I Am so Glad that Jesus Rode a 'Hog'
A sermon by Pastor Scott Oelhafen
August 31/September 1, 2003 - Pentecost 12
Text: Luke 8: 26-39
(Posted but no longer available on the congregation's website--Trinity, Waukesha)
[GJ - That particular Sunday marked the 100th anniverary of Harley Davidson. Few ministers can manage a product tie-in so deftly. I hope the Harley Davidson folks preserved this commercial message on their website.]
1. He proved His heavenly horsepower
2. He promoted His heavenly mission
(Special thanks to Trinity member Greg Heichelbeck for parking his Harley Davidson motorcycle in front of our church for this sermon and for loaning me his Harley merchandise for this service).
Dear friends of Jesus,
They came this past week all dressed up and places to go. Did you see them? They came motoring across the country, state, and city, revving their engines. Undoubtedly, you heard them. From the city streets, to the parking lots and even in the hallways, their mommas were proud of them. It was truly a sight to behold. Of course you, know what I´m talking about. School started this past week and students, staff, and parents returned to the classroom. Okay -- that´s not what I´m referring to. Unless, you´ve been sequestered in a cabin in the Northwoods for the past few months, you´ll know that Metro-Milwaukee has welcomed more than an estimated half-a-million Harley-Davidson motorcycle enthusiasts. With their world headquarters here in Milwaukee, Harley-Davidson is celebrating its 100th birthday. It´s a popular motorcycle company holding 46% of the sales in North America.
We have a number of Trinity members that are associated with Harley. If you talk with them, they´ll tell you why someone wants to buy a Harley. They´ll tell you that when a customer is buying a Harley, he or she is buying an image first and a motorcycle second. So what´s the image of Harley-Davidson? Most people get their image from the movies like The Wild One in 1953 or Easy Rider in 1969. Harley riders are pictured as big, tough, rebels without a cause. But, remember these words, your mom probably first spoke to you: “don´t always judge a book by it´s cover.’ Some years ago a young, single school teacher decided to travel across America to see the sights she had taught about. Traveling alone in a truck and a camper in tow, she found herself on Interstate 5, near Sacramento, California. In rush-hour traffic, wouldn´t you know it, her water pump blew. She was tired and scared. In spite of the traffic jam, no one seemed interested in helping her. Leaning up against her trailer, she finally prayed, and this was her prayer: “Please God, send me an angel .. preferably one with mechanical experience.’ Four minutes later, a huge Harley drove up, ridden by an enormous man, sporting long black hair, a beard and multiple tattoos. With an incredible air of confidence, he jumped off his Harley, barely glanced at the young woman, and went to work on the truck. Within another few minutes, he flagged down a large truck, attached the tow chain to frame of the disabled truck. He whisked the truck off the freeway to a side street where he continued to work on the truck. The intimidated teacher was too overwhelmed to speak -- especially, when she read the paralyzing words off his leather jacket – “Hell´s Angels, California.’ Yes, God had sent her an angel she wasn´t expecting. As he finished the repair, she finally got up the courage to say: “Thanks so much.’ Noticing her fear, he looked right in her eyes and simply said: “Don´t always judge a book by it´s (sic) cover. You may not know who you´re talking to.’ And with that, he smiled, closed the hood of her truck, and straddled his Harley. He was gone as quickly as he appeared. “Don´t judge a book by it´s cover.’ Good advice – especially when it comes to the greatest person in history – Jesus Christ. Most people who saw Jesus weren´t impressed by Him. Jesus didn´t have the kind of education or degrees that would´ve attracted attention. He didn´t come from a prominent family – just the adopted son of a carpenter from an unknown hick-town known as Nazareth. Isaiah told us ahead of time in his prophesy concerning Jesus Christ: He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him (Isaiah 53:3). Most people would call Jesus the original “rebel without a cause.’ He certainly didn´t fit in to what most people were expecting in a Savior. Sadly, most people of His day dismissed Jesus as unimportant and irrelevant (like many do today). Jesus didn´t fit in to their lifestyle and His Word didn´t appeal to their way of thinking. So they wrote Jesus off. In doing so, they missed out on a God-centered purpose for life now, and an eternity with God in the future. Let´s not make the same mistake. You probably know the nickname for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, don´t you? They´re known as hogs. If you could see the divine Jesus walking among us, I´d like to think that that Jesus could identify with us as human beings. And I´ll bet that even Jesus would ride a Harley this weekend. I don´t know He´d choose a Harley model like Low-rider, Fat Boy, or Heritage. But, as our sermon text will show us, I Am So Glad that Jesus Rode a Hog. In the Biblical account of demon-possession, we´ll hear again how Jesus rode those demon-possessed hogs or pigs, right out of town. But, Jesus did this for good reasons. Jesus Rode Those Hogs to prove His divine horsepower. And Jesus Rode Those Hogs to promote His heavenly mission.
