VERSION 1: FULL VERSION
VERSION 2: Part 1 of 2 parts
VERSION 2: Part 2 of 2 parts
“The Goal of Standing Against Evil”
June 19, 2016:
The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 7)
Isaiah 65: 1 – 9/Psalm 40: 1 – 11/Galatians 3: 23 – 29/
Luke 8: 26 - 39
Fr. Gary W. Thurman
Happy Father's Day! And what a great gospel for Father’s Day! I was hoping for a Gospel about a father who is taking care of his son, and instead we have here a gospel about a maniac - how is this going to apply to Father’s Day? Actually it does, very strongly. There is a very clear word for the fathers and for the children – both the spiritual children in the flock of the Cathedral of the King, and the natural children sired from the loins of the fathers.
In the gospel reading there are two hallmarks that prove that something wrong was with the man who was famous for being very dangerous and not normal, crazy and demon-possessed. The two things that marked him as being crazy were: one, he did not wear clothes; two, he did not stay at home.
If this story were written today, it would have to be changed. It would go something like: "There was a man who wore all his clothes all the time, and who was at home all day. He was at home for breakfast, for lunch, and for dinner. He was home to greet the children when they came home from school. He was there involved in the family all the time." We would look at this guy and say, “Maybe, he is demon-possessed. He is crazy because he always stays at home.” Nobody stays at home or wears proper clothing anymore. This would be the guy today whom we would think was crazy and full of spirits. The maniac in the Gospel would be considered normal; he could run for president, for crying out loud! It seems like it is a different society today.
There is this issue of an empty house. The man did not live in his house. His home was empty. His children had no father and the home was vacant. Or perhaps he was a young man, and his parents were at home waiting for him to return, and he did not.
This is what I want to address this morning: the empty home syndrome which society faces today. This word is particularly for fathers. We, as fathers, have responsibility to be a voice of truth in the lives of our children, in the lives of our families, into the lives of our communities, and in the lives of the Church. We have a voice and we have a responsibility to speak, but we have a lot of competition. There are a lot of other voices out there giving our children a lot of different advice. Some of it is okay, harmless; and some of it is downright wrong and misleading, which we can consider as evil. Some voices tell your children that there is no reason to stay at home, that they should seldom or never stay in their house.
The internet is a poor parent, but sometimes, the internet has become just that. We, in our busyness, don’t really have the opportunity to speak into the lives of our families and our children as the internet does. Our children are there hours every day. We are lucky if they get a few minutes with us. We have a lot of voices to compete with. Oftentimes, those voices that come forth, in the words of St. Paul in Romans 1:18, “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” These are the voices that our children hear. Deacons have the voice that our community members should hear. Our Bishop and Priests have the voice that the Church members should hear. But there are many other voices that suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Many false voices are there that are just not true, but they present themselves as truth. They say things like, “Marijuana is perfectly harmless. It won’t hurt you at all. It is not addictive and it won’t do any damage to your brain or anything else.” “Young men, performance enhancing drugs are not dangerous.” “They will make you stronger and faster, and they won’t have any effects on you later in your life.” The chemicals that young ladies put in their bodies to make them more voluptuous or more physically attractive are said to be not harmful at all. They are told to use them at will, even prolifically. And there are many voices that say, “You are young. You need to get your alcohol on once in a while, because this is what being young is all about.”
On the bus the other day, I heard on the radio what seemed to be a very self-affirming ad, saying things like, “The problems that we have are just challenges, opportunities for us to stand up and have a great victory.” There were all kinds of affirming statements, then at the end of the ad it said, “When we get the victory, let's celebrate with a good bottle of whiskey.” I was so inspired with the words and it turned out to be an alcohol commercial! These are the voices that our children hear, the competition that we have. Our voice has to also be strong as fathers.
There is an interesting verse in Habakkuk 2:5 that says, “Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man so that he does not stay at home.” There is the voice that says, “Go out and get your alcohol on and have a good time. Get a little drunk, it won’t hurt you. You are young, you can handle it.” Habakkuk says that this betrays you and you end up with an empty house. You end up staying away from home.
One of the works of the flesh listed in Galatians 5:21 is “carousing.” Carousing sounds like a fun and interesting word. What is it? We don’t say it a lot anymore. Nobody calls up a friend to say, “What do you want to do tonight?” and the friend says, “I don’t know. Let’s go carousing.” Carousing is not a common word for us, but it is mentioned here in the works of the flesh, and also in Romans 13:13, “Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness.”
