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!