Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
In our Gospel passage from Luke 4 we see two examples of Jesus healing people by His word. The first has a demon, the second has a fever. Thanks to popular culture, many in North America just now think of an exorcism and they think of someone who shows all sorts of supernatural powers and who attacks the exorcist. Maybe we can add eerie voices, pictures on the wall spurting blood, and things bursting into flame. We think of the exorcist and picture someone who is feebly hoping that God might be powerful enough to make a difference.
The pattern in Scripture is nothing like this. What does Jesus do when he confronts the evil spirit in the man in the synagogue? He tells the spirit to be quiet and come out the the man. Even if we picture a more extensive and forceful encounter, with the command repeated or with considerable noise while the man is being bothered by the spirit and thrown down on the ground, we still have a remarkably orderly encounter. It’s more like telling the family dog to get off the couch and go outside than it is like telling an invading pride of lions to get off the meatloaf. Jesus has power and authority that we can hardly imagine.
Likewise, when Jesus visits in Peter’s household and Peter’s mother-in-law has a fever, Jesus tells the fever to go away and it does. No fuss, no muss, no elaborate ritual. The illness obeys Jesus’ command.
One of the rituals I have conducted on several occasions is a house blessing. By the way, for local people, if you have moved or if you want to keep with the historic tradition held by many of asking for a house blessing every year or so, let me know. I’d be happy to come by. In this blessing, we call upon the Lord of all, asking him to protect the home and its occupants from any sin and evil, to expel any evil spiritual forces, and to lay his blessing on those who live and visit the house. We go around, room by room, and ask the Lord to use the home and family for his purposes. It’s an exorcism, among other things. No fuss, no muss, just asking the Lord of all to guard and protect the dwelling and the people for his purposes.
What if there evil spirits acting where we are? There certainly seem to be some people and places where there’s something that appears demonic. It’s maybe more common in some parts of the world than others, especially in cultures where people give more credence to folk religions, earthly spirits, and the like. The encounter may just get a little more heated. It may need to be repeated more. In some instances, it can look like someone trying to get the pride of lions off the meatloaf. But we trust that as we are people who have been baptized into Jesus we are also acting in His name and authority when we ask His will to be done where we are.
Why do we let Hollywood govern our expectations about spiritual things? Let us rather trust the Lord of all to have His way in our midst.
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