What a week. Considering how this week has gone, “what a week” doesn’t even seems to really cut it. As you heard, our dear Bonnie Swindells has passed away early Tuesday morning and in a mad rush to honour her life and memory before some of her grandkids go away on preplanned trips, we had to have the funeral yesterday. So you could imagine the stress that those involved had to go through, the volunteer work hours that were put in, and the energy that was expelled by all those who just wanted to make the day perfect. That, on top of our regular duties around here, like say, write a sermon for Sunday, made for a very hectic and busy week.
And man, am I ever tired.
As I sat down yesterday late afternoon after all was said and done, I honestly had no idea what the text was going to be that I needed to preach on. I remember reading it, I remember writing a reflection on it last week on our website, but I just didn’t remember the content of it.
But as it percolated a bit in my head, I remembered, oh yeah the Geresene demoniac. The guy with all the demons that drove him to walk around naked and live among the tombs. The guy who no one wanted to be around because he was scary and weird. The guy that people felt more comfortable when he was out of sight and out of mind.
The guy that Jesus saw, listened to, and did something for. The guy who Jesus healed and restored and reinserted into his community. The guy that Jesus showed grace, mercy, and love to. Oh yeah, that guy.
But that guy that was probably a danger to the kids. That guy that didn’t really fit in with our cultured traditions and customs. That guy that would be better off if just left alone outside of the city.
That guy that Jesus saw value and worth in. That guy that Jesus invited in and welcomed. That guy that Jesus included as part of his own body.
That guy that was healed and drove fear in the hearts of the townsfolk. That guy whose demons trashed a whole crop of pigs that cost revenue and food. That guy that just should have stayed away like he was asked to.
That guy that Jesus wanted to get to know by asking his name. That guy that Jesus reminded him of who he is. That guy that Jesus displayed for all as a beloved child of God.
See, this story that we get this week, this story that I completely forgot all about in the hustle and bustle of all that needed to be done in the past 5 days, this story that we get on a day that we welcome new members into our congregation, a day that we say goodbye to a ministry that has served us so well for the past 10+ years, a day right after the day of Bonnie’s funeral, is a story of redemption, of healing, and of community. And it is just what I needed at the end of this week.
See, this guy Legion as an outsider was brought back into wholeness and returned to people. Jesus knew that he couldn’t be alone so he sent him back to his community even when the community was afraid and unsure, but he was sent to change that community to be more accepting and caring. This guy Legion was sought out by Jesus, as Jesus had to travel on the road less travelled, actually a road barely travelled at all because there were crazy people on it, but Jesus travelled this direction and met him to set the example of what love and mercy looks like. This guy Legion is a reminder to us of what community actually is, sometimes scary, sometimes hard, but always rewarding.
As I said today we welcome new members into our congregation and we rejoice together as we grow in mission and ministry. We also say goodbye to Adam’s long time service as our guitarist and cantor but are also reminded of how blessed we have been to have him. And we still remember our dear Bonnie, whose role in our community doesn’t end with her death, but carries on as her legacy.
This community of ours, this rag tag bunch of strangers brought together by the love of God, this family of ups and downs, of sorrows and comforts, of welcomes and goodbyes, this is God’s gift to us, and I am honoured to be a part of it. So what I am saying is that I am extremely proud of who we are as a congregation. I am absolutely ecstatic with what we can accomplish. I am blessed to be in this community that has nurtured a young man in his skills and talents for so many years, that has been so welcoming to all who walk through our doors that we continue to grow in membership and attendance, that can throw together an amazing tribute to life on extremely short notice. I look around this room and think, well done, everyone. You have answered God’s call to be God’s children. You showed up when you were needed and acted faithfully in service. You said, “Here I am” and truly acted as the body of Christ with its many parts and roles, and you have done so with joy.
This is what I get from the story this week. That as I was putting together this sermon all I could think about was “what a week” and now that I reflected on it, I think “yes, what a week. It has been wonderful.”
As we continue to be reminded of the gift of community throughout this season after Pentecost and beyond, may we draw strength and comfort in knowing that we all are invited, we all are welcomed, and we all belong. Thanks be to God. Amen.