A Sermon for Series C Proper 7 – 2016 “Why do you not leave me alone?”

Old Testament Reading  Isaiah 65:1-9

Second Reading  Galatians 3:23 – 4:7

Gospel Reading  Luke 8:26-39

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read.  [Luke 8:26-39]

Throughout the Bible, we see our triune God in action, coming into his people’s lives miraculously.  Coming into their lives even, and especially, when they want nothing to do with him; when they reject him and turn away from him.

Soon after he’d rescued them from slavery in Egypt, they turned away, grumbling against God and asking Moses to return them to Egypt where they were given meals that kept them fed every day.  Instead of stepping away from these grumbling people, God sent them quail and manna raining down from the sky, and water to drink where there was no water; water coming out of a rock in the middle of the desert.

When they ignored his commands in the Promised Land and found themselves at war with the very people God had told them to remove from the land, he sent leaders, judges, like Deborah and Gideon and Samson; and he led them to victory over Israel’s enemies.

He raised up great kings, like David and Solomon.  He sent Isaiah and Jeremiah, and all the prophets; and speaking through them he called his people to return to him even though they’d rejected him time and time again.

In the New Testament we see his Son in action; miraculously healing the lame, restoring sight to the blind, even raising the dead.  And after Jesus had died, risen and ascended into heaven, we see God’s Spirit continuing to work miraculously in his rebellious people’s lives through Peter and Paul and all the Apostles.  God works miraculously in his people.

How do we respond when God enters our lives in miraculous ways after we’ve rejected him, after we’ve walked away from him, after we’ve rebelled against him?  Do we respond with words like the man filled with demons spoke to Jesus in the gospel lesson today, “What have you to do with me?” or a translation even closer to the Greek would be, “Why do you not leave me alone?”

That is our response isn’t it; when God tries to bring us closer to him; to try our best to pull even further away from God as he miraculously reaches out to us and rescues us?  “Why do you not leave me alone?”  Our response says a lot about how we view our relationship with our heavenly Father.

Look at the demon possessed man in the gospel lesson today.  He didn’t have much of a life.  He ran around naked, with shackles on his hands and feet; sleeping in the tombs, unclean on the inside because of the demons, unclean on the outside because he lived among the dead; cast out of society.  But when miraculously he was freed of the demons, when miraculously he was cleansed of the evil; his life was totally changed.  Because of this miracle, he had a decision to make.  He could return to his people, he could return to the life he had before; or he could follow Jesus.

He chose to sit at the feet of Jesus; and he begged his Lord to let him come with him.  He responded to the miracle Jesus performed by becoming closer to his Savior.  That’s what the miracles in life should do; bring us closer to God.  But too often we’re like the Gerasenes.

They had a choice to make too.  They could’ve welcomed Jesus into their town, but the miracle that’d come into their lives made them ask Jesus to leave.  They used their deductive reasoning and explained the miracle away.  To them, this miracle was no miracle at all.  What God gave as a gift, they saw as a plague, as a loss of valuable livestock, and they feared the loss of their earthly livelihood.  Their interpretation of the miracle drove them farther away from God.

Do we act like the Gerasenes and see God’s miracles as an intrusion in our lives?  Do we despair like the Gerasenes and interpret God’s miracles as his scheme to separate us from our earthly livelihood; from our time, talents, and money?  Do we say to our Savior as he pours out his love and his blessings upon us: Why do you not leave me alone?

Or do we act like some modern day Christian denominations and circle the wagons; keeping the miracles of God to ourselves, keeping them for the good Christians who we welcome into worship with us while we bar the door to the sinners who come to us looking for the same forgiveness we’ve been given?

God works miracles in our lives for a purpose.  He doesn’t give them to us to save us; he did that a long time ago when he sent his only begotten Son to the cross to rescue us from our sin.  He gives them to us to build his kingdom to be the place of his glory.  He works miracles in us for the same reason he worked a miracle in the demon possessed man; so that just like him, we can return to where we came from declaring how much God has done for us.

And he’s done it all.  Even while we were rebelling against him, he forgave all our sins in the miracle of his death and resurrection.  Even as we valiantly attempted to convince ourselves that our personal best-efforts and our good works would account for something, he sent his Holy Spirit, leading us to repentance and miraculously creating saving faith in us through his holy Word.  He made us his own in the miracle of Holy Baptism; and he continues to come into our lives uniting us with himself and all believers in the miracle of Holy Communion.  Our lives are filled with his miracles.

No matter how hard we try; no matter how adamantly we insist, God refuses to leave us alone.  We live and our life is proof of the miracles of God.  What joy he’s placed in our hearts! What a miracle that we who were once his enemies are now his children.  What love he’s placed in our hearts!  What a miracle that we’re filled with a love that’s much greater than human love; his unconditional love.

When he says to us: “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” What an honor he bestows upon us; choosing us to return to where we came from, now filled with miracles that are ours for the sake of his Son, proclaiming with joy and love how miraculous our God is, in all that he’s done for us.

We can explain away God’s miracles saying they’re due to natural causes … or luck …but when we deny the miracles in our lives we end up like the Gerasenes, thinking we’re better off on our own.  Or we can see that everything in our lives is a result of God never leaving us alone; everything in our lives is a miracle of God.

And the revelation that God just won’t leave us alone (no matter how rebellious we get), will give us the peace that only God can give, a peace that makes us want to sit at the feet of Jesus; staying close to our Lord; and yet a peace that makes us bold; so bold that in the ‘miracle of boldness’ the Spirit leads us forth; returning home; proclaiming throughout the whole city, and maybe even throughout the whole world, just how much Jesus has done for us … Picture that, because that my friends is God at work; God coming into our lives miraculously; our God who just won’t leave us alone.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle