A sermon given on The Second Sunday After Pentecost at the 8am BCP Eucharist and 10.30am Choral Eucharist, by The Reverend Peter Jin, Assistant Priest
Stories of demon possession are difficult to preach on, because most of us don’t experience demons as described in the Bible.
Our demons can be of many kinds: mental illnesses, addictions, destructive habits, and so on. How often do we hear someone say: “I need to face my demons”?
Today’s Gospel reading shows us that the power of God can cast out demons. Jesus steps out of the boat “opposite Galilee”. Thus Jesus deliberately goes into gentile territory, demonstrating that no one is beyond the reach of Christ’s redeeming healing love. The grace of God reaches beyond every barrier that sin has built.
A Gerasene man, a gentile, runs to meet Jesus. While previously Jesus has shown authority to command wind and wave, now the Son of God has power over demons. Jesus liberates and heals the man in body, mind, spirit, and relationships.
Many of us would have questions about this story. Why did Jesus give the demons permission to go into the pigs? Did Jesus want the pigs to drown? How did the pig farmers feel about this? We don’t know the answers to those questions.
What we do know is that this story reveals much about the love of God. So what does that love mean for each of us? What is our experience?
For me, as I look back over a spiritual journey of some 30 years
I do see the love of God and I see how God has brought me along the path I am on today.
After rejecting ultra conservative Christianity in my early 20s,
I stopped going to church. I tended to be a rationalist at that stage of life, and only believed in science, western medicine, and psychology. I was filled with doubts about the supernatural claims of the Christian faith. But I had to admit sometimes I tried to make sense of something which was so clearly beyond what reason can understand.
It was a supernatural phenomenon, yet I still tried to understand with my reason. How stubborn I was. There is nothing wrong with loving reason, fully embracing science and psychology. However, there is a dimension of reality which goes beyond what the sciences can measure.
Our God is a God of creativity. Just look around the ordinary world of nature. There are so many trees and animals and insects.
Then we look up at the stars, the planets, and the galaxies.
When we look down in the ocean, all those zillions of sea creatures. That is God’s absolutely super-abundant creativity.
So do we think it all ends with the physical world? Would it not be reasonable to suppose that God’s creativity extends into a spiritual realm that we cannot see? Why do we think it is only this material world that we can see and measure? Is it not more reasonable
that there are things beyond this material realm?
As you all know, my time here at St Peter’s Cathedral is drawing to a close now. Don’t worry. I am not finishing today. I have applied for a position in another parish. So I have been reflecting on the nature of the priesthood.
Priests, for me, are warriors. Priests lead the fight not against flesh and blood, but as St Paul said against powers and principalities, and against the rulers of the darkness of this world. Sometimes I ask myself a serious question whether I am ready to die for people who have been entrusted to my care as priest. I know from my heart, I am, but from my head, I say: hold on a minute, I should consult with Wei, my wife first.
You might start to wonder what is wrong with me. Is this an interview rehearsal? I have wandered off the track. So let us get back to the Gospel.
Today’s reading sends a message to all Christians: Just as Jesus went to the Gerasene man, his followers today are called to step out of the boat on the “opposite” side.
The mission of Jesus’ followers is to take the healing and liberating love of God into the world. The Gerasene man, on Jesus’ command, ‘proclaimed throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him’. Can you and I dare to do the same? Amen