A few thoughts on demons

St Michael’s Victory over the Devil, a sculpture by Sir Jacob Epstein located on the wall of Coventry Cathedral, England. This photo is especially powerful since the angle of the light creates a cross from Michael’s spear.

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Our society is possessed, Christians as much as anyone. We are possessed by violence, possessed by sex, possessed by money, possessed by drugs. We need to recover forms of collective exorcism as effective as was the early Christian baptism’s renunciation of “the devil and all his works.” -Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers

The enemy’s behavior is like that of a military leader who wishes to conquer and plunder the object of his desires. Just as the commander of an army pitches his camp, studies the strength and defenses of a fortress, and then attacks it on its weakest side, in like manner the enemy of our human nature studies from all sides our theological, cardinal and moral virtues. Wherever he finds us weakest and most in need regarding our eternal salvation he attacks and tries to take us by storm.
Ignatius Loyola

James 4:7-8 (NRSV)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

I didn’t know what to call it. I don’t believe in devils, but demons I do because everyone at one time or another has some kind of a demon, even if you call it by another name, that drives them. – Gene Wilder

One of the skills of the pastor is to create the space, the ‘synagogue’, where our madness can come face to face with the holiness of Jesus. That also means coming to terms with our own madness. –William Loader

For some reason God allows us to live in a world where alternatives to God’s voice exist (for instance, the serpent, Genesis 2:25-3:13) and those alternatives to God’s voice are where shame originates and there is another term for alternatives to God’s voice and it is that which we call the demonic. Shame, when it keeps us hiding and blaming and fearful is demonic. And Jesus, as we hear in our Gospel text for today has no patience for this. Jesus just absolutely insists on destroying the false voices that shame. (Mark 3:20-35) – Nadia Bolz Weber, Sermon: A re-telling of Adam and Eve and that Damned Snake

Evil is the shadow of angel. Just as there are angels of light, support, guidance, healing and defense, so we have experiences of shadow angels. And we have names for them: racism, sexism, homophobia are all demons…. –Matthew Fox

Luke 9:1-2 (NRSV)
Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.

Another of the elders said: When the eyes of an ox or mule are covered, then he goes round and round turning the mill wheel: but if his eyes are uncovered he will not go around in the circle of the mill wheel. So too the devil if he manages to cover the eyes of a man, he can humiliate him in every sin. But if that man’s eyes are not closed, he can easily escape from the devil. – Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert

In Venice in the Middle Ages there was once a profession for a man called a codega— a fellow you hired to walk in front of you at night with a lit lantern, showing you the way, scaring off thieves and demons, bringing you confidence and protection through the dark streets. ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Where there is prayer, the fallen spirits have no power.
Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

Your worst nightmare,
your most frightening demon,
the most evil power that threatens you,
stalking your darkness and oppressing your days,
even Satan himself,
is in bigger trouble than he thinks.
Take joy in this most gracious of crimes:
the Humble One
has gone in through his terrible back door
disguised in sorrow, scorn and weakness,
and tied up the strong man,
stripped him naked,
exposing the sham of his glory,
robbed him of all his treasures,
emptied his powers,
and plundered his house of shame.
There’s nothing left of him but your fears.
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Tying up the strong man based on Mark 3:22-27

Click here for a raw and challenging sermon on this scripture entitled Demon Possession and Why I Named My Depression “Francis” by Nadia Bolz-Weber.

O Mighty One, Loving One,
O Capable Hand, O Willing Heart,
cast out my demons,
my fear and inadequacy,
and fill me with your Spirit instead,
the power to resist evil,
to set free from the grip of the demonic
what is human, what is fragile and beautiful,
what is yours
– Steve Garnaas-Holmes, Cast Out My Demons based on Mark 1:23-27

For more information on use of the scripture, art and this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

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