DiscipleChurch Family and Friends:
I am preaching for the last time in DiscipleChurch this coming Sunday. And since it is my last time there, after founding this service and after being privileged to preach in it for almost 9 years, I hope you will indulge me a little. This Sunday, I am going to preach from what has become my very favorite story about Jesus in the gospels. I say that I am asking for your indulgence, because I have preached from this passage once before. In looking at my transcripts and records, I discovered that I preached this sermon from this scripture the last time I was invited to preach in the main Sunday sanctuary worship service of this church. But since that was in July of 2011, one month short of four years ago, I suspect that most of you were not there or don’t recall it. It was a very long time ago. But I recall it very well. I loved preaching this sermon there, and I love this scripture.
So the scripture for Sunday is:
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
They came to the other side of the lake, to the country of the Gerasenes.* 2And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him anymore, even with a chain; 4for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. 5Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. 6When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; 7and he shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’ 8For he had said to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’ 9Then Jesus* asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’ 10He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; 12and the unclean spirits* begged him, ‘Send us into the swine; let us enter them.’ 13So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned in the lake.
14 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. 15They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. 16Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. 17Then they began to beg Jesus* to leave their neighborhood. 18As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. 19But Jesus* refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’ 20And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.”
I see so much in this scripture. To me, it is not about Jesus’ power over physical storms or the weird death of swine. To me this story, not Pentecost, was the birth of our call to be the church, to be the new and very different people of God. This scripture gave rise to the centuries old symbol of the church as a boat, with all that meaning which I will try to unpack Sunday. And this scripture shows Jesus teaching not so much with words, but with his actions. Have you ever heard the expression, “I can’t hear what you are saying, because what you are doing, or not doing, is so loud”? Jesus speaks very loudly in this story, while saying almost nothing.
As most of you have heard, after this Sunday, I will no longer be an associate pastor at this church. But I will still be the director of the Methodist Justice Ministry of the First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth. I will still be working, with my colleagues Linda Gregory, Juliana Ipock and Norma Serrano, just as hard as we ever have, trying to rescue women and children from lives of victims of family violence and child abuse and neglect. This will still be a more than full-time job for me. I hope to remain at this Justice Ministry for many more years, as long as the membership of this Church continues to support the Ministry and as long as God allows me the needed physical and spiritual health and energy. Rather than preaching with words, I pray and hope that I will be able to continue to preach with actions, in this Justice Ministry, for a very long time. Our work is needed now more than ever.
Thanks to you who have gotten up early on Sundays to help us feed our homeless brothers and sisters, and to listen to me and talented others preach in DiscipleChurch. All good things must come to an end, and it’s much better for them to end earlier than people want, than later than people want. This 9 years has been a very, very good thing for me. My life would have been very incomplete without this time with you. Almost ten years ago, I left the private practice of law to found the Justice Ministry, not to start a new worship service and to be able to preach at it. So this worship service and this preaching opportunity have been like a bonus, have been like gravy for me. This good thing of preaching in DiscipleChurch is indeed over — but only for me, not for you. So please, please just let me go quietly at the end of the service Sunday, without any objection or recognition. After that, you’ll still be able to find me at the courthouse or in the Justice Ministry offices in the Foundation Building. I’m not going anywhere, I hope for a long time.
I also ask you to continue to attend this DiscipleChurch service faithfully. I intend to continue to be at the homeless breakfast before DiscipleChurch on most Sundays, bringing food and celebrating communion with our homeless brothers and sisters. But I am going to give the leaders of DiscipleChurch plenty of room to put their own stamp on the service as the Spirit leads them. I just don’t want my absence from the service to be misconstrued as lack of support for them or the service.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And thanks be to God. Because God is good, ALL the time. ALL the time, God is good.
Your brother, Brooks