Sunday's Sermon

 

"Sent as a Missionary"

 by Wayne L. Derber, Pastor

June 23, 2019 - Pentecost 2 - C

 

Sermon text: “The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’  So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.”

                                    – Luke 8:38-39

 

Have you ever thought of becoming a missionary?

Has it ever seemed like God was calling you?...

      ever seemed like God wanted you to share the gospel?...

      ever seemed like God wanted you to do his work?

Have you ever thought of becoming a missionary?

 

Most of you may answer “no,”

      but a few of you may answer “yes.”

Perhaps a few of you may have considered becoming a missionary.

 

I have four goals for my sermon today.

First goal: To convince you that God is calling you to be a missionary.

Second goal: To overcome all the major reasons you may have

                        for why you cannot be a missionary.

Third goal: To train you to become a missionary.

Fourth goal: To commission you as a missionary.

 

Rather lofty and ambitious goals for one sermon, aren’t these?

But these goals are what I hope to accomplish in my sermon today.

 

So, the first goal:

      To convince you that God is calling you to be a missionary.

Sharing the good news of Jesus is the main purpose of all Christians.

 

Many years ago when

            Jesus was once walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee,

      he called four fishermen to follow him.

His exact words were:

      “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people” (Mt. 4:19).

And so Jesus invites all of us.

When we start to follow Jesus,

            we realize that he enables and empowers us

                  to fish for other people…

      to work at gathering others into his family.

Sharing the good news of Jesus is the main work

                  that our Lord has given us.

 

In the gospel of Matthew,

            the last thing that Jesus said to his disciples was:

      “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,

            baptizing them…and teaching them.”

This is the Great Commission that our Lord has given to all of us.

He wants us to make disciples of others.

There is nothing more important in life for us to do.

God calls all of us… calls you and me…

      to be missionaries that gather others into his kingdom.

God calls you to be a missionary!

 

Second goal: To overcome all the major reasons you may have

                        for why you cannot be a missionary.

What are some of your main objections?

Some excuses might be:

      “I have work and family responsibilities” or

      “I don’t want to travel far away” or

      “I don’t have the time for such a major undertaking” or

      “I don’t know a foreign language” or

      “I don’t have the money” or

      “I don’t have the knowledge and ability to be a missionary.”

These are some pretty strong objections, aren’t they?

Now I have to overcome them.

 

Who do you think of when you think of a missionary?

I think of my wife’s Aunt Jan,

            who was for about fifteen years a missionary in Macau,

                  a very small country on the edge of China.

 

There have been many Christian missionaries over the centuries.

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul stands out

            as a wonderful example of a missionary.

He traveled to many different lands

            spreading the gospel

                  and beginning new congregations.

 

When you think about missionaries,

            you probably don’t think about the very first missionary of all.

But we heard about him in our gospel reading for today.

 

He was one “wild and crazy guy.”

He was demon-possessed.

He lived in a cemetery and wore no clothes.

Sometimes people would try to bind him with chains,

      but he would always break free

            and then go running off into the wilderness.

 

Now, here’s one tough guy that you’d want to avoid for sure.

And as unlikely as it might seem,

            he became the first missionary of the church.

 

The people didn’t know what to do with him.

He was a menace to society.

He was absolutely no good to anyone.

No one had a place for him – except Jesus.

 

What happened long ago was dramatic.

The disciples’ boat landed near a cemetery and a herd of pigs.

Both are ritually unclean for Jews.

As Jesus stepped out of the boat,

            a crazy man stormed out of the cemetery.

We can imagine what he must have looked like.

Wild hair… bloody wrists… scratched skin.

Arms waving wildly and his voice screaming.

The disciples must have stared and stepped back.

They must have been horrified.

 

But Jesus wasn’t.

He commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man

            and so it did.

The unclean spirit left the man and entered into a herd of hogs.

Then the very moment the demons came into the hogs,

      the pigs rushed into the sea and drowned.

As the stunned disciples looked on, Jesus healed an insane man.

Pigs were filled by demons

      and a disciple was made in a cemetery.

 

But the most important part was still to come.

As Jesus was getting back into the boat,

      the man who had been freed from the demons

            begged to go with him.

But Jesus would not permit him to do so.

Jesus told this man:

      “Return to your home,

            and declare how much God has done for you.”

 

Here it is.

The commissioning of the first Christian missionary.

One minute insane, the next in Christ.

No training.

No teaching.

All he knew was what Jesus had done for him

                  and that was enough.

“So he went away,

      proclaiming throughout the city

            how much Jesus had done for him.”

 

Who would have ever thought

            that the very first missionary sent by Jesus

                  would have been a former madman?

But this is what Jesus did.

He still sends unworthy people as missionaries today.

