So many people were interested in my sermon, especially people who couldn't be there, so I decided to post my sermon notes. I don't always make notes for a sermon, but I wanted to be sure that this one went well.
I first talked about all the directions that my sermon might have gone: ancient cultures viewing mentally ill people as demon possessed, the fact that demon possessions and exorcisms are still part of life in places like Africa, the movies from my childhood in the 70's that shaped the way we view demon possession.
But I decided that it was most useful to think about the ways we are still possessed by some modern types of demons. I asked, "How many of you have your hands on your phone right now?" Most people didn't, but the phone is never far away.
I mentioned other types of possession
--we have more faith in our 401K than in God.
--raging opioid crisis
--legal drugs too: alcohol use is way up.
--fitness and nutrition quests—or the lack of them. Many of us talk about sugar in the same way we once would have talked about demon possession.
--I’ve seen such political vitriol—it brings to mind that scene in The Exorcist, you know the one with the vomiting—and the inability to walk away seems a sort of demon possession too.
I talked about all the demon voices we hear hissing in our ears telling us that we're not good enough, that it's too late, that we've ruined everything.
I paused and then said slowly, and with great emphasis: IF YOU HEAR NOTHING ELSE THAT IS EVER PROCLAIMED FROM THIS PULPIT, LISTEN TO ME NOW: THOSE VOICES ARE NOT THE VOICE OF GOD. GOD WOULD NEVER SAY SUCH DREADFUL THINGS TO YOU. GOD WOULD TELL YOU HOW MUCH GOD LOVES YOU.
I pointed to the part of the altarscape I had made a few weeks ago:
I said, "Think back to the baptism of Jesus and the words of God--before Jesus ever did anything. God feels the same way about you":
--whether you’ve lived an exemplary life or messed up your life in a variety of ways.
--if you start your day with a stiff drink or a cup of coffee or a smoothie made of green goodness.
--if your kids run amok or if you run a stern ship
--if you’ve destroyed every relationship you ever had.
--if you’ve fulfilled your potential, or if you’ve misplaced it
--if you've done really dark things, like allegedly paying hush money to a porn star or invaded the bodies of unwilling gymnasts—GOD LOVES US ALL.
I paused and said, "However . . ."
God does have a vision of how our lives—and our world—can be better. God began the initial work of creation, the stories we find in Genesis, and that work of saving creation is found throughout the Bible .
I reminded us all of the wide variety of people that God calls throughout the Bible--these are people whom you wouldn't choose to be part of a winning team. But God does.
God calls us to help with that creation process—both the creating and the saving. Sure, God could do it without us. I don’t understand why God wants us to be part of the process—it seems very inefficient to me. But God has a much larger vision than I do.
God has a larger plan and purpose for you. God would never give up on you, the way we so often give up on each other and on ourselves.
Let’s do some visualizing together. Think about your demons, the ones that torment you. Imagine them fully. Now hear the stern voice of Jesus talking to those demons: "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him! Or "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of her!
Now imagine those demons gone. Enjoy the quiet. Know that you are healed. Know that you are loved.