Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jesus and the Silent Demon

This week's scriptures are Jeremiah 1:1-10 and Luke 4:31-44.

I have always been struck by the Lukan account of the man with a demon who interrupted Jesus during His teaching in the synagogue. What was his experience like? What kind of demon did he have? Many, if not most of the accounts of demonic posession in the Gospels say something like, "he/she had a demon which made him/her ....(engage in some for of behavior)." Demons caused a young boy to throw himself into the fire (we would now refer to this as a seizure disorder); others caused a man to live among the tombs and cut himself with sharp stones. What is interesting is that we don't know what this particular demon did. What we know is that it responded to Jesus "teaching with authority."

Another thing that I find interesting is that the man is in the synagogue. In Jesus' day illness seperated one from the community. A man with a know demon would not likely have been present. So we're left with the possibility that this man had been suffering in silence for a very long time with the impact of this demon in his life.

What a sad thought. That this man had been going about his life in the synagogue and in the village all this time, suffering from the presence of this demon....and nobody knew...is its own kind of agony. YOu can imagine this man being unwilling/unable to speak of what he was going through because of the fear that he and his family would be isolated; cut off from the community that gave him what little comfort he was able to find. You can even imagine him not sharing his suffering with his wife, his rabbi, his best friend. He and his demon....there, alone in the dark, late at night. The demon thrived on the secrecy created by the man's fear.

What could Jesus have said that so upset the demon that it would break it's silence? That it would try to exert power over Jesus by calling Him by name (being able to call something's name was thought to give power over it)?

I want to suggest that what panicked the demon was the same, or similar, words that Jesus had spoken in Nazareth: "the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

And I want to suggest that what also panicked the demon-as we talked about Sunday-was what Jesus didn't say. He didn't finish His quote from Isaiah with the words, "and proclaim a day of the vengeance of our God."

The demon had been feeding on this man's fear of rejection: by family, by community, by synagogue, by God; for years. When Jesus announces the coming of the Kingdom; a Kingdom marked by good news, and healing, and freedom, and release....without condemnation or judgement the demon was terrorized and had to put up a fight.....a fight, by the way, which the demon lost.

How many people do we pass every day who are suffering silently this way. In the store as we shop for groceries. On the bus or the freeway on the way to work. At the social gatherings we attend. How many of them sit in the congregation with us on Sunday mornings? How many people around us suffer in silent agony for fear that putting words to their struggles would mean isolation and rejection?

As a pastor and a therapist I can tell you that these "silent sufferers" are everywhere. Their 'demons'? Histories of childhood neglect and abuse; chronic illnesses that sap mind and body; compulsive behaviors that shame and destroy self esteem; unresolved griefs and losses; the list goes on. And the 'demon' thrives on their fear. Their fear that if they address this issue it will destroy them; the fear that others will reject and scorn them; the fear that God will condemn them.

If we stop here, there is nothing but Hell To Pay. But hear the Good News: "Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost"....not to condemn, not to reject, not to punish. This is terrifying news for the 'demons' as well as for those who use this fear to sway political opinion, to control economic situations, or to define the world in terms of the 'inside ones' and the 'outside ones.' But it is good news for those who sit in the darkness of their fear. For Jesus said, "the one who comes to me I will in nowise cast out."

Jesus came preaching this Good News in the power of the Holy Spirit. Into the darkness of our fear and pain comes the Light of God's Love and Mercy. Listen..."and the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never overcome it."


No comments: