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Focus from the Rev. Canon David F. Sellery, Canon for Congregational Mission, Diocese of North Carolina Name Your Demons - Luke 8: 26 - 39

As miracles go, casting out demons is probably my least favorite. The blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the lame walking… these are all familiar, even conceptually comfortable, miracles. Raising the dead, while obviously a much higher order of miracle, is still relatively easy to visualize.

Conceivably a faith healer could cure psychosomatically induced blindness or deafness. But death is a completely different matter. Only the author of life can command death. Jesus uses his power over life and death to proclaim his divinity and foretell his Resurrection and ours. But what’s all this exorcism business about?

For starters, it’s a more complex miracle. The other miracles are all two-party transactions: the miracle worker and the recipient. Exorcism involves a third party. And that party is the wildest of wild cards.

A literal reading of this gospel identifies the pathogen as Satan, embodied in a legion of demonic underlings. A more clinical reading diagnoses the intruder as a schizophrenic alter ego that controls and tortures its host; manifesting itself in increasingly obnoxious, alienating and dangerous behaviors.

Sadly, these demons still walk the earth. How else to understand the plague of slaughter in our schools and in the public square? Whether it is the result of a crazed “lone wolf” or the product of demonic possession, it is evil unleashed… wreaking havoc on the innocent. It is evil inviting us to over-reaction, conjuring up a greater cycle of violence… hardening our hearts… frightening us… calling us to blood lust.

And Satan couldn’t be happier. That way lies madness. That way we don’t resist evil… we invite it in… to mirror the very demons that torment us. So what to do? What would Jesus do? Temper justice with mercy. Fight evil, but protect the innocent. Look for God’s hand in all things. Seek his guidance. Champion his love.

Each new massacre is an abomination, but sadly not an aberration. The pattern is painfully clear. Hardly a month goes by without these demons lashing out… to gun down a dozen moviegoers, three dozen children and their teachers, a tourist family at a train station… or most commonly… mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, wives and children who have struggled for years to confront and contain the demons that haunt their suffering loved-ones.

Christ is not afraid or repulsed by the man possessed. The same is true for so many families who still cherish memories of a loving child… now hardly recognizable in the angry, unkempt young adult who stands before them. And yet their child is still their child; perhaps more helpless now than when their cute kid pictures were taken. How simple life would be if we had the power to drive their demons into swine… particularly before they lash out to do themselves and others harm. While we don’t have that power, Christ gives us another. We have his love and we can share it in so many loving ways.

In the hours immediately after five of their children were gunned down in their schoolhouse by a man possessed by some unknown demon, the grieving Amish community offered this prayer: “I pray for this man’s wife and the load she must be carrying. Father, help her deal with this in the hard days ahead.” Later one grieving parent added: “I realize that if I didn’t forgive him, I would have the same hole in my heart that he had… The devil feels like he’s had a heyday. But people all over the world are praying for us.”

Let us join in those prayers right now. For those suffering from mental illness… Lord have mercy on them. For their loved ones… Lord give them strength. For their victims… Lord give them your peace. For our country and its leaders, that they make recognition and treatment of these tortured souls a national priority… Come Holy Spirit.

And finally, let’s pray for ourselves. Christ asked the possessed man to name his demons. We should ask ourselves the same question. Are our demons obvious… drink, drugs, internet porn? Or are our demons hidden, but just as pernicious… pride, resentment, hypocrisy, greed or just a low-energy indifference to loving God and neighbor?

Possession in the form of mental illness is not a binary condition like the common cold… in which case you either have the virus or you don’t. Mental illness is a continuum of pathologies ranging from the trace to the pervasive, from the dormant to the virulent. Beyond medication and therapy, one constant ingredient for both prevention and cure is the love of Christ. Live it. Share it… and you’ll never be afraid to name your demons.

eDevotions from The Rev.Bob Dannals Daily Devotionals - Based on RCL Proper 7 Year C: Isaiah 65:1-9; Psalm 22:18-27; Galatians 3:23-29; Luke 8:26-39

Jesus sent [the healed man], saying, 'Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.' Luke 8:39

As Jesus prepares to depart, the man who had been healed asked to come along with Jesus. It's a very obvious request. He had been living in a graveyard; he was essentially homeless. Traveling with Jesus would provide both companionship and provisions. But Jesus wants him to stay in his town and proclaim the good news of healing grace.

