Sermon from the ELCA Day of repentance and mourning, June 28, 2015, at First Trinity, Chicago.
When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. He asked them, ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ Someone from the crowd answered him, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.’ He answered them, ‘You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You spirit that keep this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!’ After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can come out only through prayer.’ - Mark 9:14-29
God, we are in bondage. Free us. God we are sick. Heal us. God, where we are at peace, trouble us to the core for love of your Creation, your desire. Amen.
The demonic is not a subject (perhaps) that many of us spend most days talking about or thinking about.
But I think
it’s something many of us experience.
And I think it names something that is otherwise very difficult to name.
“The Demonic”—something outside of us that wiggles its way in through our weaknesses --
Our cracks, our brokenness,
that wiggles in through our insecurities, our denial, our telling-ourselves-everything-is-hunky-dory—or at least telling everyone else that, because it is easier sometimes
(much of the time)
to live at the surface of life,
rather than jumping in to the troubling waters of all things created--the waters we summon at baptism,
and the waters we remember each time we walk in these doors, pass that font, and approach this altar:
Waters of Creation and destruction, deliverance and reconciliation, reunion and Resurrection.
Waters of memory and hope, birth, and the anticipation of life.
Sometimes it’s easier to remain at the surface.
To not jump in.
The Demonic, that thing outside of us that wiggles its way in, that takes over, that possesses us…
The demonic forces us to seek out the sins of others, to call out the so-called “sin” we see all around us--in our community, in our family, in our significant others, in our children, in Dunkin Donuts, at Maria’s.
The demonic even causes us to see the mortal sins—by “mortal” I mean, the ones that lead to death and murder, sins that allow us to see others as dispensable, killable, disposable (we talked about these at length last week: hate, racism, classism, homophobia, phobia-in-general), realities we see everyday, not just in our newsfeeds, but in our neighborhood, in our living room, at our church.
Now don’t hear me wrongly, we need to see these things. They desperately need to be unveiled.
We need to be aware of the demonic all around us.
But the problem is that the demonic tricks us! The demonic distorts our vision. It causes us to pretend, and even to believe, that the problem is over there: It’s those people, it’s that man, it’s the shooter, it’s mental illness, it’s because he was lonely… It’s everything and everyone but me.
It’s everything and everyone but a society that still breeds and feeds racism and hate and fear.
It’s anything-we-can-blame but naming the demon itself.
The demonic makes us look out in judgement, but it distorts our judgement.
It makes us see a splinter in our neighbor’s eye, but we don’t really see it properly, because we have a log in our own eye. It makes us look out, but with a distorted lens, a murky filter, and prevents us from looking within.
The demonic, the thing that is beyond us, but that possesses us from within, distorts our vision, throws us into the fire and the water, stops us from speaking freely, claims control over us…
The demonic prevents us from looking within, inside our own selves. It prevents me from looking inside of me. It prevents us from looking inside of us.
Even in church—perhaps, especially in church!
even in the place we gather regularly, the place where we both confess our bondage to Sin, and anticipate our freedom from it.
The demonic keeps us looking out so that we don’t see our own demons, so we don’t name it, the Demonic—that is, so we don’t have to name our own racism, our own homophobia, our own fear. So that we don’t identify, name, notice, address our own inner-demons, the demonic-in-us, and then, surrounded with a community of disciples,
depending desperately on God in Christ.
But we do gather. We do pray. We do challenge one another, each other, to look in, to look around, to name, to address, to cast out.
We say to those demons of fear and hate and racism
and the demons of eyes-that-fail-to-see-Christ-in-every-single-neighbor and every single person here…
we say to those demons, “be gone” be “cast out” you have burrowed into me for the last time. You are done, finished, cut-off from feeding off of my soul. Devouring me. Eating me up from the inside out.
In the name of Christ, we say to those demons, be gone! Get out!
We say to the demons of hate and fear and racism:
my body is a gift, granted me by God,
dedicated to the Holy Spirit.
And sorry, Demons, I did not invite you in. I don’t know how you got here or when you showed up, but there you are! I see you! I’m talking to you! Get out, demons. Be gone! Away with you.
We say to the demons of fear and hate and racism that dwell in us, in me and in you: My skin is the temple of Christ. Our skin, all of our skin in all its beautiful variety, is the temple of Christ.
And hate and racism and ill-willed, malicious, mendacious judgement have no place in this, my body, God’s temple.
Hate will not live here anymore! “I rebuke you!” we say to our demons. And I will turn over every table until every ounce of hate and judgement and racism is driven out of me.
Demon, be gone!
Be cast out!
And we say to the demons dwell in us, grasping on for dear life,
I ask Christ to turn over every table in me that causes me to think I am less or I am inferior because of the lies the demonic in society has said about me. I ask Christ to restore unto me the joy of my salvation, and to drown out the story of inferiority and superiority that is told all around us, in word and deed, with the Old, Old, Story of Jesus and His Love.
To the demons, who seem to refuse to leave. We name, we address, we cast you out.
And we pray.
That Christ may come and set us free.
God, we are in bondage. Free us. God we are sick. Heal us. God, where we are at peace, trouble us to the core for the love of your Creation, your desire.
Trouble our waters, stir our hearts to love. Amen.
Hymn of the day: Wade in the Water