Last Weeks Sermon


There is a story told about John D. Rockefeller
having seen his impressive new yacht,
asked how much it cost
Rockefeller replied
If you have to ask
You can’t afford it
When folks talk about
ending hunger in the world,
or universal health care,
or fixing the education system in our country
someone invariably has to ask how much it is going to cost
and the answer is usually
if you have to ask
you can’t afford it.
I’m pretty sure that Jesus could never be elected to office in this country
He never seemed to get that economic reality
That some things are just too expensive to be worth doing
Whenever we read the story of the Gerasene demoniac,
One of the first questions that comes up is
What about the poor pig farmers who lost their heard of pigs?
Where’s the justice in that?
Couldn’t Jesus have saved this guy without bankrupting the local farmer?
And when we asked why the townspeople were so afraid of Jesus after the healing
We suspect
that they were afraid that if this Jesus hung around
he might do more miracles that cost a whole herd of pigs
I mean it’s one thing to cure the sick and cast out demons
And feed the hungry
And fix the education system
But not if it’s going to cost so much!
After all, what made this crazy guy worth a whole herd of pigs?
This fellow was hardly an upstanding citizen
He was apparently dangerous (to himself and others)
The townspeople had had to put him in chains and shackles on numerous occasions
He wandered about town stark naked
He was apparently quite content to live at the cemetery
Maybe that was the only place where this guy could be sure that he’d be left alone
After all the dead people never locked him up
This fellow apparently heard voices
Lots of the them
So many that he called himself “Legion”
As though there were 6000 soldiers of an occupying army
Stomping around and shouting inside his head
Today we’d probably diagnose him as schizophrenic
But there is no doubt that the man himself felt that he was possessed
By demonic forces that were clamoring for his attention
And literally driving him crazy
Now I assume that the people of the town were not cruel or heartless
Very few people are without compassion for the suffering of others
And most towns are made up of ordinary average people
They probably would have been delighted to see the guy “clothed and in his right mind”
But there was still the matter of that expensive herd of pigs
Granted Jews didn’t have any regard for pigs
But in this land of the gentile Gerasenes
Pigs were just as valuable as any other herd
Romans weren’t so picky about what they ate
They’d eat pork
And they’d tax it too
And how were you supposed to explain to the Roman tax collector
that your entire stock had just committed suicide?
Healing is one thing, but this guy Jesus just cost too much to have around!
He had no sense of proportion
For a whole herd of pigs you ought to get more than just one healing!
But clearly Jesus didn’t think the way the Gerasenes did
To Jesus the pigs were not worth considering
And I don’t think that had anything to do with Jesus being a Jesus who saw pigs as unclean
I think Jesus just didn’t see the value of a herd of pigs
As comparable to
The value of relieving the suffering of a single human being
After all, Jesus didn’t even count his own life as too great a price to pay to save us from the suffering we actually deserved
Like I said, I don’t think Jesus could get elected
Can you imagine any politician suggesting
that he/she had a plan to cure autism
that terrible form of mental illness
that affects children
and it would only cost a couple of trillion dollars
per child
His opponent would quickly do the math and insist that we couldn’t afford it!
And the voters
(worrying about increases in their taxes)
Would certainly agree
Except perhaps for the one voter whose own child was suffering
Because when it’s your child
How can you worry about the cost
It’s not a question of whether you can afford to fix it
It’s more a question of how can you afford not to . . .
And maybe that tells us more about who God is than we realize
Jesus sees the Gerasene demoniac
And he sees a child of God
One of God’s own precious children
And suddenly the cost is not the question
Whether it costs a herd of pigs
Or Jesus’ own life
So how many pigs will it take to fix the world?
How many pigs are the hungry worth?
How many pigs are our children’s education worth?
How many pigs is it worth
to cure cancer?
House the homeless?
Treat each person with dignity?
How many pigs are you worth?
To God
You are worth everything.