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Legion - Sermon on Luke 8:26-39

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The demons' name is Legion. The problems that come together and create tragedy are legion. 

Please listen to the sermon rather than read it.  The delivered sermon is often considerably different than the sermon notes which are included for convenience below.  

Sermon delivered at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley. 

June 19, 2016- 5th Sunday after Pentecost

"Legion".  Text is from Luke 8:26-39

Click here for sermon audio




Good morning to you my sisters and brothers, saints and sinners, disciples of Christ and children of God.

Such a miracle. 

Jesus encounters a man running around without a stitch of clothes on, plagued by a demon and causing havoc, living in the tombs and just being a general nuisance, unable to be contained. Jesus called out the demon and asked his name: Legion the demon says... not a name so much as a descriptor. 

The demon is sent into a herd of pigs, telling us that these people, the Gerasenes, being pig-farmers were most certainly gentiles and the actions of Jesus, our Jewish holy man were again ones that reached out to a man not of the Jewish faith.  How did they respond when they saw this man once crazed, now clean and clothed? Not with gratitude, but with fear, and they asked Jesus to leave them. The man wanted to remain with Jesus but the Lord felt the best thing to do was go to his own home and declare to all who would listen the good news of Jesus Christ. 

Now what strikes me in this passage, as I read it this week, is the name of that the demon provides to Jesus: Legion What is a legion? While Luke was written in Greek and Jesus spoke in Aramaic, this is in fact, the original Latin word in the text, "Legio", which is a military unit in the Roman army indicating a rather large number of soldiers. But the voice calling out from this man is no simple singular demon but a horde of them. Legion is its name and its number. 

And how can I even read this this week without it bringing to mind the horrible tragedy that befell the patrons of Pulse nightclub late Saturday night, wherein 49 mostly young, mostly Latino/Latina, mostly lgbtq people were shot to death and many more were injured by the actions of a single gunman, Omar Mateen. 

And what I find as the story progresses and we learn more about the history and motive of this young Florida man, we encounter a legion of causes that take place.

The_Torment_of_Saint_Anthony_(Michelangelo).jpg

The easiest and most obvious to many would be the demon of violent Islamic fundamentalism. 

And then there is the easy and ready access to weapons of mass destruction

And the macho, sexist and racist culture that existed in his surroundings, particularly within his workplace. 

Combined with the vocal homophobia of his father who stated that gays should die, and who also was quick to turn to the incident of two men kissing in Miami which set Omar off.  

And we find out about Omar's having visited the club over the previous three years, and chat sites. Was he casing it as some suspect? How many times does one have to visit to case a place? How many online conversations does what have to be before we realize we're talking about a man who's doing something else. Something more tragic. That his homophobia stems from something internal, something more compelling that cannot exist in his culture, in his father's conservative Islam, in his company's machismo, in his violent abusive marriages. This demon of internalized homophobia, this failure to accept one's self. 

And then the continuing demon of a media frenzy that is consumed with trying to pin this event on single causes, and politicians who are ready to use this to their own selfish needs. That we only hear about a few particularly awful Christian pastors who decided to characterize the bar patrons as pedophiles and suggest that it was holy justice that they died. That this shameful media focus on the outliers, those attention grabbers who lay claim to be spokespersons for their respective religions and ignore the many numerous people in vigils, the sermons about what a tragedy it was, and how to find love and how we need to find forgiveness. The voices that speak for those who have died and the voices who speak about the sadness in their hearts are countless and we should be hearing them and not the outliers. 

And I cannot bring myself to empathize with a man who committed such a heinous act, despite the fact that I myself struggled with my own sexuality. Because as an adolescent, I prayed and prayed for God to release the demon of my attraction toward members of my same sex from me, over and over again, and rather than remove it as I moved later in my teenage years my hormones raged and the desires grew stronger. So I could only have concluded one of two things, that God did not love me, which was something I felt for a long time, or that the demon I was suffering from was not my physical attraction but a lack of self-acceptance for being the beautiful creation that God made me. 

Because our God is a powerful God. Jesus Christ heals the wounded and drives out the demons that we may have in our lives. When I prayed for acceptance of myself, I found it and I discovered that I could be loved and that God did in fact love me and I could love others and was then able to become the loving creation that God intended for me to be. God made a miracle happen with me that day.  

We may struggle to find hope in the tragedy that befell our sisters and brothers in Orlando last Saturday night. We may struggle to understand what it is that motivated that man. We know that 49, well, 50, lives have been tragically cut short in an unprovoked attack that could only happen by the combine forces of numerous demons that exist both in and because of our society. But the sadness that we feel for them and the desire that we have to move forward, to do something, to offer our thoughts and prayers but to do more in the world, to speak out to be the Christ for each other that the love of God compels us to be, that is evidence of a Holy Spirit working in us and for each other and the miracle of his gift to us. 

We can, my sisters and brothers find hope even in the darkest places. We can, beloved creation of God, move from hard tragedy and into the Good News of the promise that Jesus Christ has given us by his glorious death and resurrection in the world. 

Amen. 


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