Summary: Demonic possessions take many forms in our lives, Jesus promises deliverance
3 Pentecost C LUKE 8:26-39 24 June 2001
Rev. Roger Haugen
A couple of years ago, a movie was created to remember one of the largest maritime disasters in history, the sinking of the Titanic. Here was a ship built that "could not sink", a ship built with an opulence that was unrivaled. It was a testimony to the creativity of the human spirit and mind as never before seen in the 20th Century. It was a tribute to humanity’s power, our ability to accumulate wealth, to build. Nothing could bring it down. We know the story, "Titanic" which was to represent all power, came to represent "folly", "unfettered arrogance", "doomed" and the ultimate expression of human materialism. The early 20th Century was possessed with a demonic sense of their own power and independence, exemplified in the Titanic.
Today’s text speaks of demonic possession. A man living in the tombs, out of his mind, naked, breaking chains with inhuman strength. A man forced out of his community, doomed to live out his existence as a pitiful animal. We conjure up ideas of secluded wards in psychiatric hospitals. But we cannot leave the story there. To do so would be to limit the story’s ability to speak to our lives and limit the ability of Jesus’ healing to touch our lives - to speak to and heal our demonic possessions.
Demonic possession drives us away from God and alienates us from those around us. We are possessed when we live as less than God created us to be resulting in anger and fear, and destructive behaviour. We believe the messages we are told, and forget the promises of God. We begin to feel like Elijah, hiding in a cave for fear, or the Psalmist, "Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?" Chains and shackles control. When our demons are confronted the reaction is violent. The end result, if not challenged and healed, is death of the loneliest type, alienated from God and humanity. Jesus came and healed the Geresene demoniac and he desires to heal us as well. Jesus speaks words of healing, if we will only listen.
What does demonic possession look like in our world and lives? The demon of materialism has possessed our society with a fury. We are told over and over again that we are what we own, we are defined by what we wear, and the car we drive, how our children are dressed. We are told, "You are what you buy.", you are important according to what you have accumulated, and this is measured against those around you. As a result we have families alienated in the crush to accumulate, time is money so you had better not "waste" it. We fly through life believing the bumper sticker, "He who dies with the most toys win." All of life is consumed with the need for more. Everyone else is competition, and don’t anyone get in my way. The thought of living differently is frightening. When confronted, we become angry, pointing to those who have more, somehow justifying our horde. If taken to its logical conclusion, we have an empty death, alienated from God with family fighting over what is left.