We Lutherans follow a set series of Scripture readings for each Sunday of the Church Year, as do you Catholics, Anglicans, and at least some of you Presbyterians, Methodists, and others as well. This is called the “Lectionary,” meaning appointed “Readings.” We preachers use these appointed Scriptures as the text, or Scripture basis, for our sermons on those corresponding Sundays.
I love it when John 3:16 comes up, or The 23rd Psalm, or Ephesians 2:8. Again, we Lutherans love the “by grace through faith” emphasis anytime we can get it. But sometimes the Scripture passages are the “hard passages,” and don’t “preach very well.” Sure, we preachers sometimes slide over to an easier passage, but sometimes we’re just “stuck” to wrestle out a message from God that’s both honest and accurate.
This past Sunday’s “appointed Gospel” was one of those more difficult Biblical passages; not the most difficult by any means, but certainly a bit gnarly in places. The Scripture was from the Gospel of Mark, from where most of the Gospel Readings are coming this “Church Year,” December thru November. It was the story of what happened to Jesus as He was returning from his “Transfiguration” where He showed Peter, James, and John what He looked like in heaven.
When coming back to the rest of the disciples, Jesus finds them arguing with some of the religious leaders, and then a man steps forward and confronts Jesus with his problem. His son is very sick, demon possessed as he describes it. He’s not happy that since Jesus was away, he gave the boy over to Jesus’ disciples so they could cure him, drive out the demon, but the disciples did not have the spiritual power to make that happen.
With a sharp edge of sarcasm in his voice, the man now says to Jesus, “If you can do anything, go ahead and do it. Can you help us?” Again, the flavor of his question reveals that he really doesn’t think Jesus has power enough to help and heal his son; that not even Jesus can cast out this demon.
Jesus answers with what might be considered a rather odd answer. He says, “Yes, if you can.” (“Ball in your court!”) Smacks that man right between the eyes with a two-by-four!
Realizing his faith is so anemic and shallow in the presence of The Living and Almighty God in the person of Jesus, the man cries out, “Lord, I believe! But help my unbelief!”
I would imagine that we all know what that feels like. Wanting to believe. Wanting to be strong in the faith. But realizing that left to ourselves we all would still fall way short of the goal. We need Jesus. Only Jesus can reach into our hearts and give us the fullness of the faith that will see us through. It’s all about Him!
So, Jesus heals the boy, over-powers the demon with a divine call to come out and never return, and the boy finally lies limp on the ground. Everybody thinks he’s dead, but Jesus takes him by the hand, lifts him up, and declares, “Arise!” Sounds like “Easter’s coming,” doesn’t it?
I hope I’ve re-told this Bible story so that it seems clear and understandable and full of Good News, but, honestly, it has several tricky twists and turns for Bible study groups and preachers alike.
But, then, right at the end of this story, Jesus is in a private huddle with His disciples, and they are asking the burning question, “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?” Which is to say, “Why wasn’t our power enough? Where did we fall short?”
Again, Jesus answers with what we might consider a rather odd answer. He simply says, “There is no way to get rid of this kind of demon except through prayer.”
That’s it? Just say a little prayer and all of a sudden we’re wielding the Power of The Almighty God, casting out big-time demons? Really?
Jesus would say, “Yes. Really.”
“Just by praying?” we ask astonishingly.
“Just by praying,” He says. “But don’t think of it as a little thing. It’s a big thing. A really big thing. A really, really big thing.”
Well, if praying is how to slay the really big demons still trying to wield their poisonous decay and destruction on us and our world, then I’m all in.
Take this, demons! “Dear God, Almighty and Eternal, I pray in the Name of Jesus that the demons of our world be defeated and destroyed. May they be driven out and never come back. In the Name of Jesus, may the demon of hatred and bitterness between peoples and races be destroyed. In the Name of Jesus, may the demon of family destruction be destroyed. In the Name of Jesus, may the demons which are attacking our society be destroyed. In the Name of Jesus, may the demon of atheism be destroyed. In the Name of Jesus, may the demons of God-haters and God-mockers be destroyed. Grant it, O God, for Your Glory alone. Amen”
Find Kollmeyer at www.princeofpeacefayette.org