Sermons 2006

"Haints, Unclean spirits, and demons" Epiphany 4B, 22 January 2006, Mark 1:21-28

Home | "Light and Darkness", Christmas 2C, 31 December 2006, John 1:1-18 | Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2006 | "What then shall we do?", Advent 3C , 17 December 2006, Luke 3:7-18 | "Luke's Gospel", Advent 1C, 3 Dec 2006, Luke 21:25-31 | Which Jesus? Proper 29B 2006, 26 November 2006, John 18:33-37 | Apocalypticism and Fundamentalism, Proper 28B, 19 Nov 2006, Daniel12; Mark 13:14-23 | "The Widow's Mite: All and Everything", Proper 27B, 12 November 2006, Mark 12:38-44 | "The Commandments to love God, Neighbor, One Another" Proper 26B, 5 November 2006, Mark 12:28-34 | "Sight -- and Seeing" Proper 25B, 29 October 2006, Mark 10:46-52 | "Baptism: Overwhelming Washing", Proper 24B, 22 October 2006 Mark 10:35-45 | "God's Transforming Love", Proper 23B, 15 October 2006, Mark 10:17-31 | "Divorce", Proper 22B, 8 February 2006, Mark 10: 2-9 | "Hard Sayings and Sharp Words", Proper 21B, 1 October 2006, Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 | "First or Last?" Proper 20B, 24 September 2006, Mark 9:30-37 | "Unintended Consequences", Proper 19B, 17 September 2006, Mark 8:27-38 | "Ephphatha! Open up!" Proper 18B, 10 September 2006, Mark 7:31-37 | "Rituals", Proper 17B, 3 September 2006, Deuteronomy 4:1-9; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | "Choices." Proper 16B, 30 August 2006, Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-25; John 6:60-69 | "Come to the Table." Proper 15B, 20 August 2006, John 6:53-59 | "Do not be afraid." Proper 12B, 30 July 2006, Mark6:45-52 | "General Convention and Jesus' Compassion", Proper 11B, 23 July 2006, Mark 6: 30-44 | "Basics for the Journey", Proper 10B, 16 July 2006, Mark 6:7-13 | "Jesus and Rejection", Proper 9B, 9 July 2006, Mark 6:1-6 | "Trust, Faith, and Belief" Proper 8B, 2 July 2006, Mark 5:22-43 | "Storms, Fear, and Faith" Proper 7B, 25 June 2006, Mark 4:35-41 | Mighty things from Small, Proper 6B, 18 June 2006, Mark 4:26-34 | Trinity, Pentecost 1, 11 June 2006, Exodus 3:1-6; John 3:1-16 | The King Jesus Fire-Baptized Holy Spirit Church, Pentecost , 4 June, Acts 2:1-11; Jn 20:19-23 | "That they may be one" General Convention 2006, Easter 7B 28 May 2006, John 5:9-15 | "Friends, friendship, and love" Easter 6B, 21 May 2006, John 15:9-17 | Mother's Day, two mothers' love!" Easter 5B, 14 April 2006, John 14:15-21 | "Interesting, this Good Shepherd!" Easter 4B, 7 May 2006, John 10:11-16 | "How do you prove you are alive?", Easter 3B, 30 April 2006, Luke 24:36b-48 | "Do you believe because...." Easter 2B, 23 April 2006, John 20:19-31 | "He goes before you to Galilee...." Easter B 2006, 16 April, Mark 16:1-8 | "Journey into darkness", Palm Sunday B, 9 April 2006. Mark 11:1-11, 14:32-15:47 | "Sir, we would see Jesus!" Lent 5B, 2 April 2006, John 12:20-33 | "Miracles and Faith, Ordinary and Not", Lent 4B 2006, 26 March 2006, John 6:4-15 | "Rage, Rampage, and Outrage", Lent 3B, 19 March 2006, John 2: 13-22 | "Images of the Cross", Lent 2B, 12 March 2006, Mark 8:31-38 | "Baptism, Temptation, Redemption," Lent 1B, 5 March 2005, Mark 1:9-13 | Ash Wednesday , 1 March 2006, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | ""Nanny McPhee' and transfiguration", Epiphany Last B, Mark 9:2-9 | "Jesus, leprosy, and the law of Moses", Epiphany 6B, 12 February 2006, Mark 1:40-45 | "Healing, wholeness, forgiveness, and love", Epiphany 5B, 5 February 2006, Mark 1:29-39 | "Haints, Unclean spirits, and demons" Epiphany 4B, 22 January 2006, Mark 1:21-28 | Epiphany 3B, 22 January 2006, "God's Call -- and Our Response", Mark 1:14-20 | Epiphany 2B, 15 January 2006, "Call and Response", John 1:43-51 | Epiphany 1B, 8 January 2006, "The Baptism of our Lord -- and Ours", Mark 1:7-11 | The Holy Name, 1 January 2006, Luke 2: 15-21

