"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."C.S. Lewis-"The Screwtape Letters."
"The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn."—Luther(Preface to "The Screwtape Letters")
"The devill . . the prowde spirite . . cannot endure to be mocked."—Thomas More
Today's sermon was a real stem winder from Fr. Foss. Is it just me, or do Super Bowl Sunday sermons really tend to run into overtime? Because of the length, and because my foot went to sleep around halftime, I will focus on the first quarter of the sermon where I wanted a challenge flag thrown out.
We started with the problem of demonic possession. This stems from the Gospel lesson from Mark 1:21-28 where Jesus casts out an unclean spirit from a man in the synagogue. Charlie assumes that we post Enlightenment humans can no longer believe in demonic possession (score one for Screwtape), and judging from the sounds of approval from the congregation, most in attendance feel likewise. Charlie was right to bring out the cultural and historical context of this miracle, and that people of the day certainly believed in unclean spirits, but to not provide a counter argument to the discredited demon puts the weak among us in danger. I come to this conclusion from the second reading, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 which bears repeating,
"Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him."
"Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘no idol in the world really exists’, and that ‘there is no God but one.’ Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist."
"It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. ‘Food will not bring us close to God.’ We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling-block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall."
In my opinion, when your preacher has got that demon thing figured out, and feels that this is like the food sacrificed to idols, an ancient belief, long discounted, a table from which no harm comes, he should:
1. Be very careful when expounding about this liberty.
2. Don't let us weaklings see you biting into that meaty subject.
3. Better yet, swear off of it.
How did these readings affect you? Did they raise the following questions?
1. Could demons exist?
2. Did Jesus cast out demons?
3. Do Episcopal Bishops perform exorcisms without crossing their fingers?
4. Is evil just in the mind of man?
5. Does God or the devil care who wins the Super Bowl?
6. Shouldn't demons rejoice in negative answers to questions 1, 2, and 3, and a positive answer to question 4?
My guess is that the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment thinkers have done Wormwood's work for him.
Let the game begin!