Today Pastor Ed began a new sermon series called "Fantastic: Incredible stories from Jesus' life and their significance for us." Today's message was based on Luke 8:26-39, and was called Swine Flew.
It was icing outside, but those of us who made it were challenged and uplifted.
In talking about the word "Fantastic," Pastor Ed kept using the word "bizarre." He talked about the "fantasy" connections of the word including "odd, remarkable, mysterious," as well as "glorious, wonderful, extreme, and exorbitant" -- the perfect description for Jesus.
This passage tells us of a demon-possessed man being restored. The people of that day did know about mental illness, but this was something different.
There are many touches of authenticity to the story. One is that the naked man used his own Gentile terminology for God. Another is that the people of the region were terrified of Jesus and asked him to leave immediately.
Pastor Ed gave us four takeaways:
- The life and ministry of Jesus was incomparably fantastic. Some of us aren't following the real Jesus. We're following a watered-down suburban version that doesn't match the Jesus of the Bible.
- Reality is strange: There is a spiritual realm around us. Some of those forces are evil and mean to harm us. If we're going to make spiritual progress at all, we need to acknowledge this truth. If you battle a spiritual entity and try to tackle it with more discipline, trying harder, and the like, you won't make any progress.
- Sometimes problems that present themselves as emotional, mental, or physical issues can really be issues of tormenting spiritual forces.
- These forces recognize the fantastic authority and power of Jesus. They submit to him fully. In the case of evil forces, he can set us free from their influence.
Along with these takeaways, he gave us modern examples -- from his own ministry, and from accounts of other pastors.
The overarching message: We can have full freedom from the weird forces around us.
He imagines Luke writing this story and thinking, "Wait'll you hear this one! It's fantastic!"
I'm not completely sure how to respond to this sermon. I do think my awareness can use a nudge. I do tend to respond to issues in my life by trying harder, by trying to be more disciplined.
And that does remind me of one response: Julie Abraham and some members of the Prayer Team have begun meeting to pray for the church service each week at 9:30 in the music room closest to the hall leading to the parking lot. We would like to open it to all members of the congregation. Is your spouse coming early to serve on one of the ministry teams? Come join us and pray against these weird forces!
How about you? What do you think of this message? How will it touch your life?