Today’s Gospel doesn’t sound like a good reading for Father’s Day.
Dads, grandfathers, uncles, and all the men in our family life and the family of the church, don’t need to be reminded that these days can be a replay of today’s Gospel. And yet, because that might be true, it can be therapeutic to read ourselves into the story that is really the perfect gift for Dad and everyone else,
with the “everyone else” being each and all of us.
So, let’s open this seemingly inappropriate gift and pick out the name “Legion.” t describes how the man felt. It was as though a Roman legion of 6,000 were attacking him, pressures that were unnerving, sending him into an uncontrollable rage that literally drove him out of his home and community,
to live in the caves of a cemetery.
Interesting, isn’t it, that some basements are being converted into a “man cave” that is a place to escape from the legions of life’s pressures; a far more commodious retreat than the one in the Gospel story which in our time are chosen and not a dreaded sentence as it was for the man condemned to a cemetery cave.
For today’s men that sentence may be quite subtle, but just as demeaning, like this alliteration on the word “Father” that was a TV advertisement:
"F" is for your favorite occupation. (a man is pictured asleep in a chair)
"A" is for the anniversaries you blew (mother is shown waiting in vain for father to come home for their anniversary dinner)
"T" is for talk and your sparkling conversation (dad is depicted as reading a newspaper while the children and wife are talking to him)
"H" is for the helpful things that you do (dad is shown missing the wall and poking a ladder through a window)
"E" is for each time you were forgetful (this shows him leaving his pregnant wife standing at the front of the house while he dashes off to the hospital)
"R" is for the recitals that you attended (father is shown being literally dragged to his child's piano recital).
The ad concluded by saying: He may not be a perfect father but he does deserve a perfect gift. Give him an arrow shirt for Father's Day. (Adapted from Sermns.com for June 19,2016)
The putdown of Dads that’s in that commercial! It’s enough for a man to pick up on Rodney Dangerfield’s line,
“I get no respect!”
And that’s why there’s a picture in the Gospel gift box that’s drawn in the words:
The people… found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.
Afraid of the wondrous change Jesus made in the man whose troubles earned him the name “Legion?”
The Rev. Dennis Patterson Jr. (associate priest for parish life and Christian education at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Atlanta, GA.) reminds us that the man faced up to the truth that his life was in crisis and he couldn’t do anything about it.
Somewhere I read about a man being in a hotel room on a business trip.People thought he had everything going for him, a wonderful wife, an upscale house, children who adored him and a job with six-digit figures and an impressive position in a world-class corporation. But that night, alone in that hotel room, his world came crashing in one him; the pace of his schedule, the responsibilities of his work, long hours away from his family, were turning him into a person, who if Jesus had asked, “What’s your name?” would had said, “Legion!”
Like the man in the Gospel he let the nakedness of his life be covered with the garment of Christ’s presence;
the same gift that’s for everyone, each and all of us.
There’s one more piece in the Gospel box.Reach in and pull out another sketch of the man, now fully dressed in Christ, and notice that he is begging:
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.
This morning the letter which accompanies the Gospel has us hearing:
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
reminding “everyone”- men and women, of any age, that the gift we receive – the garment of Christ’s life – is a gift meant to be opened and shared…in our everyday life, in our everyday places.
There are fathers and grandfathers who are now models of Mr. Fitzsimmons, the church’s “Dad” to teenage boys he taught in Sunday School and mentored in ushering in church;
there are cherished letters a father wrote weekly to his children through their high school years and still does on to this day, always signed with, “I love you very much.”
Now one Dad skypes his wife and children every night from wherever his company has sent him, and ends each internet visit with a prayer and the blessing,
“May the love of Christ dwell in us.”
Another family whose Father’s Day was a weekend at the shore, took his children to the beach; as they walked he told them today’s Gospel story, and then repeated the lines:
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.” Mary Stevenson, 1936
Step into today’ Gospel story, read today’s letter, and receive them as the perfect gift for Dad and everyone else. AMEN.