Sermon on the Gospel of Luke 8:26-39 by Pastor Emily E. Ewing
Post date: Jun 23, 2016 12:53:24 PM
This last week has been awful. It is a hard week to be me and to preach. This sermon is so hard and so complicated.
47 years ago this month transgender women of color protested brutality and attacks on who they were in a gay bar called Stonewall and from that protest, a movement grew so that throughout the country and the world parades and marches are celebrating the lives and worth of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and Two Spirit people.
Last Sunday a man with weapons in his car was stopped before he could arrive at and attack the Los Angeles Pride Parade. The night before, last Saturday during the night LGBTQ+ Latinxs were targeted and killed in one of few spaces that are supposed to be truly safe. Bars and clubs like Pulse in Orlando are sanctuary for LGBTQ+ communities and that sanctuary was defiled as bullets rained down on beloved children of God. Throughout the week, we have continued to hear of threats of violence and graffiti directed toward LGBTQ+ people.
This sermon is hard because in light of all of this, I don’t know who is who in today’s gospel. It would be easy to preach on Galatians and proclaim us all united in Christ, that our differences aren’t as important. But it’s not true. Our differences are important. Our diversity matters. God cherishes our differences. And difference matters because it is precisely the “difference” of being LGBTQ+; of being Latinx, that was targeted last week at Pulse in Orlando and that has been targeted over 200 times in the last six months with anti-LGBTQ+ legislation throughout this country.
But who in our gospel is the Gerasene man, possessed by so many demons that they are called “Legion”? The one the rest of the community has chained up and left—literally as though he were already dead to them—in the tombs? Are the demons the evil? Or is it the chains—the exile imposed?
Chains of division and demonization, of othering, of claims about splinters in their eye, not seeing the planks in our own.
Chains of silencing and refusing for so long to name homophobia, transphobia, and racism as sins.
Chains of blame—to blame Muslims for this act of terror that is decidedly “American,”
bred by fundamentalist faiths and fearful and hateful rhetoric and policies, not by Islam.
Or are we, the church, the one possessed by the demons of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and islamophobia? Are we the ones who are chained up, living in death possessed by these demons we don’t know how to banish?
Are we the community, terrified that Jesus has exposed our exclusion, the brokenness of a community that casts out those we don’t understand, those we are afraid of? Are LGBTQ+ communities that community? Afraid of or rejecting the church that could tear us apart, in its possession by demons that lead not to life but to death?
I honestly don’t know who is who. Maybe because I am both. I am this church that struggles with our legacy of racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, islamophobia and so many other systems of discrimination. And I am queer.
During my second year in seminary, in 2011, a group of ELCA bishops visited our seminary, as different ones do each seminary each year.
During their visit, when asked how they would support women, LGBTQ+ people, and people of color as new pastors in their synods, the bishops were so bound in chains from fear that they had no words of comfort, support, or encouragement for us—they could only defend a need to “protect” congregations from queer people like me.
I was devastated. We were devastated.
That weekend, a group of us went to SideTrack, a gay bar in boystown in Chicago, for Show Tunes night. It was there that I found sanctuary. It was there that my whole being was affirmed. It was there that I was supported as a queer person. Last week that sanctuary was attacked.
So, I don’t know who we are or where we fit in this story, except that Jesus shows up anyway. Jesus comes to Gerasene on purpose. Jesus meets the one possessed by demons. Jesus goes to the one left out, rejected, sent to live in the place of the dead.
Jesus was at Pulse last week, telling people to leave and run and then staying with those who could not leave, holding them in his arms, crying with them, being crucified again and again and again.
Jesus was at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last year. Sitting in Bible study and sending people running when shots rang out, and then staying with those who could not leave, holding them in his arms, crying with them, being crucified again and again and again.
And Jesus is with those who brave the Rio Grande, the Straights of Florida, and the Sonoran Desert of Arizona for a better life, hope, a chance to live. Jesus is swimming and walking with them, urging them to safety, and then staying with those who can go no farther, holding them in his arms, crying with them, being crucified again and again and again.
Jesus shows up in those places where people and communities, like the man from Gerasene, are bound by chains and where we bind each other with chains. Where we claim demon possession and where we are possessed. Jesus shows up and exposes the injustice and names the evil.
And Jesus begins the scary process of healing, because the whole community is broken when one person is bound by chains, when one person is sent away, when one person does not belong.
We are all broken.
And yet Jesus comes to our brokenness and recognizes us. Jesus claims us as beloved and as we work to follow Jesus, Jesus sends us to Proclaim the healing and wholeness,to glorify God even in our new and scary reality.
Jesus breaks the chains that bind the Gerasene man possessed by demons and the chains that bind us. Jesus shows up at gay bars and Bible studies; in deserts and rivers; in bread broken and parades marched; with rainbows and love and hope for a new way and a new world where all live, claimed as family.
Because Jesus doesn’t leave anyone beyond hope.
Jesus doesn’t leave anyone for dead.
Thanks be to God.