Invocation: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1. For most people today, demons are intriguing, almost quaint—a relic of times gone by. Nothing more than memories of the time before science and medicine "enlightened" our darkened minds to the truths of diseases and mental illness. Because of our great "progress" and our many advances, for some, it's become clear that there really are no demons. Demons were simply manifestations of naturally occurring illnesses and problems faced by people. That's exactly what Satan wants you to think. By convincing so many that demons aren't real, the Devil has gained a position of strength over many and convinced them that demons don't exist. If we were all consciously aware that demons were indeed a reality, people would not be so amazed and amused by them. But as it is, people flock to movies and buy millions of second rate horror novels every year after year—only to be entertained by the supposed fiction of demons and the quest for exorcism.
2. As Bible-believing Christians, we are not those people—at least we shouldn't be. God's word tells us very plainly that demons are real, and that they pose a very serious danger to life—earthly life as well as eternal life. In our gospel reading today we see the reality of Satan's demonic forces. We see their potential for destruction of the blessed gift of life. Satan, through his demons, has brought this poor man to the brink of death. He lives in the cemetery, naked and alone. He's a danger to himself and to anyone who comes near. He lives this way for one reason and one reason only—he is possessed. Possessed by demons—legions of them—who have charge of his mind and body. But even they know who their ultimate authority is. St. Luke tells us, [Luke 8:28-29a, 30-31] When he saw Jesus he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!" For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Even demons bow down to Jesus. Even demons profess the truth that Jesus is the Son of the Most High God. They can't do otherwise. In their words and actions we see a preview of the last day when Christ will visibly manifest himself and every knee will bow down and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is God and Lord. The demons know Jesus is real. And we know they are real.
3. Suppose we tried making the case to this possessed man and everyone there that day that demons are not real. It would be impossible. To believe that demons don't exist is to refute your belief in Christ as well. For Jesus himself makes it clear that these demons are real and the he has authority over them. With his heavenly authority he bids them leave this man. [Luke 8:32-33] A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. When then demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. Jesus freed the man from his many demons. And anyone who saw those pigs rush down into the lake would have no doubt, those demons were real. But they also felt something else. They felt fear.
4. When they learned what had happened and saw the pigs floating dead in the lake, the townspeople were afraid. Afraid of Jesus' authority? Afraid he might be another demon or be possessed by demons more powerful than the ones he sent into the pigs? Maybe they were afraid he might kill all their livestock and completely destroy their livelihood. Whatever the reason, they were scared by what they just experienced. For our own reasons, we're afraid, too. Afraid to admit that demons really exist. Afraid to face the fact that there's a battle going on for our very bodies and souls—a battle between Christ and our evil foe, the Devil. Deep down we're afraid that if we admit there are demons out there, we may have to join the battle against evil and commit ourselves to fervent prayer and intercession to Christ on behalf of those among us who just might be possessed.
5. I'm not trying to frighten you even more than demons naturally do. Rest assured, I don't think any among us today are possessed by demons. But suppressing the reality of demons or denying it all together is dangerous. Demons are real. Satan is real. St. Peter says, [I Peter 5:8-9] Your enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. St. Paul writes in Ephesians 6 [Eph 6:12] 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. To deny the existence of these dark forces; to deny the reality of the devil and his minions the demons is to surrender to them. Even though acknowledging their existence can be frightening, we have something they don't. We have Christ. And Christ has promised to defend, protect and deliver us from all evil, demons included.
6. So we have no need to fear. The man freed from his demons was not afraid. He sat at Jesus' feet and worshiped. He longed to be with Jesus and travel with him on his next mission. His fear was removed along with the demons. And it was replaced with faith and confidence in Christ as his Saviour. He longed to join the battle on the side of Christ and Christ sent him on a mission to his own family, friends and neighbors. Christ promises the same for us. Freedom from demons, freedom from fear, and a faith strong enough to follow him into the battle against Satan. In a way similar to this man in our gospel reading, we have all been exorcised of our demons, even though we probably don't even realize it. At your baptism, at every baptism these questions are asked. [LSB p. 268] Do you renounce the devil? Do you renounce all his works? Do you renounce all his ways? We answer each question, "Yes I renounce them." That's basically an exorcism. In Luther's rite of Holy Baptism he makes the exorcism explicit. The Pastor says, The Word of God also teaches that we are all conceived and born sinful and are under the power of the devil until Christ claims us as His own. Therefore, depart, you unclean spirit, and make room for the Holy Spirit in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In our Baptism, Christ has given each of us our own freedom from sin, death, and the devil; from all the forces of evil the devil could array against us. What Jesus did for the man at the lake, he does for us at the font. He drowns the demons that would possess us and sets us free to follow him and to proclaim to the world all that he has done for us
7. Christ's blessing in granting us this freedom includes the freedom from fear. Christ's blessing of exorcism in Holy Baptism brings us under his wing, brings us to his feet to listen and learn in faith. And so we live our lives at the feet of Jesus, and we revel in the freedom he brings. Freedom from the forces of the devil, even though we know they are in our midst. Freedom to face our reality with sure and certain faith. Freedom to enter the battle against Satan on the side of Christ and know that in Christ, the battle has already been won. the devil and his demons have been driven from our midst, and Christ has given us true, heavenly freedom. Freedom to live faithful, fruitful, eternal lives with Christ, our Lord and Saviour. In his name. Amen.
Blessing: The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
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