Monday, February 06, 2006

Dealing with Demons Demands Determined Action!

Dr. John Fiedler, Senior Minister at First United Methodist Church--Dallas, delivered a sermon to his congregation Sunday before last about the unfortunate man described in Mark 1:21-28 who was possessed of demons.

The sermon can be found for your listening benefit on the church's website at http://www.webcasting.com/fumc/.

The message was masterful.

It was so honest and moving both about the life of his church and his own personal life. He characterized the entire situation with the demon possessed man as a tragic "family secret."

As I took in his message, I thought about confronting evil in our city, on its streets.

The demons of poverty, oppression and injustice certainly are forces that plague us, they are forces to be reckoned with every bit as much as personal expressions of evil.

So, how does one "cast out" a demon?

Well first, you have to face it, identify it for what it is and determine to deal with it!

The worst thing in the world to do with a demon is to deny that it exists.

We are experts at denial, aren't we?

What is true in our personal lives, is often the case in community life. Failure to face the truth about our life as a city, as a neighborhood can be deadly.

Once we face the truth, identify the reality that causes the pain and hurt; we must take authoritative action.

Overcoming evil calls for a kind of boldness, a certainty that emerges from a clear value base--a kind of moral confidence that makes us very uncomfortable these days. But without a word of authority, the demons will remain unmoved.

Working in an urban community among the poor calls for clarity of purpose, solid values and confidence of direction. Armed with truth, we can face, call out and deal with the demons surrounding and working among and against the poor.

To act with authority calls for an equally authoritative vision.

Leadership is key to defeating demons.

A city without strong leaders who possess a vision for a "demon free" community will make little or no real progress against the forces that constrain and control people who are poor.

The forces of evil as portrayed by the Gospel of Mark had the ability to pull people apart, to hideously contort their bodies, their lives and their souls.

The demons we face daily in the city do the same and more.

You can just see, feel, touch and smell the work of our very present, urban demons. . .

. . .destroying men, women and children. . .

. . .ripping apart neighborhoods block by block. . .

. . .descending with chronic, epidemic disease sets on individuals and families. . .

. . .entrenching sub-standard housing in reality and in hapless expectation. . .

. . .inspiring the toleration of inferior educational opportunities. . .

. . .locking adults into low-paying jobs. . .

. . .spreading the lethal escapism of drug and alcohol addiction. . .

. . .hooking our "elite" on respectable greed and progressive plans for the benefit of the well-connected few. . .

. . .convincing public policy leaders that "nothing can be done" afterall. . .

. . .removing the poor from community conversation and decision making. . .

. . .sewing despair into the hearts and minds of almost everyone.

We need a new "approach."

It's time to face the ferocity of our enemy and calmly say and act in a manner that clearly communicates a simple, but unwavering message:

No more and not here!

5 comments:

JBS said...

One thing that strikes me about that story is the community's reaction to Jesus' miracle. They ask him to leave. I wonder if it is because the healing of the possessed man came at too big an economic price for them--a whole herd of pigs.

I think we react in the same way...we say "amen" to the idea of dealing with demons but do we really want to invest?

I hope so...

Chris Thompson said...

We fear the risk. The opportunity to overcome evil is there, but the fear of failure and destroying what we are comfortable with dominates our choices.

I feel like the Church (myself included) waits like a bunch of kids standing at the top of the high dive platform- all prepared to jump. We all say that we are ready, but we look over the edge and get scared. We count to three together, and then we wait to see who jumps first. Nobody jumps. We go back to our comfortable suburban lives. Then, we become disenchanted with the emptiness of our comfortable lives. Then, we start all over, again. 1,2,3 ...

Larry, you stand out as one of those who has bravely chosen to jump. I respect you so much, and I praise your courage. May God bless you in your ministry. Your life is an inspiration. I admit to living atop the high dive in a constant struggle, but the stories of God's work in your life continue to push me closer to the edge.

KentF said...

One of the biggest doers of evil I see at the urban level are the profiteers that feel they must make 4 to 5 times their normal level of profit for developing "affordable" housing due to the inherent "risk" involved with their development venture. Pardon my frustration - but that is hogwash. We need passionate people that seek to put building the community first, not make exorbitant profit off the poor. Scripture abounds that tells us just how evil that is.

Larry James said...

Sorry, Kent, but I need some specifics on that one! There may be affordable housing developers who do what you suggest, but for the life of me I don't know exactly how they could do what you are saying given the ability of prospective consumers to pay. Where are you thinking they make their profits? Educate me.

KentF said...

Larry - without going into mind-numbing detail I will say as a real estate appraiser I have seen many extremely lucrative developers cloaked in not-for-profit shells that substantially over-charge lower-income folks for so-called affordable housing. Certainly not all, but some developers do this.

The so-called "market price" within the affordable housing development is, let's say, $100,000 with nothing down and stipulations as to one's income to qualify for the home - while the exact same house across a street or two is $85,000, however, that home does not have the same "non-real world" stipulations.

IMO the underlying goal of affordable housing would be to allow someone to get into a moderate priced home with some assistance i.e. - an FHA-type loan - and allow that person to enjoy an equity stake and (hopefully) eventual full-ownership rights of that property - the American dream. If someone is over-paying the standard market price by 20-30+% to begin with for that "affordable" home - it is much more difficult and time-consuming to realize that dream. Meanwhile the developer has made an extra 20-30+% in total net profit for putting the deal together. Sorry for going on so long Larry - maybe I should have just not commented - but as someone that also has a heart for the poor and one trying to be ethical in the growing maze of financial real estate - I've seen some things that just aren't right and the poor are again victimized. This is not a blanket statement -and many inner-city developments work wonderfully and are generating equity for these folks - as they should.