“Living with Demons”

19 June 2022

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Luke 8:26-39

Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.)

Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.

Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

| Centering Prayer |

157 years ago

General Gordan Granger

Arrived in Galveston, Texas with his Union troops

To proclaim General Order No. 3

Proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas.

Though freedom was pronounced by President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation two years prior,

Enforcement relied upon the advance of Union troops.

Last year, Juneteenth,

Also known as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day,

Was made a federal holiday.

Every June 19th moving forward

Will be known and remembered as Juneteenth.

The chains of slavery in America may have fallen

But the chains of racism, oppression, and suppression remain,

Binding our sisters and brothers of color

Just as tightly as if they were still working the plantation.

The morally bankrupt system of racism

Leads me to believe that evil is alive and well

In our day and age.

To dismiss it,

To diminish it, or

To ignore it,

Places us at great peril.

Where does an 18-year-old have his mind filled with such hate

That he would slaughter

Innocents in a supermarket or a classroom?

Do you believe in demons?

Our Gospel lesson for today requires of us to ask the question:

Do you believe in demons?

Are there really demons?

Is there one waiting for me under my bed?

Is there a demon waiting for me behind the shower curtain?

Are there demons in that Facebook group,

Shouting at me on cable news, or

Waiting for me to visit that conspiracy website?

Some would suggest that what our Gospel describes today is simply a mental health issue;

Someone who was experiencing a psychotic break,

Raging out of touch with reality,

Or who was experiencing some type of brain infarction.

I’m not buying it.

It would be easier to make a diagnosis,

(Though I am not a physician)

That spans cultures, geography, and time,

Than it would be for me to attempt to explain

That which cannot be explained: personified evil.

In other words,

It would be easier for Jesus to

Pronounce Legion crazy,

Dust off his hands,

Get on the boat and leave.

But he doesn’t.

Jesus doesn’t walk away from the demon possessed Legion.

Neither will I.

I do not believe it is possible to simply

Dismiss demons as mere mental illness.

Do you believe in demons?

From both ancient and Renaissance art

To Hollywood motion pictures,

We’ve all had images painted in our brains of

What demons look like:

Devils with bat wings,

Horned monsters armed with tridents,

Human like creatures with

Hanging, mottled skin,

Blood red eyes,

And long, dripping fangs,

Dark hoods and monsters make for good blood curdling screams.

Demons make for good Halloween masks and costumes.

Do you believe in demons?

Luke takes special effort to not speak of Gadara,

A Greek city of the Decapolis,

Just east of the Sea of Galilee.

Instead, he calls it “the country of the Gerasenes.”

Gadara had a reputation under Roman rule.

It was one like

A church in Charleston, South Carolina,

A neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma

A Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

The Romans had captured and destroyed the city

Less than a hundred years before Jesus.

Evil spilled blood in Gadara;

A lot of it.

In a fit of rage, barely thirty years after Jesus visited

Rome would again go on a murderous rampage

Throughout the region in response to the Jewish revolt.

Rome’s rage spilled over into the largely Gentile Gadara.

The Jewish historian Josephus recorded:

“So Vespasian marched to the city of Gadara. He came into it and slew all the youth, the Romans having no mercy on any age whatsoever. He set fire to the city and all the villas around it.”

  • Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 7.

I’m guessing

Legion wasn’t the only demon in town.

Do you believe in demons?

I’d suggest demons are very real.

A demon filled with evil and hatred pulled a trigger

And killed 17-year-old Jeremiah Baker last Sunday

While riding his bicycle on William Warfield Drive in the City of Rochester.

An evil filled demon pulls the trigger.

Ripping apart sister and brother,

Parent and child,

Student from his teacher.

Evil rips into communities across our land

Spewing hatred like poison

From the mouths of politicians

And throughout timelines on Social Media.

Demons are ugly.

Demons divide.

Demons destroy.

Demons are cunning.

And demons inspire us

To open up our inner demons

And dive into the poison-filled mosh-pit of sin.

Do you believe in demons?

Jesus had just sailed through a storm.

When the disciples woke him,

Though many were experienced fishermen themselves,

They thought they were going to perish.

Jesus rebukes the wind and raging waves

And “they ceased, and there was calm.”

“Where is your faith?” He asked them.

“Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?” – Luke 8:24, 25

Indeed.

Who then is this?

It takes a demon to tell the disciples who Jesus is.

The disciples, at this point in their journey,

Are uncertain who Jesus is;

But every demon in the land is knew exactly who Jesus was.

“When he (Legion) saw Jesus,

he fell down before him

and shouted at the top of his voice,

“What have you to do with me, Jesus,

Son of the Most High God?””

– Luke 8:28

This is the first characteristic of a demon:

Demons know who Jesus is.

It is important to note:

This man, who is filled with demons is

Naked like a Gentile, and

Violently raging out of control.

He had broke chains and shackles

And escaped from guards to terrorize those throughout the countryside.

Jesus,

Who personifies all that is good in this world,

Is then asked by Legion:

“I beg you, do not torment me.”

– Luke 8:28b

Right here you have it,

The second characteristic of demons:

Demons attempt to bargain with Jesus.

The demons inside of Legion

Will wiggle, giggle, and try to squirm their way out of taking responsibility for their actions.