Here we have two admonitions against carousing. Carousing, in a modern term, is barhopping. It is going around from place to place, bar to bar or club to club or hanging out on the street corner, with no good purpose. It is not being at home when you should be at home and when you could be home doing things that build family like having meals together. Carousing usually involves being drunk. The voice that society hears today is, “Carousing is a good thing. Relax! Loosen up.” However, the voice of the Word of God says in Ephesians 5:18, “Don’t be drunk with wine,” then it gives us an alternative, “Be filled with the Spirit.”
I can testify to this. I haven’t been drunk very often in my life - twice that I can think of. The last time was fifteen years ago. Another time was when I was a teenager. One thing that I can promise you is that being filled with the Spirit is a lot more satisfying than being drunk, and there is no hangover! You can do this day after day, hour after hour, with no downside.
Additionally, 1 Samuel 1:14 says this, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” This is the Word of God. The voice of society says one thing, but we, as fathers, have to stand up and say, “What is the voice of God? What is the Word of the Lord?” Be not drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit. How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.
The voice of God says, “Carousing, staying out late night after night away from home, is not good. I gave you your home for a reason. It is a place for edification, for you to be strengthened, built up, and encouraged. Don’t forsake your home for the sake of carousing.” What happens to your health, to your spiritual life, and to your life in general because of carousing? It sets your life on a downward spiral, and it is not how God made man to live.
Another issue in the gospel, aside from the man being away from home, was that he had not put any clothing for a long time. Again, this is kind of normal today because some of the billboards and magazine advertisements show some people who seem to think that clothing is definitely an optional accessory in today’s world.
There was a song some time ago that was describing a particular type of girl from a particular state. The song went, “These girls are so incredible. Daisy Dukes, bikinis on top.” What is a Daisy Duke? Daisy Duke was a character in an old ‘80’s TV program who wore maong pants that were extremely abbreviated – very, very short and very tight. There was no mystery concerning the anatomy of Daisy Duke; we could see it all. So these type of pants began to be called “Daisy Dukes.” Further, the song says she has a bikini on top. She is not wearing a blouse or a shirt, but basically just her underwear. They say that these girls are so incredible, amazing - because they go out in public in their underwear!
Believe it or not, I agree that girls who dress like this are incredible - because the actual meaning of incredible is “lacking in credibility.” The statement of the song says that the less clothes you wear, the more acceptable you are. Again, this is not the Word of God. What I have always told people, whether male or female, is that “the less clothing someone is wearing, the more they are showing outside, the more they are hiding on the inside.” Just because they wear “Daisy Dukes” and basically run around in their underwear does not make them incredible; it makes them somebody that you should be wary of.
1 Peter 3:3-4 shows us something different: “Don’t let your adornment, your clothing be merely external, (not just with the way you wear your hair, your jewelry, the clothes you wear or don’t wear), but the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” This is God’s standard. Forget the standards the world and society are throwing at us today as to how we should act and what we should put on and into our bodies. What is important is the heart. The Lord told Samuel, “You look at the outward man,” which our children are taught to look on. But the Lord looks at the heart and the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, what the Lord says is valuable. We won’t find this on YouTube or Facebook. The world says that a gentle and quiet spirit is boring, but actually it is the character that God made us to have.
I am speaking as a father not just to the young, but to all of us: we have to have a gentle and quiet spirit. The voice of society says something else, but we, as fathers, have to rise up with the voice of God.
Now, I speak to the fathers, “Fathers, we can’t be like Eli.” Eli was a high priest who had sons that were doing wrong. His sons were very wicked, although they were in the line of the high priests; Eli had retired and they were functioning as the high priests, but they were doing evil. For one thing, they were taking the offerings that were meant for the people and for God and they would steal it for themselves. The fat was supposed to be burned under the Lord, but they said, “No, we want the fat for ourselves.” On top of that, they were sleeping with the ushers. This is a sign that somebody is not walking in righteousness.
Eli knew about it, as their father, but he did not say anything. He knew it was very, very wrong, but he did nothing to stop them. What happened to Eli? He ended up cursed by God, and his whole family was cursed. In two or three generations, they were not the high priests anymore. God replaced them and wiped out the line of Eli, because Eli saw what was wrong, but he did not lead his children in the way of righteousness.
