Yesterday, I preached a teaching sermon on the devil, Lucifer and evil myths. As people of faith, we often create collages in our minds of sayings, historical events, myths, scripture and other literature when we are attempting to understand the nature of topics such as evil. During the sermon we visited a few texts from scripture: Luke’s report of the return of the seventy boasting about their ability to cast out demons in chapter 10, Isaiah’s oracle of doom upon Nebuchadnezzar whom the KJV names Lucifer, in chapter 14, and the consummation of the cosmic battle between the evil empire of Rome and Jesus of Revelation 20. We very briefly surveyed the contexts of the epic works of Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost as we moved from the middle ages and enlightenment understandings of the universe to modern and post-modern views of the universe. We even stopped by the early days of psychoanalysis as we tried to make sense of all the demons in scripture. Hopefully, we arrived in present times where devils with pitch forks and horns are more about costume fun than some scary reality. I think the survey was worth at least a quarter of a credit in seminary. I share these words from the closing of the message:
We do live in a world where Evil is present. And, Evil Powers continue to cause hurt and harm in our midst. David Felton & Jeff Proctor-Murphy in their book Living the Questions help us understand the powers of evil in our midst. According to them the Devil, Satan or demons are “human conditions of hatred, spirits of injustice, attitudes of jealousy, and structures of destruction.” Systems of oppression and practices of Greed and Deception are the real devils of our world.
The power of the demonic is the power of us – power to reject God and to thwart the emergence of life, love and potential. – Living the Questions
We too often point and blame before taking any responsibility for the evil in our midst. We need to seek healing of our need to be blameless and to seek help to see the ways we participate in unjust systems and communal sins such as racism, sexism, ageism and all forms of prejudice and oppression.
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from Evil.”
We pray to one who endured the pain and suffering of Evil in this world – who died at the vicious hands of power and greed, who was executed by systems of oppressive power in the hands of a few.
We pray to one who did not return his tormentors evil with evil,
with vengeance or revenge.
We pray to one who forgave the many who were complicit in his own torture and death.
We pray to the one who forgives us still today.
We pray to the one who invites us, in Paul’s words to
“not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”
After the sermon, we received our newest member into the love and care of the congregation. She later told me she was grateful for the message and we are in a dialogue about questions she continues to discover. I’m certain I do not have the answers and I’m convinced there are many more like her who would love the opportunity to live the questions of faith in the 21st century. I’m grateful for the conversational journey and look forward to walking forward in faith.