June 19, 2022 ………. Fathers’ Day ……… Rev. Patrick Mecham
Second Sunday after Pentecost
Galatians 3: 23-29; Luke 8: 26-39
Today is Fathers’ Day, a day in which we honor fathers for the legacy they leave their children. It is a day to honor all fathers and father-figures—step-fathers, grandfathers who helped raise their grandchildren, teachers, scout leaders, all those who have helped to nurture a younger generation, who have given them more than just genetic material, who have provided them an example of a life worth living.
Years ago, there was a mobster named Al Capone. He was involved in bootlegged booze, murder, and general mayhem. Everyone knew he was guilty, but he managed to stay out of jail for a long time. How? Well, for one thing, he had a really good attorney known as Easy Eddie. To show his appreciation, Capone paid him really well and let him live in a fenced-in mansion—an estate so large that it filled an entire block in Chicago!
Eddie was living the high life, and he didn’t let Capone’s atrocities bother him. But he was troubled by one thing: his son was growing up, and he knew that he was not a good example for him. He was not going to be able to leave his son a good name.
Finally, he decided that he needed to tell the authorities the truth about Al Capone and the Mob. He knew it was dangerous, but he loved his son enough to risk the danger—so he testified, and Capone went to jail. Sadly, within a year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago street. BUT, he had left his son a legacy of what it means to stand up for the TRUTH! Something we can celebrate on Fathers’ Day!
This idea of legacy is something we see in our scripture texts for today. In Galatians, Paul is saying that we are children of God through faith, and that we are heirs of God according to the promise. And in our exciting passage from the Gospel of Luke, we meet a man who is possessed with demons, wearing no clothing, and living among the tombs. By the end of the passage, he is dressed, he is in his right mind, and he is given a mission. He had received a legacy, and we will find out what he did with it! Let’s take a look.
The Legacy for God’s Children
In Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, he tells them some very startling things! (Remember, most of them were Gentiles.)
- “In Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith.”
- “Those baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
- “It matters not if you are Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, because you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
- “You are Abraham’s offspring and inheritors of the promise.”
Not that many years before, Saul the Pharisee would not have dreamed of making such wildly inclusive statements! But this is a recurring theme for Paul, that of being adopted by God, given “clothing” that indicates our status as cherished members of the family. There are no more distinctions among us!
Reaching Out to Gentile Children
When Jesus led his Disciples across the Sea of Galilee to the region of the Decapolis (Ten Cities), he was taking them into Gentile territory (even though there were Jews living there.) [Scholars believe that this was to help the Disciples understand that their Heavenly Father cares about non-Jews as well—wanting to draw them into the family.] And, as soon as they landed their boat, they found out that God cares about people who are mentally ill, and people with addictions, and any others who might not fit into the antiseptic images we have of the Family of God!
You know how the story goes:
- The crazy man cries out, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?!”
- Jesus sends the demons out of the man and into a herd of pigs; then the pigs rush down to the water and drown;
- All the locals come out to see what was happening. They see the crazy man clothed and in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus–and they are so frightened by all this that they ask Jesus to leave them!
- So Jesus and the Disciples get back into the boat and make ready to cast off. (He never forces himself on anyone!)
- The formerly crazy man (we don’t know his name) begged to join them—to be a follower.
- But Jesus told him, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” He gave him a mission!
- He proclaimed throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him!
Apparently, his testimony went far and wide, because the next time Jesus came to the Decapolis, he was well-received! People flocked out to hear him, bringing the blind, the sick, and the lame to be healed. And Jesus fed a hungry multitude there! This formerly crazed man had been sowing the seeds of the good news (in the spirit and power of Elijah!), and the people were ready to hear Jesus.
Clothed and In Our Right Minds
So, what can we take away from these texts? Well, we can see that God’s love for God’s children is HUGE, and that love is not restricted to any special group of people! We can also see that fear sets up roadblocks for God’s blessings—and that God still finds a way to reach out to us.
Once we see and understand, once we allow our hearts to receive God’s changing power, then:
- Our fears are reduced
- We are healed and empowered
- We are clothed with Christ and “in our right minds”
I’ll finish today with an inspiring story about Butch O’Hare, a fighter pilot assigned to the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific during WWII. One time, his entire squadron was assigned to fly a particular mission. After he was airborne, he checked his fuel gauge and realized that the crew had forgotten to refill his fuel tank! He knew he would not have enough fuel to complete the mission and get back to the carrier. His flight leader told him to leave formation and return.
As he was flying back to the carrier, he saw a squadron of enemy planes heading toward the fleet to attack. With all the fighter planes gone, the fleet’s defenses were seriously reduced. His was the only opportunity to distract and divert the enemy planes.
Single-handedly, he dove into the formation and attacked them. (Interestingly, the American fighter planes were rigged with cameras, so that as they flew and fought, film was taken so pilots could learn more about the terrain, enemy maneuvers, and so on.) Butch dove at their planes and shot until all his ammunition was gone, then he began to dive and try to clip off a wing or tail or anything that would make the enemy planes unfit to fly. He did anything he could to keep them from reaching the Allied ships.
Finally, the enemy squadron took off in another direction, and Butch O’Hare and his fighter plane (both badly shot up) limped back to the carrier. He told his story, but it was not until the film was developed that they realized the extent he really went to in order to protect his fleet! He was recognized as a hero, and given one of the nation’s highest military honors.
As some of you know, the O’Hare airport in Chicago was named in his honor (and you can visit his memorial between terminals 1 and 2 next time you’re in O’Hare with some time to kill!)
Why am I telling you this story about Butch O’Hare? Well, he was the son of Easy Eddie, and now you know the rest of the story. Fathers’ Day is a GREAT day to celebrate the legacy passed on to us from all our Fathers!