I normally don’t post my sermons nor do I think I am a great sermon writer but I believe myself as a faithful preacher none the less. Below is my sermon for today, I am preaching at St. Augustine Lutheran Church in town here. Today so happens to be on an exorcism of a boy and since that is my area of study, I thought I would put my sermon and post script forward for conversation and the like. I write my sermons that act like outlines so I don’t type word for word what I preach. At times I add or subtract from my sermon while preaching. Also, please excuse any errors and the like. I might go back to this post to refine my sermon for myself, not an attempt to “perfect” it. In any case, enjoy and please leave comments. Biblical references are all from the ESV …. H.F.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The meditation for today comes form Mark, chapter 9 as we hear of a young boy who is possessed by a demon.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We are in a dilemma and perhaps you can help the disciples out today. A crowd came and gathered around the disciples and not only that, the Scribes came around also and began to argue with the disciples. Not a good day as you see for the disciples, not only do the disciples have to deal with the crowds and perhaps try to win them over but when we hear about the Scribes coming over to debate the disciples, the Scribes who were frequently seen as the teachers of the pharisees, we know something big is happening.
But then Christ enters the picture, and the crowds quickly turned their attention upon our Lord. No doubt our Lord’s disciples were relieved that He was there.
Jesus asked, “What are you arguing about with them?” Then someone from crowd responds, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute,” and he went on to say, “So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”
So at this point, either our Lord’s disciples are in trouble, not having the ability to cast out demons or perhaps our Lord is simply teaching us something here. You see, our Lord just doesn’t do a miracle simply to show that He is God and moves on to the next miracle, He does these things to teach us about our faith, much like a theme of faith that is carried out in the Gospel of Mark from which our text is taken from today.
(When we hear that the possessed boy was “mute” it might make us think about an earlier chapter in Mark (7:34) when our Lord healed a deaf man who mute or better, could not speak clearly but when our Lord healed his ears to hear, then he could speak clearly. When we can hear the Word of God, we can then confess clearly of the faith and life that has come to us. This possessed boy could not do this because the demon kept his mouth from making any kind of confession, for again as it reads, “for he has a spirit (namely a demon) that makes him mute.” We also learn that this possessed boy was possessed since childhood.)
Jesus responds and says to the crowd, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” Our Lord’s point is how we possess a lack of faith. In my years in the parish, I see so many people so absorbed in this life and their problems that they quickly forget about the simple faith and trust in God. Perhaps they do not know what to do with such a faith because the question for our culture is how can this faith solve my problem, trial or situation. That is how we are taught to think, this is why people go to counselors or to their pastors to solve their problems in life.
Faith is much more than something confined to answering your problems, it is something much more than that, faith is but a “fear, love and trust in God above all things.”
(The nature of sin is that we think God is not sufficient in life, so Eve, after she took of the tree, thought she had to add to what God had originally given her)
This is why in the Psalms, the psalmists rarely has an answer to their problems, but they do, as they simply say, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
One might say, the lesson today is not centered on the possessed boy, if he is exercised from the demon or not, but the lesson today is more so about our faith in God in view of our sin, struggles and tragedies in this life. Thus the father in desperation quickly responds to our Lord’s comment about a “faithless generation” and says, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
So our Lord drives the demon out by saying, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again!” (So we hear once again about “mute” and “deaf” much like I had mentioned about the deaf-mute in the earlier chapter of Mark.)
The faith our Lord was talking about was not simply about our trust in God in the midst of trials, but a faith that finds its rest in the faithful One Jesus Christ. This is the point of the lesson today. We can stare at ourselves as the disciples did wondering why they couldn’t cast out a demon but instead our Lord is directing us to understand that our faith is not a faith in ourselves but in Christ.
In sin we are always going to go through an identity crisis, mark our successes and failures, wrestle with our pride, and even at times, with think that our success is God’s success and our failures God’s failure in our life.
The nature of Christianity is when the baptized Christian turns away from sin and selfishness and simply knows oneself and identity in Christ! We look to Christ, have trust in Him and in the forgiveness of sins.
The faith that we possess is in Christ’s faithfulness, all which He has done for us and our salvation on the cross as He took away our sins and pronounced forgiveness to the baptized in the victory seen in His resurrection.
This is why after our Gospel lesson for today, our Lord foretells His death and resurrection. This is what faith is about, again, a faith in the faithful One, namely in Christ. That is why in Ephesians (2:8) calls faith a gift.
Finally, our Lord’s disciples ask Jesus, “Why could we not cast it out (namely the demon)?” Our Lord responds and says, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” If faith is the theme, why does our Lord mention prayer? Well, prayer is primarily an exercise of our faith. We confess this faith as we pray for our prayers our true and certain as they are founded upon the promises of God. This is why Luther, in His meaning of the Second commandment, speaks of prayer in view of our faithful confession of God. Faith and prayer find their rest in Christ as we pray in the name of Jesus Christ.
How do we know that this was simply not epilepsy or another sickness and the boy really was not possessed? First off, our Lord cast the demon out and the boy was relieved from the symptoms he was experiencing since childhood so either our Lord was a great doctor or we accept Him by His word, that it was a demon and the boy was healed. Of course we trust our Lord’s words.
Secondly, I am asked frequently about how to distinguish between a psychological, physical illness and a possession. After long explanations on how this is done, I finally advise that no matter what it is, we treat people with the same Christ, the same Gospel, the same love, the same words of forgiveness no matter if it is physical, psychological, or a possession. (We are condition to think “scientifically” and not in matters of the metaphysical or the understanding of the body-soul from a Christian perspective).
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Post Script: Some have asked, “During a exorcism, I have commanded that the demon(s) come out in the Name of Christ, but nothing happened. Why not?” We have an example of this in today’s lesson with the disciples. Though I give a longer explanation to such questions, the simple answer is this, “Though there is a battle, the battle has already been one before entering the room. So act like it for Jesus has won the battle even before entering into the room. Speak not as one in desperation as one trying to cast the demon out but as one who has come to declare a victory and as victor no matter what happens or results in that room.”
Typically an experienced exorcist does not yell out commands as if he is desperate but speaks calmly and with confidence. Like in the move “The Rite” with Anthony Hopkins. When Father Lucas (Hopkins) was doing an exorcism, he gets a phone call on his cell and he calmly stops the exorcism and answers the phone and has a common conversation on his cell. Then he goes back to the exorcism. Not that I recommend this be done, it shows however, Father Lucas’ confidence and contentment.
As we hear in my sermon above, it isn’t fundamentally what happens in the room but it is all about Christ and all what Christ has done for us and our salvation. In other words, speak as a Lutheran pastor preaches on a Sunday morning no matter who is out in the pews. We center everything upon Christ. There’s more to this but wanted to highlight this point in view of the lesson today.