Monday, February 29, 2016

There may come a day when you won't be ABLE to confess

O LORD OPEN THOU MY LIPS


And He was expelling a demon that was mute, and when the demon was put out the mute man spoke, and the crowds marveled.  Luke 11:14

THE Lord was on a roll that day.  Not only did He send the demons packing, but by His sharp debate He also gives His church vital information about the invisible enemy and how he operates, and to be forewarned is to be fore-armed.

What we learn above all, however, is that Jesus is the Finger of God who came to conquer the devil, came to evict the demons who, like so many squatters, infiltrate the lives of God's noblest creation in order to drag us down with them, to give us a share in their gloom, because what they say is true, that misery loves company.

The demon we encounter in today's gospel had rendered his victim unable to speak, but what should we make of this?  Was the demon simply being mean, thinking up creative ways to make the man's  life difficult?  If so, he succeeded because it isn't an easy life to be mute, but this involves more than that, because demons rarely come into a life uninvited.

The man may have been a victim, but he might also have been a willing participant.  He may have given over the lofty gift of speech, the magnificent ability that distinguishes us from all other creatures and makes us "like God," to the service of sin and of Satan.

It is easy enough to do.  St. James says that the tongue is a world of unrighteousness that sets the entire course of life on fire.  Consider the tongue of one false witness, Dorian Johnson of Ferguson, MO, who by his lying tongue, "hands up don't shoot,"  set the world on fire just as St. James predicts, so St. Paul urgently warns Christ's holy people, "don't give the devil an opportunity."  Said another way: don't dance with the devil because if you do, he will stop on your toes.

Why might we think that this man contributed to his own fall?  because in Scripture silence equals guilt.  St. Paul writes in Romans 3:19, "Now we know that whatever the Law says, it says to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God."

In Isaiah 53 the prophet says of the Lord's passion, "He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth."   He highlights the Lord's silence because Jesus, "who knew no sin, became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

The man not only would not speak, but could not speak.  His tongue had been tied by a bona fide member of the Hell's Angels.  He could not confess his sins if he wanted to, but you can!  He could not call on the Lord for mercy if he wanted to, but you can!  He could not pray, praise or give thanks for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, but you can, so don't ever stop!

However this demon was about to have a very bad day.  He was about to meet Jesus who came to atone for the sins of our tongues and to evict the demons that make our lives a living hell.  He came to free us from the power of Satan so that, like Israel released from Pharaoh's bondage, we could praise and glorify the One True God, just as we are doing at this very time.

In the gift of holy baptism, our lives were swept clean.  In it we renounced the devil, all his wicked works, all his wicked ways, and we confessed the faith of the Apostle's Creed; faith in God the Father the maker of heaven and earth, faith in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord, who lived, died, and rose again in order to save us from sin, death and the devil, faith in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the sacrament of holy communion, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.  That is to say faith in all the promises of God for they all became our inheritance at baptism.

In holy baptism, God, "delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins," so let us be sober and let us be vigilant!  Let us utilize all the weapons of spiritual warfare the church puts in our hands, the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and having had our houses swept clean by God's Spirit, let us keep them clean and give no place to the devil in our lives.  To lift just one exhortation from today's epistle lesson:  "Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk, nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving."  Or said another way, let us use our tongues to the end for which they were given us, not to talk trash, but to give thanks which in Christian parlance does not only mean to offer songs of thankfulness and praise, but also to celebrate the sacrament of thanksgiving, to receive the heavenly food with tongues untied by the Finger of God, for it is the very body and blood of Christ, given for us Christians to eat and to drink, given to irradiate the cancer of our sin, given to fill us with peace, joy, consolation, faith, hope and love.  Thus the church prays:  O Lord open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise."  Amen.

~  Rev. Dean Kavouras

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