Sermons and Letters

Genesis 2: 4b-9, 15-22, 25 and Luke 8: 26-39

Our reading from Genesis gives us a vision of paradise.  It is a vision of the world for which God created humanity.  It is a vision of the way the world was meant to be.

It is a vision of abundance captured in the image of a beautiful garden with the sound of life-giving water. 

It is a vision of beauty; the trees that are pleasant to the sight as well as good for food.  There is a delightful array of birds and animals. 

It is a vision of companionship to ensure freedom from loneliness.  God goes to great lengths to see that Adam is not left alone.

It is a vision of self-assuredness symbolised by unembarrassed nakedness.  The kind of nakedness we may enjoy when we have a lovely long soak in the bath.  The kind of nakedness when we can see our bodies the way God sees them rather than the way in which people who judge us see them.  I mean those people who judge our bodies in terms of their perceived needs and desires and their desire to possess us and control us.

I am particularly struck by the image of Adam being invited to name the birds and animals.  Many of us have taken delight in watching birds and identifying wild flowers.  We like to gaze at creation and wallow in its variety by naming the species we can identify.  We delight in seeing a rare bird or an unusual flower.  We love the abundance of creation.

These images of paradise, the way the world was meant to be, these are not unfamiliar images.  We catch glimpses of abundance and beauty and companionship and self-assuredness in the world as we find it.  For many people these may be rare glimpses.  But they are not unheard of.  Paradise as described in this account is not a completely alien concept.  But we glimpse it only infrequently and we yearn to experience it more often.

Jesus crossed the lake and arrived in the country of the Gerasenes and met a naked man but he wasn’t living in paradise.

A man possessed by demons, who would be bound and chained by his community and had escaped to live among the dead; this man’s nakedness is disturbing.  We feel his shame.  Things are not how they should be.

What are these demons that possess this man?  They are many; they are legion.  Not unlike the many forces that possess humanity keeping us bound and chained.

Jesus has the power to heal.  He liberates the man who is possessed.  The man is set free.  But that is not the end of the story.

First, we have the fate of the demons.  They begged Jesus not to order them to go back into the abyss.  So instead they are released into a herd of pigs who then hurl themselves into the lake.  What does that mean?

Then the liberated man asks if he can come with Jesus.  You can imagine why he doesn’t want to stay in the community where he was bound and chained and went around naked and possessed. 

But Jesus said ‘No’.  He tells him to stay in his own community where his transformation will be understood and will bear witness to God’s glory.  The Gerasene man joins the long list of people who ask to be called to a new form of ministry but find they are to persevere where they are.

And persevere he does, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

But Jesus has to leave.  The people are afraid.  The possessed man has been set free.  The pigs have been drowned.  You shouldn’t be keeping pigs, of course.  But, the people are afraid.  It is to this frightened people that the liberated man that Jesus has healed has to proclaim the glory of God and the power of Christ by demonstrating the way in which he had been transformed.

It is our Christian hope that one day the world will be returned to the way it should be.  Humanity will be readmitted to paradise.  We will see that vision of abundance, beauty, companionship and self-assuredness for which we were created.

And Jesus preached about this during his ministry in Galilee and called it the Kingdom of God.  And as followers of Jesus we preach about the Kingdom of God.  We also share this vision of the way the world was meant to be and will be again.  And along the way we will heal people whenever we can.

But some of the people we meet will be afraid.  The scale of the transformation we are talking about will scare them.  They will not believe they can be healed and liberated.  They will believe that they will always be bound and kept in chains by forces that are too powerful to be overcome and will possess them for ever.

But this will not deter us.  Whether we stay where we are or whether we move on, we will continue to heal others whenever we can.  We will declare how much God has done for us.  We will proclaim the Kingdom of God for which we were created.  It is a Kingdom of abundance, of beauty, of companionship and self-assuredness where all of us are healed and all of us are set free.

Epiphany 4. Deuteronomy 18: 15-20 & Mark 1: 21-28
Epiphany 4. Deuteronomy 18: 15-20 & Mark 1: 21-28

The Wedding at Cana – John 2: 1-11
The Wedding at Cana – John 2: 1-11

Second Sunday of Epiphany - John 1: 43-51
Second Sunday of Epiphany - John 1: 43-51

Epiphany – Matthew 2: 1-12 and Isaiah 60: 1-6
Epiphany – Matthew 2: 1-12 and Isaiah 60: 1-6

Sermon Following Bomb Attack in Manchester
This sermon was preached in our church on the Sunday after the terror attack on the MEN Arena