Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bring Your Demon To Church Sunday

This week's scriptures are Mark 1:21-28 and 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.

Some of us were having a conversation about the Markan passage for this week when Jeremy asked, "What is a demon doing in church?" Immediately my weird little mind started turning and you got the title for this week's blog.

Many of us remember the first "Take Your Daughter To Work Day." It's a wonderful idea in which our daughters were reminded though being with us at work that they could do and be anything they wanted to (not a bad idea for boys either). And over the years, it's borne fruit. You can see by the rise in the number of women in various professions that 50 years ago would have been almost unheard of.

"So what's this got to do with the passage from Mark?" you ask.

In Jesus' day a person with a demon was unclean. He or she had no business being in the synagogue. How did this one get in then? Maybe it was a quiet demon...one that spoke only to its victim: telling him what a rotten human being he was; how if anyone knew what he was really like, they'd hate and despise him; how God found him vile and would eventually destroy him.

Week after week this man went to the synagogue...desperate for a way to worship; yet secretly sure that he was damned; his demon whispering constantly in his ear. Imagine the emotional pain, the anguish of feeling this way.

Is it much different though than how many of us feel? We've become convinced somehow that some trauma in our lives, some behavior with which we struggle, some secret from our past as put us beyond God's redeeming love. We look at our friends and think, "if they only knew...." We try to pray, but the words catch in our throat. Whether you believe in demons as an entity or not; few of us would doubt that this kind of view of ourselves is 'demonic'.....evil, seperating us from the good that God desires for us.

It's no wonder that when Jesus showed up at the synagogue the demon broke its silence and screamed out in fear. And Jesus screamed back; telling the demon to go away and leave this child of God alone.

The Power of God is loose in the world. In Jesus that power took on the demon that seperated this man from God's love (whatever kind of demon it was) and restored him to both God and community.

The lie that our 'demons' tell us is that we don't belong in the community of faith, that God's love and forgiveness and redemption don't include us. They tell us that the community of faith is no place for us to be. They tell us that if we show up, we'd better hide who we really are and use the time to wallow in our shame and beat up on ourselves-rather than worship and praise the God who frees us and brings us home.

When our demons come into the presence of the One who is the Truth, then the gig is up. The lies they tell won't work any more. Oh, it doesn't always happen instantly, some things take time. But once we've met Truth and Love, and know that "nothing can seperate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus" then our struggles and our labor take on a different meaning for us. They're not the agony of torture-unending and unrelenting, but the labor of a journey toward the wholeness that God intends for us all.

With this in mind, I declare this Sunday to be "Bring Your Demon To Church Sunday"....I've got Someone I'd like them to meet.

See you then.


Jeremy said...

Sounds like another series of interesting thoughts and messages for us to think about, Stephen!

As a was reading your post, I started thinking about how this relates to listening on a couple of levels. Most obviously, the demon listening and obeying Jesus.

But why is the demon/demon-possessed/addicted man in church? To do harm to the parishioners in some way? To seek help of some kind? It might be some mixture of those possibilities, but the reason why he is there might not really change how we read this passage. "Sin is behovable (unavoidable), but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well," as Julian of Norwich put it.

The part I'm not sure I understand is the will, or perhaps better stated, the choice of the demon-possessed man to continue listening for God. Whether it was in the moment or within his choice to attend church. In his despair (or scheming - again, I'm not sure it matters here), a part of him listened.

Maybe that part of us that wants to listen to God is one of the gifts that God gave us to help overcome what I believe to be the real fallout from the original sin - the knowledge of good and evil brought fear to humankind.

Maybe to combat that, God gave us the desire to seek our creator and to listen for God. Even to those who rejected God long ago.

Jeremy said...

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