Sermons 2009
What do you mean, demons? Epiphany 4B, 1 February 2009, Mark 1:21-28

Home | Proper 17B, 30 August 2009, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 | Proper 16B, 23 August 2009, John 6:56-69 | Pentecost 10 (Proper 14B) 9 August 2009, John 6:35, 41-51 | Pentecost 8B (Proper 12B), John 6:1-21, 26 July 2009 | Pentecost 7B (Proper 11B), 19 July 2009, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 | Pentecost 6B (Proper 10B), 12 July 2009, Mark 6:14-29 | Pentecost 5B (Proper 9B) 5 July 2009, Mark 6:1-13 | Pentecost 4B (Proper 8B), 28 June 2009 | Pentecost 3B (Proper 7B), 21 June 2009 | Pentecost 2B (Proper 6B), 14 June 2009 | About Pentecost, Pentecost B, 31 May 2009, | On the Trinity, Trinity B, 7 June 2009 | Jesus and Prayer, Easter 7B, 24 May 2009, John 17:6-19 | How can we love? Easter 6B, 17May 2009, John 15:9-17 | 2 Sermons: Vineyard and a Baptism, Easter 5B, 10 May 2009, John 15:1-8 | Who's in? Who's out? Easter 4B, 3 May 2009, John 10:11-18 | Sacramental Meals, Easter 3B, 16 April 2009, Luke 24:36b-48 | Resurrection, continued, Doubts, and a Baptism, Easter 2 B, 19 April 2009, John 20:19-31 | He is not here, Easter B, 12 April 2009, Mark 16:1-8 | The Seven Sayings from the Cross, Palm Sunday B 2009 | We wish to see Jesus, Lent 5B, 29 March 1009, John 12:22-33 | For God so loved the world, Lent 4B, 22 March 2009, John 3:14-21 | Out with the money changers! Lent 3B, 15 March 2009, John 2: 13-22 | On taking up the Cross, Lent 2B, 8 March 2009, Mark 8:31-38 | News or the real Good News?, Lent 1B, 1 March 2008, Mark 1: 9-15 | Listen to Him! Epiphany Last B Transfiguration, 22 February 2009, Mark 9:2-9 | What do you mean, demons? Epiphany 4B, 1 February 2009, Mark 1:21-28 | Immediately and discipleship, Epiphany 3B 2009, 25 January 2009, Mark 1:14-20 | Right in front of your eyes, Epiphany 2B, 18 January 2009, John 1:43-51 | In the beginning, water and the Spirit, Epiphany 1B, 11 January 2009, Genesis 1:1-5; Mark 1:4-11 | In God we trust, Christmas 2B, 4 January 2009, Jeremiah 31:7-14; Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany 4b 2009                                     Mark 1:21-28

We Episcopalians are generally uncomfortable with such texts like the one we have today.  The exorcism of demons?  Demons?  Surely that’s the stuff of movies like the Exorcist and other quote unrealistic unquote films and fiction.  What have we to do with demons and such like?  Not us.

I found an interesting story about demons.  It seems that a Presbyterian minister and married to a Roman Catholic, invited a Roman Catholic bishop and another Presbyterian minister to do the baptism of their twins.  When they got together to talk about the baptism they began blending aspects of Presbyterian and Catholic baptismal services.  The bishop asked whether we wanted to include the exorcism that is part of the Roman Catholic baptismal practice.   After some nervous laughter from the two Presbyterian ministers, as we both confessed that they had seen The Exorcist, and the thought of spinning heads and profanity coming from these two tiny babies was too much.  But after the Bishop explained what the ritual actually entailed, they realized that it is nothing different from what Presbyterians do in their baptismal service when we invite the parents to renounce evil and injustice, all which defies God’s righteousness and love.  So we agreed to the exorcism.  The baptism and exorcism went off without incident, although the Presbyterian minister confessed that his hand was shaking a bit as he put the requisite sign of the cross on the children’s foreheads and renounced evil for them.  Thereafter, when asked if the exorcism had worked, depending on how his children were acting that day, the father of the twins would say yes or no.   Once he said,  "You know, I’m probably the one who needed the exorcism!" (1)

Even though I was born a Presbyterian and have officially been an Episcopalian for forty years, I hadn’t thought of it this way at all.  Listen to the questions that we Episcopalians ask parents and godparents during a baptism:

Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?  Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.

It’s also interesting to note that in our Book of Occasional Services, which also contains the lovely and powerful liturgy for healing there are also provisions concerning exorcism:  “The practice of expelling evil spirits by means of prayer and set formulas derives its authority from the Lord himself who identified these acts as signs of his Messiahship.  Very early in the life of the Church, the development and exercise of such rites were reserved to the bishop, at whose discretion they might be delegated to selected presbyters and others deemed competent.

“In accordance with this established tradition, those who find themselves in need of such a ministry should make the fact known to the bishop, through their parish priest, in order that the bishop may determine whether exorcism is needed, who is to perform the rite, and what prayers or other formularies are to be used.”

            Let me hasten to add that I have not heard of any exorcism taking place within the Diocese of Virginia and I don’t think we need one here. 

            But on the other hand in these troubled and difficult times we who call ourselves Christians live in communities which have people who may feel as if they are people of "unclean spirits."  They may carry inside their bodies or minds mental illness or spiritual anguish, or they may live in the world in ways that make them feel ashamed and embarrassed.  They may have recently had to forfeit their home and live in their car.  Or they may be so horribly poor that they have no hope.  Or their families may be so wounded that they feel that they cannot come into the fellowship of Christians to encounter this Jesus who might release them from their pain.  They may be afraid that in entering the place of worship they will encounter congregations who may not welcome them.  (2)

            Most of the beneficiaries of our discretionary funds are unchurched.  It is sad that they deprive themselves of the support they could readily find in a faith community.  And I recall the sad case of the little boy who tried to drive himself to school because his mother, possessed by whatever demons, he could not awaken that morning.

            Perhaps they are unchurched because their demons force them to cry out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”  And that is the question that we, all of us who call themselves Christians, try to answer for them.





1.  Roger H. Gench, Theological Themes, Epiphany 4B 2009,

2.  Joretta L. Marshall. Pastoral Implications, Epiphany 4B 2009,