PASTOR BRAD'S PAGE
Pentecost 2C, June 19, 2022
New Covenant, Luke 8:26-39
“Down the Shore”
Luke writes in chapter eight beginning at verse 22 that one day, Jesus gets in a boat with his disciples and says, “Let’s go ‘Down the Shore.’” While they’re sailing, Jesus falls asleep. A storm pops-up. The boat’s filling with water. The disciples begin to panic. They wake up Jesus and he calms the storm. When they arrive on the other side of the lake, a naked, homeless man falls down at Jesus’ feet and shouts, “Jesus, I beg you. Don’t torture me.”
The Greek word translated into English as, “Torture.” The Greek word is, “basanizo”. It’s a verb meaning, “To torture, torment, to put through tremendous pain.” When Jesus arrives on shore, the man doesn’t ask him for help. He says, “Please don’t cause me anymore agony. Please Jesus; don’t put me through anymore suffering.”
Jesus asks the man his name and the man responds, “They call me ‘Legion’ because I have so many demons.” This man has lost his identity. The man has lost his dignity. He’s not known by his given name. He’s not known by his family name. He’s known by the label he’s been given. “I’m called ‘Legion’ because I have so many demons.” He’s not Tom Johnson or Dick Smith or Harry Jones. He’s “Legion,” the naked, homeless guy that sleeps in the cemetery.
Notice, Jesus doesn’t add to the man’s torment. Jesus doesn’t do what the man is afraid of. He doesn’t do what apparently others who come to town do. He doesn’t cross the street to avoid this man. He doesn’t look away to avoid making eye contact with this man. He exhibits compassion. He engages him. He treats him as a human being. He restores the man’s dignity even before he exorcises the man’s demons.
Human beings are not property, as millions were in the U.S. until, Juneteenth, June 19, 1865. Human beings are not property, they are human beings. Human beings are not numbers as they were in concentration camps in Europe and internment camps in the U.S. during World War II and as millions are today in correctional institutions. Human beings aren’t numbers, they’re human beings. Human beings are not labels; Legion, Illegal immigrant, Homeless man, the prostitute on the corner, the addict in the alley, these are not people’s names, these are labels. Human beings are not labels, they are human beings.
Like Legion, we all struggle with our demons. Some of us have more of them than others. For some of us our demons are more visible than others. But no matter our demons, no matter how many we have or how visible they are we are all human beings and no one is property, no one is a number or a label. No one deserves to be tormented. No one should lose their identity. Everyone deserves to be affirmed for who they are. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, kindness and compassion, just like Jesus treated Legion on the shore of the Sea of Galilee that day. Amen.
Rev. Bradley A. Walmer,
a 2008 graduate of Lancaster Theological Seminary, where he received his Master of Divinity degree and was awarded the 2008 Rev. Delores Berry prize for preaching. He was ordained into Christian ministry by the Lebanon Association of the Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ on June 1, 2008. Prior to beginning his pastorate here at New Covenant on August 1, 2015, he served as the pastor of St. Paul’s Summer Hill UCC in Auburn, Pa (located southeast of Pottsville, PA).
Pastor Brad and his wife Michelle were born and raised in Lebanon County and now reside in the area with their dog, Barkley.