 

What is remarkable about this event

      is that Jesus sent this very first missionary

            not to some far away land…

            not to some foreign people…

            not even to a neighboring village or town.

No, the very first missionary sent by Jesus

            was sent back to his own hometown.

This former madman was to go back home

            and tell his family, friends, and neighbors

                  all about what Jesus had done in his life.

This is exactly what he did.

 

Of course, sometimes God calls people to be missionaries

            in far away lands.

But more often he calls people to be missionaries

            in their own hometowns.

This is what Jesus did with a former possessed man long ago.

He does the same with many people today.

 

Jesus calls you to be a missionary.

If he is not calling you to be a missionary in a far away land,

      then he is calling you to be a missionary in your own home,

            and in your own community, and in your own workplace.

All around us is a mission field.

All around us there are many people living without God.

Where you are in your daily life is a very important mission field.

No wonder God sends you there to spread the good news.

 

Realizing that God sends you to your own home

            should take care of all the major objections

                  you might have to becoming a missionary.

There is no need for you to give up

            your work and family responsibilities.

There is no need for you

            to travel far away from home.

There is no need for you

            to sacrifice years of your life for this effort.

There is no need for you

            to learn a foreign language.

There is no need for you

            to raise huge amounts of money to support your work.

 

Another big objection might be

            that you don’t feel qualified to be a missionary.

Well, consider what the resume of the former possessed man

            might have been like.

Home address:  A cemetery.

Work Experience:  Being demon-possessed.

References: Others people would try to bind me in chains.

Accomplishments:  Breaking chains when shackled by others.

Travel:  Sometimes I would run screaming out into the wilderness.

If your resume can meet or exceed this one,

            then surely Jesus can use you as well.

 

So you really don’t have any major objections

            for why you cannot be a missionary.

 

Now my third goal for this sermon.

I need to train you to become a missionary.

 

When we think about missionary work,

            we might suddenly feel unqualified.

We might think that we have to memorize all kinds of Bible verses

            and readily quote them when talking to others.

Or we might think that we have to learn well the content of the Bible

            and be able to explain it to others.

Or we might think that we have to understand theology quite well,

            so we can make our case to other people.

 

But Jesus required none of these things of the former possessed man.

The simple training that Jesus gave the first missionary was:

      “Return to your home,

            and declare how much God has done for you.”

No Bible verses to memorize.

No inspiring speeches to recite.

No canned program to learn.

Simply go home to your family and friends and neighbors

            and tell them what God has done for you.

 

No doubt the former possessed man told others

            that Jesus had driven the demons out of his life.

 

But what has God done for you?

Has he given you daily bread when you were hungry?...

      given you comfort when you were grieving?...

      given you hope when you were despairing?...

      given you faith when you were doubting?...

      given you forgiveness when you were feeling guilty?...

      given you peace when you were anxious?....

      given you love when you felt unlovable?....

      given you healing when you were sick?...

      given you wholeness when you were broken?....

      given you encouragement when you were despairing?

 

Has he given you a home?...

      given you family and friends?....

      given you blessings without end?....

Has he sustained you through hard times?

Has he calmed some storms in your life?

Has he given you the assurance of eternal life?

Has he driven some demons out of your life?

 

What has God done for you?

 

Obviously, the answer is different for each one of us.

But surely God has done some wonderful things for you.

 

All he asks of us is to tell other people about these things.

So we might say to the people in our daily life something like:

      “God really helped me through this difficult time” or

      “God really has blessed me in many ways” or

      “God really loved me when I felt so worthless” or

      “God saved me when I felt so lost.”

Then we can go on to tell the details

            of how God has helped us in these ways.

 

Whatever God has done for you

            is the story that you need to tell others in your daily life.

This is how God is calling you to be a missionary.

      “Return to your home,

            and declare how much God has done for you.

 

The old spiritual song “Balm in Gilead” has the words:

            “You may not preach like Peter,

                  You may not pray like Paul,

            But you can tell of Jesus

                  and that he died for all.”

 

You don’t need any special training to be a missionary.

All you need to do is to tell others your story.

All you need to do is to tell others what God has done for you.

 

Now for the fourth goal for this sermon.

I need to commission each one of you as a missionary.

For this, I am simply going to speak the same words

            that Jesus spoke to the former possessed man long ago.

I will be speaking the words

      but hear the words as if coming from Jesus himself

            speaking directly to you:

 

      “Return to your home,

            and declare how much God has done for you.”

 

So, I hope that I have accomplished my four goals in this sermon.

First, I hope that you now realize that

            God is calling you to be a missionary.

Second, I hope that all the major reasons you have had

            for why you cannot be a missionary have been eliminated.

Third, I have trained you to become a missionary.

And then fourth, with the words of Jesus I have commissioned you

            to be… sent as a missionary.

 

Amen.