Epiphany 4B 2005 Mark 1:21-28

For anyone who grew up in the Deep South – and I grew up in the South Carolina and Georgia of the 1940s and 1950s, which as about as Deep South as you could get – for anyone who grew up in the Deep South in those days you grew up with an acute awareness that that there were two worlds: the world of things seen and the world of things unseen. The one world was the apparently real physical observable, measurable, and tangible world. And the other was the mostly but not always unseen spirit world. And the veil between the two worlds was generally acknowledged in hushed whispers to be very thin – quite porous, in fact.

I grew up surrounded by people who believed in the existence of what were commonly known in my part of South Carolina as “haints”, the ghosts of the dead and buried – or not buried, dependent on the circumstances. These were the restless spirits of the dead who hadn’t been released from the physical world. And many people seriously believed they had seen haints, even been chased by them. No one in my part of South Carolina went anywhere near a graveyard at night. Wouldn’t be caught dead in there.

And it seems that the unclean spirits cast out of humans throughout the Bible had over tones and connotations of ghoulishness, of having originated in the realms of the dead.

The very word, haint, is a colloquial term, a noun derived from the verb, haunt. And abandoned houses where someone had died were believed to be haunted by their haint – even rooms where someone had died a painful and unpleasant death were believed to be inhabited by his or her haint.

Haints dwelt in the borderlands between these two worlds, even in some quarters thought to guard the threshold between the seen and unseen worlds, and able to move freely back and forth. Haints were generally considered to be humans who had become a sort of demon. Haints were thought able to influence people in the seen world if that person were ever caught or trapped by a haint. In the Deep South of my youth, haints seemed a lot like the unclean spirits of the sort Jesus exorcised rather regularly. And the Biblical stories about these exorcisms took on a stark reality for us who grew up in that time and place.

Even today, I have to admit that I am reluctant to find myself alone after dark in the church parking lot following a vestry meeting or some other gathering. The graveyard is too close. There might be haints there.

The Greek speaking ancient world used two interchangeable words for evil spirits: pneuma akarthatos, literally, an unclean spirit, a spirit which was essentially evil, as in today’s gospel, and daimonai, a demon from the nether regions, also evil.

In modern times, our times, we have focused on evil – evil spirits that live not so much in the unseen spirit world as they do the seen and so called real world where we live. We almost trivialize evil and evil spirits – was it Hannah Arendt who used the oddly understated phrase “the banality of evil” to describe the Nazis who sought to conquer the world and who killed six million of God’s Chosen people in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and numerous other places – a vast and evil atrocity denied now by certain leaders and intellectuals of certain countries.

Even here in this country certain political groups demonize the President and seem to overlook the rape rooms and hanging chambers of Saddam Hussein. Many seem to have lost their way and are unable to recognize true evil when we see it anymore.

Speaking of such evils as car bombs that destroy innocent civilians daily in some countries, after 9-11 we can be a little paranoid. On Friday morning at Annual Council I looked down on the intersection of Eat Broad and Fifth Streets from the window of my Richmond Marriott room at about 6AM. It was still dark but in the streetlights I noticed a white car, lights out, standing motionless in one of the center lanes of Fifth Street at the traffic light. No one was in sight. I watched for about ten more minutes before I called 911 and reported it. It looked like a possible car bomb to me.

Well, two minutes after I called, two guys came up in a pick up truck with a tow cable and took off with it. I felt a little foolish. These are confusing times.

But in Capernaum on that Sabbath day almost two thousand years ago there was no confusion at all. Listen again to part of the gospel:

“Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God."
But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" [The Greek is even stronger: Shut up! Get out of him now!] And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching--with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."

The pneuma akarthatos -- the unclean spirit -- was very clear about who Jesus was. And Jesus was very clear about what to do with the unclean spirit.

The people in the synagogue were still a little confused, however. “They were all amazed and kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching – with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

They had not heard the lesson of the evil spirit who knew exactly what the true new teaching was: “I know who you are, the Holy one of God.”

Who do we say that he is?


Wicomico Parish Church
PO Box 70
Wicomico Church, Virginia 22579