n Sunday June 19th our minister Rev. Trevor Dixon led worship. The steward introduced the service and reminded us that there was a special Church Council meeting, which was open to other church members, where we would discuss the use of a legacy to our chapel and any other matters people wanted to bring up. We began worship when we sang ‘With gladness we worship’, before Trevor led the opening prayers of praise, thanksgiving and confession. I kings 19 was read which described the despair Elijah felt following the death threats of Jezebel; he felt alone and vulnerable. Galatians 3.23-29 was read which described the Law as being a disciplinarian is until Christ came; now all are children from faith, and there is no longer Jew or Greek. We sang ‘Dear Lord and Father of mankind’ before we heard the gospel reading from Luke 8.26-39; the man possessed by many demons.
Trevor reminded us that unlike other healings when Jesus told the people not to tell people about their healing, the man cleared of many demons, was told to stay among his people and bear witness to his healing. Initially the man, now clothed and in his right mind, had wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus had wanted him to declare how much God had done for him to his own people. Trevor saw the story of the mad man, as an ideal plot for a film. He could just imagine how Technicolor and music would help portray the disturbed man’s life. Jesus and his disciples had landed on the far side of Lake Galilee. A man crawled on hands and knees, naked and marked from chains he had broken free from, screaming to Jesus, telling him to go away. When he stopped yelling, Jesus asked him his name. He replied that he was ‘Legion’, as he was possessed by so many demons, which were driving him mad. Trevor knew the name would remind the people of a Legion, a whole Roman Regiment on the march. Jesus was equal to the size of the difficulty; he cast the demons out into pigs, which, becoming demented ran into the sea and drowned. At the time the story was told it would have caused much mirth among Jews who would consider the drowning of a herd of pigs funny; Jews did not eat pork as they regarded the meat as unclean. The swineherds fled and not surprisingly people gathered to see what had happened. They told Jesus to go, as they were more afraid of him than the previously mad man.
Are human beings possessed by demons? Is this story bizarre and irrelevant to the modern Western world? Last week the terrible murder of Jo Cox, and the massacre in Orlando make us wonder about possession; wondering whether demons take possession of men and women. Mark, Luke and Matthew all felt this story was an important part of the record of the life of Jesus. In the Middle Ages there were widespread demons. Nowadays there are some branches of the Christian church still believe strongly in demons; they even feel the need to thrash demons out of people, even children. Trevor wonders if there are demonic activities involved in genocide, terrorism, and revolutions. Exorcism is practised in the church today. There are people with mental health problems such as schizophrenics, those suffering from bipolar, or those who have a psychosis have conditions which need controlling.
Jesus is all compassion and pure unbounded love. He felt compassion towards the poor tortured soul, who lived among the bones and skulls of his ancestors. Jesus had sailed across to seek him out and heal him. What is the message for us? What are we doing about evil and its victims; the homeless, parentless children enduring appalling conditions, taking long journeys being used and abused en route; unpaid domestic slaves, factory workers, prostitutes, those struggling below the breadline, those with no educational opportunity; no one cares. Legion was abused, confused and abandoned and Jesus was going to save him from himself and the indignity heaped on him from the world. The disturbed man loved and healed by Jesus. We need to love as God loved. Jo Cox showed God’s love in her life, called for change and new opportunities for people; she was alongside people. Jesus had fearless faith; it never occurred to him that it was risky to confront such a dangerous man, who had great strength and had escaped into the desert. Jesus not only calmed the man down he also got him decent clothes and put him into his right mind. The power and boundless love of God brought new life to a raving lunatic. We too need to be alongside people where they are, bringing power in love and faith, healing and salvation.
The healed man was told to return home and declare what God had done for him. He had wanted to follow Jesus, maybe to serve him. Trevor reminded us of the courage of the 77 year old man who tried to protect Jo who was now recovering in hospital, after having been stabbed. Are we prepared to go and serve those who are disturbed and be there in the name of Jesus, so they can experience Christ in their lives?
We sang ‘Longing for light’ before Trevor led the prayers of intercession and the Lord’s Prayer. Worship concluded when we sang, ‘To God be the glory.’