PENTECOST 5, C – June 23, 2013

SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 65:1-9; Galatians 3:23 – 4:7; Luke 8:26-39

In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ… And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Gal. 3 & 4

This past week some very important news was released to the world: the name of Kim Kardashian’s and Kanye West’s newborn daughter. They have named her North: North West. (I wonder if her middle name is Bynorth). So, she now has an audacious moniker to live with, like the unfortunate children of many other celebrities.

North West; Blue Ivy; Fifi Trixibelle – we feel bad for kids who have to bear such names. But, they’re not the worst. The worst name a person has ever had to bear is that which the man from the country of the Gerasenes bore: Legion. It was the name of the demons who possessed the poor man, and a name which revealed the horror of his life. For, Legion was the name of a Roman army regiment which consisted of about 6,000 soldiers and was accompanied by 600 cavalry. A Roman legion inspired terror around the world, for by Jesus’ day the Roman legions had crushed all opposition and established Roman rule from England to North Africa, and from Spain to what is today Turkey and down through Israel to Egypt. Millions lived under the fist of Rome and feared the might of the Roman legions. No wonder the man possessed by the demons named Legion broke even chains and shackles that were placed upon him. How he must have been feared by the people who lived near him! His power and evil could not be contained or controlled.

Until he ran into Jesus. Until he ran to Jesus. In Jesus Legion not only met his match; he met his master. “When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.’ ” Despite all his power and the fear he inspired, Legion could not help himself. His legs were forced to carry him to his doom; his body was forced to fall down; and his mouth was forced to confess the Name he feared. “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” declares Phil. 2:10-11. And then, by the command of Jesus Legion was sent to his doom: into the uncleanness of the pigs, and then into the abyss of the depths of the sea. Jesus, the Son of the Most High God, crushes His enemies!

And, you bear His name. “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:26-27) The Most High God gave you His Son’s great name in your baptism. He clothed you with Christ. Do you realize what this means?
  • Before you the demon hosts must fall. Your victory over them is assured, for you are children of the Most High God! He has given you His Son’s mighty name! You must allow nothing to possess you and fill your heart, for you are Christ’s. There are many things besides demons which seek to do so. Some are obviously bad: things like drugs, alcohol, and pornography. Others are not bad in and of themselves, but can consume us; such as video games and other entertainments. Then, there are even good things, such as work or hobbies, which can fill our hearts and leave no room for Christ. You must allow none of this, for you are children of the Most High God and bear the mighty name of Christ!
  • God’s own Law cannot determine your future or condemn you, for you are sons. “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Gal. 3)    
       Think of it this way: Do you remember what happened in the Garden after Adam and Eve sinned? God not only came and confronted them with their sin. He forgave them. He promised to send a Savior who would rescue them from the devil and from their sin. And then, as a sign of His forgiveness, He clothed them to cover the shame of their nakedness. In baptism we are clothed with Jesus. Just as our clothing hides our nakedness from one another, Baptism hides our sins from God. He does not see them but sees Jesus, His holy and beloved Son. He sees us as His beautiful children!
  • As children of the Most High God, you also have a great inheritance. The riches of heaven and eternal life with your heavenly Father are yours as His baptized children!
Believe this, for it is true. All of this God graciously gives you in your baptism into Christ. 

Now, go forth and live this. Bear the name of Jesus before others. This is what the Son of God has given us to do. “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you,” Jesus told the formerly demon-possessed man. He knew what Jesus meant. He had felt his tormenting demons tremble at Jesus’ presence. He had heard them confess Jesus to be the very Son of the Most High God. He had been rescued from their torment and filled with peace and joy when Jesus banished them from him. He knew who the God was who had done so much for him! And so, he didn't just proclaim God. “He went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”

Do the same. Jesus is the true God, the saving God; and there is no other. Don’t be ashamed to say this. Be ashamed to not say this! And, although it is true that we are free from God’s Law – it does not condemn us who are baptized into Christ and believe in Him, and we do not have to follow it to gain God’s favor, for it is in our Baptism that we are received as His children – even so, God’s Law is good, for it is from God. It is a good guide for living a life which is good and pleasing to God. Learn God’s good Law, His commandments, and strive to do them. Do not give the devil a foothold in your life by doing what he would have you do instead!

And then, be at peace. Be happy and joyful! You who believe and are baptized are God’s children. Nothing can ever overcome you!

What a difference knowing this makes. Thursday afternoon I sat in a room at the hospital with Anne Beluk and Pat O’Shaughnessy and talked with the doctors about what could be done for June. We heard the bleak prospect that there was most likely nothing that they could to restore June to health. So, the decision was made to entrust her to her Savior – before whom death and hell tremble, and in whom they are vanquished! It was not death that was embraced, but eternal life in Christ. The certainty of that life gave us all peace in the midst of turmoil and joy in the midst of tears. As we sat with June we saw what our earthly eyes can see: we saw her breathe her last. With the eyes of faith we saw sin and weakness and mortality and death flee from her and rush down the hill to be drowned forever.

Abba! Father! Thanks and praise to You forever, who with Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and the Holy Spirit live and reign, God forever! Amen.