of Assisi, lived gratitude and saw everything as a gift from God, and he was able to accomplish many great things, so great of things, that we are still talking about him and following his ways even today. Pope Francis is an example of following Francis’ way, by simplifying his life, living joy and serving others. He is living gratitude, and you can see it by the joy that he exudes. Being grateful for your blessings on a daily basis changes you. Some would go as far as to say, that it changes you to the point that others can notice the change. The more we focus on our blessings, the more blessings we see. This is the secret behind writing a gratitude journal. You start with one blessing and increase it by one each day and before you know it you’re writing off of the pages.
Following these seven steps and you will begin the process of breaking the chains of emotional bondage. Over time, by consciously repeating the steps, you will begin to see small changes that will increase every day. You will become more aware of your behaviors, bad habits, and responses, which means you are on your way in the process of change. Keep stepping into your best self and enjoy the freedom of being who you were meant to be.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
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