Casting Out Demons
(March, 2003 POL)
Topic: God’s Greatness
There are a lot of things happening that do not seem to fit the picture we have of ourselves. So many of our cherished notions have been shattered. Two of those notions have been shattered and who knows which of them hurts us the worse. One is that the oceans are so wide that war will never come to our shores. We used to think that all the fighting and killing would be somewhere else. The second notion was our illusion that we are the great humanitarian power in the world and all the people around the world will love us because we are so generous and kind. And yet the masses of people who seem to positively hate us seems to be growing.
Only two weeks ago we get another blow to our illusions. Our myth has been that rocket scientists are the brightest and best of our nation. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that we have used rocket scientists as the image of the smartest and most brilliant of our kind, and last week our rocket scientists prove again they were human like the rest of us. And we just heard the news that more than half the babies born in California at the end of 2001 were latinos. In the year 2017 in California the majority of voters will be hispanic. We who have held the power for so long are watching the changing of the political process. No wonder we are frightened.
So there are tears in our eyes, there is anger and hurt in our heart, we are confused and disappointed, we want to put the pieces back together, we want somebody to assure us that everything will be okay. We have experts still talking about the long view on the stock market. But we are all being forced to find a new life under strange and radically different conditions. We are suddenly being asked to live without the symbols of our old securities. Life has been split into fragments. And the first response always is to rush back and to try to embrace the old securities. Make the old idols fit the new realities. The slogan on the back of the pick up truck read, “God, Guns, and Guts made America great, lets keep all three” And so we have a determined government trying to show great guts with military power to protect and defend America and calling at the end of every speech for God to bless America. Maybe if we try harder we can make the old symbols work again.
It was the prophet Isaiah who tried to speak a different word of hope into his exiled people. The city of Jerusalem, the home of God, the holy city, the evidence that God dwelt with Israel and had made a covenant with her, had been defeated. God was no longer able or willing to protect her. These choice people were now in exile. Those who once lived in great palaces now lived in tents. Those who had once given orders and been obeyed were now servants. And while maybe they never suggested that God did not exist, they were pretty sure he had abandoned them, forgotten them, forsaken them or no longer cared about them or worse, maybe God could just no longer do anything about their situation, maybe God of the Jews was not equal to the God of Babylon.
We may want God to answer our questions. What have you done for me lately? But Isaiah suggests that we take a much longer look. What have you been told from the very beginning about God? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? The God we look to is the one who is constantly business with the work of creation. The God we think has forsaken us and abandoned us, made the sun to shine, stretches the heavens like a curtain for all creation. The God we talk about as powerless is the Lord of all history who makes all rulers and kings rise and fall and pass away. Lift up your eyes on high and see, who created these? Slowly and steadily Isaiah reminds us of the God to whom we turn. God is the one who makes the winds to blow and the oceans to churn. We are reminded of the strength of God in creation and his attentiveness to all details. God is the one who governs the affairs of all nations and guards and redeems his people from despair. The praise of God’s greatness is in all places. Everything in this passage becomes an object of God’s actions. He sits. He stretches. God spreads. God brings, God makes. God gives. Everything submits to God’s power. All life is very fragile and weak and quickly fades under the judgment of God’s love.
So if you and I are reminded of the greatness of God who has done great things in all creation, who has created this world and give us life and breath this day, who has been the judge of the kings and princess who have risen up and thought they would last forever. Hitler declared, “It does not matter whether I live or not. It does not matter whether you live or not, what matters is that Germany lives on forever.” God who has continued to provide and to sustain his people throughout all these ages. If we who can remember the greatness of God in God’s acts of creation and history, if we can remember all of God’s blessings and joys to us in the past, how can we claim that God is not able and who can we claim that God is not attentive.
For look where Isaiah encourages us to look for where God is at work. God is at work without ceasing providing for those who are at the end of their own rope. God is giving power to those who faint. Life is a long marathon of a race, and God may not be up at the front of the race helping those who are striding comfortably along, for God is in the back of the race giving to those who have no might. Those who wait on the Lord because they cannot go on anymore by their own power, God is providing them fresh energy. Those who have come to the end of their resources are given a renewed vision. Those whose dream has died are given new dreams. God is looking for those who have no other way out. Jesus said he had come not for the health, but for those who were ill and knew they needed a doctor. Jesus casts out demons from those who came because they knew they had demons. They knew they could not cast out their own demons.
While both our government and the government of Iraq act and strut across the stage of history like they have no need of help, they are able, they are competent, they are strong, they both claim that they will win, bring it on. We can handle it. God who gives strength to the weary, the exhausted, the confused, God of those who know they need more than they have, God, who is strong and attentive, is giving strength to a mother in Iraq whose children suffer. God is giving a gift of comfort to a young soldier’s wife as her husband deploys. God who gives strength to the weary is giving another day of determination to NASA scientists who have confessed over and over that they do not know why or what happened and they struggle for answers. God who gives to those who are about to faint the power to take another step. The God who shows power by the sacrifice of love on the cross. That God is still Lord, that God is still seeking the weary, that God is still giving hope to the hopeless, that God is attentive to the lost, and still greatly to be praised.