The Armour of Love

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
The Armour of Love
23rd Sunday after Pentecost
15 November, 2009
Ephesians 2:4-10 ; Luke 8:26-39
Ephesians 6:10-17 ; Matthew 10:16-22

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle is saying to us this morning in the Epistle reading that we are created by God to do everything that is good in co-operation and in harmony with Him. We are created to be co-workers with Him in His Kingdom. We human beings, created in God’s image and growing into His likeness, have a very great responsibility. We are to be, indeed, co-workers with the Lord.

Being co-workers with the Lord requires that we pay attention to Him at all times, that we live our lives in carefully protected communion of love with Him, and that we continue in every way to use the armour of God about which the Apostle is speaking to us in the second Epistle today – especially the Word of God. We have to put on the whole armour of God, especially the Word. This is important because we can only do what God has created us to do. We can only fulfil our responsibilities (that have been outlined for us by the Apostle) if we make sure that we continually are in harmony with the Lord, living in the communion of love with God. This is because, in the first place, God is love ; in the second place, God creates us because of love ; in the third place, God shows His love for us by giving us His Only-begotten Son ; in the fourth place, we respond in love to His love, supported by His love. It is this response in love which fulfils this circle of responsibility. Right from the beginning of our creation, the Lord calls us into communion of love in harmony with Him. He created all things, everything that is, because of this love.

People wonder where everything came from in the first place. It comes from the love of God. Everything that is, anywhere in the whole universe, exists and has being because God produces it from His love. As the Psalms are saying (and other writers in the Scriptures are saying), everything that exists, by its existence, is praising God and is glorifying God (see Psalm 150:6). When we are responding to the Lord in this harmony of love, we are in harmony with the whole of creation, which was created precisely to live in this harmony of love. Thus we are glorifying God who created us, and we are rejoicing in the fact that we exist and are able to glorify God.

In this context, encountering this demon-possessed man today is a stark contrast. We see that this man is uncontrollable. He could not wear clothes, and he could not live in any place. He lived in the tombs in a graveyard. It was a horrible place. The graveyards in the Middle East are not like graveyards here. Everyone is not buried under the ground there. Very often they are buried in little houses that are specially built because the ground is so rocky. (If we went to Italy and Greece, we would see many such buildings where people are buried in chambers in special little masonry buildings constructed often out of stone.) This man was living in such a place. If we went to Cairo, Egypt we would see all sorts of people today living in such tombs because they have no place else to live. Most of the people occupying these Cairo tombs are Christians, sad to say. They are an oppressed people in Egypt. The poorest of them have no place to stay. Living in these tombs, they at least have some shelter from the hot sun, the blowing winds, the rain, and sometimes, the snow. This man is living in the graveyard because there was no place else that could hold him, and generally people are not going to graveyards all the time. Somehow he felt comforted in his torment there, and people knew where he was so that they could keep away from him. We see that he is a very violent person. If he were put in chains he would break any sort of chain, even the strongest chain restraining him. Such were the means by which the demons were controlling this man. We hear that they are legion. There are very, very many demons possessing this man.

When our Saviour comes into his presence, there is not a moment of hesitation : two things happen at once. Immediately, our Lord sees this man in his terrible condition, and He begins to tell the demons to come out of him. Immediately, at the same time the man possessed by the demons, recognises and proclaims who is Jesus Christ by saying : “‘What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?’” He recognises Him as the Saviour. The Saviour was not going to let the demons stay in the man, and the demons understood this. Therefore, the demons beg Him to allow them to enter the herd of pigs. The Saviour does not send the demons into Hades or into the abyss (which is actually worse than Hades) ; He allows them to go into the pigs. I always used to feel sorry for the pigs because the demons immediately drive the pigs into insanity, and they violently run down a steep hill into the Sea of Galilee where they all drown.

