Sermon for the third Sunday of Lent - Luke 11:14-28
To most of us demons and devils are excuses or punchlines. “Could it be Satan?!” and “The devil made me do it.” We, in our science and study, no longer link demonic possession with sickness. No longer link demons with evil. The worst we get is at Halloween with our scary movies. Maybe. We have even turned the devil into a costume in order to add humor which adds to the absurdity, right? Red tights. Pitchfork. Goatee. Horns. Unfortunately, then, we spend the rest of our lives trying to explain away evil. To try and explain away the murder of a child by thinking there had to be mental illness or something. But we never get an answer that satisfies. Or what is the response we hear from so many when someone you know commits some violent atrocity? We just had one here a month ago, and most of us have forgotten already. What do we usually say? “I never would have thought he was capable of this.” “He was such a nice boy.” “I never saw that coming.” We wonder, “Why?” Because we can’t imagine that there could be evil that can come upon us. Demons. Devils. That there could be this unexplainable, unscientific, other-worldly struggle between God and Satan, between good and bad.
But here, Christ stands as the one who comes to you, not only to tell you of what you cannot see, but that he has won the victory. That the whole work of Christ stands as this binding work. Binding of the strong man as the phrase goes. He tells here, in his answer to the Jewish leaders, that his work of release, his work of salvation, his work of freeing you comes with a price. A price of bondage. Of breaking in. Of coming as that thief to steal back that which was stolen once before. All for the purpose of tying up the one who thinks he is in charge in order to steal away that which Christ wants.
Can you imagine that? Do you see yourself as plunder? Because that is what is depicted here. As that stolen by the devil all the way back in Genesis 3 when he conned us into deserting God. Of thinking ourselves able to be fine on our own without the Lord as the one who gives us all things. Who gives life and goodness each day. And so, we ate of the fruit, decided our knowledge was better than any knowledge we could have in God, and that was the end. Bound. Stolen. Broken. But in steps Jesus. His work to free us from that by binding the very one who bound us and stealing us back from the evil one.
That is actually what church is for. Church existing as the place for Christ to step in and bind all the things that enslave. To bind your sins to the cross. Never letting you take them with you again. Binding your doubts, because even in our doubts we leave ourselves vulnerable. Vulnerable to our own fears and shame. Church existing as the place where doubts can be aired so that Christ might be spoken even more clearly in your ears.
Where our shame is destroyed, not because we want to be shameless, but because when we are ashamed, we realize that it is for the good and blessing of God. The goodness of God in shame coming as reformation and renewal in our souls to help us be imitators of Christ. To help us become bound to his cross daily, rather than to our past imperfection.
The fear, though, is that just as Christ comes to bind Satan, to tie him up and throw him in the closet and then take all the things that were stolen from God, sometimes Christ has to step in through the windows of our hearts to bind us. To steal away our good works, our idols, our godlessness, so that nothing can interfere with him being God alone. With him being the only source of life we could ever need or have.
That was the struggle for the Israelites as they wanted to kill Jeremiah. He came to them and bound them by the words God spoke. Bound them up and prepared to steal away the temple. The city. The religion they had because it had become God-less. Temple courts with idols to every god under the sun. Just a generation removed from the reign of King Josiah and his works of reform in the kingdom. Destroying the high places and bringing people back to God, and yet the old Adam, the old sinner in all of us always returns to its old tricks. Returns to every way we can to make our self a god rather than God himself. So God sends a preacher to bind the sinner and steal the sin. Christ binding you and taking away the things you think more wild than Jesus himself. Then all you are left with is you and Jesus. Nothing to be offered but him. All the other distractions are gone.
That is the work of the church. Sunday mornings, Wednesday nights, whenever we gather, from beginning to end is Christ given to you as who he is. As the one who commands me to forgive you all your sin. Who greets you in grace and love and communion. Who hears us when we cry for mercy. Whom we confess as Creator, Redeemer, and sustainer in our creed. The one whom we feast on as body and blood for us. For our salvation. Where we actually are eating him as body and blood, bread and wine, and in that stands this binding. Bound to him as the only source for our redemption. Bound to him as our only source of forgiveness. Bound to him as our only source of identity. Where the demons of our stripe and color that try to give us an identity die in Jesus that he might be our shared identity. Bound by the one who became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him. All concluding with the final gospel words of the benediction, with grace being the anthem before you go forth in those mercies to live out your salvation until you come together again in need of Jesus one more time.
Demons are real. Satan is real. Evil exists. Sin is true. Yet Christ is bigger. Stronger. More real. More true. For what in this world stands as eternal for you beyond Christ? What promise has the world made to you that lasts forever, unchanging and unbroken beyond Christ and Salvation in his cross? We tried to get rid of him. We tried to bind him with death, binding him to the cross by nails, and the grave by a shroud and a stone, but he snapped the chains of death like twine. Nothing ever changing in him. Your sin is forgiven in Christ. Yet, you will leave here today and sin this week. You will come back and it will still be true. Confession is made and absolution comes. The work of Christ always to convict you of your sin that he might forgive you of it too. Sin, death and the devil lie bound while Christ walks freely amongst us to scatter his seeds of grace and mercy that we might be those set free from all that damns us. Thanks be to God. Amen.