Monday, 21 September 2015

Sermon September 20, 2015: The16th Sunday after Trinity

Today’s Gospel is an account of Jesus raising someone from the dead.   If I was to ask you about an account of Jesus doing this, many people would think of Lazarus.  In many ways the account today of Jesus is not as dramatic as that account.  After all there is much more drama in the story of Lazarus.  He is a good friend of Jesus and he delays his arrival at Lazarus’ tomb much to the dismay of Mary and Martha Lazarus’ sister.  Indeed Jesus weeps when he sees their distress.  One of the two times we are told Jesus does this. 

However, there is, of course, drama in today’s Gospel.  Jesus and his disciples arrive at Nain and they are met with what seems to be a funeral procession carrying the corpse of a young man.  Jesus is moved by the distress of the man’s mother and without being asked raises the man from death.  This is, like the story of Lazarus, a dramatic account of the power of death being defeated and is a foretaste of the Easter story. 

One of the interesting, dramatic aspects of the story for me is something that might well be missed.  We are told that when the crowd sees what Jesus has done they begin to fear him.  This is not the usual reaction to the miraculous deeds of Jesus.  Often they are singing Jesus’ praise.  Well actually that is what they do here.  What do they do as a result of their fear?  Do they run away and hide?  Do they see Jesus as a threat and threaten to stone him?  Actually, they glorify God—in effect they are thanking God for the sending a great prophet to them to perform these wonderful deeds.  That is not the way we normally react to fear.

Let’s look at another example of how people reacted to Jesus’ miraculous actions as reported in Luke 8: 26-38.  Jesus is in country of the Gerasenes and exorcises a man who is possesses by an unclean spirt or spirits whose name is Legion.  He sends the spirit into a large herd of swine who run off a cliff and are killed.  How did these people react to his making the possessed man whole—a man they had known all his life who was so possessed that, “For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs.  We are told that:
37Then 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.

Now they might have been more concerned with the death of the swine.  They might have been afraid that their lives would be disrupted by this miracle performing rabble rousing rabbi.  In any case the Gerasenes wanted nothing to do with Jesus.  And Jesus acceded to their request.  They probably didn’t ask him very politely.  People who are seized with fear don’t usually exchange pleasantries.  They probably wanted to run him out of town on a proverbial rail.
So here we have two very similar events—two miracles performed by Jesus.  The effect on those who see it are similar but also different.  They both become afraid.  And yet they respond is different ways.  One glorifies God giving thanks for the wonders that Jesus performs.  The other demand that Jesus get out of town immediately.

 The question for us today is how are we going to react and respond to the Good News of Jesus Christ in our lives?  Make no mistake, the message and reality of Jesus will have a profound effect on our lives—if we take it seriously and try to follow him.  Both groups in Nain and the Gerasenes were afraid because they knew that Jesus was dangerous.  He was a man from God and could do powerful, miraculous things that could radically change the lives of people he come into contact with.  The Gerasenes were afraid that he would disrupt the economic foundation of their lives – a very valuable possession—the large herd of swine had been destroyed.  If we take Jesus seriously our lives are going to be completely disrupted.  We are going to love our enemies; we may have to sell our possessions and give the money to the poor; we are going to turn the other cheek when someone strikes us; we may drop our nets and leave our boats and follow him; we may have to turn our back on our families and our families will become the other followers of Jesus.   There is no wonder that the Gerasenes drove him out of town.

Make no mistake about it, Jesus is dangerous.  Jesus can and does change lives in radical ways.  You know what happens to radicals in our society; we kill them just as Jesus was killed.  The choice is ours; we can run Jesus out of town on a rail or we can glorify God giving thanks that we have Jesus as our Messiah and Saviour and live and our lives accordingly in radical ways.  Thanks be to God.  

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