May 6, 2018 "What Would You Do if God Drowned Your Pig?"

What Would You Do If God Drowned Your Pig?
Matthew 8:28-34
I guess you all heard about the problem we had here in Rutledge last week. You know, the one that took place over at the Grainger Memorial Gardens Cemetery. From what I understand, two demon possessed men had taken over the cemetery and were terrorizing everybody who came near. Chelsea told me that the entire town was upset, and there was no shortage of talk about the situation. In fact, I think it was Tuesday when I overheard this conversation take place down at the Down Home Restaurant.
I’m not sure of the man’s name but he said, “Did you hear them demon guys again last night? I could hardly sleep for all their shrieking and yelling?”
Another guy in bibbed overall said, “Yea, I know what you mean. Those two guys have gotten my little girl so scared she had to sleep in the bed with us last night.”
Then Doug Smith chimed in and said, “I tell you what. A few weeks ago, we were at the stop light and one of those guys jumped out in the middle of the road, necked as a Jaybird. I thought Barbara was gonna’ pass out on the spot.”
That’s when Ernie Roberts spoke up. He said, “Well, I’ll tell you what. Somebody’s gonna’ have to do something about those guys or we’re gonna have a real situation here in town. Maybe some of us ought to do something.”
At that suggestion there was a pause in the conversation, an uncomfortably long pause. Finally, Steve Hooper spoke up and said, “Well, I’d do something about those demon guys if I hadn’t messed up my knee working at the church.”
“I’d do something, too,” said Doug, “but we’ve been out of town a lot. Just got back from Asheville last week. I was plumb worn out by the time we got home.”
And so, the conversation at The Down Home continued, but when all was said and done, everybody in Rutledge wanted something to be done, but no one was willing to get personally involved.
No one, except this Jewish guy who happen to be traveling through town. Listen as I read the recorded story of the event. You’ll find most of it in Matthew 8:28-34.
28 When (Jesus) arrived at the other side in the region of Grainger County, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way.
29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
30 Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”
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32 He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.
33 Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave Grainger County.
Obviously, I’ve taken a little liberty with today’s biblical text and I’ve stretched the truth by, let’s say, 2,000 years. No, this story didn’t take place in Grainger County. It took place in the biblical area call Gadara. And as far as I know, neither Chelsea, Doug, Ernie nor Steve said anything about some demon-possessed men running naked through the local cemetery.
But if you believe the Bible (and I do), the event did take place. I changed the names and the places so I could help you personalize this story. A story about first-century, demon-possessed men usually doesn’t say much to those of us in the twenty-first century unless we can put ourselves in their shoes (or maybe I should say “their sandals”).
I’m sure some of you realized today’s sermon would be different when you read the title. “What Would You Do if God Drowned Your Pig?” You see, you’ll never understand what Matthew was talking about in today’s text if you think only about Gadarene farmers losing their pigs. To get the real message from this passage, you have to ask yourself what you would do if Jesus performed his miracle at your expense. What you would do if Jesus drowned your pigs.
Now there are many issues we could explore here in this biblical text. The most obvious is this. Why were Jewish farmers even raising swine? Since good Jews didn’t eat pork, how could they justify making their livelihood from raising pork for others to eat? We could also delve into the first century understanding of demon-possession versus our understanding of mental illness. But if we focus too much on those issues we miss the point of Matthew’s story.
The real issue in this story is one of significance. Which was most important to the Gadarene farmers: the health of two suffering men, or the market value of their pigs? Which was most important, the pigs or the people?
As we read verse 34 the answer is clear. The townspeople cared more about their pigs than they did about the two suffering men. They cared more about their possessions than they did about people. Even though Jesus did the miraculous, restoring peace to the community by healing these pitiful men, the townsfolk of Gadara, asked him to leave. They didn’t want to have anything to do with this man who would sacrifice their pigs for the sake of hurting people.
I’m sure the Gadarenes were pleased when they learned that Christ wanted to do something about the demon-possessed men. They were willing to see the will of God accomplished in their community just as long as it didn’t cost them anything; just as long as it didn’t get too personal. But when the miraculous required them to give up their vested interests, God’s will got too personal.
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So I ask you today, “What would you do if God drowned your pig?” What would you do if God asked you to give up something of value in order to make a difference in the lives of hurting men and women? That’s the challenge of this passage, and that’s the question that confronts you and me today. What are we willing to give up so that God’s will can be done?
How much of our money are we willing to give up so that God’s will can be done? Good Christian everywhere want God’s will to be done. They want the hungry to be fed. They want the lost to be saved. They want the homeless to be housed. Yes, good Christians everywhere want God’s will to be done, but most would prefer God use somebody else’s money to do it. No, they don’t want God to drown their pig.
How much of our time are we willing to give up so that God’s will can be done? Good Christians everywhere want God’s will to be done. They want the elderly to be visited. They want children to be taught the Bible. They want good, effective, community ministries. Yes, good Christians everywhere want God’s will to be done, but most would prefer God use somebody else’s time to do it. No, they don’t want God to drown their pig.
How much of our selves are we willing to give up so that God’s will can be done? You know, that’s really the point of today’s text. All of us want God’s will to be done, but too often, we want God’s will to be done without it costing us anything. We want God’s to do the miraculous in our nation, in our town and in our church, but we’d prefer God use somebody else’s pigs to do it. No, we don’t want God to drown our pig.
I’m reminded of a church drama entitled, “Forgive Us Our Chicken Coops.” In this drama, the deacons of the church are debating the pros and cons of a proposed Youth Program. Listen to these satirical lines.
The deacon chair begins:
Here’s a letter from the local Youth Council.
“We want to use your church as a center for our youth.
To help them to develop in honesty and truth.
You have facilities and you are near the school.
You could provide a meeting place; that would be real cool.”
One deacon responds: I suppose they’d dance. We’d be takin’ a chance.
Coke bottles on the floor. Jazz on the piano. This would be deplor a ble.
Another deacon suggests: We might be saving souls?
Saving souls? Can’t we do that later?
Teenage souls are hard to save the risks are so much greater.
Ten years more or maybe twenty. Then we’ll help them plenty.
Yes, that’s the thing to do. Then they can help us, too.
That’s as far as we’re concerned. The meeting stands adjourned.
Yes, all of us want God’s will to be done. That’s never the question. The question is this. Are we willing to give up our pigs?
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You see, we must be willing to give up our pigs if we want the demons of our world to die. Sometimes we must give up our possessions, give up our plans, give up our traditions, and give up our lives before God can accomplish his will in us. Yes, sometimes God must drown our pigs.
Now, let me conclude by saying this. In all my years of ministry, I don’t think I’ve ever pastored a congregation more giving and loving than this one. When I tell people I’m the pastor of Rutledge Baptist Church, I say it with pride, because you are such a loving, giving congregation. Just two weeks ago you made me so proud by your response to the immigrants of this community. Yes, you were willing to give up your pigs, so that God could do his will with our community’s most vulnerable.
So I don’t want you to misunderstand my sermon today. I’m not scolding you for your lack of generosity. I’m simply reminding you that God’s will always requires our sacrifice. If we want God’s will to be done in our community, we’re going to have to be personally involved. If we want God’s will to be done in our church, each of us will have to make personal sacrifices. If we want to see the miraculous, it may well cost us our pigs.
So I ask the question once again. What would you do if God drowned your pig? Would you let him use those things you consider dear to accomplish his will, or would you simply ask him to go somewhere else and leave your pigs alone.
Sad are those who miss the miraculous because they hold too tightly to their pigs.

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Sermon for May 6, 2018