Fourth Sunday after Pentecost 20 June 2010
(Isaiah 65:1-9 Psalm 22 Galatians 3:23-29 Luke 8:26-39)
“Love In the Ruins”
Pigs and tombs—both of them unclean to the Jews—and we have both in today’s Gospel text!
We hear of a man who lives in a cemetery wearing nothing but his birthday suit. We hear of demons living in this man who then ask permission to go live in a herd of pigs. We hear Jesus giving permission to the demons to move to this new venue. And, we then hear that when the demons come out of the man and go live in the pigs, the herd of pigs immediately goes bizarre and runs headlong over a steep cliff into a lake where they all are drown.
Finally, we hear of the man who, meanwhile, decides to put his clothing on, and asks permission to go with Jesus.
But Jesus tells the homeless man to go home, “no,” Jesus says, “you need to go to your own home, instead, and declare how much God has done for you.”
A story with some pretty rough edges, yet with a tender ending. I think it absolutely beautiful to hear Jesus say to the man, “go home and declare how much God has done for you!” Go home and proclaim the Good News! That’s a critical twist at the ending of the story!
But sometimes it’s hard to declare all that God has done for us when we are naked, infested with demons, and living in a cemetery surrounded by tombs!
One of my favorite Southern writers is a man by the name of Walker Percy. In the early 1970s he wrote a novel, where the setting is a world filled with catastrophe, a world where church life has splintered, where the country has fallen into a bunker mentality, a world where no one really wants any real change. The population has split into small enclaves of like-minded, antagonistic rebels.
The main character is a man by the name of Dr. Tom More, who realizes that too often “bad times generate bad solutions,” and he is determined to prevent that from happening.
The name of this novel is, Love in the Ruins. Walker Percy’s premise is that, even in the most difficult and bleakest times of our lives, there is love to be found.
It’s a bit of a weird novel, but the author tries to remind us that in our personal lives or on a larger scale, most often our very wounds and ruins become the catalyst of redemption.
But, oh boy, that is so easy to miss!
I think that’s what Anne Lamott was trying to say when she wrote: “I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kinds of things; also, I wish that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace’s arrival. But no, it’s clog and slog…on the floor, in silence, in the dark.”
It’s really easy to miss grace and healing when we’re clogging and slogging along through life!
To confess our sins is at the same time to reaffirm God’s grace. To say what’s wrong with world is also to recall what’s right. To gaze with wonder at the height of a mountain is, so to speak, to be aware of the floor of the valley in which we stand.
To go home and “declare all that God has done for you” stands on the belief that there is love among the ruins of our lives.
I think of the Aryan Nation being in Gettysburg this weekend and how this can push us in a redemptive way to work for greater unity within our community with all united in support of equality for all people. I think of the massive destructive outcomes of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and our need to begin personal changes in our living habits and life styles.
I think of the members from this congregation who spent this past week at a work camp in Ohio, and several other members who were in El Salvador this past week working on a Habitat for Humanity mission trip. We cannot lose sight of the many people who get up each morning and go to work and encourage healing and reconciliation and wholeness, life and love simply by doing their daily jobs.
In the Gospel story, Jesus is in control of the demons. This reminds us that we are never powerless to proclaim the goodness of God before any demons of this world because we have been signed and sealed at Baptism with the cross of Jesus Christ.
St. Paul speaks eloquently in his Letter to the Galatians that in Christ, we are freed from anything that restricts the gospel freedom of our lives. Baptism is like changing clothes, or maybe it’s like putting on clothes, the clothes of the new creation, coming out from among the tombs, into a new freedom where we can find the love of a living God, even when, and most when our world seems more like a cemetery than a maternity ward.
Praise be to the One who breaks the darkness so that we might declare all the good God has done for us! Amen.