What Have You to Do with Us?

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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

We are people on a journey of transformation, and it isn’t always easy. Today, we acknowledge the hard work of becoming disciples and of setting aside the weight that clings so closely, of handing over the reins of our lives so that we can be led into wholeness. And so, we can proclaim wholeness to the broken world around us.

Demons, the modern-day thinker believes, were the scapegoats for any unexplainable bad thing that happened. But now days, we know better. Don’t we? How do we understand demons in this day and age? What are we to do with passages like the one for this week? When it says that Jesus cast out demons, or unclean spirits to be accurate, do we simply reinterpret that to be, “He healed them of their mental illness?”

I looked for information about demons, and I found a list of named demons on one website. And there at the top of the list was Acham, the demon of Thursday. I never knew there was a demon of Thursday. But there it was. There was also a demon assigned to Friday and, oddly enough, one for Sunday. But the other days of the week didn’t have one. Most people think Monday is the day of the week that is most demonic, probably.

“I Don’t like Mondays” is the title of a song by the Boomtown Rats and Bob Geldolf, before he was a Sir. Geldolf got the idea for the song from a news report that came across the teletype while he and his band were being interviewed at Georgia State University. Over forty years ago, there was an elementary school shooting in San Diego, California. Two adults were killed and eight children and one police officer were wounded. The violence shocked the nation. This incident was before Columbine and Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook. The shooter was a high school student named Brenda Ann Spencer who lived across the street from the school. The only explanation she ever gave for committing the act was, “I don’t like Mondays.”

We ascribe the title demonic to an incomprehensible evil. Sometimes it is used as a way to avoid responsibility, which is why many of us are reluctant to use a word like demon when speaking of human actions. But it also reminds us that there are “powers and principalities” that are beyond our understanding. It reminds us that there is evil in the world greater than the total of the evil that resides in human hearts.

Our response to such a realization is either to live in fear and suspicion of everyone and everything or to stand against such evil with the power of our Savior wrapped up in the community of faith. One of the questions in the baptism ritual asks parents and sponsors, as well as the candidates for baptism when they are able to answer for themselves, “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” It is a part of the nature of our faith that we stand against the demonic both in our society and in ourselves.

The United Methodist Church has begun to take a stand against the demonic evil of racism. Acknowledging our own history, which is troubling to say the least; we now claim that we no longer stay silent in the face of injustice and oppression perpetrated against a group of people because of the color of their skin.

We do not all stand at the same place on this issue, it is clear. And it may seem to others that in difficult financial times we need to focus energies elsewhere to rescue our local economy. It also could be said that it is precisely in desperate times that we need to be even more vigilant against evil and injustice. When you give into despair, all kinds of choices seem less unthinkable. That is when the demonic can begin to seem sensible. When the nonsense becomes sensible then you have given in to evil.

Brenda Ann thought it sensible to counter her dislike of Mondays by causing suffering for so many others. And twenty years later, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went to their school (Columbine High School) to express the pain of rejection with an act of nonsensical violence. And then again, Seung-Hui Cho let his fellow Virginia Tech students and faculty know that he was caught by something he couldn’t keep in anymore. And Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook; Nikolas Cruz at Parkland. And too many more to mention. What other description do we have for actions such as these but demonic? In their broken thinking, these people’s actions made sense to them. Who of us is immune from irrationality? Extremes such as these appall us, and they should; but what might we justify in a desperate moment?

This just might be why there is a demon of Thursday. That is when we get caught unaware—on just an ordinary day. On any day, we too might fall. “What have you to do with us, Jesus?” The demon’s question might be on our lips as well. This Christ comes to change everything, every broken thing about us.

But by the grace of God any day, whether it is Thursday, or Monday, any day can be an opportunity to make a stand and cast out the demonic.

In This Series...

Epiphany/Baptism of the Lord, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Transfiguration Sunday, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes