‘Returning Home’ – 19th June 2022 – The First Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

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22 06 19 The First Sunday after Trinity Eucharist

The Readings

Galatians 3.23-end

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Luke 8.26-39

Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they 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. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged 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.

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By  Rev. Dr Alan Billings


Jews do not eat pork. It is a forbidden food. It is not kosher.

So when we heard today’s gospel read, we knew at once that Jesus was now in a place where non-Jews lived – because the people here kept pigs, swine.

Jews would shudder at the thought of pigs, which is why in the parable, the story Jesus told about a prodigal son, we know the younger son has reached rock bottom in his life when he has to get work on a pig farm and share the animal’s food.

So here is the first thing to notice about the work of Jesus: he does not restrict his healing ministry to Jews alone. There are gentiles in this place. Jesus is motivated by need, not someone’s ethnicity or their religion. This is medecins sans frontieres. He heals a stranger, a gentile, a non-Jew, because this man is in a bad way. He’s not at all well. He needs help.

And that should be a guiding principle for all followers of Jesus. The spirit that motivates us to help others must also be one of generosity and compassion, knowing no boundaries.

The second thing to notice is how superstitions will fill a vacuum if no one can give a rational explanation for something, not least in this area of mental illness. For the man in this story suffers from what today we would surely identify as a mental or psychological illness; but no such explanation was available to people at that time. They understand and so explain it differently.

I once had a member of one of my congregations – I’ll call her Joan - who suffered from a severe psychological illness. Her symptoms were something like this:

When she became particularly unwell, she said her head would fill with thoughts, words, sentences that flitted across her mind all the time. She felt as if she had multiple personalities that came and went inside her.
She became progressively more and more agitated and restless.
She acted impulsively and did risky things, so much so that her family on occasions felt they had to try to restrain her.
Then she became depressed.

Looking back, it seems as if what Joan went through was something very similar to what the man in this passage is going through. When Jesus asked him his name he gave this odd reply ‘I am Legion’ - a legion was a company of Roman soldiers. In other words, he feels as if he is not a single person but multiple personalities, like my parishioner, Joan.

Like her, he too became agitated, on edge, easily spooked, so much so that he has to be restrained, bound with chains and fetters.

When Joan became very unwell, she tried to tell herself that she was having a crisis in her mental health but she could be helped – though in fact she found it hard to believe that she could be helped. After all, she had endured many years of getting if not worse than certainly not better. So if someone were to say to her, we can help you when she felt this was impossible, that just seemed like one more torment.

The man that Jesus meets cannot reach for a psychological explanation. None is available in those days. So he speaks about what he experiences in the way he understands the world.

He feels as if a legion of evil spirits has entered his mind and body. And when Jesus seeks to help him, he feels it more as a torment. After years of being shunned by people, he is fearful about what a different future would be like.

There are times when we fear an unknown future, even a future without some debilitating psychological illness. After all, those who are ill over many years often find ways of functioning despite their illness. So getting better is not one easy moment of transition. it’s more often a series of steps, some forward, some back, over a long time. Never easy.

What happens next to the sick man is not hard to imagine. In some final moment of extreme agitation, he frightens a herd of pigs who rush off and fall down the bank into the water. And this is interpreted as the evil spirits in the man leaving him, entering the pigs and agitating them.

The man, we are told, is now ‘in his right mind’. But the people do not rejoice at this. They are scared by it all. This too convinces me that what we have here is a psychological or mental illness, interpreted as demon possession. Mental ill health does often frighten us more than physical ill health. We can’t see it. Diagnoses are not easy. Prognoses are not always certain and finding better health can take a long time and is often exhausting.

The advice Jesus gives is interesting. ‘Return to your home.’ He seems to be saying, You will need on-going help and support so return to those who know you best and who, perhaps, have it in them to love you still.

Return to your home. Just as the prodigal son realised that his final redemption lay in returning home. To his earthly father, of course. But to his heavenly father as well.

The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica H

In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, Let us pray to the Father.
Oh Lord, we pray for our world, that reconciliation between warring nations and factions may be achieved, and that all your peoples may live in peace and harmony. We especially pray for Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and all places suffering war and oppression. Enlighten those inflicting that suffering so that they understand that what they are doing is wrong. We pray that our country will reach out and offer sanctuary to all fleeing war and oppression.
Lord, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.


We pray for the Church worldwide, that all Christians may join together, to work for peace and harmony throughout the world. We pray that the Russian Orthodox Church will speak out against the slaughter being inflicted on Ukraine. We pray for our archbishops Justin and Stephen, our bishops Pete and Sophie, and for our partnership of Churches, St John’s, St Mark’s and St Mary’s. Help us to demonstrate your love for your people throughout our parishes.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.


We pray for our community of Walkley as it starts its Festival next weekend. We give thanks for all the individuals and organisations who work so hard to put on events for the enjoyment of all, and all our local businesses that they may be renewed by the Festival. We pray also for our local schools, in particular St Mary’s, and that our close links may be renewed after the pandemic.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.


Today we pray especially for Sino and Delna as they renew their wedding vows and receive Your blessing. We give thanks that they found their way to St Mary’s and rejoice that we are able to share with them their very special day.
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.


We pray for all who are ill at this time, many of whom have had to wait a long time for treatment. Be with them and let them know your healing power. We remember in a moment of silence all those known to us who are suffering in mind or body at this time…………..
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.


We remember before you all those who have passed on to your nearer presence, especially those dear to us, whether relations, members of this congregation or friends and colleagues…….. grant us with them a share in your eternal kingdom.

Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.


Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary, John, Mark and all your saints, we commend ourselves to your unfailing love.


Merciful Father,
Accept these prayers
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.



Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England, material from which is used here is copyright (c) The Archbishops' council 2000