I find it very interesting, and maybe you do too, that of all the places to go in the United States, Milwaukee, Wisconsin has been chosen by Harley-Davidson riders as they (sic) place to be. It´s a place by a lake. Listen to another gathering by another lake, albeit a smaller one, that´s recorded for the ages for us to visit time and time again. Listen as our sermon reading begins: 26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!" 29 For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places. Demon possession still attracts a lot of curious fans, especially in college or around Halloween. Just look at the movies that will be advertised in the coming few weeks. Most people just laugh demon possession off as a Steven Spielberg movie trick or pure science fiction. But, our sermon reading shows us that demon possession is fact, and happens more than we realize. The Bible tells us that there´s a spiritual world behind what we can see (and beyond what news agencies report on), and both angels and demons are locked in a spiritual battle (thank God the book of Revelation tells us that the good angels triumph as do all Christian believers). Think about how horrible demon possession would be: to be controlled by a will not your own. The man of our reading had been demon possessed for some time, away from his family, living among tombs. Actually this Biblical account is recorded in 3 of the 4 Gospel writers. The Gospel writer Mark tells us that the demon would make the man cut himself and cry out at night. What suffering! Listen to what happened next: 30Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" 31"Legion," he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. Notice how many demons were in this man. A Roman legion of soldiers numbered between 3000-6000. Incredible – a good-size city (3000-6000) of demons were controlling this man. How horrible, and hopeless! But, one more powerful than Legion had come to this place by a lake and the demons had to acknowledge him. Notice the demons knew who Jesus was: the Son of the Most High God. Though many are quick to dismiss Jesus, even these demons had to admit His identity and bow at his feet. And they knew that Jesus hadn´t come to save them but to judge them. For Jesus had come to do battle with them and they only could retreat. When demons are faced with Jesus – they always lose. Listen to what happened next. 32A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. To prove that Jesus has all power of heaven and earth at His disposal, and to prove His horsepower as the Savior, Jesus Rode Those Hogs right out of town. For demons are always destructive.
So let me ask you, can you relate to this account of Jesus? I doubt that many here have been in the presence of the demon: Legion. But, each of us has demons that we have to reckon with. Some of us have to daily face the demons of addiction – maybe it´s the demons of drugs, alcohol, pornography, gossip, or materialism (the quest for more and more). Maybe you just can´t stop. Others have to struggle with the demon of death, that makes you feel all alone because your spouse or parent has died and you may feel abandoned. Still others have to face demons of fear, disease, or divorce. We feel trapped and don´t have a ghost of a chance to escape on our own. We can find help only when we begin to realize that we were born as rebels without a cause, rebelling against our creator in what we say, think, and do and deserve nothing but eternal punishment. Yet, remember the Savior´s presence and His words: Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). Jesus took our demons, sins, and shame to the cross where He paid the ultimate price – His sufferings and death. Better than a car repair, He paid our way into heaven. And He walked out of the tomb to free us from the ultimate demon of death. Now, He invites us to come to Him and He will give us exactly what we need. Sometimes Jesus chooses to remove those demons with continued prayer, Bible study, and angels of all shapes and sizes who will help us. Sometimes, He chooses to let these demons remain – but always providing His almighty presence, peace, and power. Remember, Jesus Rode a Hog to prove His heavenly horsepower.
But, Jesus also rode that Hog to promote His heavenly mission. Jesus just did what no one else could do. He healed a man who was demon possessed. But, listen to two very different responses to Jesus´ saving activity as our sermon text concludes: 34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 "Return home and tell how much God has done for you." So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. Can you imagine the crowd shuffling Jesus out of town, after all the good He had done? That´s what happens when people are inconvenienced by Jesus and His Word for our lives. Even though they know the truth, they don´t want what Jesus has come to bring: a new life, a new change from being selfish to being self-less, a change from following sin to following the Savior. And this reaction is the scariest part of our reading – people can actually reject Jesus. You and I can reject Jesus. And Jesus doesn´t force Himself on anyone and He does leave if He´s continually rejected. The second reaction was more amazing and had a happy ending. Jesus had come to be the Savior of the World. That demon possessed man knew it and wanted to tell others. Here we have an unusual witness but one that we can relate to. Jesus gives us the same command: start at home, and let´s talk with our families, friends, and neighbors how Jesus has freed us from Satan´s grip for a life of love and concern for others. There´s no better purpose in life. We too can promote Jesus´ heavenly mission as the Savior of the World. And we can do that today by our encouragement to others, by our invitations, by our offerings and prayers. There just might be someone we know who can be freed from their personal demons if we connect them with Jesus.
Yesterday, I took my family to the Waukesha Expo Center and waterfront by Lake Michigan to see the gathering of Harleys by Lake Michigan. It was amazing to see the chrome bikes, the black leather clothes, and the black and orange t-shirts. But, I guess I was most surprised by the vintage tattoos. I wonder what would happen if I came home with a tattoo to my wife Christine. Do you think she´d like it? The only thing I´d have to wonder about is the pain of removing that tattoo :). But, think about it: you get a tattoo to always remember. Do you realize that each of us are tattooed to God´s hands by virtue of our baptism? We´re tattooed into God´s family, which is even better than being a part of the Harley family. Isaiah tells us in the Bible that God has engraved you on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16). God can always see us and see a way for us to be rescued from our earthly and more important eternal problems. So the next time you see a Harley, I pray you´ll remember: Even Jesus Rode a Hog, to prove His Horsepower and promote His heavenly mission. Amen.
GJ - The apple does not fall far from the tree. Wally Oelhafen was in charge of the Michigan District Mission Board, and he loved, loved, loved the Church Growth Movement. Wally only got angry when the CGM was criticized.
Sceleratissimus Lutheranus has left a new comment on your post "Another Children's Sermon from WELS":
I'm speechless, this is the worst example of preaching I've seen to date. You know the definition of a synod is supposed to be people walking together in common support of the Gospel, but I think WEL"S" is now composed of different elements going in different directions. Sorry, as an Orthodox Lutheran I cannot walk in harmony with this CG/Church and Change bilge!