There is a lot or pressure on fathers today to be the “Cool Dad.” This is a dad with whom everything is cool. “Wanna hang out all night, son? That’s cool.” “Wanna wear that dress out in public, even though is screams, ‘Available?’ That’s fine, sweetie. It’s cool with me.”
But on Judgment Day, I have a feeling “Cool Dads” might not be so cool anymore. Things actually might be a little hot for them. Just ask Eli.
It is the job of a father to teach. In Deuteronomy Moses tells the Israelites, “Teach your children these precepts.” It is the job of the father to teach. Shepherds don’t really teach that much; fathers are teachers. The role of every father among us is to teach our children the ways of God, because there are so many voices out there teaching other things.
Fathers are challenged. If we find our homes empty all too often, if we find the hands of the clock going way up to the double digits, and yet we are not sure where our children are (or maybe they are wondering where we are), we need to change. If we want our children to be home, it is our job as parents to make our homes places where the children want to be. If our homes are not attractive places, why should they be there? If it is more attractive to be at their friend’s house or the club or the street corner, that’s where they will be. Our homes must be places that attract our children, places they want to return to, and not leave unnecessarily. How can we do this? Make our homes places where our children can find acceptance. Make our homes places where our children can find care, nurturing, answers, truth, love and most importantly, where they can find us. If we are the ones out carousing all the time, it is going to be hard to be a father. It makes it difficult. We need to share these things to our children; open up to them.
This is the first thing that I want to share – the natural, practical, fatherly advice from a father in the Church to other fathers in the Church and to children in the Church. There is also a spiritual message in the gospel today which I would like to bring out. After Jesus healed the man, the people came to the place where Jesus and the former demoniac were and they found him "clothed and in his right mind."
Think of a spiritual symbolic perspective. Galatians 3:27 says, “You have clothed yourself with Christ.” What does it mean to be clothed? First of all, we know that clothing is for protection from the cold or certain elements. Clothing is for identity. If we wear a certain uniform, people will know what we are doing and who we are working for. When we clothe ourselves with Christ, we clothe ourselves with protection, and with identity. When you are baptized, you are baptized as Christ’s and marked as Christ’s own forever.
But there is something else that you do with clothes. You wrap yourselves up in them. At least, the people in those days did; they did not know about “Daisy Dukes.” When they wore their clothes, they were wrapped up in them. When Paul said, “Clothe yourselves with Christ,” from head to toe you wrap yourself up in Christ. In other words, be wrapped up in Him; be consumed with Him; be totally immersed in Christ. When you have been baptized, you clothed yourself in Christ. When you are baptized, you are immersed in water – totally surrounded, filled with Christ.
I would ask all of us, from young to old: what are we wrapped in? What do we wrap ourselves in, so intensely with? Disney? A lot of girls can name every Disney princess and every movie they were in and every boyfriend they have, but can they name the twelve apostles? What are we wrapped up in? Marvel? Dota? Game of Thrones? Chismiss? Teleseryes? Korean novelas? These things are not wrong, but how much time do we spend with them compared to how much time we spend with truth? With the things that will make a difference in our lives? The things that will empower us to bring healing to other people? These are the important things and this is what Paul is saying to wrap ourselves up, in Christ. Don’t be distracted. These other things are for entertainment, but they are not true.
I am going to tell you something shocking. There is no such thing as meta humans; but there is such a thing as being born-again by the Spirit. There is no such thing as a Lazarus Pit; but there is such a thing as the resurrection of the dead in the life of the world to come. There is no such thing as a Particle Accelerator; but there is such a thing as being baptized in the Holy Spirit, which quickens our mortal bodies and makes us alive in Christ and makes us sensitive to the needs of those around us.
Actually, the truth is more interesting than the things we wrap ourselves in sometimes. My challenge as a father to you today is: give a little more opportunity, a little more time to the true and less time for those things that are just entertainment, and are not even real.
There are a lot of amazing stories in the Bible, and the gospel today is one. You would think that the gospel came out of the comic books – Jesus Christ, all by Himself, confronts with a man with two thousand demons, a man whom chains can’t hold and a man nobody can stop. With one word, Jesus puts him in his place. He casts out the demons into the swine and the man is restored. This story is better than any comic book. Do you ever see Spiderman do anything like that? Superman? Not even Batman can do that. Only Jesus Christ and those anointed by His Holy Spirit.