This is the work of demons. Their job is to separate us from God. If they could have done it to the man, they would have done it to him. There was some remnant of life and hope left in this man possessed by all these demons that he was not able to be killed by them. The poor little pigs have no ability to discern any difference, and when they are inhabited by the demons, immediately the demons do to the pigs what they try to do to everyone. They drive the pigs mad. They make them violent. The pigs violently run down the hill and die in the water. The man is released from slavery to those demons. He is restored to his right mind. We see him become peaceful, sitting with the Saviour.

There is an interesting reaction from the whole neighbourhood. The people of that region knew who this man was. They come and see that he is healed. He is himself. It is possible that in his whole life he had had little experience of being himself because of the way demons work in people’s lives. What do these people do ? They ask the Saviour to go away because they are afraid of Him. There are many layers here. For the Jewish people, pigs are absolutely forbidden. Therefore, what are they doing with pigs there ? These Gadarenes are probably doing business because the Roman army is occupying their land. The Romans do not mind that there are pigs in that region, because they very much like to eat them. The Gadarenes are growing the pigs illegally and against the Law of Moses in order to feed the Roman army and to make money. It seems like they are making business a priority over obedience to the Lord, who had said, in effect : “Not only must you not eat pigs, but you also must not be near them”. Raising pigs means being quite near them. Apparently the Gadarenes are more interested in the business and the financial results of raising pigs than they are in the fruit of obedience to the Lord in love.

When the Gadarenes ask our Saviour to go away (because they are afraid), two things are happening, as I understand it. One is that their hearts are very much pricked because they know that what they are doing is wrong, and they know that the Lord is displeased with their behaviour. Yet, at the same time that they are pricked in their hearts, they still are determined to go on doing the same thing. It is evident that they are determined to go and get more pigs to continue the business. The second thing is that the man, himself, liberated from the demons, wants to be with the Saviour. He behaves the way all people do when they have been freed by Him. When they have been healed by the Saviour, they want to be with Him and close to Him at all times because His love is liberating. His love is life-giving. His love is full of joy. This man is experiencing all these things, and he wants to be with the Saviour. He asks the Lord, in effect : “Please, let me go with You and be with You”. Our Saviour says : “‘Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you’”. The man immediately goes into the city, and not only lives his life quietly in the midst of the people, but also he does not stop speaking about what the Lord had done for him.

Is it clear why the Saviour would send this man, all by himself, back into the city to do this in this hostile environment which I have just described – an environment of fear ? This man had lived, paralysed with fear, driven by fear, crazy with fear for years and years. We have no idea how long, but it was a very long time. This man had been driven by fear, and he knew this fear. However, he also knows what freedom there is, and what joy there is to be released from it. He instantly understands it. The Saviour sends the Grace of God to him to sustain him in his solitude in this city. The Lord sends him to the city to help convince the people to change their ways. Even though these people had encountered the Saviour face-to-face, and had seen the results of His love at work (which they could not deny), they are nevertheless determined to go their own way. However, the Lord does not throw them away. Instead, He leaves the man to be in the city so that he could be like yeast to the rest of them (see Matthew 13:33). Whoever amongst the people could respond to this yeast, they would because this man’s love is so infectious. Using our Saviour’s own words again, we could say that this man remains in the city as salt (see Matthew 5:13), so that any person who would respond to his testimony of the love of God would be able to catch the same flavour, the same life, the same vitality that salt brings to food.

The Lord is merciful to us. He is following us everywhere, no matter how stubborn we are in our selfish ways, or how often we turn our backs on Him because we are, ourselves, bound by fear. The Lord is merciful. He is always with us. He is always sending persons, like this freed man, to remind us of His love and His hope. He is always reminding us that He is waiting with His outstretched, embracing arms to give us renewed life, renewed vitality, renewed joy and renewed remembering of our freedom in Him.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us follow the exhortation of the Apostle. As we are coming to receive from the Lord who is present here in our midst, ready to feed us with His own life, ready to sustain us, let us allow Him to put His arms around us. Let us live in the protection of this armour of love. Living in the shelter and protection of His armour and in the shelter and protection of His life-giving love, let us, in every part of our life, glorify our Saviour, Jesus Christ, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.