Missoula, Orlando, and the Human Heart

5th Sunday after Pentecost                                                                                                             June 19, 2016                                                                                                                          Missoula, Orlando, and the Human Heart


Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave.

How often do we ask Jesus to leave?


On my office door is the word “Transform.”

It’s the word I took from our Arts Ministry presentation in March.

Literally, transform means to move the form, to change the shape  or the character.

I’ve taped this word to my door because I believe the church is transforming.

But, as we’ve experienced, this transformation is not easy.

Karoline Lewis from Luther Seminary says that transformation entails exposure.

If we are going to change; we first need to see what is broken.  We need to admit what is wrong.

Often this is where we stumble.

Karoline Lewis calls this the “imposter syndrome.”

Instead of being transformed, instead of exposing what is wrong to make it right;we learn to live with dysfunction and disease.

It’s easier than taking the cure.


Last summer I read the book  Missoula by Jon Krackhauer.

It sounds like the title of a Western movie, but Missoula is a disturbing book.

Krackhauer investigates two sexual assaults at the University of Montana, located in Missoula.

He chose Montana because it has one of the highest rates of these crimes in the country.

In the book Krackhauer delves into the police reports and the university’s investigations.

He follows these cases through the justice system.

Not unusual to what we see around the country; in both cases, the focus  was on the legitimacy of the testimony of the victims, as opposed to the horrors of the crimes.

Why is that?

You may not realize that football is huge at the University of Montana.  The Montana Grizzlies are ingrained into the culture of Missoula.

Guess who the accused were in these cases?   Football players, one being the star quarterback.

Krackhauer writes that it wasn’t the coach that defended his players, it was the justice system.

The system resisted transformation.

The community didn’t want the university exposed.  They didn’t want to acknowledge that something was very wrong.


There is a full blown transformation in the gospel this morning.  And did you notice there was resistance?

Jesus has gone to the other side of the sea of Galilee,  the land of the Gentiles.

Immediately we see that something is horribly wrong.

A man possessed with demons meets Jesus.   He is naked.  His home is among the tombs.

Before he broke into the wild we are told that this man was kept under guard, bound in chains and shackles.

Now as soon as Jesus steps off the boat he confronts Jesus, and he knows who Jesus is.

What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?

The man knows the power Jesus holds over his demons.

I beg you do not torment me.

With that Jesus acts.  He commands the unclean spirits to come out of the man.

Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

Jesus Christ holds power over demons.


As the city folk came out to see what happened, they found the man transformed.

He was sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.

But as they come to Jesus what do they ask?

They ask Jesus to LEAVE!

When this possessed lunatic is made well, the people ask the one who made him well to leave.

Biblical scholar Fred Craddock says that Jesus upsets the status quo. The city had learned to live with evil in its midst.

As Jesus now confronts this evil,  the people cannot calculate or manage what’s happening.

Though Jesus is the source of wholeness and well being, he is a power they cannot control.

Transformation is hard.

Often it is easier to live with disease and dysfunction, because then we can pretend that nothing is wrong.

Instead of exposing the truth and opening ourselves  to the one who holds power over evil, who has the ability to make the wrong, right; we resist.

We ask Jesus to leave.

And what’s scary about this text,  is that when the city asks Jesus to leave,  he goes.


Which brings me to Orlando.

We all agree that when one lone human is capable of walking into a bar and killing 49 innocent people, something has gone horribly wrong.

But I wonder, instead of seeking transformation, are we asking Jesus to leave.

I can only lift myself as an example.

What scares me about Orlando is how I am learning to live with these stories.

They are so frequent  and so horrible  that I tempted to ignore them.

I’m the city folk in the gospel, or the justice system in Missoula; I want to believe that nothing is wrong.   I don’t want our society exposed.  Let’s just move on.

David Tiede, former president of Luther Seminary, writes; “The plight of those seized by fear will prove more difficult, then the   horrendous possession of evil forces within.”

In terms of God’s kingdom, apathy to the crime, is worst then the crime itself; for in apathy we ask Jesus to leave.

And when asked, Jesus gets into the boat and goes home.



Jesus is the source of healing, the source of non-violence, the source of good over evil.

Jesus is the transformer,  so when we ask him to leave, we’d rather put up with bad behavior,  than to embrace the abundant life Jesus offers.

Orlando calls us to this gospel this morning;  a call to examine our hearts, to confess our sin, both individually and as a nation.

It is a day to expose what is wrong, but then allow Jesus to make it right, that we all might live in peace.

At the end of the gospel the man possessed by demons is clothed, he’s in his right mind, and he’s sitting at the feet of Jesus.

He wanted to go back to Galilee with Jesus.  In fact he begged Jesus.

But Jesus says:

Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you. 

 How do we declare how much God has done?  We speak.

Personally I want to become more vocal on common sense gun laws.  I’m inspired to publicly stand with my Muslim colleagues here in West  Windsor.  I want our nation to be transformed.  This senseless violence must end.

And it begins with Jesus.

Jesus is the source of healing.   Jesus expels evil from our midst.  Jesus bring wholeness  and well being to our lives and to our nation.

Jesus transforms.    Let’s ask him to stay.













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