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[REBLOGGED WITH PERMISSION-COMPENDIUM]
By Rev. William Willenbrock, Pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church-MS, Medford, NJ 08055
What do we do with texts like today’s Gospel text? “23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy
us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.”
For a few years when I was younger my family attended a church of another denomination. I remember being taught that, “ah, what’s going on here is that this man has some sort of schizophrenia or perhaps epilepsy and because the people during Jesus day were so uneducated, unaware of medical realities they thought it was an evil spirit or demon, ah but we know better”. That’s just so arrogant, to count the people of another age as complete idiots. It’s also just plain dishonest with the text. If this is schizophrenia, why does Jesus say, “Come out of him”. Schizophrenia is mental disorder, there is nothing to come out. And how does a schizophrenic know something which everyone around him does not…namely that he is the Holy One of God?
According to recent polls around 80 percent of Americans believe in Christianity but only 57 percent believe in the existence of demons. We know better, we’re wiser. I mean have you ever seen one? No. But I think there is a very good reason why. Let me ask you this, if there was rash of possessions exorcist-style here in Medford, what would church attendance be like next week? We’d be packing people into the side pews. Why, because suddenly people would become aware of the metaphysical, they would be aware of spiritual realities. So Satan is wise to keep a low profile here. However, if you go to a place like Haiti, this sort of thing is far more common. A classmate of mine at Seminary was from there, he was college educated here in the United States, and he was not some superstitious bumpkin. And he would tell us, in Haiti this is real. Haitians don’t have our naturalistic biases so the other team can be far more active there. But here their goal is accomplished by laying low.
What is their Goal? To answer that question we have to go back to the very beginning of creation itself, to when God created angels. That is what Satan and all the demons were once. They were angels, servants of the most high God. He had made them to protect and serve the world which he had created. God made them strong and he made them good. But we read that Satan and some of the other angels rebelled against God. Why? There are several theories, if you want to hear them all come to bible study. But whatever the reason, a great war began in heaven. Satan and the evil angels verses St. Michael and the good angels. The good triumphed, and Satan was kicked out of heaven, and sent to this world and his bad angels along with him, which we now call demons, or which our text calls “unclean spirits”.
And to be clear they hate God and his people. And their single goal is our downfall. Shouldn’t we tremble in fear? No, we should not. “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” That is what we read. What we read is that Christ has authority over the unclean spirits, they are no match. 100 Hollywood movies have tried to make God and Satan equals, they talk about the battle between good and evil. From our worldview that is a farce. That is ridiculous. Today is Super Bowl Sunday. One of the greatest quarterbacks in history goes against one of the greatest defenses in history. That is not what the eternal Super Bowl is like, the enteral Super Bowl would be like the Seahawks vs. the Medford Indians pewee football team. Satan is no match. 1 John says, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world”. “He who is in the world”, ok that’s Satan and his compatriots. Who is in you? “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” says Paul in First Corinthians. At your baptism the Holy Spirit, the very third person of the Trinity, came to live within you. He is the cleanest of the clean spirits, unclean spirits tuck tail and run. He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
But if that is not enough, he sends his angels. He sends his mighty warriors his Cherubim. When we think of cherubs, we think of little rosy faced baby angels with tiny wings. Next time you see that, laugh. God’s Cherubim are mighty warriors and they love, they protect us. Have you seen that Navy commercial recently? It’s got this family in the center, and all these Sailors around them in a circle. And then a voice says, “To get to you, they’d have to get through us.” That’s is what our Guardian angels are like, they never sleep, they never have faulty intelligence, so you need not fear. To get to you, they’d have to get through them. How great is our God. Secret service eat your heart out, the kings children, are protected better.
So let us not leave this protection. More and more people dabbling in the occult, especially people around my age. People in their teens and 20s and even older have grown dissatisfied with naturalism, they push against it. They know there is more, there is a spiritual aspect of life, and they’re playing with Ouija boards, consulting with psychics. Scripture is abundantly clear, do not do this. Now to be clear an Ouija board has no power in itself, it’s just a hunk of wood, no different than the pew you’re sitting in. But the issue is you’re inviting the demonic. Hey come hang out with me. And by doing that, you’re basically saying Holy Spirit get lost. And so this opens yourself up to attack. You want to know the future here it is, we will live for all time with Christ in his kingdom which has no end. That’s the only future we need to know. Don’t jeopardize that future by trying to find out if you’ll get the promotion or by trying to talk to Aunt Betty. You want to be near Aunt Betty, don’t go to some charlatan psychic. Come to this rail.
One of my Seminary professors said, if you want to be near your departed loved ones, go where Jesus is, they are with Jesus. Do you listen to the words of the proper preface? “Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and WITH ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN, we laud and magnify your glorious name, evermore praising you and saying…Holy Holy Lord God of power and might heaven and earth are full of your glory.” If you read Isaiah and Revelation, you’ll find that those words are the words said before the throne of God. So when we says those words, we are participating in the worship of heaven, you and your departed loved ones are hanging out at the same party, you’re doing something together. You miss fishing with you grandpa? You miss cooking with your mom? Worship with them now, join them in this place. If that’s boring to you, you must not have a pulse….
Our Gospel ends with these words, “And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.” I’m, not a big fan of that translation. The Greek says, “at once, news went out, through all the surrounding region…” The reason that’s interesting is that it’s the same word as verse 25, “Be silent, and come out of him!” When Jesus cast out demons, his fame is cast out all over the world. When Jesus does something amazing, people have to tell about it. Today Jesus does something amazing. Will we tell the world about it? Amen.