Sermon on Luke 8:26-39
Throughout the years people have often ask me why we don't have miracles like they did back in Jesus' time. When reading the Bible we encounter many miracles, Moses dividing the Red Sea, Elijah healing the widow's son, Jesus walking on the water, Jesus driving out demons from people, and of course the biggies, such as Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and then the biggest miracle of all, Jesus' own resurrection. If we read the Bible carefully we will encounter these miracles along with many others
Today when people encounter a miraculous event they usually chalk it up to scientific technology, good medicine, or an act of nature. At 9:00am on the morning of 9/11 many people left their offices in the Twin Towers in order to get coffee and bagels for their co-workers. Five minutes later two jet airplanes flew right into the Towers, killing thousands of people and maiming hundreds more. The survivors considered this a miracle. However, other people say well, it was just a coincidence that they left, after all, coffee runs are usual in big companies.
Just a few weeks ago a man was flying a jet plane and for some reason the plane crashed. The man was found safe and sound sitting in his cockpit in a tree, not even getting a scratch. People said that it was the type of wind sheer that allowed the cockpit to fall gently and safely. However, surely this man sees it as a miracle. Furthermore, a few months ago there was a lady who gave birth to six children who were three months premature. They survived even though they were very small and had little chance of surviving. People also chalk this up to good science. So many things happen to people and we try to "figure it out" citing science, medicine, or nature.
Perhaps these events or situations are God giving us a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven. After all, this is what miracles are anyway, little glimpses into God's rule and authority. However, we miss the power of the message as did the people in the time of Jesus. Not much as changed since then, as the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes says, "there is nothing new under the sun." Then as now people want to be entertained. They had magicians, fortune-tellers, and astrologers and we have circus' and Hollywood with special effects to razzle-dazzle us. Yet, Jesus' was not a magician nor was he trying to entertain people, although many thought they were being entertained. At one point when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes they wanted to seize him in order to make him a king! They saw his power in human terms, missing the point that Jesus was directing them to the kingdom. Jesus' miracles are a sign of his kingship, but his kingship is not of this world. His power is over disease, nature, and even death. God is the god over all things in creation.
Also, these miracles, like the one we heard today about the demon possessed man are an invitation of faith. Towards the end of the gospel lesson we heard that the once possessed man was found "clothed and in his right mind" sitting at Jesus' feet. This man is the male version of Mary, the one whose sister Martha was busy preparing lunch complaining that her sister Mary wasn't helping her. Yet all the while Mary was sitting at Jesus' feet as an act of faith, learning and listening from her Master.
The gospel of Luke provides us with many miracles of Jesus, the woman who was healed from her flow of blood, the Roman centurion's servant who was ill, and the cleansing of the lepers. These people approached Jesus in faith and they were healed of their disease and discomfort because of their faith; because they came to Jesus for help. And compared to the big miracles that we often think about, the parting of the Red Sea for instance, these miracles in the gospel are quite small, Jesus' really didn't do much, he says a few words and people are restored to health and well-being.
Yet all too often we overlook the hundreds of small miracles in our life, the small glimpses into the kingdom of God because we are too darn busy seeking the big miracles, the walking on water type of miracle. We overlook the many miracles of family members being reconciled to their family after being pushed out or living in self induced exile, the miracle of a restored friendship, and the miracle of life itself. I think we do this because deep down we would rather be entertained and excited and we don't want Jesus interfering in our life. After all, it is a fearful thing when we encounter the Lord. The great crowds in the reading today were afraid because of what Jesus did to the possessed man, they were so afraid that they demanded that Jesus leave them immediately. Often we push Jesus out of our life too because we can't deal with the kingdom, we want to focus on the here and now. How sad, because all the while Jesus was directing these people to the kingdom, offering them the bread of life, and they were satisfied with popcorn and cotton candy, how sad indeed!
Fr. William C. Mills, Ph.D., is the rector of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC, as well as an adjunct professor of religious studies at Queens University in Charlotte, NC. He is married to Taisia Mills and has two daugthers, Hannah and Emma.
Latest book by Fr. Mills:
A Light to the Gentiles is a collection of pastoral reflections on the Scripture readings from the gospel of Luke that are read in the Orthodox Church from mid-September until the feast of the Nativity of our Lord. The gospel of Luke is also read during the preparatory Sundays before Great Lent as well as at the feast of the Ascension and at the commemoration of various saints. The gospel also contains many familiar parables and teachings: the Good Samaritan, the Publican and the Pharisee, the Rich Man and Lazarus, and Zachaeus. Luke reminds us that the gospel is to be proclaimed to the entire world in order to bring the gospel to all peoples and nations. Thus, the gospel of Luke serves as a beacon of light that shines brightly in the world. A Light to the Gentiles is an invitation for everyone to read, accept, and obey the Word of God in their lives. This book is a resource for personal and group Bible study, adult education classes, and sermon preparation.
See more books by Fr. Mills.