Rev. George Miller
May 28, 2017
2 Peter 5:6-11
Wednesday was the Day of Demons.
Not for me, but for my cats.
It started with the Horrible Hoover, a menacing machine deemed to destroy all the dirt that dared to pass its path.
From the moment that demon whirred into life, Sterling hid from its horror, galloping past like it like a horse caught in a house-a-fire, hiding from its satanic suction.
The Day of Demons continued when the Sky Spirit opened up, raging down rain and ripping across the yard with roaring thunder.
From the moment that demon boomed into battle, Jesse ran for the kitchen, prying open the cabinet door so he could cave away until the rains ceased.
Then there was the Satanic Sneeze, in which an unstoppable “achoo!” from me sent both of the cats scattering away.
Of course, one creature’s demon is another creature’s escape from dust and dirt. One life form’s fear of loud noises is another’s song of celebration that the rains have finally fallen.
And then…there is the reality of what took place Monday in Manchester, as a suicide bomber caused numerous deaths, many of them young, many of them girls, who had simply, innocently gathered to enjoy a night of song and celebration.
It makes one wonder why there are acts of evil in the world; makes one wonder if the devil truly does exist.
Today’s scripture talks about the devil, giving it the attributes of a prowling lion, ravenous, looking for someone to devour.
Biblically speaking, the concept of the devil is fascinating. In the Old Testament satan is scantly referred to in just 4 books, portrayed as a courtroom adversary; a slick lawyer who is there on the opposing side.
The idea of demons entering into humans to do bad deeds does not appear until the New Testament and is more an influence of Greek mythology and pop-culture’s fascination with monsters and dragons.
It was centuries later, through the work of artists like Dante and Milton that hell and satan captured folk’s imagination. (The above 3 paragraphs are adapted from Lesson 10 of “Living the Questions” Bible Study. For further reading go to www.livingthequestions.com )
The devil appears throughout the New Testament, but scholars, theologians, and people of faith are asked to wonder if it is as an entity or an idea, a man or a metaphor.
Shirley Guthrie, in his classic book “Christian Doctrine” goes into great detail about the Doctrine of Providence and the Doctrine of Evil. (2nd edition, 1994, pp166-191)
It goes like this- if God’s desire is to give us every good thing, why are there things like cancer, dementia, orphaned children, suicide bombings, viruses and injustices of every kind?
Is it because God is loving and just but powerless, or is God powerful but not loving and just enough to do anything about it?
In our world, there are different levels of evil- what we can call “natural evil”, like earthquakes and illnesses, and “moral evil”, which comes from humans and institutions.
We deal with evil in different ways. We may ignore it, or say that bad things happen now for something good to happen later. Or we place blame- “you must have done something wrong.” Or we Monday-morning quarterback and say “if we had known we could’ve been prepared.”
Yet, humans are finite. We are not meant to live forever. Somehow, someway we are all going to die, be it by a bus, a bullfight, or a burst blood vessel.
Yet, we live in a world of free will, in which not just humans have free will, but it can be argued that so do animals, viruses, and weather-patterns.
Then there is what we experienced Monday in Manchester, which is evil that is more than sin, evil that is steeped in darkness, seeming to lurk about like a lion.
How does that kind of evil come about?
For some, that answer comes in the form of an entity called the devil. The reasoning is this-“evil cannot come from God, for what God wills and does is good.” (pg. 179)
So, evil must come from another source- satan, the anti-advocate who puts evil desires into our body, mind and soul, inciting us to go against God and challenge Christ.
2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 hint at the devil being a rebellious angel, but can’t explain how or why he came about.
But how can a creature of God rebel against God if all that God creates is good?
So what do we do with scripture like today and the faith of those who say the devil is a real entity?
Shirley Guthrie has 3 points (pp179-181)-
Christians don’t say that we “believe” in the devil. We confess our faith in only God the Father, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit. We do not profess our faith in satan or hell.
In other words, even if we think the devil is real, we don’t believe in the darkness; we believe in God’s power against the darkness.
Second, our focus on the devil should not become central to our faith and more important “than the reality of God.”
Scriptures tell again and again how Jesus has already opposed and defeated the demonic and that it’s forever limited by the resurrected Christ.
Third- pay attention to who Jesus refers to as satanic- it’s not the prostitutes, tax collectors, outcasts, or the aliens.
Jesus calls the overly-righteous religious leaders the sons of satan; he calls his close friends, Peter, satan.
This indicates that what is perhaps most dangerous are those who disguise themselves as better than others, or try to use their faith for their own power and prosperity.
Still, we are left to wonder- why do bad things happen, and how does evil exist?
To that, I cannot give you an answer that I could stand by 100% or stake my life upon.
Though I’ve experienced great evil, and have felt demonic presences in my life, I personally do not think that a supernatural being called the devil exists.
Here’s what I can say- evil is that which tries to separate us from the love of God, and evil is that which tries to make us think that our Shepherd is not good.
In the darkness of the devilish, there is always a light that burns.
It is the light we see so clearly when things appear to be going right, but when tragedy occurs we wonder if that light was real or just a mirage.
When that occurs, it helps for us to remember. To recall the stories we were told, the stories of how God’s desire is to give us every good thing.
To recall all that God has done in the past- the creation, the covenants, the land, the children, the parted waters, the bread from heaven, the journeys done in stages.
As Christians, we are challenged not to recoil in the horrors of the world, but to recall the wonders and ways in which God protected, liberated, and saved again and again and again.
We could dote on the devil or we could recall what God has done in the past.
See how Christ is in the present.
And hope for how the Holy Spirit will advocate, comfort, and cheer us on in the future.
Even when the utter godlessness of others threatens to rip the world apart, we can embrace the godliness that dwells within us.
That’s how the earliest Christians survived and thrived. Those who originally received this letter experienced the devil every day.
They dealt with Roman occupation. They dealt with religious persecution. They dealt with living in strange lands amongst strange customs.
They lived each day in the shadow and the threat of the cross.
But they did not place their belief in the devil, they placed their belief in God made known through Jesus Christ.
They remembered who Jesus was and how he lived. The remembered how he healed the sick and fed the sheep. They recalled how he defended the poor and called for compassion.
Yes, they recalled Jesus’ death, but they also recalled God’s power to raise him from the tomb.
They recalled that the Christ “who was the victim of evil is also the victor over evil.” (pg. 186)
That every Sunday is an Easter Sunday in which God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom. (pg 186 and Col. 1:13)
How could events like Manchester take place? Why is there evil in the world? Does the devil exist?
We can certainly keep asking ourselves those questions. But I also hope we remind ourselves again and again
-that the Holy Spirit dwells amongst us, advocating for us, giving us comfort and cheering us on.
-that the Spirit of the Living Christ dwells within us, calling us to continue on our stages upon the way, doing what is pleasing to God.
-that the Spirit of the Still Speaking God continues to invite us to do justice, love kindness, walk with humility and recall how God’s desire is to give us every good thing.
No prince of darkness can be greater than the Prince of Peace. No spirit of evil can be more powerful than the Paraklete, and no entity can be mightier than the hand of God.
And no amount of hate is stronger than the love of our Creator.
For that, let us say “Amen and amen.”