#Scary Movie is the reflection for February 22, 2015. Is God really powerful or is this an academic exercise? Faith is real, how do you make it your own? Find out what it means that God sent Jesus to face Satan and Jesus said yes. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #LivingFaith, #JasonBourne #GeicoHorrorMovie #PowerforLiving
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For listener supported MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 2/22/2015 The 1st Sunday of Lent.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 1:9-15.
I do not watch scary movies. My problem is not so much that they are grotesque. My problem is I cannot stand the stupid decisions that are made which put people in danger. I want to yell at the screen, “Don’t open that door! Don’t go in there!” This is why the Geico Car Insurance commercial, which I have posted above this podcast, is so classic. We ought to have a new rule: Those who have no weapons to defend themselves should not enter dark or unknown spaces in scary movies. Find another more unpredictable way to scare us, Hollywood, please.
This is why when we read the very short passage from the Gospel of Mark assigned to this first Sunday of Lent, we could miss something very clear: God is sending Jesus to face Satan and Jesus is going willingly.
I cannot tell you how often in my life as a kid I was scared to death to go to sleep. I was so afraid of being killed. I don’t think it helped that my family watched the TV special “Helter Skelter” about the Manson murders when I was about six and I watched from hiding when I wasn’t supposed to do so. So, when I started to consider the person of Satan, I was terrified and sometimes, I still have to dial back the fear through what I know. I really don’t know anyone who goes after Satan. Satan has successfully convinced the culture around us that he is the one who has the power: the power of evil.
Think about it. We hardly ever talk about God anymore in the culture. We do, however, talk about evil and “the Devil”. This to whom we ascribe much of our woes and troubles, and rightfully so. When the culture does talk about God, it is always in terms of being sugary, weak and limited in what he can do. Or, when we talk about God, it is a God who isn’t fair because he won’t let me do what I want. The first idea of God is impotent. The second idea of God can be ignored.
What is missing here is that God has the power to take on Satan. In fact, the existence of Satan is dependent upon God. Satan would not have “fallen” in the first place if he had not been created by God. So, Satan’s mere existence goes against the claim of any power. Satan, though, in many ways is much more faithful than we are. Satan believes in the power of spirituality to damage the physical. Satan believes in using the powers that God created to damage us. We don’t appropriate the powers of God to heal us. We discount them. Screwtape has been successful in his campaign.
There is a reason that the idea of a hospital was invented by Christians. This is why nearly every hospital in America has a history rooted in Christian faith. In my hometown, Memorial Hospital is very secular. You can find hardly a trace that it was started by Christians. They seem to run away from that as fast as they can, but they are not alone. It may shock the Methodists in my hometown to know that it was originally called, “Epworth Memorial”. Epworth is a name from Methodist history and that hospital was founded by the Methodists. You see, there was a time, and in some quarters there still is, a belief that the spirit of God can heal.
Whenever my children were sick or when they are sick, I pray a silent prayer of exorcism and healing over them in the name of Jesus Christ. Why? Because Jesus Christ was B.A. enough to hear the Lord say, “OK, go face Satan,” and he replied, “OK.”
Verse 12 of this passage says, “And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” It was God’s hand that drove Jesus into a dark, foreboding place. The opportunity was presented to him, just like the scary movie. Yet, we don’t want to scream at the screen, “Don’t do it!” Instead, we just accept it. We know deep down that Jesus is strong. We know that he is mighty. We know that Satan may kill his body, but he will never kill his soul. We know that Jesus has what it takes to know the truth about life and that truth sets him free in the face of being tempted.
You will notice that there is no mention of what kind of temptation Jesus faced, like the three temptations from the accounts from Matthew and Luke’s Gospels. Here, though, the lack of mentioning the particular temptations is not a deficit. It could be if we think from a limited perspective: there must not have been many. We could also, which I choose to do, think from an augmented perspective: Satan used everything he could think of and Jesus didn’t budge. Jesus was the Jason Bourne of faith.
We may say, “it is because Jesus is God that he can face Satan.” Yes, that is true. It is because Jesus is less floating angel than gun loaded, cocked and ready. Jesus is both God and human. What we miss here is that God is not like us. God doesn’t try to coerce us to do a thing. We spend lots of time saying, “please do this,” or commanding, “do this.” We use our power to force people to do things against their will. God doesn’t do that. God is simply giving the respectful invitation over and over again.
The irony of the temptation in the desert is that it is not Jesus being fully God that makes him powerful. What makes Jesus Christ powerful in the desert against Satan is his human will that agrees to let God be God. It is Jesus’ human will that decides to use all the power and force available to him to fight off temptation. What makes Jesus powerful is being human. Jesus is human like we were meant to be human. Jesus is the anti-Adam. He is the one who knows his place in being human and appropriates everything God has to offer: angels, scripture and the Holy Spirit.
A casual friend of mine, Fr. Tom Loya, often talks about the over feminization of the Church. Church is always nurturing. Church is always coddling. We as humans want to be coddled. Sometimes, I feel that. My daughter is big into ‘multiple genders’ from her ‘gender studies’ classes she took in college. Why is it that even these ‘gender’ studies never give the ‘male’ gender its due? Why is it that as we androgenize our culture, it seems that everyone needs to be a shade of female to be legit?
Being masculine is a very positive trait. It is knowing when to cut to the chase, call it out, appropriate the proper power tool, and take care of the job.
Christians would be better served to think of our relationship with God as a balance between comfort food and power tools. Yes, Jesus enters us in the Eucharist to give us comfort and to heal our wounds. Even more, Jesus enters our bodies in the Eucharist to empower us to do something that will give us wounds. We. Have. Been. Baptized. We ARE Jesus. That is what we SAY we believe! If we are Jesus, if God is in us, then why can’t we heal? Why can’t we drive out demons and fight off temptation? We can’t because we haven’t agreed to do so.
Although I believe heavily in psychology and medical advances to handle many things we called demon possession, we have over-psychologized the faith. Although I believe we can find sweetness in the kindness and generosity of the Gospel, we have over-sentimentalized the faith-both conservatives and liberals. Although I believe we have a safe haven from the terrors of the night and the demons by day, we have robbed the faith of any confidence in the power of God. Today’s reading should wipe the notion of a sweet sticky bun Jesus who is only a comforting little fella who makes us feel better about the world out of our heads.
God is powerful and can take on Satan any day—and twice on Sundays. God is mighty and can heal the sick, raise the dead, give sight to the blind and speech to the mute. God is the one who gives existence to us and provides animation to our species, not Satan. God is the master of my fate, the captain of my soul, when I let him.
Today, when you think of what it means to be created by God and you are facing evil, remember this: God respects you enough to let you decide. He will tell you if you are faced with a stupid scary movie decision. He will tell you when you are faced with a desert facing Satan decision. If your faith is a convenience-only-make-me-feel-better faith, then I think you shouldn’t open the door or go into dark places: Satan will eat you alive. If your faith is a know-Jesus-is-one-bad-dude-when-he-has-to-be faith, then enter as presented.
Which is it? You decide. Amen.
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