Challenge and Opportunity:

The man's request is familiar to most of us. When life is not going well and we ask for and receive help, and then begin to live a renewed life, we very often want to relocate. New surroundings, new work, new friends, a fresh start, both releases us from the entanglements and memories of our previous life, and we don't want the old environment to lure us back into bad habits. But very often God leads us to remain, to work through the issues and to carve out a new existence right in our home town. In this case, he wants the restored man to declare good news. You know, very often that gets us over the hump as well -- to become vulnerable enough to announce that we had been in a rough patch and now we have been restored. This transparency is often very helpful for those going through a similar issue. So, step out, announce good news, and come alongside those who are hurting.
Clergy Confidential: Finding God in Daily Chaos by Tim Schenck In Good Faith: The Soundtracks of Our Lives

Whenever I watch a show on Netflix or see a movie, I’m always struck by how dramatic the
scenes are — the courtroom encounters, the romantic professions of love, the stirring chase scenes. And then I contrast this with my own life, and the interactions I have on a daily basis feel somehow…lacking.

It finally struck me one day, that it’s less about the drama in my life. I mean, sure, I don’t engage in many high speed chases with guns blazing, like some sort of clerical version of James Bond. And my wife wouldn’t take kindly to my living as though I was starring in a romantic comedy. Nor would my bishop.

But I realized the thing that’s really missing is the accompanying soundtrack. What makes so many of these moments tug at the heartstrings or get the heart pumping, is the music that matches the movement.

That training scene in Rocky set to “Gonna Fly Now” just wouldn’t fly if Sylvester Stallone was doing one-armed pushups and punching raw meat if it was set to, say, “The Sound of Silence” or simply silence. Or Darth Vader entering a scene from Star Wars without composer John Williams’ iconic accompanying Imperial March theme, wouldn’t create that same sense of impending doom, than if he just appeared from stage left. Music sets the mood and heightens the drama and intensifies the emotions that go with the script.
Sure, there’s a bit of emotional manipulation, as when the crescendo builds to the climactic fight scene in a Bruce Lee movie or the classic combination of strings, tuba, and trombone that were used to create the Jaws soundtrack.

We don’t have this in our own lives, at least not to the same degree. No one plays “Eye of the Tiger” when I stumble into Planet Fitness before work; there’s no on-call string section to play soothing background music when I visit a dying parishioner in the hospital; there’s no trumpet fanfare when I do the dishes without being asked.

But none of this means our lives are any less dramatic than what we witness on our screens. Less purely entertaining, perhaps; not neatly wrapped up in one hour chunks, maybe. Yet our lives do play out in high definition, albeit without the accompanying real-time soundtrack.

Which begs the question, what would your life’s soundtrack be? If you’re like me, it would likely change depending on your mood and situation, spanning the range of human emotions. There are times when we need encouragement and comfort, inspiration and hope, empowerment and strength.

I’m a big fan of the blues, precisely because they encompass a wide range of emotion — joy, grief, anger, hope, faith, love, betrayal, sadness, and possibility. In the next moment I may listen to the Magnificat by 16th century Italian church musician Giovanni Palestrina, a master of Renaissance polyphony. And then I may
crank some AC/DC.

In other words, the soundtrack of my life, like life itself, is complicated. And I would imagine, yours is as well. Dramatic, full of contradictions, boring at times, over-scheduled at others, messy, and confusing. But all blessed by God — all of it. Even when the soundtrack doesn’t perfectly align with the script.


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