Homily 332 – 22nd after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
October 28, 2018
Epistle – (215) Galatians 6:11-18
Gospel – (38) Luke 8:26-39
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
The demons in the Gadarene man recognized Jesus.
They recognized not only Christ, but His authority over them. The only option they had was to obey.
Given this fact, why did – why does – God allow the demons to exist in the first place?
Blessed Theophylact has an answer for us – we need to be tested. Tested may not be the right word. Strengthened.
We need to be strengthened. How do we get strong? In the world, we watch what we eat (our intake), we exercise (a lot), and we push ourselves to do more and more.
It is the same in the Kingdom of God. We get strong by testing – which comes from the demons.
Blessed Theophylact says:
If man had no adversaries, there would be no struggles – no contests – and if no contest, no crowns of victory.
So, the demons exist for our benefit – that we might be made stronger through contending with them.
In this case, the man lived in the tombs, naked. That is to say, he lives in the places of rotting flesh, where there is no life.
In the Church, there is life – and so this man doesn’t live in the Church, nor even near the Church.
And he is naked, because he has cast off his baptismal clothing – rejecting the Church, rejecting God.
Ultimately, the man lives a life of hopelessness. Tied intimately to the world, no longer even in control of himself – he is truly enslaved by the demons that possess him.
2,000 years later, and we are no better off than this poor soul. And the demons we face are so much stronger, so much more wiley.
The demons we face are lethal. They bind us to this world, just as they did the demoniac. But unlike the demoniac, they convince us that we want to be bound – we want to be enslaved.
They convince us that we are the way we are by our choice, and by our recognition.
Yet, that is not the truth. Not even close.
The demons in the Gospel were so powerful, they convinced the entire town to ask Jesus to leave them. They liked wallowing in the mud with their pigs.
And we also ask Jesus to depart from us – because we also enjoy the pleasures of this world and of our flesh. Even though they are temporary – even momentary – and leave us worse than the pleasure they bring.
Except the one who was healed – the demoniac. He did not ask Jesus to go away, in fact the opposite – he begged Jesus to be allowed to follow with Him, to be in His presence as a disciple.
Christ had a different task for him, though. His path of discipleship was different. He became a precursor to the Great Commission – to go and make disciples of all.
The instruction to him is the same instruction to us, and to all who are healed, and being healed. Go and tell your people, your community, your home – what great things Christ has done.
Many of you know there was a time when Matushka and I explored being foreign missionaries. But God’s calling for us was to tell our people – America – what God had done for us.
The Coatney’s offer themselves to God in service in Ethiopia – they respond to a slightly different location, but the same calling. To tell what great things God has done.
Life isn’t perfect after Christ removes the demons from us. Far from it. We live with the memory, and those demons tormenting us with the past, and enticing us with an illusory future.
It’s kind of like the lottery we saw this week. You might say that one person in South Carolina found a great blessing and great wealth. You can also truthfully say that one person in South Carolina has been given a tremendous burden. Bondage, even.
That person may no longer believe they need God. That person may rely on themselves, and focus their lives on the material – living in the graveyard, amongst the tombs.
But those dreams – those ideas – that is what the demons sell us.
“You don’t need God,” they say. “You are strong, independent, self sufficient.”
Then, they bind us. Or, rather, we bind ourselves. We beg them to bind us – please, what you offer is what I desire – bind me!!
Brothers and sisters, everything in this world will fade. Power, wealth, fame – all will be for naught. And then our short time of comfort will reveal itself for what it is.
Eternity of death – eternity of being apart from God, who loves us.
So use this life to struggle with those demons – become strong! Detach from what they offer.
And then, find the courage from God to tell everyone what good things God has done for you.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!