Sermon for the 2nd Sunday Following Pentecost – 06-19-2022
1st Kings 19-1-4, [5-7], 8-15; Psalm 42 – 43; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39
Before I begin this morning, let me first wish all of you a Happy Father’s Day. Certainly we have many fathers here, but there are those whom may never have had the privilege to be called by this name before.
Our lesson from 1st Kings reveals to us that Elijah had defeated Jezebel’s gods, making a mockery of those she revered. Elijah received a messenger from Jezebel, telling him: “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Make no doubt about it, she was threatening to make a mockery out of him and his god. He had made it out into the desert and God saw him asleep under a tree, exhausted and through a quiet reflection of an almost silent whisper. He reassured His servant. Instead of revealing Himself in a spectacular way, God seeks the private rod of faith and openness of heart. God’s word may come to us in speech to our inner ear or through a dream. The word may one to communicate to God’s people or as in this case to direct one’s personal life.
In our Psalms this morning, the idea of God as a living God was truly important to God’s Old Testament people. The gods of the nations were very often wooden or fashioned stone idols, having no apparent life at all. By contrast the Hebrew people had a God that was alive and active for His people. In the everyday life to these people hope was a fleeting thing, but true hope looks beyond trouble and oppression to a future time when praise will replace grief. Such language also can express the fuller revelation of heaven and the endless praises made possible there. These people didn’t need another wood or stone representation to worship, they needed God, regardless of where they were, that they could instinctively turn to, whenever they were faced with spiritual issues.
Beloved, I submit to you that the true feeling of abandonment by the believer was also the moment of faith, as they confess the closeness of God, the kinship between Creator and creature, and the assurance that God would save again and I believe this to be true today, more than ever before.
Yesterday, Bob Moody (in our Brotherhood of St. Andrews weekly meeting) talked about being in Japan while in the service and took a hike up to Mt. Fuji, and that it was a place where churches were located inside the mouth of the volcano. This gives new meaning to faith, I’m sure. In the Old Testament days, many mountains were places for worshiping. The mountains are not holy of themselves. God is holy. Other persons or objects may acquire holiness by virtue of being in relationship with God. The very name of God in Greek is Abba, kind of like calling God, Daddy!
Our Lesson from Galatians is a favorite of mine and very descriptive of our relationship with Him. Much of the Old Testament is a historical depiction of the peoples relationship with God, and learning to be obedient to Him. The laws were to help us atone for our sins, and keep us out of trouble with God. It became very legalistic and at times the priests had to explain them and if they could not explain actions that had taken place within the laws, they made up one that would work. It was cold and sometimes harsh, but it was the part maturing of a people that was attempting to lead them from sin natures to spiritual ones. It was taking down the barriers between God and His people and creating an atmosphere religious awareness of who they are. They are God’s people and like today as we gather in church, we become the community of God. All of us who claim to be Christians realize that we are unified in God and the barriers that used to separate us lose the strength that they used to have. We all have access to God equally, because we have, through our baptism of faith become brothers and sisters in Christ and are therefore now sons and daughters of God.
So though we once had sinful natures, we now become humans with a Christian nature. This does not mean all of the barriers simply go away, it means that we now recognize God as our Creator and the Lord Jesus Christ as His Son and our brother; seeking to work against barriers that separated us. We are adopted sons and daughters of Almighty God, a Father who seeks to be in an intimate relationship with His children, all of us.
Our Gospel this morning from Luke Jesus and His disciples are sailing towards the region of the Gerasenes, across the lake from Galilee. A man who was demon-possessed; he had not worn clothes for a long time and had been kept chained up as not to hurt anyone. Upon seeing Jesus he cried out, “Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” Jesus had commanded the evil 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, had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places. Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” because many demons had gone into him. And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. Instead Jesus used God’s power and the demons begged Jesus to let them go out of the man and into a heard of pigs feeding there on a hillside and the herd rushed down a steep bank into the lake and were drowned. Word spread quickly and the people from the area came to Jesus and saw the man who had been possessed, wearing clothes and sitting at Jesus’ feet, in his right mind. The people saw all of this and asked Jesus to leave, as they were filled with fear, so Jesus went to the boat, and the man asked to go with Jesus, but He told him to let people see how he had been cured. Jesus’ instruction were simple, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” And the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.
Earlier I told you I would expand on how I define a father. Some families do not have fathers, for a variety of reasons, and yet others step in to fulfill the duties. Sometimes it is a grandfather or Uncle that step forward to help out, as best as they can. I have two sons whom I love dearly, but Pat and I also have a dozen Godchildren. Like many others, I have coached many teams of boys and girls, as their weren’t enough volunteers to coach teams. I proudly consider them all my children and we treated them with love and discipline, some of which went on to greater things than sports. I have mentored children in high schools for years, like so many of you here today. As a Police Chaplain, I have come into contact with many children in terrible situations they had nothing to do with, but were hurt nonetheless. I have worked in maximum security prisons up to a few years ago, working again with young men and some not so old, who have done terrible things in their lives, but now rejoice and sing praises to God inside prison walls. I have work in hospice care both as a care giver and a chaplain. I have worked in hospital ministry, which involves working with the patients and their families.
I tell you these things, because a mentor I had before entering seminary, told me that I needed to know about as much as I could about all of these things, so that I could help congregations get out and work within our communities. It’s not important that I have done this work, it’s important that I can help others in our parish to do this work as well. Saint Richards is known for its community work, some of which I helped to start several years ago.
You might say why is this important and that’s a fair question. My answer is because we are Christians, and this is the work we are called to do for the greatest Father of all. In exchange, He wants to have a daily relationship with Him. He wants to share in our lives, in both the good and the bad days that we have. He is our Father, and for all He has blessed us with, we are His prized possessions. He loves us enough to not give us what we deserve, but instead, to give us more than we can imagine. So on this Father’s Day, have a walk with Him; talk with Him, and let Him know just how much you love Him too. Amen