2nd Week after Pentecost - 6-19-22

2nd Week after Pentecost - 6-19-22

June 19, 2022 | Bryan Simmons

Passage: Luke 8:26-39

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    For those of you listening online, you kids, I hope you had fun running around your living room there. Let's pray together. Repeat after me. Dear Jesus, thank you for the love that you have shown the Gerasene Demoniac. That we know that your love frees us to be able to love one another as you love us. Help us to do just that. When things seem scary, when barriers seem too high, help us to break through like you do. And share your love. Amen.

    All right. Well, thank you, John. That was that was pretty fun, actually. All right. That was just half the sermon, John. So. It's summer blockbuster season and I don't know how many people have. Been out and gone out to the movies lately. Who's seen Top Gun, the new Top Gun movie? Is it as good as everyone says it is? Better than the first one? Okay, I hear that from everybody. That's very good. I haven't seen that one yet. I saw Jurassic World, though. I don't know how many people have been out and seen that one yet. Yeah, a few. Yeah. Not as many. Are you afraid because you think it might not be all that great? Is that Jurassic Park was amazing. I remember watching that in the theater and thought that was such a fantastic movie. Jurassic Park two and three. Progressively worse. I think we can all agree with that. And then Jurassic World came and it was essentially Jurassic Park all over again, but it was still really fun to watch. And then the sequel to that. Yeah. So I almost went to this one out of obligation by this point. But I got to tell you, I was I was pleasantly surprised. I thought I thought they did a good job with what they had to work with. We'll put it that way.

    I was more entertained than I thought, but in that series there's that character, Ian Malcolm. And if you don't if you've never seen any of the Jurassic Park movies, maybe you don't know who he is, but he's a chaostitian, somebody that works to describe what's called chaos theory. And it's this idea that everything is interrelated in a seemingly chaotic, unpredictable environment and so much so that we can actually prove it using math. And math is interesting that way in that it can it can really diagram and explain a lot of things that seem unexplainable. But the most common phenomena out of this theory is the butterfly effect, right? How many I've heard about the butterfly effect? It's essentially this idea that says that, well, you can't necessarily predict it. We are so connected and events in this world are so connected that a butterfly flapping its wings will eventually lead to a tornado in Texas.

    A butterfly in Brazil, I should say that -- it's far away, right? Flapping its little wings can lead to a tornado in Texas. It's one of those things where the the initial conditions are what's important, because if those are set right, you could accurately predict the future using math, which is amazing. The problem is they've discovered that you can't really predict the -- or set the initial conditions precisely, which is why we have so many different models and weather. Right? While you go out expecting a great day and it rains on you. But the main takeaway from me with this chaos theory, this idea that you can actually define things mathematically that seem unpredictable, is this notion that we are all connected. Every thing in creation is intimately connected to each other. And it functions as one system. Right? And so we can't escape this system we are in. We are in this system together. So much so that a butterfly can flap its wings in Brazil and lead up to a tornado in Texas.

    And it got me thinking more about systems theory and family systems. And some of you might know family systems theory is a big one, too. It's this idea that we are all connected. And systems theory came about primarily because parents were bringing their kids to therapists and saying, Fix my kid -- there's something wrong with them. And therapists figure it out over time that -- uh, it ain't just the kid. We are we are connected to each other through our families in ways that are inescapable, in ways that end up defining who we are and how we approach life and the worldview we have, good or ill. And what they found is that people in unhealthy family systems have a harder time differentiating their self from the family, and that that leads to problems on down the road. And can get progressively unhealthier and lead to things like we know as cycle of abuse, cycle of poverty, those types of things. And that we we tend to triangulate our relationships and there's usually, you know, two "in people" and an "out person" or you bring somebody else in if you feel like you're the out person and create a new triangle. And it's this idea, again, that we are so intimately connected and so influenced by each other that we are a part of a system that we need to navigate. And in these systems, there are in-groups and out-groups. And this applies to work, our church here, we're a church family system here as well. Society in general is a system and it is us connected to each other in ways that we can't avoid. And in these systems, there are in-groups and there are out-groups.

