Sunday, Jan. 26 – Reconnection

Mark 5:1-20 Jesus heals the Gerasene demoniac
Psalm 89:1-4

We face many demons that separate us from community. A man’s body has been ravaged, his wholeness broken by what the Bible calls demons. Jesus, then, shows up. He reconnects this man to himself and his community. Why Church? Because church is all about reconnection.

Introduction & Reflection

When I was a kid, I loved Scooby Doo. By heart, I knew the theme song, every episode, and most of the villains. Reading Mark 5:1-20 launched me into a new mystery to solve. The reading rolls out like a beautiful episode, but we don’t get Scooby or Fred or Thelma. Instead, we get the mystery of Jesus and his gang. It starts with them getting into a boat to sail across the sea to the other side.

Now it’s just like a Scooby Doo episode to hit land on some spooky island, an eerie amusement park, or like in this story with Jesus, at a creepy cemetery. When Jesus steps out of the boat, the possessed man or Legion makes himself known. Legion, we know, is not a Scooby Doo character. But he is like the villains, Miner 49er or the Creeper, none of them can stay hidden long. Legion is front and center as soon as Jesus arrives. With all the hiding places a cemetery has to offer like behind tombstones, or hillside caves to crawl into, or even up in a tree, why not stay hidden? A couple of thoughts come to mind:

Zoinks! It’s Noise: Legion does not have a quiet soul. He is howling like a banshee both day and night. Chains and shackles cannot keep him bound, and his animalistic instincts have him canvassing the tombs. Noise alone makes him an obvious character.

Jinkies! Demon possession: Here is where the mystery lies, right? Scooby and the gang unmasked their culprits, and it was always human. Legion is different, and we don’t know how to make sense of it. Many people like to explain demon possession as some kind of psychiatric disorder, self-mutilation, or chemical dependency. Others call Legion something like “inner demons” or “inner evil.” But there are many places in the world where people believe in demon possession. As a former missionary in Madagascar, the casting out of demons is a common practice in the Malagasy Lutheran Church. They call it “Fifohazana” which means “Awakening.” In a simple explanation of “fifohazana,” the “mpiandry” or “shepherds” during a worship service surround the congregation to cast out demons and perform spiritual healings. They swat their hands towards the people seated in the pews to shoo away demons, evil thoughts, and illness while calling upon the name of Jesus saying: “Mivoka amin’ ny anaran’ i Jesosy!” or “Get out in the name of Jesus!” The process is then followed by an individual blessing. It’s really hard to know how to unmask demon possession, but sometimes things are best left as a mystery.

Meddling Truth? Legion can’t stay hidden. In fact, he runs to Jesus, and he begs for mercy. But mercy is what Jesus gives the man, not Legion. Instead, Jesus sets into motion a domino effect or chain reaction, and it starts with casting out Legion. The demons tumble into swine, swine into sea, swine herders into town, and townspeople to the tombs. The townspeople arrive at the cemetery to see the man sans Legion. But they get more than they expect: they find out the truth known as Jesus. Now, think about how truth works: Truth cannot stay hidden; Jesus has a way of revealing himself. Truth is known by demons; Legion spills the beans with he claimed Jesus as the “Son of the Most High!” Truth can be hard to handle or hard to receive; that’s why the townspeople asked Jesus to leave. Perhaps they weren’t ready for the truth.

But in the end, the truth is what they get, and the man, once held captive, is set free by the one who is the truth, Jesus.

Heather Roth Johnson
Associate Pastor of Faith Formation
St. John’s Lutheran Church
Lakeville, Minnesota

Worship Resources

Call to Worship
L: Let us worship Jesus, Son of the Most High.
C: The One who heals us and sets us free!
L: Let us worship Jesus, Son of the Most High.
C: The One who sees and calls out our tormentors!
L: Let us worship Jesus, Son of the Most High.
C: The One who reconnects us to each other and to the Most High!

Prayer of the Day
Most High God, you see all that breaks us and lessens us – all that separates us from you and each other. Call out the divisions within us and between us and connect us again, so that we may together proclaim to all what Christ has done for us. Amen.

Music

• I’m So Glad Jesus Lifted Me- ELW #860
• Songs of Thankfulness and Praise- ELW #310
• Lord, Speak to Us, That We May Speak- ELW #676
• You Are Good- Israel Houghton
• Jesus Loves Me- Glover, Tomlin, Morgan
• My Lighthouse- Rend Collective

Reader’s Theater

Mark 5:1-20

Narrator: They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him anymore, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice,
Man: “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”
Narrator: For he had said to him,
Jesus: “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
Narrator: Then Jesus asked him,
Jesus: “What is your name?”
Narrator: He replied,
Man: “My name is Legion; for we are many.”
Narrator: He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him,
Man: “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.”
Narrator: So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea. The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus[e] refused, and said to him,
Jesus: “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.”
Narrator: And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

Sermon Starter

Resource: https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/jesus-heals-the-gerasene-demoniac/

This was one of the harder weeks to find a sermon starter. I was searching for a modern day story of a person being ostracized by a community, but through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the church, the person is reconnected. Maybe someone has a better story. What we have in the resource is Jesus giving the demoniac a purpose and a mission, to tell of what God (in Jesus) has done for him. He has (in Tom Wright’s words) become the first apostle to the Gentiles, anticipating what will unfold in the larger narrative. When church is at its best it identifies a person’s uniqueness, whatever that may be to discover a purpose and mission. The demoniac uniqueness was the desire to go and share the Good News after being in solitude confinement for years prior. You could argue that Jesus directed him to stay with his people, people that asked Jesus to leave, who better to stay than the one miraculously experienced reconnection. The Church is at its best when we create sanctuary allowing anyone and everyone to be re-connected.

Children’s Message

Invite the kids to come forward. I want you to look around at the people who are here today. Who do you see? (other kids, people they came with, others they name). Are there some people here you don’t know? Maybe you recognize them but you don’t know their names.

Is there anyone who is not here today? (They may name some people). Some people aren’t here because they might be out of town. They might be sick. (They might have a hockey tournament!)

Did you know that there are other people who aren’t here because they can no longer come to church? They may be older and have health issues so they can’t get here. Are they still part of the church? (hopefully they say yes!)

Invite someone up who visits people who are homebound in the congregation. Briefly interview them.

After we pray, I have a project for you. I’m going to ask you to draw pictures for some of the people who can’t come to church. Put your name on it and after church give it to me or the person you interviewed. We’ll make sure it is given to those people. Okay?

Pray for the people who can’t be with us. Pass out paper and crayons.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s