Luke 8:23-39 & Psalm 42-32
Frayed nerves; adrenaline still pumping in their veins. The disciples are recovering from the harrowing experience of a near death experience at sea. The picture Luke draws is of strong winds whipping up high waves and their boat being swamped to the point of sinking. And Jesus is asleep. Picture the boat being tossed like a cork in a washing machine. The wild-eyed disciples are soaked to the bone and terrified. They huddle down gripping the edges of the boat to hang on. And Jesus is sound asleep.
Luke writes his gospel with the purpose of helping to know and understand the wonderful power of love of Jesus. Luke wants to grip our imagination, grab our hearts as well as instruct our minds.
The storm is intense. The disciples are in fear of drowning at sea. They shout at Jesus, wake Him up. “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Jesus awakes, stands up in the rocking boat and commands the wind and waves to cease. Just like that the wind stops and the sea is calm. Jesus’ disciples are overwhelmed with wonder and awe.
That is where our gospel reading for today picks up. Put yourselves in the disciples place. Soaked and frazzled, still getting over their thought that they were dying while Jesus slept. The land their boat on the shores of a Gentile area called Gerasenes and are immediately met with a loud and scary naked wild man who rushes at them. The man is not after them. He has come to Jesus. He is demon possessed, “out of his mind” and wild. When Jesus asks the demon’s name it responds, “Legion.” Jesus commands the demons to leave the man. They beg Him to not send them back into the abyss, but to let them enter the large herd of pigs nearby. Jesus grants their request. The huge herd runs pellmell down a steep slope into the lake. They all drown.
The men keeping the herd run away to the nearby town telling the owners and everyone else what has happened. Soon a large crowd came to see for themselves. The crazy man that no one could control is now sitting at Jesus’ feet, clothed and in his right mind—completely healed. That, in itself is amazing! Yet, the loss of all those animals was a huge financial loss. They urged Jesus to leave.
Jesus starts getting back into the boat to leave with His disciples and the man pleads with Jesus to let him go with Him too. Jesus instead tells the man to go back home and tell everyone what great things God has done. He does just that and fills the town and community with the news of what Jesus has done for him.
It seems that Jesus came solely for the purpose of saving and healing this man. And then encourages him to go back home—bloom where you are plantged—tell everyone what God has done for you! And this man does just that, filling the town and countryside with the news of Jesus’ love and power!
Luke’s purpose is to help us discover and encounter the power of Jesus in our hearts and lives as well. I also imagine Luke hopes we will also tell everyone what God has done through Jesus!
The noted author, John Killinger, tells a powerful story about a man who is all-alone in a hotel room in Canada. The man is in a state of deep depression. He is so depressed that he can’t even bring himself to go downstairs to the restaurant to eat.
He is a powerful man usually the chairman of a large shipping company but at this moment, he is absolutely overwhelmed by the pressures and demands of life… and he lies there on a lonely hotel bed far from home wallowing in self-pity.
All of his life, he has been fastidious, worrying about everything, anxious and fretful, always fussing and stewing over every detail. And now, at mid-life, his anxiety has gotten the best of him, even to the extent that it is difficult for him to sleep and to eat.
He worries and broods and agonizes about everything, his business, his investments, his decisions, his family, his health, even, his dogs. Then, on this day in this Canadian hotel, he craters. He hits bottom. Filled with anxiety, completely immobilized, paralyzed by his emotional despair, unable to leave his room, lying on his bed, he moans out loud: “Life isn’t worth living this way, I wish I were dead!”
And then, he wonders, what God would think if he heard him talking this way. Speaking aloud again he says, “God, it’s a joke, isn’t it? Life is nothing but a joke.” Suddenly, it occurs to the man that this is the first time he’s talked to God since he was a little boy. He is silent for a moment and then he begins to pray. He describes it like this: “I just talked out loud about what a mess my life was in and how tired I was and how much I wanted things to be different in my life. And you know what happened next? A voice!! I heard a voice say, ‘It doesn’t have to be that way!’ That’s all.”
He went home and talked to his wife about what happened. He talked to his brother who is a minister and asked him: “Do you think it was God speaking to me?” The brother said: “Of course, because that is the message of God to you and everyone of us. That’s the message of the Bible. That’s why Jesus Christ came into the world to save us, to deliver us, to free us, to change us and to show us that ‘It doesn’t have to be that way.’ A few days later, the man called his brother and said, “You were right. It has really happened. I’ve done it. I’ve had a rebirth. I’m a new man. Christ has turned it around for me.”
The man’s circumstances do not change. But he is changed. During the week, he often leaves his work-desk and goes to the church near his office. He sits there and prays. He says: “It clears my head. It reminds me of who I am and whose I am. Each time as I sit there in the Sanctuary, I think back to that day in that hotel room in Canada and how depressed and lonely and lost I felt and I hear that voice saying: It doesn’t have to be that way.’”
We take encouragement from stories like this. We live in a world that seems to be teetering on the brink of collapse. War and untold carnage and death in Ukraine. Political chaos here in the states. Shortages and climbing prices at the grocery store and gas station. Covid is still ravaging our world. And now we are facing the very real threat of recession.
Dr. Russell Moore in his book, Adopted for Life of going to an orphanage in Russia as they were in the process of pursuing adoption. The silence from the nursery was eerie. The babies in the cribs never cried. Not because they never needed anything, but because they had learned that no one cared enough to answer. Children who are confident of the love of a caregiver cry. For the Christian, our lament, when taken to our Father in heaven, is proof of our relationship with God, our connection to a great Caregiver.
Psalms 42 and 43, which are often understood to be meant as one psalm gives expression to our feelings of despair. The psalmist gives honest expression of despair, but does not stop there! They engage in “self-talk,” a very healthy form of prayer. They pour out their complaint and then says I won’t give up on hope, or in trusting the goodness of God. Even in tough times the psalmist says I will still praise God! “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my help and my God.”
Don’t be afraid of letting God know how you feel! Give yourself permission to lament. Pour out your angst and chaotic emotions to God. God will listen and care! But do not stop there. Move on to hope and praise. No problem is too big or tough for God…no storms at sea, no sinking boats no wild crazy people that scare us, or demons that we struggle with that overwhelm us. God can handle all that and us. Jesus has us! “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my help and my God.”
In Jesus’ name. Amen.