Sermon delivered on Trinity 1C, Sunday, June 23, 2019 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.
If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.
Lectionary texts: 1 Kings 19.1-15a; Psalms 42-43; Galatians 3.23-29; Luke 8.26-39.
In this story we see the power of God, and how by a word He can cast out demons. We see the ultimate powerlessness of the demons. We see how fearful they are of our savior, and we see how incredibly evil they are toward man and even unto beasts. We also see something that should make us fear, so that we do not become like these people – we see the brutishness, the swinishness of unbelievers. It is amazing how these people reacted to a great miracle in their midst. And there is another lesson here, a terrible lesson, a necessary lesson in free will. God created us so that we would know Him, but He has not forced us to follow His commandments. Some choose to follow His commandments, and some choose to ask Him to leave. He will indeed leave those who ask Him to leave …
Now, why did he possess devils? This is a question that is very difficult to answer. Different people might have devils for different reasons. St. Mary Magdalene had seven devils.[i] This was not because of unrighteousness. In her case, the devil, who thinks he is so intelligent, was fooled, and he thought that she was to be the bearer of Christ, so he inhabited her, against her will with demons, in order to make her fall into fornication (she never did, by the way). And she suffered grievously from these demons. Our Lord cast these demons out of her, and she followed him till the end of her days.
Of course, the man’s voice was being used by the demons. Demons enter into the body and mind of God’s children. And use God’s children for the destruction and death. We can overcome the evil temptations with the prayer and God’s mighty touch. God makes us whole as we obey Him.
Demons know that they will be cast into the abyss. They know that they will be tormented, and they ARE NOT GOING TO CHANGE. That is where their fear comes in. In the midst of their impudence, they are terrified, because they see the God-man standing before them.
Some people are also like the demons. They KNOW Who He is, and they know something of the commandments of God, BUT THEY DON’T WANT TO CHANGE. Because of this, they are afraid. This is not the fear of God that brings forth wisdom [ii], but the fear of a man who does wrong and does not want to change.
“Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear:”[iii]
Tragic! Absolutely tragic! They had the God-man among them, and He had showed them what was wrong with their life, in a quite gentle way, and they wanted nothing of Him. They did not want Him around.
Evil hates the light. Evil does not want to be around the light, partly because it does not understand it. St. John talks about this: “In him”, that is, in Christ, “was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”[iv] There are those who just don’t understand, and I tell you, most people who do not understand do not WANT to understand, because if you understand, you must go to the next step, and you must ACT IN ACCORDANCE WITH YOUR UNDERSTANDING! People don’t want to do that. Even people who call themselves Christians don’t want to do that. And all of us, to some extent, in some way, try to cover up knowledge, so we don’t have to act in accordance with that knowledge.
This is part of the reason why confession is so important. It is so easy to hide within ourselves our sins, but it is much more difficult when we are required to tell them to someone else, especially if that person questions, and asks, and even challenges. At least, if we have enough shame so that we will not tell lies then, God will show us what is truly wrong with us.
It also says about those who do and do not want to follow Christ,
“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.”[v]
There is no hiding from the knowledge of God. You can delay it for some period of time, but eventually, all things will be made known [vi], all things will be made manifest. All sins will be made known, and those sins that have been unconfessed, those sins that have been hidden and hoarded will cause great pain, and will gnaw at us in the next life if we do not repent.
He offered them salvation, and they denied Him. So He said, “All right, I will leave’. And God will leave, and the Holy Spirit will leave from us, when we do not prepare a place for Him, and repent of our sins, so as to keep that place clean, and garnished. If you don’t want Him, He will leave.
The Work of Salvation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had as its final goal to free man from the bondage and the tyranny of the evil one, Satan. With man’s fall into sin, day after day, year after year, he was drifting far away from God, falling more and more into the traps of the enemy. Mankind became enslaved to the devil. The peak of this tyranny is achieved, when man is possessed by evil spirits.
When the evil spirit possesses man’s soul, then it rules over both his soul and body, in other words man’s whole existence. Man acts whatever Satan tells him to do, without having understanding of what he says or does. Man’s soul and conscience are paralyzed by the evil forces and are unable to react against them. Man lives the greatest misery of his existence.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for the love towards man, came to free him. He came to meet with every man. He came to discuss with us and to guide us back to God the Father.
So this man, who was cured of demons, had to embark upon the life of virtue now. Now that he had removed from him this impediment that made it so difficult for his to believe and to act virtuously, he OWED Christ obedience, and he gave it freely, as we can see in the Gospel. He desired very greatly to follow Him, but our Lord, for reasons known only to Him, refused him, and asked him to be an apostle in that area by proclaiming what great things God had done for him.
