17th Sunday after Trinity – Sermon 282
17th Sunday after Trinity
6.30pm Evening Prayer
23rd September 2018
Prayer to Start
May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ
The sea is a symbol of wild untamed power – standing by the ocean on a calm day – still gives us a sense of its might and strength – and when the wind gets up –- that power raises its head – and it can be one of the most dangerous places to be –
In the Gospels of course the word sea is used not for an ocean but for the Sea of Gallilee – also called Lake Tiberius – a large freshwater Lake significantly below sea level – which was a main source for fishing and drinking water – and because of the difference in climate and elevation between the water and the eastern mountains or Golan Heights – was subject to sudden and violent storms – that produced violent waves that even threatened the largest of fishing boats
Point 1 Calming the storm
For the disciples then in the Sea of Gallilee – when the storm blew up – it must have been a terrifying moment – being swamped by waves – in that small boat –
It doesn’t say which apostles were with Jesus on the boat – it’s likely though that seasoned fishermen (at least four of the twelve) were on board who were familiar with the ways of the sea – but even these professional fishermen were frightened to the point of fearing they would die
Jesus was calm – asleep – they thought they were done for – but when He got up – He imposed his power on the situation and there was a great calm – Jesus couldn’t understand why they were so afraid – ‘you of little faith’ He said.
‘What sort of man is this’, they said – that the winds and seas do what He Says,
To them He was their leader and master – and they knew he was a healer and teacher – but this went beyond anything they were expecting –
They knew His authority stretched to healing diseases – they had seen that – enabling the crippled to walk – the blind to see – but to control the elements – the wind and the sea – what sort of man is this?
Point 2 Healing of Demons
The scene then moves on to when they reach the shore – and travel to the land of Gadarenes. The King James Version of the Bible has the location as “Gergesenes” which is the modern “Kursi” (or Kheras), thought to be the most plausible location of the Gospel event.
Some twenty or more years ago – Pauline and I were fortunate to be able to go on a Pilgrimage to Israel – and our group travelled to this region which is on the eastern side of the Lake –
After visiting Capernaham and seeing Peter’s house – tasting a St Peter’s fish – and travelling there – I remember standing in what remained of a church or building in Kursi – and reading this same passage to our group –
Here Jesus met two men – who for want of a better word – were possessed by demons –
Then and today we struggle to explain what is going on inside people who find – for whatever reason – their imagination – emotions – behavior –to have been taken over by things inside that are beyond their control –
In Jesus’ world and in many parts of the world today the most natural explanation given is that some force of evil – has taken over.
Modern medicine however can now give us a better explanation of some of it – as we learn more about our bodies and minds – and the mental and physical illnesses – that can impose major changes on our behaviour –
But whatever the cause of these two people’s illnesses – Jesus again takes control – and here demonstrates that He has the power – over those things we don’t understand – or are beyond explanation.
Matthew uses it as an example of the spiritual warfare in which Jesus was constantly engaged with and to demonstrate His complete control over such forces.
Jesus isn’t just someone with good ideas – someone who will tell us how to establish a better relationship with God – Jesus is someone with authority over everything – everything that the physical and non-physical world can throw at us –
Jesus is someone we can trust with every aspect of our lives
What sort of man is this – asks the disciples|? – The words from those unnatural forces tell us –
He is the ‘Son of God’ –
Jesus puts these forces under His control – and into a herd of pigs – who rush down a steep slope – and into the sea and are drowned.
This alarms the herdsmen – who tell the townsfolk – and they – out of fear – or lack of understanding – tell Jesus to go away – and not come back –
Everywhere else Jesus went – people brought Him more sick people to cure – or heal – but here maybe frightened by what had happened or that Jesus would send more of their livestock into the sea – they ask Him to leave-
What we do know from the Gospels and other passages is that wherever Jesus went people – were in awe of Him – and He was in no sense just one teacher among many –
Jesus is a force to be reckoned with – you might follow Him – or you might be scared stiff of Him – but you couldn’t ignore Him –
point 3 The Jesus we must follow today
Through Jesus – God has been seen in a new light
Through Jesus – God’s love has been demonstrated through power and action – fulfilling all the promises made in the Scriptures – and His Spirit has reached into the hearts of everyone –
As the Son of God – and through His Spirit within us – He had made us all – part of His family – part of His Kingdom
As our reading from Exodus reminds us – before Jesus – God was only approachable after Fanfare and ceremony – and people were not permitted to approach or be near to God – or to hear His word directly – unless they were deemed Holy –
But Jesus has made us all Holy – because of His sacrifice on the cross and the spilling of His blood – so we can now be close to Him – and talk to and hear Him
Through the cross – Jesus has bought freedom for us all –and defeated evil forever –
As the disciples were soon to realise – after His death and resurrection – Jesus can be experienced as a living reality within us – encouraging – empowering – guiding – ever at work in our lives –
And like His disciples – in that boat – and the men on the shore – Jesus asks us to Follow Him and to have Faith in Him.
The apostles’ lack of faith shows us that even those who lived and walked with Jesus, saw and experienced His miracles, and heard His message still found it difficult to be faithful to Him and in that way, the disciples were a lot like us.
Their lack of faith was rebuked by Jesus — and- by extension – so is ours- but He will give us another chance –
If Jesus was able to rescue the apostles from the storm, and the two men from unknown forces – He is also able to rescue us from the storms of everyday life: sickness, job loss, marriage problems, and even the sting of death
We just have to trust Him – and allow Him to bring His power and love into our lives –
Jesus has promised that He will be with us in the storms of life. He will never leave us alone in the midst of trouble and with perseverance and His help – our problems and concerns will be overcome
The seas of life and forces of evil may be powerful and sometimes set against us – but Jesus has greater power – greater than we can ever imagine –
Faith in Jesus – will never be misplaced – God has chosen to act through His Son Jesus – to calm the stormy waters and – to change our behaviour for the better – to save us – and give us His love – and protection – to bring us safely home to His Kingdom –
And of course there can be no greater power than that –