Naming the Demons – Sermon 20 June 2004

What demons live in us! Competing voices which ensure that we are distracted from the still points where God can meet us. Voices which distract, torment, dominate and control us to the point that we can not longer hear the voice of the One who knows our name and can offer us nourishment, salvation, strength and peace.

We live in an age of demons. What demons live in us!

Things hurt us and damage us ? neglect of a parent, loss of someone?s love, grief at someone?s death. Domestic violence, crises of identity, the loss of the job we love. Jealousy at other people?s success. Anger at our own failure to live up to being the person we want to be. One loss after another.

And those ingrained demons that are so hard to see ? sexism, racism, homophobia. Those are some of the trickiest ones because they have the ability to make themselves invisible.

And the demons which haunt our television screens and call out for our attention from the media ? the voices that cry out that all will be well if only we have just a bit more money or just a bit more power or just a bit more military power.

The bit more demons are some of the most powerful these days.

What demons live in us! We are legion.

This morning, there will be quite a few sermons preached which suggest that the story of Jesus meeting the man called Legion, it is the story of a wise healer dealing with mental illness in a society which does not understand schizophrenia, or bi-polar disorder or something like that.

Well, you can read it like that if you like. There is wisdom there, I am sure. But to me, as I read this gospel passage, I find Jesus looking at us. Looking straight at our faces and asking ? who are you ? what is your name?

And the healer that we are dealing with is not just someone whom we are being told could pull yet another miracle out of a divine box of tricks ? no this is a healer who looks everyone of us in the eye. Knows each us by name. And who knows that the legion of voices which distract cry out within us and which keep us from peace, integrity and security ? the healer knows that those voices are not the real authentic voices.

Jesus knows that the competing voices which are within me are not the real me. And Jesus offers me the same thing that Elijah knew all those years before.

And he offers it not to me, but to everyone in our generation.

Peace. Respite from the things which haunt us.

Peace. Perfect peace.

Peace which comes when the demons are silenced.

Peace which comes when the demons are conquered

Peace which comes when all that distracts us is driven out.

In his encounter with this man, Jesus brought him peace.

In Elijah?s encounter with God, he found peace too.

Elijah encounters God in a way which still touches us as we read the story so many centuries later. Elijah meets his God. Meets his God and finds the peace he needs ? not in the wind, that split the mountains and broke the rock, not in the earthquake which pulled the mountains apart, not in the fire which raged before him. Not in any of these things did Elijah meet God, but he met him in the silence. In the peace. In the quietness. In the calm. There was God. And the voice of God came to him and said: ?Elijah – Elijah ? What are you doing here Elijah?.

Names are so important. Recognition. Identity. Intimate love. This is how God brings us peace even now.

The earthquake, wind and fire must surely be akin to what was going on inside the prophet as he ran fleeing for his life. The earthquake wind and fire represent his own demons, his own distractions for he was running for his life away from power which could destroy him.

His desperate struggle to be free from his fear ended when God spoke his name.

What demons we have! Our demons are the things which alienate people from one another and keep them from the peaceful existence with God which was just speaking about ? these are our demons. The things which drown out the still small voice of God. By refusing to name then before God, we risk much. For we are offered an opportunity when we meet with God. The opportunity that we are offered is that God in Christ can set us free.

In the third of our readings this morning, the writer to the Galatians describes what it is like to live in world free from distraction. Free from the competing claims of voices which would yet drive out the truth. Free from the things which alienate people one from another.

He writes of a community where there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all are one in Christ Jesus.

Free to be God?s people. Free to be truly at peace with ourselves and with our God.

We are encouraged to believe that this letter to the Galatians comes from Paul himself, someone who faced his own demons – a propensity to anger, a tendency to believe that he alone had the whole truth, someone who persecuted the church more effectively than anyone else was capable. Paul knew his demons.

?Saul, Saul, Why do you persecute me??

The Lord whom Saul met on the Road to Damascus knew him by name and named the demons which possessed him. And he was made whole.

And God met Elijah and called him by name and named the earthquake inside him and the whirlwind which threatened to engulf him and the fires within which threatened to destroy him.

And God offered him peace in the stillness. And Elijah was made whole.

And Jesus meets a man by a lake who is known as Legion. He meets us now who might be called by the same name.

And he knows us. And names us. And offers to set us free from all that harms us.

For, when we name the demons and call upon the Lord our God for help, perhaps then we will know the stillness that God gave Elijah, the wholeness which God gave to Paul, and the peace which he gave to the one who was called Legion.


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