Goodness torments evil,

And demons just cannot tolerate goodness or love.

Therefore, to overcome demons of this world,

To overcome evil of this world,

Christians must wrap ourselves in everything that is good,

Starting with Jesus Christ.

There is no bargaining with evil.

There can be no diplomatic consensus building

Or negotiating away concessions to sin.

This should come as a shock to both theological conservatives and liberals.

On the one side

Are those who want to bend the rules in favor of grace,

While, on the other side,

Are those who favor law

And will attempt to steal the place of God

As the sole judge of our existence.

Both positions are losing propositions.

There is no bargaining with evil.

Period.

Jesus doesn’t,

And neither should we.

Jesus torments the demon with his compassion.

He commanded the unclean spirit to come out.

(How comfortable are you with exorcisms?

Hint: Jesus does a lot of them.)

Jesus demands to know the demon’s name.

Yes, demons have names.

“Legion” he said.

There are between four and six thousand soldiers in a Roman legion.

Holy Ghostbusters!

That’s a lot of demons being cast out of Legion.

Having a proper name for this demon possessed man

Gives Jesus another essential advantage:

Jesus knows him by name.

Good knows evil.

God calls out evil.

God overcomes evil.

Did I say demons attempt to bargain?

“They begged Jesus not to order them to go back into the abyss.”

– Luke 8:31

Yep. That’s where demons live.

When they are not embodied in some poor soul:

It was believed demons lived in

Deep, bottomless chasms.

Our Lord’s actions

do not mean he grants the demon’s request.

Jesus has a better idea.

Before him are thousands of demons possessing one man.

On a hillside nearby are

Thousands of pigs.

Coincidence?

I think not.

The demons saw the opportunity to avoid the abyss

And asked

… They requested …

To be embodied into all things non-Kosher / non-Jewish:

They asked to go into the swine.

As soon as Jesus grants their petition,

The pigs run down the hillside and drown themselves in the lake.

(A little side note:

At an estimated market price of $3.50 per pound,

Five-thousand 250-pound pigs represent a

$4,375,000 loss to some unknown farmer.

That’s not the end of it.

Call in the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The NY State DEC advises that

Every carcass should be removed from the lake,

Triple bagged, and buried.

Jesus’s action would cost taxpayers now-days approximately $250,000.

Way to go, Jesus.)

News gets back to the locals

And they rush to find the truth for themselves.

Everyone loves to rubber-neck, am I right?

Watch the line of cars back up

So everyone can get a good look at

A motor vehicle accident or

Last night’s house fire in town.

The formerly naked, wild, raging escapee named Legion

Is found

Dressed

In his right mind

At the feet of Jesus.

Do you believe in demons?

Do you believe in Christ’s ability to exercise demons?

Today, we have an example of a previously demon possessed man

Now demon free

Sitting at the feet of Jesus.

I’d suggest demons are very real.

I earlier mentioned external demons,

Demons that threaten us from the outside;

Those who scare and terrorize us

For no good purpose other than to spew and spread their evil.

Allow me to lead your thoughts in the opposite direction to close the loop.

I’d suggest that there are demons that threaten us from the inside.

Internal demons can be just as dangerous,

If not more so,

Then demons from without.

For some,

Internal demons may be childhood trauma, incest, or abuse.

Demons of regret may infect both victim and abuser.

Demons drive obsessions.

Demons tempt addicts to have a drink,

Shoot up one last time,

And hold gamblers at the table.

Demons can emerge from religious fanaticism, fundamentalism, extremism, or exceptionalism.

Internal demons enslave narrow minds to narrow opinions

And kill every desire for empathy or love.

Demons haunt the mind with would of, could of, should of.

Demons can trap us when we are most vulnerable:

When we trust not in God and

Trust only in our own resolve, resources, talent, and strength.

It is very possible for anyone to become

Possessed,

Poisoned.

Powerless.

Jesus is our Savior

When we can’t even save ourselves.

Jesus comes to the possessed, the poisoned, and the powerless.

Demons know who Jesus is.

Demons know Jesus has power over them,

Just as he has power over creation, the wind, and the wave.

So why don’t we know him as well as demons?

By wrapping ourselves in Christ,

We, too, can be freed from every demon that stalks us,

Every terrorist who threatens us, and

Of every demon churning deep inside that threatens to consume us.

Demons are all around us,

Sin and evil are all around us,

So be forewarned and prepared.

Christ can exorcise every demon.

He’s in the demon busting business.

He’s got lots of references,

And he knows what he is doing.

With Christ, exorcism is possible and salvation is assured!

Just as the formerly naked, wild, raging escapee named Legion

Was found clothed,

In his right mind,

At the feet of Jesus,

The Good News of this day is that,

So too, can you and I be exorcised,

Freed from our fears,

Freed from our demons,

Freed from everything and everyone

That threatens us with sin and death.

Christ is greater than any demon of this world.

The power of creation is greater than the power of destruction.

Good overcomes evil.

Ten out of ten times,

The demons flee and are drowned in the lake of evil’s failed ambitions.

Living a life in Christ

Leads demons to flee and

Be drowned

In the lake of

Evil’s failed ambitions.

Wrap yourself in Christ.

Live in Christ.

Place your trust in his power and authority.

Let yourself be freed.

Amen.

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