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Our sermons are available as audio files to listen at your convenience.
Luke 8: 26 – 39
June 19, 2022
The poet Robert Frost once said, “Home is the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in.”1 There’s something about the idea of home that tugs at all of our hearts. No matter where we have been or what we have done, home beckons; we long to be with loved ones in the place where we belong, where everything is familiar and warm.
Home is where your favorite chair waits for you to sink down into its familiar contours, where your pillow is on the bed, your favorite meal is being prepared. Home is where your dog runs to greet you and arms reach out to hug you. Home. As Dorothy said that classic movie line, “There’s no place like home.”
Home is just what the man in this passage from Luke did not have. We don’t know exactly what the New Testament means when it talks about people who are possessed by demons, whether they had some type of mental illness or other physical malady. But it is clear that the conditions in which this man lived were terrible. Luke tells us that the man was a danger to himself and others; he was often bound with chains and shackles to try to keep him from doing harm, but he would break free. He didn’t even wear clothes, and he lived among the tombs, for, Luke says, he had no home.
Imagine what life must have been like for this poor soul. Unwanted, rejected, feared. There was no one to take care of him, to look after him; he wandered, lost and alone.
The late Dr. John Claypool told a story in one of his sermons about when Leslie Weatherhead “was an air raid warden during the terrible days of the London blitz back in the early 1940’s.” Claypool said, “When the all-clear sounded, it was his job to go and to survey the damage. One night there had been a particularly heavy bombing. When he went back to the surface, all he could see was smoldering ruins. As he walked, he suddenly heard the sound of a child’s voice crying. He went around some ruins and there to his amazement, he saw an eight-year-old boy sitting and sobbing on what had been a building. Somehow the child had gotten lost trying to get to the air raid shelter and had managed to survive...on the surface.” Weatherhead went to the boy and said, “’Where do you live, son? Where is home?’”
“The child pointed to a street where there was nothing left but rubble.”
He said, “’Where are your parents, your mother and father?’”
“The little boy said, ‘My father is in the navy. He is overseas. My mother was killed two nights ago.’
Weatherhead said, ‘Where is the rest of your family, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters?’
The child shook his head and said, ‘They are all gone. They have all been killed.’
At that point,” Claypool said, “Leslie Weatherhead stooped over and got eye level to the little fellow and said, ‘Tell me, son, tell me, who are you?’
With that the little boy began to cry even more convulsively and then he said through his tears, ‘Mister, I ain’t nobody’s nothin’. I ain’t nobody's nothin’.’”
According to Claypool, “Leslie Weatherhead said that if he lived to be a hundred, he didn’t think he would ever forget the poignancy of that sight -- a little boy sitting in the midst of chaos, feeling he was unconnected, unimportant to anybody else in the world.2
The man in this passage must have felt like he was “nobody’s nothin’.” Unwanted in the community, unclaimed by his family, with no place to call home—he was a stranger in his own land.
There may be times when we feel this way; perhaps because of a broken relationship we feel unloved or unwanted. Perhaps we feel we have failed in some way, and we are afraid that we don’t measure up, and that if we are not perfect, we will not be loved. Perhaps it’s when things are changing all around us, changing so quickly we can’t keep up with them, and we are homesick for the way things used to be.
In any time of change, it is natural to feel a little lost. Things are uncertain; the future is unknown. In a pastoral transition, it is normal for there to be a sense of loss and grief, and sometimes anxiety and fear. The pastor is seen as the spiritual leader, the shepherd of the people. So when a pastor leaves, people can feel adrift. Let me assure you first that I am not leaving because the church did anything wrong, or because I don’t like you or because I don’t love you. I am simply following God’s call, as we all must do in our lives.
This is a good time to remember that the pastor is not the head of the church. Christ is the head of the church. Christ is the head of the church, and Christ provides for the church all it needs for its life and mission, including its leadership. The pastor is A shepherd, but the pastor is not The Shepherd. Our beautiful Old Testament passages remind us that the Lord is our Shepherd, the one who cares for us, watches over us, leads and guides us. God calls a pastor to a church for a particular time, and I am thankful that God called me to MPC. I am grateful for the good things we have shared, the work we have done together, the relationships that have been formed.
Now that God is calling me elsewhere, of course I grieve saying goodbye to people I love. But I know that God is with you. The Lord, your Good Shepherd, will continue to lead you to green pastures and beside still waters. As our passage from Ezekiel said, “For thus says the Lord God: I myself will seek my sheep.... I will seek the lost, bring back the strayed, bind up the injured, and strengthen the weak...I will feed them with good pasture...and they shall lie down in good grazing land. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep,” says the Lord.
This gives me comfort, and I hope that promise will comfort you, that you will take in these words and let them settle in your souls. The Lord is your Shepherd. Not any pastor or human leader. The Lord is your Shepherd, and the Lord has a good plan for you, to guide and guard you, and lead you on the right paths.
For the man in Luke’s gospel who had been possessed by demons, he found new life in the love of Christ. After Jesus freed him from the evil that had robbed him of his life, people came to see what had happened, and they found the man clothed, in his right mind, and sitting at the feet of Jesus. This man who had been an outcast, rejected by everyone, despised and feared, was welcomed by the Lord. Sitting at Jesus’ feet is the place of disciples. Those closest to Jesus were described as sitting as his feet. Can you imagine how that man must have felt, to be freed from the forces that had driven him, to be restored to wholeness and well-being, to be part of community, sitting with other people, at the feet of Jesus.
And this man was so grateful that he said, “Jesus, I’ll follow you wherever you go!”
But look, look at Jesus’ response to this man! What does he say to him?
“Return to your home . . .”
Return to your home! This man, who had been a stranger in his own land, severed from his family, exiled from his community . . . was given the gift of going home. What greater gift could Jesus give this man? And the man went home and told everyone what Jesus had done for him.
My friends, no matter where you go, no matter what the circumstance, no matter who your pastor is, you have a home with God. You are loved. You are welcomed. You are valued.
I hope that through my love and care for you, you have experienced God’s love and care for you. Now that we are preparing to part from one another, have faith in this: God continues to love you; God continues to care for you; the Lord your Good Shepherd will continue to lead you, and the Lord will send another pastor to walk with you, who will love you just as I have done.
One of the most beloved hymns is the one that is our sermon hymn today: “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need.” Based on the 23rd Psalm, this hymn reminds us that the Good Shepherd seeks and finds his sheep. Listen to some of the words of this beautiful text:
My Shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His Name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake His ways,
And leads me, for His mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.
The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise!
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.
Let us pray.
Gracious and loving God, there are times in our lives when we are homesick for you. When our spirits are troubled with worry or anxiety, when we feel lost and adrift, may we remember that in your grace and mercy, you are always seeking us, ready to welcome us home. As your word says, you are our Good Shepherd. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in your house forever. In the name of our Savior we pray, Amen.
Rev. Dawn M. Mayes
Manassas Presbyterian Church