Sunday, 23 June 2013

Sermon Luke 8.26-39, Mission & Love

Sermon preached to the Tamil congregation at St Barnabas, Klang, Malaysia

I would like to thank Pastor Viji for giving me this great honour of being able to speak to you this morning.  I bring greetings from the Diocese of Lichfield, and my own church of St Martin's in Walsall.

If I was asked to sum up the message of the Christian Gospel in one word, that word would be love.  God's love for us, and our love for him.  Jesus' mission, and therefore OUR mission as well, is to carry this love into the world.  

From our Gospel reading today we see that:

1 God's love reaches out to all
2 God's love transforms
3 God's love sends out

1 God's Love Reaches Out

God's love reaches out to all, no one is excluded from it, it crosses the boundaries of culture, religion, race, ethnicity, gender and age.  We see this again and again in Jesus' encounters with people in the Gospel stories, such as our reading today.  

As Jesus travelled to the region of the Gerasenes, he was not only crossing the Sea of Galilee, but also crossing cultural and religious boundaries, travelling to the land of the Gentiles. 

When Jesus met people, he saw them for who they truly were, people made in the image of God, of infinite beauty and worth, precious in God's sight.  So when Jesus met the demon possessed man as he stepped off the boat, he loved him and had compassion on him.    

Just as Jesus excluded no one, and reached out to all in love and compassion, so we too are called to do the same.  To see them as God sees them.  

Mother Theresa was once asked “How can you keep serving the poor, the sick, and the dying with such vigor? What's the secret? How do you do it?”  To which she answered, "Whenever I meet someone in need, it’s really Jesus in his most distressing disguise.”

Jesus in the child abandoned by the road.
Jesus in the beggar hoping for a meal.
Jesus in the leper whose limbs have turned to dust.
"It’s him I help—him alone."

When we reach out in love, it is Christ we are serving.

2 God's Love Transforms

When Jesus met the demon possessed man, he found a man who was naked, alone, cut off and abandoned by his community.  Living among the tombs, in a place of utter desolation.  This man had no name or identity, except for what was afflicting him, the 'Legion' of demons that had invaded him.

But at the word of Jesus, this man's life was transformed.  He was restored, not just to his right mind, but to his family and community.  His life had been given back to him, he had been brought back from the dead.

Just as Jesus had power to transform this man's life, so he has power to transform our lives.  To free us from the things that enslave us, that prevent us from living the life God wants us to have, the things that rob us of our true identity as sons and daughters of God.  It is God's love at work in our lives, that achieves this transformation.  

By carrying God's love into the world, we play are part in transforming lives, transforming our community, our country and ultimately our world.  But when we consider the task facing us, we may feel daunted, can we really make a difference.  The answer is yes, one person at a time.  Again Mother Theresa said "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love." 

An old man was watching as a boy picked up a starfish which had been washed up on the beach after a powerful storm, and return the starfish to the sea.  The old man  asked the boy what he was doing, and the boy replied, "if I don't return this starfish to the sea it will die." The old man replied, "But there are thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”  The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and put it back into the ocean.  Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

We may not feel we can make much difference, but one person at a time, we slowly transform this world.  We may never know the impact our actions will have one others.  

For example, the name Albert McMakin may not mean much to anyone.  But because of him hundreds of thousands of people have been led to Christ.  Because Albert McMakin was the person who persuaded a reluctant Billy Graham to attend an evangelistic meeting in 1934, where he gave his life to Christ. Billy Graham went onto become one of the greatest evangelists this world has ever seen. 

3 God's love sends out

After healing the Geneserat man Jesus instructed him to, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” 

As Jesus sent this man to proclaim what God had done for him, so Jesus sends us out into the world to proclaim his great deeds, and to carry his message of love to all people in both word and action.  Our mission field lies outside those doors, amongst our friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues, and the people we meet as we go about our business day by day.  

As we come to the Lord's table, and receive bread and wine, the symbols of God's love for us, let us rededicate ourselves to Christ's service, and to his mission in the world, a mission rooted in love.  Amen.

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