Sermon for Sunday the 12th of February 2012, ‘Good and Evil’

Gen 2: 4b-25

Luke 8: 22-35

May I Speak in the name of the Son, to the glory of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen

I can’t see for the life of me why some people enjoy horror films!

Probably it’s because I was raised in the land of ‘Goulies and Ghosties and long leggedy beasties. One occasion that I vividly remember was when returning down one of those Cornish lanes with the high granite walls each side one dark night. Two of my friends and I, had been visiting my aunt who lived on a farm just outside town. She was the only person we knew at the time who owned a television and she let us watch an episode of a program some of you may remember called Quatermas.

None of us were feeling particularly brave, after being scared out of our wits by the program, and we talked loudly as we plunged into the darkness of that country lane. We had only covered a few hundred yards of the mile and a quarter we had to negotiate, when a cow that we had startled with our noise, crashed through the bushes above our heads and bellowed for all it was worth. I had no intention of seeing what a gouly or a ghosty or a long leggedy beasty really looked like, it was enough to know I was in the presence of one and the rest was a case of; ‘feet do your duty’. I never saw another episode of Quatermas and I have never willingly watched a horror film since.

Yet a lot of people must enjoy being frightened witless because a whole genre of films has grown with just that intention in mind. But at another level of our minds, we are fully aware that horror films are pure fiction. Perhaps people watch them to try and come to terms with the horrors of the world we live in – a world where there are no goulies or ghosties or long-leggedy beasties – but a world where there is, manifestly, a constant struggle between good and evil.

Jesus’ life was devoted to overcoming evil in the world. He rebuked wickedness in high places, in High Priests and kings, in scribes and Pharisees. When He healed people, and sent His disciples to do the same, He saw this as overcoming evil: ‘He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightening”. When the disciples boat was caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee, and they were in peril of drowning, Jesus ‘rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was calm’. He spoke to the storm as if it were a person! Perhaps he didn’t think it important to distinguish between evil creatures and evil forces; what mattered was to overcome them, whatever they were. The same applies when He was confronted by a man who thought he was possessed by a legion of demons. Jesus didn’t waste time trying to convince the man that these were only psychological forces in his mind. He simply banished them into a herd of pigs, so that the sick man would never forget that he had been set free by Jesus. The local people saw the man, who had been dressed in rags, ‘clothed and in his right mind’. Jesus had overcome evil and replaced it with peace, just as He had done during the storm.

So whether you switch the television off when the horror movie comes on, or cower terrified out of your wits, or have a good laugh, you should always take the power of evil in the world very seriously, as Jesus did. We are engaged in a battle between good and evil, and there can be no neutrality in this war. We have to follow the example of Jesus, confront evil boldly, and overcome it through the power of love, and build a deep inner peace in its place.

But you can’t overcome evil by the use of evil methods. The end just does not justify the means. Self defence may be a necessary evil; but a situation of trust can quickly be replaced by one of fear, and it takes a long time to rebuild trust once it has been destroyed. Jesus said; ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ We can only overcome the evil in the world by putting peace in its place. Peace in the Bible is the word ‘shalom’, which is much deeper than mere absence of conflict. True peace is a deep inner well being which comes from generosity and tolerance between those who have been in conflict. That doesn’t come easily or cheaply – it has to be worked for.

The Bible begins in a garden. God has made a beautiful world, and placed humankind in it to enjoy it. At first it seems that everything in the garden is rosy. But the man and the woman soon find out that evil is present in the garden in the form of the serpent. They are faced with the temptation to resist the will of God and to disobey Him, and when they fall, that breaks the relationship of trust between God and mankind. Then God can no longer save us from the evil in the world, because we have submitted to it through our own freewill. There is a serpent in every place we think of as an earthly paradise, and before long evil people are found there, and we are tempted to overcome them by evil means. But evil only begets more evil. The only way to overcome evil in the world is to replace it with peace born of love. And peace can only come as the fruit of deep and abiding love, love for our enemies as well as for our friends. But that is what God has put us here for: to overcome evil by the power of love.

 

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