Tag Archives: Gerasene Demoniac

Who am I? Whose am I? (23 June 2013)

1 Kings 19.1–15a
Galatians 3.23–29
Luke 8.26–39

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian who was hanged on Hitler’s direct orders only a few days before the end of World War 2. While a prisoner in a Nazi jail in 1943, he wrote a poem called Who am I?.

Bonhoeffer’s poem starts like this:

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Bonhoeffer appeared to others to have it all together, even while he was a prisoner on ‘death row’. But inside, it was a different story. Continue reading


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12th Sunday of Ordinary Time (20 June 2010)

One in Christ: when night ends and day begins

Galatians 3.23-29
Luke 8.26-39

Let’s recap as to where we are on our journey through Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Two thousand years ago, Galatia was a Roman territory in the country we know as Turkey. People had come to Galatia, who were wanting the Galatian believers to obey the Jewish laws like eating only certain foods, being circumcised and keeping the Sabbath. The Apostle Paul would have absolutely none of it. Not a bar of it!

As a young man, Paul had really loved the Old Testament law. But Paul discovered that the law he loved so much was responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, now his Lord and Saviour.

Now the centre of Paul’s life was Jesus and not the law.

The people who wanted to bring in obedience to the law wanted to do it as a sign of the purity of the Christian community, so they could know who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. Those who obey the law are ‘in’; those who disobey are ‘out’. You can see that under the law, Jesus himself would be ‘out’. Why? He died a criminal’s death as a law-breaker.

Law brings clear division; the gospel brings a new people into being, made up of both Jews and Gentiles, law-keepers and law-breakers.

Greek philosophy was good at making divisions too. Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Plato used to give thanks

that I was born a human being, not a beast;
a man and not a woman;
thirdly, a Greek and not barbarian.

Not to be outdone, in the Jewish cycle of morning prayers the men prayed:

Blessed be He that He did not make me a Gentile;
blessed be He that He did not make me a slave;
blessed be He that He did not make me a woman.

All this would have been the very air that Paul breathed as he was growing up. Saying the daily prayers, reading the philosophers, he was reminded of his privileged position as a Jew; as a man; and as a Roman citizen who breathed the fresh air of freedom.

But since his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul’s theme is unity in Jesus Christ.

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From the known to the unknown

Sermon for 21 June 2009

As we listen for the Word of God,
let us pray:
Maker and Sustainer of creation,
you bring order out of chaos
and calm in the discord of our lives;
help us to trust in you,
even when all around seems to be giving way;
this we ask in our Saviour’s name. Amen.

Mark 4.35-41

Let me remind you of a beautiful prayer
that was on the slide before our service began—
a prayer used by fishers from Brittany, in north-western France:

Dear God, be good to me;
the sea is so wide,
and my boat is so small.

This prayer was on the lips of men
who routinely risked their lives
on the rough seas of the English Channel,
men who didn’t know
whether they’d come home
whenever they set out.

NCCA logo

The image on your screen
is from the logo of
the National Council of Churches of Australia.
It shows the Church as a boat,
going through the waters,
carried by the oceans of the Spirit,
the cross of Jesus as the mast
and the Southern Cross showing us the way.
Remember how sometimes
we talk about our congregation
as the SS Centenary?

Old-fashioned church buildings were built
in the style of boats.
The long part of the church,
where people sit in their pews,
is like a boat
in which everyone is facing the same direction.
It’s called a ‘nave’,
which comes from the same root word as ‘navy’.
And think about the ceilings
of old church buildings—
they look like a ship’s hull.
(Our building isn’t quite like that;
maybe it’s more like a Welsh coracle!)

Being out on the water can be dangerous. Continue reading


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The Church of the Gerasene

Mark 5.1-20

Most Uniting Churches are named after their locality—so close by us, we have Kenmore Uniting Church, or Indooroopilly Uniting Church. Here, we’re Centenary Uniting Church because we’re located in the Centenary suburbs. And we all know that Anglican and Catholic Churches usually name themselves after saints—just down the street, we have St Catherine’s, for example.

If we decided to give ourselves a saint’s name, I’d like it to be an unusual kind of saint: Id like us to be the Church of the Gerasene. Why the Church of the Gerasene? Why on earth call a church after the man we usually refer to as the ‘Gerasene Demoniac’? Because this is a community in which we should be ‘clothed and in our right minds’.

That’s how the man we call the Gerasene Demoniac finishes up—with his kit on and seeing things clearly. But he doesn’t start out that way, no way.

We first meet him held at arm’s length by the townspeople of Gerasa—naked, self-harming and living among the graves. Not clothed. Not in his right mind.

Why was he like this? Was he mad, bad or sad? Maybe he was a very sensitive soul.

Continue reading

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