WHAT POSSESSES US?     The Rev. Brian Backstrand        February 8, 2015

And the whole city gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.                   Mark 1: 33-34

I am going to wander around in the midst of the congregation this morning and preach this sermon together with you, asking you to join in. So here we go. I’ve got some questions to get us started.

What do we know about demons – in ten words or less? Demons seem like spirits, don’t they.   Answers from the congregation:   shadowy presences,  open the door to evil,  invading spirits…

Here’s a question to ponder:  Are demons from within or from without? What do you think? Sometimes we see or feel something inside of us as being outside of us. Sometimes when we feel deeply discouraged, for example,   it feels like we are surrounded by a wall, or carry an especially heavy burden that presses down upon us.

Have you been to a program at school that talks about depression or about suicide? Depression is something that affects all of us at one time or another and many people speak of times in their lives when depression was so painful that they felt like they no longer wanted to live.

The main point:   Jesus is a healer.   Jesus is concerned about our mental health as well as our physical and our spiritual health.   In fact the term saviour means healer.

Here is another question:     What possesses us?   In our lesson this morning, when Jesus heals, he casts out demons. Something that is possessing someone is addressed in a   particularly powerful moment and that something is asked to come out and to depart.

So what possesses us?   What do we worry about?   What do we lose sleep over?   Help me out here…   Congregational responses include anger,  depression,  negative messages,  mental abuse,  financial concerns,  etc.

Rollo May was an existential psychologist and this is how he explained the idea of demons.   May tells us that the word demon comes from a Greek concept. The Greek word is daimon and it means something that can interrupt our sense of emotional stability and balance. The Greeks had this idea that we needed to be balanced. And a daimon means that   part of us –emotionally and mentally—begins to dominate other parts until we are bound up, possessed.   For example we could think constantly about one thing or another and let these thoughts completely dominate us.   We could worry about something until we become physically sick.

If we think that this is a harmless idea, consider a couple of examples that have happened around here at one time or another.

A man goes beserk and kills members of his own family. This happened close to us not long ago.

Another man goes beserk. He drives across the State of Wisconsin and is convinced that there are people out there who are following him. He drives into a field until the car cannot go any farther. It is cold outside but he takes off most of his clothes. He wades across a river and hides out in a barn. He finally winds up killing three people.   This happened very close to where we live.

We have these words   CRAZY     BESERK   MADNESS   INSANITY   PSYCHOTIC BREAKS WITH REALITY     GOING OUT OF ONE/S MIND It seems to me that all of these things are very close to the Bible’s idea of demons.

Today the message from our Gospel lesson is that Jesus has the power to heal even those parts of us that can dominate our thinking and dominate our feelings. That can possess us. And to day we see that Jesus’ healing power is pretty dramatic.   Word of his ability to save, that is to heal, spreads from town to town where he lives. At the end,   he tells the disciples Let us go on to the neighboring towns so that I may proclaim the message there also.

Only the people who came to him were healed.   Only the people who were willing to be in his presence were healed.

I think that this is one reason why we come to church.  Together, we want to be in the presence of the living God and in the presence of the Spirit of Christ. Here we can present ourselves to Jesus.   If we are discouraged or anxious or preoccupied or bitter about something we can lay these burdens down.   We can say the words of the hymn that we are going to sing at communion

It’s called Just As I Am and it is number 693.   Please turn to it.   Let us read verses two and three

Just as I am though tossed about with many-a conflict, many-a doubt.

Fightings and fears within, without—O Lamb of God I come.

Just as I am poor, wretched blind; sight riches healing of the mind,

Yea, all I need in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come.

So that is the message today.   God has the power to heal. And our task is to present ourselves before God—to come.   To let go.   To say to the Spirit of Jesus that is present in our midst. Here I am.   Here is what I am dealing with. Here are the parts of me that do not make sense. Here is where I feel some real pain and loneliness and perhaps even isolation.

Lay your hand upon me, O Lord.   Make things right. Come into my life.

Let us pray.     Be the healing power and bring the perspective that would free us from all that possesses and dominates us– Be a healing presence in each one of our lives O Lord we pray.   Amen.


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