So where to go this morning.. we have this juicy Hebrew Scripture, we have suicidal pigs, however, every time I read this passage beloved, I have to pause and ask: what do I make of demons?  While pondering demons, I noticed that there was also an angel in our Hebrew Scripture reading as well.  Demons and angels.  There’s a great deal of power in our readings this morning but what does it mean?  

We tend to explain them away demons and angels for that matter.  We offhandedly say of demons well, that was how they made sense of mental illness in the ancient world.  I don’t know how I feel about that.  Explaining away demons as mental illness or addiction is dangerous at best.   I don’t get to name other people’s demons.  Only my own.  And God knows each of us has our own demons we struggle with.   Is mental illness or addiction a demon? That is for those who face those issues to name-- not for me.        

Meanwhile as we struggle to understand demons, we tend to relegate angels to art as cutesy little babies with wings.    Most of us might choose to ignore or dismiss angels and demons as old world superstition but that is a grave mistake.   

The best understanding that I have of demons and angels comes from the insightful theology of Walter Wink.   In his book, The Powers that Be, he talks about demons and angels as being a collective power.   

We say in the Nicene Creed that we believe in a God of all that is, seen and unseen. When we we say this, we honor that there is real power in the unseen as well as the visible.    We know collective power is real.  Notice the demon’s name is legion today—the power of the mob is real—it is a collective power.   

Angels are our collective power and mission that is the good and works for the mission that we create for the collective good.    Demons are then our collective power where our mission and goodness are thwarted.   Mob indeed.  

Think about it for a minute.  How many organizations can you think of where they had a fabulous mission in place and did such fine work, maybe times changed and slowly, their mission was thwarted and began to sink and before they knew it… they used that collective power in ways they never intended.   This can happen to governments, schools, and yes beloved churches.    How often our power has become demonic.     

We can talk about the shame and guilt we hold for our history with people of other religions, slavery and all the rest: yes, truly a mob! Today, however I want to focus on a demon in the church that we don’t often name as legion: Clericalism.   

That is the idea that clergy somehow are the end all be all in the church.   While I understand and believe that there are legion of demons in the church and this one may feel smaller or less significant, it is not! Clericalism thwarts our mission time and time again.  The original mission for the People of the Way, the Christ followers was that Baptism was the call to Holy Orders for all!   

The priesthood of all believers, baptism is the ultimate way that we are invited and called to be followers of Jesus Christ.   Not the priesthood, not being a deacon and certainly not being a Bishop.   The people in the pew is where the power presides.    

The church beloved is in the midst of yet another reformation and certainly Covid has added to our need to rethink, redevelop, rebuild how we think about being church.   I often hear our bishop Craig  say that it is time for us as church to know that we are called to be Lay led and clergy supported.   That is a tremendous shift from the days when “Father” so and so knew best.    Lay led church.   That is going back to our original mission beloved—the mission of the earliest followers of the way.    

Yes.  I am called to be among you as your priest Be that as it may we live with it and still name the reality:  Baptism is the primary door way we enter into ministry. One friend of mine used to quip that the call to take on clerios—an assigned role in the church is a demotion.     The priesthood of all believers is an indelible mark on our souls and being and hopefully our behavior in the world.  

So how do we beloved empower, enact and live out the reality that by the very nature of our baptism we already living under holy orders.  We are the hands of Christ.   We are empowered to be Christ’s body.   All of us.  All of us through baptism are priests. That is teachers of how to follow Jesus Christ.  

That is the angel of our mission—that is the higher collective power we are called to live over and over again.  That mission has the potential to bring about healing and transformation—change!  At the heart of the Gospel story today is a radical change a healing that was deeply uncomfortable for the community that knew the demoniac.  They were quite comfortable with their preconceived notions of demons and when Jesus challenged that, they were afraid.   

I wonder is that why we play small?  Is that why we haplessly give our power and responsibility over to clergy?  Beloved the very nature of church of Christianity is changing.  It is time for us to occupy Christianity with a mission that invites all of us to be imitators of Christ.   

Anything less than that thwarts our mission as Christ followers.     

You are a priest beloved all of you.   With water and oil, you were knitted into the body of Jesus Christ and called to a mission of healing the collective mob of demons that are afoot in our world.   That is who you are.    That is what we do.     


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