Sunday, June 23, 2019

2 Pentecost

June 23, 2019

Galatians 3.23-29;Luke 8.26-39

+ I had an interesting discussion with someone this past week about the sermon I preached last Sunday. Last Sunday, I preached, in passing, that I was a Christian Universalist. In other words, I do not believe in an eternal hell.  I do not believe that the God that I believe in and love would send anyone to a metaphysical hell for all eternity.

This person had an issue with that belief of mine.  She even quoted to me several passages of scripture that she felt showed she was right. Which actually helped my position, especially when we examined early Jewish understanding of the afterlife at that  time.

And then she made an assumption. She said, “well, since you don’t believe in evil…”

Oh. I said. Nope. I never said I didn’t believe in evil.

I say it emphatically:

Evil DOES exist.

Now I’m not saying I believe in actual supernatural devils or demons.  But, the fact remains, whether we believe in actual demons or nor not, whether we believe in Satan as a goat-like horned figure with a forked tail or not, what we all must believe in is the presence of actual evil in this world. Whether that evil is natural or supernatural, or both, the fact is, there is evil.   Even good rational people know that!

Just look at the news, depending on what news source you follow.

And those of us who are followers of Jesus have promised that we must turn away from evil again and again, in whatever way we encounter it.   Whenever we are confronted with evil, we must resist it, we must stand up to it.

In our Baptismal service, these questions are asked of the person being baptized (or their sponsors):

“Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?”


“Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?”

And, as our Baptismal Covenant asks us asks us:

“Do you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?”

Evil is something we must stand up against however we encounter it.  Whether we encounter it as a spiritual force, or whether we encounter it in other forms, such as racism, sexism, war,  or homophobia,  as followers of Jesus, must stand up against evil and say no to it.

And let me be really blunt here:

Treating migrant children like animals is EVIL.

Allowing children to sleep on floors, under tin foil sheets, in col, dirty conditions is evil.

Separating children from their parents and families is evil.

I can’t believe I even have to say it in this day and age, and in this country.
And if you don’t think it’s evil, if you don’t think it’s anti-Christian, I, as your priest, invite you to take a long, hard look at your soul. And repent.

And maybe make an appointment with me this week for confession.

In a sense, what we are being asked to do is what Jesus did in this morning’s Gospel.   We are being compelled, again and again, to cast out the evil in our midst, to send it away from us.  This is not easy thing to do.   It is not easy to look long and hard at the evil that exists in the world, and in our very midst. But it is very easy to believe that evil wins.

The story of Jesus is clear: good always defeats evil ultimately.  Again and again.

It might not seem like it sometimes. Often times, evil wins the battle. But, be assured, evil never wins the war.  

Christ, as we heard in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians today, breaks down the boundaries evil in its various forms sets up.

In Christ, we hear, there are no distinctions.

In Christ, all those things that divide us and allow the seeds of evil to flower are done away with—those issue of sex, and social status and nationality and race are essentially erased in Christ.

And we, as followers of Jesus, so prone at times to get nitpicky and self-righteous and hypocritical and divide ourselves into camps of “us” versus “them,” are told in no uncertain terms that those boundaries, in Jesus, cannot exist among us.

Those boundaries, those distinctions, only lead to more evil.  To less love.

But even then, even when evil does seem to win out, even when there are moments of despair and fear at the future, there’s no real need to despair.

Even in those moments when evil seems to triumph, we know that those moments of triumph are always, always short-lived.   Good will always defeat evil ultimately.

Yes, we find the premise of good versus evil  in every popular movie and book we encounter.  This is the essence of conflict that we find in all popular culture.  

Good versus evil—and good always wins.

But, for us, as followers of Jesus, this is not fiction.  That is not a fairy tale or wishful thinking.  It is the basis on which our faith lies.

When confronted with those spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God, we must renounce them and move on. And what are those spiritual forces of wickedness in our lives?  What are those forces that divide us and cause conflict among us?  What are the legion of demons we find in our midst?

Those spiritual forces of wickedness are those forces that destroy that basic tenant of love of God and love of each other.  Those spiritual forces of wickedness drive us apart from each other and divide us. They harden our hearts and kill love within us.

When that happens in us, when we allow that to happen, we cannot be followers of Jesus anymore.  We cannot call ourselves children of a loving God.  When that happens our faith in God and our love for each other dies and we are left barren and empty. We become like the demoniac in today’s Gospel.  We become tormented by God and all the forces of goodness.  We wander about in the tombs and the wastelands of our lives.   And we find ourselves living in fear—fear of the unknown, fear of that dark abyss of hopelessness that lies before us.

It would be easy to feel like that in the wake of the violence and terror we experience in this world.  It is early to feel that way when confronted with the reality of detention camps on our borders.

But when we turn from evil, we are able to carry out what Jesus commands of the demoniac.   We are able to return from those moments to our homes and to proclaim the goodness that God does for us.

That’s what good does.  That’s what God’s goodness does to us and for us.  That is what turning away from evil—in whatever form we experience evil—does for us.

So, let us do just that.  Let us proclaim all that God has done for us.   Let us choose good and let us resist evil. Let us love—and love fully and completely, without barriers.  Let us love each other. Let us love peace and nonviolence.  Let us cast off whatever dark forces there are that kills love within us.

And let us sit at the feet of Jesus, “clothed in and in our right mind,” freed of fear and hatred and violence and filled instead with joy and hope and love.

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