Every man, who lives far away from Christ, lives in the dessert of sin, of slavery, under Satan’s tyranny. Far away from Christ, as much as we may be proud of ourselves, there can be no true freedom. Man is tied with chains and the bondage of sinful passions. Man, who lives in sin, deprives himself from the Life-giving Grace of the Holy Spirit. Life, which is far away from Christ, is barren of virtuous and the man’s spirit is fruitless. A certain person was sharing his life experience. As a young adult got good job as an engineer and had very good amount money. He was enjoying his life with his girlfriend without any commitment and when she told him that she was pregnant and he decided to abort the baby. But his conscious was hunting him that he committed sin. But latter in his life when he decided to fear God, he married his girlfriend and tried to live good life accepting Jesus as the Lord and savior. He says “without Jesus and His teaching for any one’s life sure to fall in sin. Therefore without any delay accept Jesus to be your Lord and God.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in today’s Holy Gospel assured us saying, that every tree which does not bear fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire, because it is useless and not profitable. He also assured us that, if we want to bear fruit, we must be united with Him, for only then one bears many fruit, if he remains with Him. For without Christ we cannot achieve anything.
At this point we must speak about the great deception of many Christians, who created a false image of themselves and they live within a false belief, believing, that they could be “good Christians” without living the life of Christ, without Church attendance, without Holy Confession and Repentance, without Holy Communion, without the blessing of their marriage. They create a false image of themselves, which satisfies only their egocentric and egoistic personality. And though they boast about themselves, they are deprived essentially from every virtue.
Man, who does not follow Christ, His Holy Church, and does not participate in the Holy Sacraments of God, lives in the hell of guilt, anxiousness and is always troubled,. Therefore, we see men, who are enslaved to sin, to want to find some kind of deliverance from the tyranny of their conscience. They find refuge at night clubs or the casino believing that they will forget or will not hear the voice of their conscience, which cries out to them, that: “This is not the way and purpose of our life”!
The man who has not met with Christ, in order to ask for his healing from the spiritual illnesses, is like today’s demon possessed man, who, before being healed by the Savior Christ, was completely in the hands of the demons. How many fellow men, how many of us, how many of our relatives or friends, how many of our children are still under the tyranny of evil spirits and are enslaved in sinful passions of the flesh, bound by hatred, pride, unmerciful, greed and so many other passions? How many young people are overcome by the spirit of disobedience and contradiction to their parents, not respecting their own families and social surroundings?
The man who avoids meeting with Christ is like the cemetery which is decorated with beautiful tombs, but is empty and deprived from life. On the contrary, the man who meets with Christ is freed from the catastrophic influence of sin. The bonds of passions are crushed. The tyranny of the demons is abolished and man is healed by God’s Love within His Holy Church and through the Divine Grace of the Holy Spirit, which is freely offered through the participation of the Holy Sacraments. The man in Christ finds himself. He comes to reasoning and becomes a new man, a new creation. The sinful man is transfigured into a holy man, fulfilling God’s Plan for man, to become in His “likeness”.
When man of the 21st century meets with Christ, speaks and relates with Him, then he departs from the desert of sin, he becomes free from the bondage of hatred and discovers his spiritual peace and calmness. The Lord has taught us saying: “Learn from me, that I am meek and humble in heart and you will find peace in your souls”.
I would like to reflect the scripture that we heard today from the book of 1st kings where prophet Elijah proved that God- Yahweh is true Living Almighty God by calling Fire from heaven on his alter and killed all the false prophets at mount Carmel and priests. This is the calling we all need to desire for. I personally praying earnestly God to bless me with the grace to prove to the world that Jesus is only true Lord and God. Prophet Elijah had to run for life because of wicked queen Jezebel who wishes to kill him. You know how God protected prophet and took care of his food! He was given food by an angel then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights. See the amazing words of prophet he says “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the Lord, the God of hosts. We need to have this kind of character being zealous for the Lord God whole heartedly. The heart’s desire can testify to the world that God the Yahweh is the creator of the universe. Another important reflection from today’s scripture is that an angel telling the prophet to out and stand on the mountain of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by. God is passing by like gentle whispering breeze.
Dear friends, do you realize what happened in the gospel today? When Jesus was passing by their town casting out the demons, though they saw miracle yet they asked Jesus to leave their town. Jesus is passing by through many good people, sometime in the form of poor and the sick. Let us recognize Jesus in them and extend our love.
St. Paul to Galatians we heard “we are justified by faith.” So friends, never to lose our faith even in the times of temptations and trails. I personally experienced the Lord’s touch of healing, protection, his strength and grace to me. You will experience incredible things happen once you have Faith in Jesus Christ.
May the Lord Jesus increase our Faith. Amen.