Possesed by Demons

darkness cannot drive out darknessIn the Gospel reading for Sunday, June 7th from Mark 3 (2B Pentecost), we are encouraged to take seriously the power of evil present in our world. But we are to take more seriously (trusting with all who follow and do the will of God) that it is Jesus who embodies the power of God. Jesus’ work of casting out demons is ascribed as demonic, or from the devil. Mark warns that blasphemy, or ascribing to the devil that which is divine, is a sin that cannot be forgiven. But this contrasts with other biblical passages that indicate that God always forgives us.

We do have a tendency though to judge those who abuse alcohol, drugs, or others sexually or violently as somehow “possessed” by demons. We demonize others as monsters and condemn them by ostracizing them in the media, in prisons, and even through murderous retribution. Some would say Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon Bombing monster got what he deserved with the death sentence.

If we are made in God’s image (and God says we are), we cannot be monsters. If we do the will of God, we are called to cast out demons and bring healing, not called to demonize, judge, or kill one another. Christian singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens reminds us we are both saint and sinner in his bold and haunting song “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” about the serial killer…

And in my best behavior I am really just like him.
Look beneath the floor boards for the secrets I have hid.

It is easy to demonize others especially when they do evil, but as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn reminds, “the line between good and evil runs through our hearts.” Thankfully, Jesus casts out all our demons, forgives all the secrets we have hid, and loves us no matter how many saintly or sinful things we have done, because we are as Jesus calls us his mother or brother, made in God’s image and called to do God’s will.

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New Creation… Water + Welcome

A Sermon Preached on Sunday, June 14, 2009                                                                   

New Creation… Water + Welcome

In a week full of overcast rainy days and thunderstorms, it is easy to get bogged down in the gloominess of the weather outside, the water in our basements, and the storm clouds of uncertainty looming over nation, church, and individual lives.  It seems that all of creation groans as it struggles to keep its collective head above water.  But creation has always struggled to keep its head above water, from Noah in the flood, to the Israelites escaping slavery through the Red Sea, and Jonah fleeing from God in a wave tossed boat and then the belly of a great fish.    

But the struggles of late have been pretty intense…

Two Sundays ago Dr. George Tiller was killed as he served as an usher at Reformation Lutheran Church while his wife, Jeanne was in the choir.  Tiller’s death was hailed on pro-life websites, while others asked what kind of church would welcome and accept a doctor who performs abortions as a member of their faith community.

That Wednesday Gov. John Lynch who personally opposes gay marriage, signed legislation replacing the Civil Union law with a Same-Gender Marriage law.  A law with language that gives clergy and religious institutions legal protection to choose not to marry same-gender couples in their faith communities.

Last Sunday at our congregational meeting we learned that a previous restriction regarding use of pastoral discretion for blessing civil unions/marriages of same-gendered couples at CtK was rescinded.  We also affirmed that a team will facilitate dialog and education regarding whom we welcome in this faith community.

On Wednesday Stephen Tyrone Johns was killed by a rifle-wielding white supremacist.  The very person he held the door open for in welcome while working at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  Johns’ death was called heroic as he protected schoolchildren and other guests visiting the museum. 

And today, here and in churches around the world, we hear from Paul’s second letter to the faith community in Corinth that in Christ, we are a new creation!  We are reconciled to God and to one another.  We are washed clean and our old ways are tossed aside.  We are asked to wonder… what kind of church accepts abortion doctors, blesses same-gender unions, affirms the welcome all persons and is about living outside ourselves.

 +   +   +

 So who is truly welcome here in this faith community?  Are we able to accept children of God…?

  •       If they are Asian, Hispanic, Black, or White;
  •       If they are male or female or transgender;
  •       If they are three days old, 30 years old, or 103 years old;
  •       If they never stepped foot in a church; or if they are Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Agnostic or life-long Lutheran;
  •       If they are single, married, divorced, separated, or partnered;
  •       If they are straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual;
  •       If they are Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist, or not registered to vote;
  •       If they have, or had, addictions, phobias, abortions, or a criminal record;
  •       If they own their own home, rent, live with their parents, or are homeless;
  •       If they are fully-abled, disabled, or a person of differing abilities…?

(Building an Inclusive Church: A Welcoming Toolkit by Rebecca Voelkel, Vicki Wunsch, and David Lohman, www.welcomingresources.org

Who is welcome here initially seems like an easy question.  Faith communities as people of God are called to minister to all people, knowing that creation is often hurting and unwelcoming.  As a new creation, we are challenged by the Gospel to live out our baptisms in a world of alienation and brokenness.  God calls us to reconciliation and wholeness as the body of Christ as Paul shares in verse 18, “…this is from God who reconciled us through Jesus Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”  (2 Corinthians 5:18)

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