Series: Wings of Transformation
Sermon: Claimed for New Life
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
March 12, 2017
Scriptures: Psalm 63:1-8 and Mark 5:1-20 NRSV
††††††††† Every human being lives among the tombs, so to speak. We are born into a narrative of family histories, some good and some that leave us emotionally wounded, angry and sometimes even toxic. Rather than wrestle with the details of Mark 5 being interpreted literally, letís use our imaginations and claim our own place in this redemptive action of Jesus.
††††††††† If youíre like me, there comes a time in mid to later life when you wish you could go back and ask questions of older family members, the questions you didnít have the sense or boldness to ask when you were young. But now, as we reflect, we wonder about so many things and those who had the answers are gone. What happened to make uncle so-and-so drink so much when he came back from the war? Why does no one in the family ever mention what happened to cause the rift between the sisters? The father and son? The parents and grandparents?
††††††††† Sometimes we learn that circumstances beyond control changed a life forever; an accident, the war, the Depression, the unfaithfulness of a spouse, a tragic loss. The list could go on. Other times, it was a series of bad choices that cause the individual to go down a path that led to exclusion to the point of excommunication; drug usage, alcohol addiction, abusiveness, stealing, or murder. Frequently, the roots of a situation are deep, reaching back for generations, with behaviors passed from one generation to the next. This is especially true with addictive and abusive behaviors.
††††††††† What Jesus shows us in todayís Bible lesson is that healthier and happier endings are possible. There is hope because of Jesusí redemptive power; the power to change lives forever.
††††††††† Most of us have grown up hearing that if we work hard enough, if we try hard enough, if we keep striving, we will be successful. We were taught that our own effort was the key. If we lived right and obeyed all the rules we would be happy and have a place in heaven. It was all about what we did to make ourselves good enough, successful enough and, ultimately, righteous enough for God to love us and grant us a place in heaven.
This is a path that leads to despair and disappointment because inevitably, we mess up and fall short somewhere. More than once. If we could do it all on our own, we wouldnít need Jesus and the redemptive power of the cross. But we do. We need the power of Jesus, the Holy Spirit power, the power of God, to transform our brokenness, and send it away, forever. We need the grace offered by Jesus to put us on the path that leads to life. When we surrender our lives to Christ we are claimed for new life; a state that changes not only ourselves, but future generations as well.
So, what does it take? How do we do this? We run to Jesus, just like the wild man who lived among the tombs. We run to Jesus, bow down before him, and give him all our pain and sadness, everything that stands between us and God, and have faith in His power to heal and make new.
Itís all about faith in the risen Christ. Not even death could restrain or limit him. Surely, he has the power to set us free as well! Jesus not only has the power, he has the desire, out of love for all Godís beloved children, to transform our hearts and minds and change our future, for the sake of Godís kingdom.
Continual striving can be the enemy. Striving to be good enough for God can stand in the way because it keeps our focus on us being in control. If I ďdoĒ this, then this will be the consequence. We become the creator in our mindís eye, and the judge of what it will take to get what we want. The problem is, we have little awareness of our systemic brokenness and no concept of all the possible outcomes of our potential actions. We imagine things will go one way, and then are shocked and disappointed when things donít turn out. The problem is, we are not in control.
Yes, we have free will. We make choices and God wants us to choose well. But we are not the only person making choices, and we bump up against competing realities, competing interests, and our choices donít always land us where we thought they would.
The only choice that leads us where we need to go is to choose a deeper relationship with God. To love God with our whole heart will lead us to healthier choices in our other relationships as well. When we love God more than anything else, we begin to realize that we are loved by God, already. God loves us despite our brokenness, and seeks to reclaim our lives for Godís purposes. That is the nature of redemption based in Godís love. The possibilities become endless because of the power of the cross. †††††††††††††In Christ, we are set free to new life, set free from continual striving, pain and struggle and launched into a life that is no longer limited by our history. New courage and strength comes through our relationship with God in Christ Jesus.
In the story of the Gerasene Demoniac you remember what happened when Jesus was ready to head off to the other side of the lake? The community people were both astounded at what they saw in the former wild man, now clean, dressed, and calm, and yet, they were afraid after seeing what happened to the herd of swine Ė the livelihood of many. They begged Jesus to leave them because they didnít want to change. And the man who had been healed begged Jesus to take him with him in the boat, but Jesus said no. Surely, the man thought, leaving this community and starting fresh where no one knew him as he once was would be so much easier than trying to rebuild trust with the people he had hurt. But Jesus said no. ďGo home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.Ē Mark 5:19
The best evangelism for Jesus is done by living a life of faith and giving the credit to God, where the credit is due. Telling oneís own story of being claimed for new life is compelling. No one can deny your story; especially if they have seen both the before and the after. They remember what used to be and now they see a new person; a changed life, no longer held captive by addiction, guilt, regret, or emotional pain that went unhealed because it was held on to, rather than surrendered in forgiveness in order to move forward in Godís love.
Lest we get too proud, let me remind us. While we seek to move on to Christian perfection and sanctification, we remain human. Through the course of our lives, we will discover within us, every so often, in the recesses of our hidden selves, something that needs to be transformed by God. It could be something new or something old, from our childhood; something we couldnít understand or interpret then, but now that we have more life under our belt we come to realize pain which has gone unresolved. Rather than repress it or let it continue to haunt, give it to Jesus and let it go. Embrace the healing and forgiveness that is offered and let it go. Learn from it, and let it go.
God is able and willing to transform and heal. It is because of Godís power and desire to claim us for new life that we have hope.
You are a beloved child of God. Nothing you could ever do would make God love you more or love you less. Keep your eyes upon Jesus and be transformed by his grace. Have faith in his power to make you whole and to cast out everything that separates you from God.