    And on this Juneteenth celebration, this idea of the emancipation of slaves, the physical reality of that. It's a recognition that we too, live in a system that struggles with truly emancipating. And we use this word a lot, this word RACISM. And I think, you know, initially we're not supposed to use that word. Right? It's impolite, it's offensive. But it's this word that I think it's often misconstrued and confused as well, because we often look at ourselves and we say, well, I'm not racist. And that might be true. You might not act in a racist way. You might not feel racist. But it's this recognition that we live in a system where there are some that benefit and some that don't. And it continues to be that way. It's a systemic thing when that word is used. And this is honestly no different than Jesus's day. When Jesus came and lived his life and proclaimed healing and forgiveness to the nations, died on a cross on Good Friday, rose again on the third day? That act of love, that act of sacrifice annihilated all distinction between you and me to the point where Paul says there is no Jew or Greek. There is no slave or free. There is no male female. There is just us, loved by God. Equally. Unconditionally. Forgiven.

    The problem is we as human societies do what we do and we try to hang on to those things. I don't know, out of scarcity, lack of feeling like we lack resources. Who knows? So while that was absolutely true, it is not fully realized yet. But this is the way the kingdom operates. And in Jesus's day, as he was walking around the valley of Gerasenes, he takes a look at this, this man that runs out to him. Possessed by a legion of demons. Right? It says his name is Legion. Jesus takes the time to not only love this man, but talk to this demon. Right? And it is out of love. Out of the love of God, that Jesus shows compassion. That Jesus shows this love, this kingdom mentality, this idea that breaks through any system created. To show love. And in this system, this Geresene Demoniac was literally chained up and guarded so that if he ever got out, they could catch him right away and chain him back up. That system worked great for the people that were in the city that didn't have to worry about it because we had this plan. It didn't work so great for the Geresene Demoniac. So Jesus heals him. Jesus frees them of this demon, this legion of demons, and they enter the pigs. And the pigs run off. Drown in the sea. I don't know how many of you out there are dealing in livestock, but if your entire herd dies in a single season, that's some devastating stuff. You might not be able to recover from that. So the the swine herds and the rest of the city and the countryside were naturally afraid of that. They were afraid because their system got upended. By this breakthrough of love. He was uncomfortable.

    But that is the way of the Kingdom. The way of the Kingdom is to destroy our human systems with the Kingdom of God. Love wins despite our setup. And so it's a recognition here that we participate in a system that has been created that we did not create. But that perpetuates itself on our watch. A system that benefits some, and oppresses others. And on this Juneteenth celebration I invite us to think about our role in that system. Willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly. It's not an indictment of us individually but it's a recognition of us as a whole participating in a system. How does God's love speak to us in this time? Who is the person that Jesus is going to look after? Who is the person that Jesus is going to go after to make sure that the Kingdom of God is known to them.

    I invite you at this time, we're going to enter into a time of call and response prayer for forgiveness of this system we are in. I invite you to join me in that as we close out this sermon. Gracious God, we thank you for making one human family, of all the peoples of the Earth, and for creating all the wonderful diversity of cultures. 
    Enrich our lives by ever widening circles of fellowship and show us your presence in those who differ most from us. 
    The system of racism which denies dignity to those who are different. 
    Lord, forgive us. Lord, have mercy. 
    For the system of racism, which recognizes prejudice and others, and never in ourselves. 
    Christ, forgive us. Christ, have mercy. 
    For the system of racism which will not recognise the work of your spirit in other cultures. 
    Lord, forgive us. Lord have mercy. 
    Forgive those of us who have been silent and apathetic in the face of racial intolerance and bigotry, both overt and subtle, public and private
    And take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts
    Break down the walls that separate us.
    And help us to find the unity that is the fruit of righteousness and will enable us to become your beloved community. 
    Empower us to speak boldly for justice and truth. And help us to deal with other one another without hatred or bitterness. Working together with mutual forbearance and respect.
    And work through our struggles and confusion to accomplish your purposes. 

    O God of unconditional love, you show no partiality in respect to people or nations.

    We have heard your good news of great joy for all the people. We hear that good news and in hearing believe. We know that your sanctuary is a house of worship for all people with no regard for color of skin. As we worship, you knit us into a people, a seamless garment of many colors. May we celebrate our unity made whole in our diversity. Forgive us for our ability to or our inability to let our old selves die to the world. We acknowledge that we participate in structures that are inherently racist, and yet we do nothing to remedy it. Show us when we fail. When we judge others according to the color of their flesh. Amen.

    But here again, the good news. God does not deal with us according to our sin, but delights in granting pardon and mercy. In the name of Jesus Christ your sins are forgiven. You are free to love as God loves. And that is the beauty of this Christian way of life. We are free to love as God loves. We are free to look at the people that Jesus looked upon and loved, that were shunned by society, that were downtrodden. They were outcast. They were oppressed. And we are able to love as God loves. Let us do exactly that. Amen.