Summer of the Spirit who sets us Free
Updated: Jun 19, 2022
Declare how much God has done for you. Stay. Share your good news in your home town. The man who has had demons released wanted to leave, to go and follow Jesus. Jesus had another plan. This Sunday as we hear Luke’s telling of the healing of the demoniac my focus shifted from pigs to scapegoats.
The one who had been possessed by “Legion” served in many ways as a scapegoat in his community. Now healed, demons released, fully clothed and “in his right mind” his neighbors are in awe and quite possibly deeply afraid. The community asks Jesus to leave. In the Message translation we read, “too much change, too fast and they were scared.”
This one formerly possessed would like to go with Jesus. It’s hard to stay. It’s hard to be seen in a new way even when you are no longer naked and afraid yourself, no longer living among the tombs or being shackled or being overtaken by forces of evil. Now to stay and declare how much God has done for you- to people who may not really want to hear it? That seems like a very big ask. Following Jesus sometimes means “growing where you are planted”, staying. And when it is asked the means to answer and to live it out are provided by the Spirit of Truth and Love.
It’s a curious story that most likely was shared and repeated in a time that early Christians needed the reminder that the Empire- the Legion will not have the last word. They got to hear how Jesus was unafraid of one possessed by Legion. It tells of the love of God triumphing over evil- perhaps a nod to horses and chariots being consumed by a sea that is no longer parted. (those folks would be familiar with freedom from the captivity of slavery)
Healing is freedom; freedom from being the town’s scapegoat, freedom from a need to be shackled and chained, excluded, left to live on the outskirts by the tombs. Reading it this time I was struck by how it was the one possessed, the one in need, the one filled with demons who met Jesus at the shore. The story that follows in the next verses in Luke 8 has Jesus welcomed by a whole crowd eager to meet him when he goes to the next town.
The town folks of Gerasene, only heard about all that Jesus had done second hand. That Jesus called out the evil - the demons and cast them into the pigs who then went over the cliff is an odd story. For those folks in that town who now saw the way, way, way outsider of their town sitting at the feet of Jesus fully clothed and in his right mind it creates fear and desire for things to return to "normal". They want Jesus to leave.
This time reading it, my heart was struck by the fear of those who no longer had someone to scapegoat, to compare themselves to, to exclude. I thought of that phrase of how we would stay with the pain and discomfort we know rather than have a situation change for the unknown. Now the townsfolk are afraid and want Jesus to leave. Perhaps more comfortable with the chaos of a scapegoat running around the tombs naked rather than a man from their own home town, who now is declaring how much God has done. Was it too much too quick? Or now a time they would have to face their own demons.
Allowing this text to speak into my life, in our Wednesday morning Lectio, I was reminded by one of the wise members of our community how we can put on the whole armor of God to protect us from the evil that wants to invade our hearts and minds and tells us to stick with the pain we know. Jesus with us, removing from us anything and everything that gets in the way of God’s love - too good to be true, too hard to believe, unthinkable. Too much too quick? An incorrect belief that we somehow have to earn it or deserve it or be worthy of it? There are so many demons that get in the way.
As we read through the text several times it spoke to me about some of my current trials and challenges in the face of evil. In some of our confessions we use words such as "we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.” To be set free from those demons is not of our own doing. Release from captivity takes the amazing grace and power of love of God in Jesus. I was in need of hearing God’s words of reconciliation and love to set me free.
During the sharing about the “armor of God” I was reminded of how over the years, I have drawn upon an updated image of the armor of God speaking of it as my hazmat suit. The words of another helped spark that memory and remind me of resources, gifts and tools to draw upon to help set me free. An invitation to freedom, to be free was shared by the reflections and insights of another. A domino effect in many ways happens of how God's grace and forgiveness spread among us.
This summer as we focus on the Summer of the Spirit, I look forward to hearing from others of how the Holy Spirit is alive and at work in their lives. When together we have the courage to stay we can be in relationships where we can speak the truth in love to one another declaring all that God has done for us.
Our shared stories become holy stories of healing and wholeness, forgiveness and freedom. When we take the risk in our own hometown communities to declare how much God has done for us- the love of God expands in our hearts and minds. We learn from one another how to identify ways to let God’s love keeps us safe, how to not identify the evil behaviors of others as being their essence. We get to be free people who free people as we declare all that God has done for us.