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.
The "still small voice" of God declares that we are loved, chosen, accepted in spite of the messages we receive. Jesus died for us so that we would understand how much we are loved. We matter for who we are, and joy in life is discovering the gift package that God has created.
CBC Radio on Tuesday read a piece written by a man who had been possessed by the demon of homophobia. He grew up in a culture where it was important to be like everyone else, especially as a teenager. One member of his class was different, and became the brunt of jokes and bullying. The person telling the story told how he was one of those, quick to punch and call down Tony out of fear of being seen as "soft" on him by others. He spoke of feeling dirty by his bullying and spoke of how the pain in Tony’s eyes, cut through him but did not make him stop. This continued for years with Tony withdrawing further away. Some time later, Tony wasn’t seen for a few days and was found by his father hanging from a tree. They found his suicide note that had fallen down behind desk. In it, he spoke of how he did not choose to be the way he was, and how he could not bear the pain any longer. To those who felt dirty because of him, he was apologized for making them feel that way. Tony, a gift of God, was forced to live in a hell contrived by others simply because he was gay. I name this demon today because of the anger that confronting it creates in the community and particularly the church community, an anger which some are feeling even now as I speak. People created by God, loved by God, chosen by God are made to feel unacceptable, unloved and are abandoned by people like you and me simply because they are not like us.