Sometimes the Mission is at Home
by the Rt. Rev. Chris Giesler
Preaching Text: Luke 8:26-39
In the Moravian Church, following the teaching of some of our earliest church leaders, we have come to see the essential of our faith in believing in the God who creates, redeems, and blesses; and we respond with faith, love, and hope. I would go one step further to say that our willingness to serve others is also a part of our response. This certainly follows the pattern of how our forefathers and mothers lived.
The Gospel text for us this week has us following Jesus across the Sea of Galilee into Gentile country, where he receives a rather nondescript welcome. As a matter of fact, the only ones to greet Jesus are the demons within this one man running around naked, living in the town’s cemetery. Pigs, a naked man, dead people, and demons, a very unclean place in Jesus’ day. Jesus begins by asking the man his name. “Legion” comes the response, perhaps to intimidate Jesus with thoughts of an army with legions of soldiers. This is no one-on-one event. Jesus is not bothered and only digs in deeper. Now, the legions seem to have met their match and asked for a convenient place to take up residence as they would be leaving this poor man. The swine on the hillside seemed to be the logical place to go, and, so the story goes, the demons entered the pigs and proceeded to rush headlong into the lake and were drowned. This was no way to win points with the local pig owners, but this poor man was quite relieved.
Interestingly, when the townspeople came to see what had happened, they found the man, now clothed and in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to him. To sit at one’s feet was, in Jesus’ time, to refer to a teacher/student relationship. This man that was once out of control is now eager to learn from Jesus. He is, in fact, becoming a disciple.
The town’s people don’t know what to make of it and are not ready. They are fearful and ask Jesus to leave. But as Jesus is getting back in his boat, the man asks to go with him. He is not ready for this encounter to end. But Jesus has something else in mind. He needs a witness here in this place, telling him, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And the man does just that.
This man lived out what we consider as our essential: faith in God as creator, redeemer, and sustainer—and responding in faith, love, and hope. Is not this our calling as well? To spend time at the feet of our Savior. To affirm the presence of God in our lives. And then to serve him in our daily lives. For this man, it was returning to his home where he was known as the man who was formally possessed but now serves God. Sometimes our calling might be to go somewhere and serve; sometimes, our calling might be to remain at home and serve there. Where is God calling you today?