The following is my sermon from this morning (5 Oct 2015) at Berkeley Divinity School. We follow the daily office lectionary and the sermon focuses on today’s Gospel passage – Matthew 8:28-34. We also transferred to this morning the commemoration of St. Francis of Assisi. The text of the sermon is copied below and you can listen to it over on SoundCloud.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about evil, about demons, about sin and all the ways we fall short of the glory of God. I’ve been thinking about the shooting in Oregon and the one hundred and forty one other school shootings since Newtown. I’ve been thinking about 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, the young Syrian boy whose image will never leave my mind. I’ve been thinking about the ways we undercut one other and create unhealthy systems of competition, the ways we fail at being a community of faith, and the ways we use self-deprecation to undercut ourselves. Evil, demons, and sin come in so many shapes, sizes, and forms and it is all too easy to gloss over them, ignore them, and try to move on as quickly as possible.
This morning we hear the story of the Gadarene Demoniac. We get a glimpse of the danger and power of evil. Yet those beings so fierce that no one could pass by them quake in fear at the presence of Jesus. They know that in time they will be judged and punished harshly for their actions, and they are petrified because they think that time has come early.
I wonder if we as individuals, as a community of faith, as part of the whole human race play this game. If we recognize that we are falling short but do not have the urgency to change our actions, to repent, to make things whole again because time is not yet up? I do not know about you, but I am certainly guilty of being complacent in my own actions and the actions I witness around me. I do not know about you, but sometimes I could repent a bit more earnestly of the evil that enslaves me, the evil I have done, and the evil done on my behalf.
Luckily for us, something has happened that has saved us from the sin and death that plague the world. For God loves us so much that he sent his Son, born of a woman, to take on the very nature of our humanity, so that all who believe might not perish but have eternal life. God loves us so much that while hanging on the Cross God destroyed death once and for all. God kicked down the gates of hell rescuing every tormented soul.
In a few moments we will come to this table to share in the most holy and precious meal we could ever be apart of. We will be invited to allow the very incarnate nature of this all-powerful and all saving God to enter into the very depths of our being. We will be healed by that same presence of God that caused the fiercest of demons to cower. We will be strengthened to go out in the name of Jesus to heal this broken and hurting world.
Before us today is a profound witness of the depths of the Christian life we have been called to. We see in St. Francis a model for simplicity of life; for casting aside worldly goods, pleasures, and desires for the sake of the Gospel. We see in Francis an example of someone who understood what it means to go out and heal. Someone who knew what it means to sow love where there is hate, pardon where there is injury, faith where there is doubt, hope where there is despair, light where there is darkness, and joy where there is sadness. Someone who knew what it means to repent and return to the Lord.
Friends there is much work to be done and it will not be easy. But luckily we get to begin each day in this holy space. We begin each day on our knees praying for forgiveness, healing, and strength. It seems to me that we could not ask for a better posture from which to begin this work.