Galatians 3.23-29, Luke 8.26-39 8am Homily HT.
In one of my former careers at a college, the end of the academic year always involved a time of staff training. I remember that at one of these training days the team was gathered around a table for a team building exercise. During the team building session, the team leader asked for each of us to reflect a moment on our colleagues. They then asked us to pick a particular team member with which we found difficult to work with and write down all the faults of this person. They then invited us to share this faults along with the person’s name with the group. Now, as you can imagine, I was appalled by this and felt I had to step in. So, before the exercise began I spoke up by telling a story of an encounter with a Nun I met while on retreat. I said that the Nun told me that the things we do not like in other people are usually the things we dislike in ourselves. After a moment of silence by the group, I realised that my point had incidentally put paid to the exercise as no one was willing to complete the task.
No one likes to be reminded of their faults and weakness. Perhaps that why we avoid certain people or groups of people because our dislike of them reminds us something of ourselves that we would rather forget. So the disliked person becomes ostracised from society.
I wonder if that’s what happened to the man possessed by demons? Perhaps there was something about him that his society didn’t like. Perhaps he had something that they couldn’t or wouldn’t understand like a mental illness or disease which was beyond their medical understanding of the time. I don’t want to down play the existence of demons, of dark powers that can influence us. But, there are things that can get a hold of us, things that have a destructive effect on us.
Something destructive had taken hold of this man. Something so destructive that his society had rejected him, placing him in solitude from those he had once loved and from God himself. Living alone without this love gave space for the demons inside this man to multiply to the point where they had become a legion, an army of tormentors.
When Jesus comes to this man, he comes with love. He sees beyond this man’s behaviour and immediately goes to the heart of his problem. Throughout the gospels, there are countless occasions where Jesus is failed to be known by religious authorities or even by his own disciples but is recognised as being the Son of God by demons. Only the demons recognise Jesus’s authority and they are the ones who respond with fear and dread. The demons are scared because they know their time is up for love will have the last word.
The demons, the demons that haunt us, telling us lies that we are not worthy of being called children of God. The demons that want nothing more than to isolate us from the love of God and each other, quake in the presence of Christ. The love of God in Christ is a threat to them for God’s love threatens to destroy them utterly.
Once freed, the man is returned by into his society and back to his family. He is made whole again and alive again with the knowledge that God loves him.
The powers and principalities of this world be they; unfair justice systems, businesses, addictions, obsessive love of things, things that ultimately cause self-destruction, are all very real. We all face them every day. Sometimes we can get so overwhelmed by them that being loved and loving others seems as distant as the moon above us. At these times we need reminding that God continues to love us even if we can’t feel it. We need others to remind us of this fact and for us to remind others. So perhaps the next time you meet someone who seems to trigger something you dislike, pause a moment to reflect and offer it to God. Or if you find there is something that perhaps was once quite innocent has now taken a darker turn, pause a moment to reflect and offer it to God. By doing this you are causing the demon to quake because it wants nothing more than to isolate, to cause pain and loneliness. We have the authority of Christ to tells these demons to go because we are the children of God. Our God who loves us no matter what. That’s the God we are dealing with and He will deal with anything that prevents that love from reaching us, from reaching you.
This sermon was inspired by Nadia Bolz-Weber ” Accidental Saints”. Please click the link below and support my work! Thanks!