Sunday, July 12, 2009

Caution!!!!! Dive at your Own Risk! (on Matthew 8.28-9.1)

When I was in sixth grade my class went on a weekend fieldtrip into the Rocky Mountains. One of the activities we enjoyed was an afternoon at a large swimming pool and at that pool was a high dive. I had never been off a high dive before. My friends convinced me to climb up the ladder and there I stood at the end of the diving board looking down into the deep water where I was sure I would drown to death if I jumped. I thought to myself that someone would have to be crazy to jump off that board into the deep….

Last Tuesday, our society took that jump off the deep end. But unlike a child that tip-toes to the end of the diving board and peeks over the edge of the high dive only to run back to the ladder in fear, our society took a flying leap off the deep end with its eyes closed. With the death of Michael Jackson, the so-called King of Pop, our society has finally made the jump into the abyss with thousands of broadcast hours on hundreds of stations and in countless movie theaters and street corners throughout the world being dedicated to the media coverage of his death, autopsy, estate battles, memorials services and public tributes, and there is sure to be more to come. Any effort to direct attention away from Michael Jackson is considered disrespectful by many or at the very least cold hearted by some.

Cold hearted are the words that should come to mind when we hear this morning’s Gospel story. After Jesus healed two men who had been demon possessed for many years, he faced a crowd of cold hearted, selfish, money hungry herdsmen. The demons were so fierce that no one could pass by without being in danger, and rather than be happy for their fellow human beings, “Behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, the begged Him to depart from their region.” (Matthew 8.34) And why? All because Jesus allowed the demons to enter the pigs, “and suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water.” (Matthew 8.32)These men who had been watching their fellow human beings suffer for so many years cared more about the lost profit of the pigs than the saved lives of those two men. Talk about cold hearted.

Doesn’t this sound similar to last week’s news? I heard in one radio report last week that t-shirt vendors were complaining when the expected crowds at Michael Jackson’s memorial service were smaller than expected because they couldn’t sell enough t-shirts. T-shirt sales at a memorial service? Is that what our society has come to? Yes…..I’m sorry to say that is exactly what our society has come to and it is no surprise. The memorial service was for the “King of Pop” after all – a man who had given his life over to drugs, scandalous living, and sleepless nights to please a crowd of complete strangers who were paying very large ticket prices …. just to be buried in a 24K gold casket at the young age of 50. This was the last chance to cash in for so many people who had made their fortune off of Michael Jackson and they were not going to stand for any loss of profit. Even the City of Los Angeles, who I’m sure made millions in tax revenue over the years because of Michael Jackson concerts, is asking the public to help pay for the more than $1 Million security costs. If this isn’t off the deep end….I don’t know what is.

My brothers and sisters in Christ it is not too late! Even if our society takes that leap off the deep end, we don’t have to go over with it. We can be like child who errs on the side of caution and returns to the ladder. We can turn back toward God now while we still have a chance. Even with the demons of the world fighting against us as they fought against the two men in this morning’s Gospel, God will protect us. Look again at the story this morning. We know the two men were being tormented terribly by the demons, but the demons have no power against us! We are protected by God as long as it is our will to be protected by God. The demons would have killed the men if they could. Instead they had to settle for killing a herd of pigs. “There is no one who does not enjoy the benefit of God’s providence” (Homily XXVIII On Matthew, sec 4)

Just like God protected the two men, God can protect us. He has more than enough power. But just like the herdsmen lost their entire herd, God can also let us lose everything if we care more about making a profit than we do about our fellow human beings who are suffering around us. And we can’t just think that somebody else is going to help. Every day more and more of our society takes the same plunge as those poor pigs over the deep end.

My brothers and sisters, as a society we are no different from the herdsmen in this morning’s Gospel and we are watching our brothers and sisters suffer around us while we risk losing everything. Who here has not been consumed with the news since last October about the suffering economy? Have we been just the least bit concerned about the suffering of others, who are complete strangers, around us? You would think that our churches would be filled to capacity, standing room only, there is so much fear about bankruptcy and lost pensions and declining housing markets. But as a society our eyes continue to be focused upon our wealth and the daily losses of our investments and spending as many days as possible at the beach while at the same time lives around us, like the recent story about our own Governor, continue to wallow in the mud with the pigs. Don’t look now but the pigs are headed over the cliff….

We are standing at the end of that high dive peaking over the edge at the deep below. We have a choice to make…turn back toward God or jump with the pigs…and there is only one result to that jump….death.

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