This is what you can find in your actual life. The things that you read in comic books are fantasy, you can never participate in them; but you can share in the life of Christ. My point is: what are you wrapped up in? Are you clothed with Christ or clothed with so many other things? I am not saying that you can’t ever do those, but stay in balance.
The story says that they came and they saw the man in his right mind. The voices in his head were gone. The voices that were saying, “Don’t go home. Stay out here. Throw away your clothes. You don’t need them. Act anyway you want. Go crazy!” These voices were gone once he met the Lord Jesus Christ.
This same healing can take place in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones and to those whom we want to receive healing. The man said, “Jesus, I want to follow you.” He still did not want to go home. Jesus told the man, “No, here is what I want you to do. I want you to go home and tell everybody what great things the Lord has done for you.” There is a practical reason for this. If the guy went travelling all over the country, and he told this story, “I was a demoniac; I had two thousand demons; chains couldn’t hold me; nobody could stop me,” what would be the reaction? They would say, “Yeah, right. That is a crazy story." Who would believe that? But in his hometown, they knew this guy; they had seen him; they had been running away from him for years. They knew what he was telling was the truth. He would have a powerful effect on those in his hometown!
In a spiritual application, Jesus is calling him home. “You have been doing all these things for all this time, but now, you need to come home.” This is a call for the people today. The voice of society today says home is not important. It says home is a nice place to change your clothes, get them washed, and get a free meal if you are running low on money. But the Lord says, “I am calling you home because this is where you are strengthened. The home is your source of acceptance and love. The home is your source of familial unity and support that you can’t get anywhere else.” This is true where you reside - and of your home Church.
Another strong voice says, “You don’t need a home Church. All you need is Jesus. You’ve got Jesus, you can go round and round all over the place and have Church wherever you want to and wherever you are, there is one Church.” This is true, but we also have one home.
What is interesting about your home family is that you don’t get to pick it. When the baby is born, the baby is not interviewed, “Which of these nice adults do you want to go home with?” The baby goes home with the parents; the ones that birthed and sired them. This is the same way in the Church. Those of you who were raised in this Church, born-again in this Church, this is your home Church. You don’t give up on your family when your family is having a hard time, saying, “You are not my family anymore. I give up on you!” We don’t give up on our natural family. We are also faithful to our spiritual family, our home, our local Church.
The voice in the gospel cries out today and says, “Go to your home. Stay in your home. Be faithful and be loyal to your home.” Hebrews 3:5-6 speaks of Moses and Jesus Christ as well, “Moses was faithful in all his house as a servant for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later.” Verse 6 says, “Christ was faithful as a Son over His house- whose house we are.” The people of Israel rejected Moses and tried to get rid of him several times. They disobeyed him and he ended up not getting in the Promised Land because of them. That was his spiritual family. His own brother and sister tried to revolt against him - but yet, he was still faithful in all his house.
Was Jesus’ family faithful? We can see verses in the Bible where even His mother and brothers did not believe in Him. They thought He was crazy, but He still loved them. On the cross, He took care of His mother. He was faithful to His own house.
This is a cry for the Church today. The voices outside say, “You don’t need a home Church. You don’t need to be faithful to anything.” The Word of God says, “Be faithful to your house, just like Moses was.” Jesus and Moses were faithful to their physical house and to their spiritual house.
The Lord is so good. The readings today show us that God is calling us - to those who have been running away from home; to those who haven’t been faithful to their own home. God says, “I am still reaching out My arms to you.” Isaiah says, “God is still reaching out to us. He is still longing for us to return to Him, even this man from Gadara.” Gadara is interesting because it wasn’t in Israel. Even from the days of Moses, it was Gentile land; it was not really in Israeli territory. It was on the east side of the Sea of Galilee. They were pagans and yet the Lord loved this pagan man so much, He crossed the lake just to find him and to bring him to Himself.
This is God’s heart for us. His heart is that even when we’ve been running and clothing ourselves with other things, He still loves us and says, “All day long, I reach out My hands to you saying, ‘Come home.’” To those who used to be a part of us here and decided because some family members failed, (which we have) and say, “We can’t stand this anymore; we are going outside,” the voice of the Lord still says, “It is still your family.” He is still calling you to be loyal and faithful like Moses and Christ.
To all of us, the Lord says, “Be faithful to your house. Be faithful to your family. Return to your home.