Proper 7+Year C The Reverend Robert R.M. Bagwell+
23 June AD 2013 St Thomas Parish Isle of Hope GA
Isaiah 65:1-9 Psalm 22:18-27
Galatians 3:23-29 Luke 8:26-39
"O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen."
We live in a world that longs for heroic figures. We see it in our adulation of great leaders, those who accomplish great feats and those who we hold up as role models. Have you ever wondered what the world was life before Jesus Christ? We learn from ancient writings that there was a common longing and even a thought among the wise across the Middle East that a Messianic figure was about to come on the earth. If we look about us we can see that longing even in our culture, certainly in the Jewish and Muslim faiths as well as in our own Christian faith.
For example, the long awaited latest production of a story created by two high school students in the 1930s has been released. As children of Jewish immigrants, the students peppered their fantasy hero with antecedents of their Hebrew faith throughout the story. They called him: Superman. Even more striking however are the themes and parallels to our Christian faith that appear in this story if we have eyes to see. He was sent to the earth to live a very modest life by his parents with the words of his father: “Goodbye, my son. Our hopes and dreams travel with you.” His mother worries, “He will be an outcast. They’ll kill him.” Remind you of anybody else who you know about?
His life begins supposedly the son of the Jonathan and Martha Kent family, on their family farm. His name, Kal-el contains the Hebrew name for God: "El". Later in the story he would seem like a god to the human race yet he remains humble, loving and caring and ultimately saves the world. What similar struggles Jesus must shared as he "grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke) as the scripture relates. When the earth is threatened with destruction by the exiled Kryptonian villain General Zod, he must make a decision, he would possibly die, but he would die to save the earth. In the movie he says: “I’m not surrendering myself to Zod. I’m surrendering myself to mankind.” I don't know, sounds a bit like Jesus.
In his essay, “Myth Became Fact,” C.S. Lewis noted, “The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens – at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences.” Paul wrote: " “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found inhuman form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
People still wonder about the man Jesus. Two thousand years later he is the most admired figure that ever lived. He is the original Superman, the one that set humanity free from sin, selfishness and every form of degraded love. He was like no other man who had ever lived. Jesus transformed the world. He is I would argue, even as a human being, the most significant figure in human history. From the moment of his birth, history was split in two: Before Jesus and after Jesus. Despite his detractors in his own day right up to the present moment, he continues to confound and transform, give hope to the hopeless, help to the needy, lifting up the downtrodden and raising up the weak. 'Jesus Saves ' is the testimony of millions and millions since he first came to earth and it is Jesus everyone of us desperately needs to be our defender, Redeemer and friend. “ Like the story of Superman, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
In the readings the themes of liberation and freedom are paramount. In the readings today not only do we see the display of Jesus' power but of his loving caring response to the man afflicted by the demonic oppression. He does not neglect the soul afflicted by torment. He who is the God-Man reaches out to save. He liberates him from oppression. As the collect recounts: we need God's governance which he supplies through grace. The grace we experience as we come to know Jesus in a more deeply and personal way.
Paul also echoes the theme when he talks about LAW and GRACE. Have you ever noticed the tendency of the faithful to often with good intentions, seek to turn the gospel literally translated "good news" into something less good, from freedom to a form of bondage? But Christ's gospel puts everyone on the same level playing field. Paul wrote""no slave nor free, no male nor female."
Martin Luther said:" It's the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel." Paul said the law was an interim measure. He said: we were imprisoned and guarded under the law. It was keeping us safe, like someone in protective custody, until faith came. Faith is the great liberator of the soul and spirit. Faith is God's gift--not of works, as Paul wrote.
So why do we want to go back to law? Perhaps because we think we can understand law better. Cause and effect: something we can measure. However, if we have been set free by Jesus Christ, why can't we let the Holy Spirit lead us into all truth as Jesus promised? Paul said: the law was to lead us to Christ. It is a mirror that shows our true nature and character. It shows us that we cannot live all of the commandments of the law consistently for a lifetime! Half the time I can barely keep the laws of the city and state much less live a life of perfection. Faith declares the guilty justified. Nor that the guilty is not guilty, but that the law has declared them innocent.
Rather than trying to make us morally paranoid, Jesus says, "I love you, I expect you to fail more than you do yourself. I love you anyway. I'll help you. Be secure in that love." Paul says we are clothed with Christ as with a garment. Paul said "in him we live and move and have their being." The Holy Spirit now has become our "disciplinarian", "our schoolmaster" on the inside to keep us in Christ Jesus and the Father's love. Christians live obedience because we love. Love has been placed in our hearts and our lives have changed. We have engaged the Superman of God who quite literally has saved the earth from ultimate destruction by bringing a people into the family of God, a new order of being, sharing in God's life and work.
Our deliverer, THE SUPER GOD-MAN has delivered us forever. Think of it, if you see the movie. Think of it when you read the Bible. Think of it when you pray. AMEN