O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Eternal God, give us insight
to discern your will for us,
to give up what harms us,
and to seek the perfection we are promised
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 95.1-2, 6-11
O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us heartily rejoice in the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving
and be glad in him with psalms.
Come, let us worship and bow down
and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God;
we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.
O that today you would listen to his voice:
‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
on that day at Massah in the wilderness,
‘When your forebears tested me, and put me to the proof,
though they had seen my works.
‘Forty years long I detested that generation and said,
“This people are wayward in their hearts;
they do not know my ways.”
‘So I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter into my rest.”’
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? – for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.’
In the context of Jesus’ ministry of healing, we often read of ‘demons’. Such language may seem archaic and unscientific to our twenty-first century ears. But, what do you make of this? A patient is aware but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body … This is a definition of the condition known as Locked In Syndrome. How would someone suffering from this sort of paralysis have been diagnosed in less medically enlightened times? It is not difficult to imagine people viewing these symptoms before 1966 (the year in which this syndrome was first named) as something that could only be explained in the vaguest of terms. As we go back in time we can also imagine sufferers of this, and many, many other unidentified and unnamed syndromes, being described as possessed by demons. Thanks to medical science we look for other language to use, but that does not negate the power of Jesus’ healing ministry.
Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth with the power to ‘put things right’ for humanity. He did that because of the divine power that was in him. Many people saw his wondrous power to heal, a wondrous power that made no sense to them. For some it was God at work in the world, for others it was the Devil’s work. But, as we read today, a kingdom cannot succeed if it is divided against itself … not even the kingdom of the Devil. Such good comes from God alone.
We might not use the language of Satan, Beelzebul or even the Devil, in our everyday lives, but we do apply illogical and condemning words to describe the wonder of God working in this world. We are set in the midst of a creation that is beyond our wildest imaginings. We may invent fictional realities for our amusement, but this world is real and its logic and harmony is way beyond our comprehension. Into this mysterious and amazing world, some two thousand years ago, there stepped a man who was to show the power of God through every word that he uttered and through every action that he performed. That man was Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
God’s kingdom is not divided against itself. This small part of God’s creation creates divisions but God, through Jesus, has given us the way to overcome all that negativity and pain. Jesus calls us to follow him and to be with him, lest we are scattered to the winds that we will never fully understand.
Let us pray for the strength to embrace the unknowable as manifestations of the power of God. Let us set aside our human desire to label that which is beyond our comprehension. Let us move forward in faith rejoicing that God journeys with us, shielding us from the harm that would otherwise destroy us.
Prayers of Intercession
Let us pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, the source of healing and grace.
Give to your Church grace to be constant in all the duties laid upon her, while looking always to the greater calling beyond this world. Heal her divisions and make her one in love, so that no evil can enter.
Come to the rulers of this world and make them know themselves to be responsible only to you, the Ruler of all. Give to all who desire the good of humanity a shared will and a common purpose to work freely together.
Be close to us in our families, healing the doubts and conflicts that may trouble us. Teach us also to know that all are members of our family, because they are yours.
Have mercy on those who have lost their power to resist the attacks of evil. Bless and enable those who work to relieve their suffering. Empower and protect exorcists and healers of mind and spirit.
As Jesus was raised from the dead, so grant resurrection and new life to those who have died trusting in him. Though their outward bodies have perished, clothe them in the new garments of salvation.
We pray through Christ, by whom we are healed and empowered to be his people.
Prayer for the week
Lord, we offer you ourselves this day
for the work you want accomplished,
for the people you want us to meet,
for the word you want to be uttered,
for the silence you want to be kept,
for the new ways you want pioneered.
Go with us along the way, Lord,
and enable us to realize your presence,
at all times and in all places,
our loving Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Who would true valour see,
let him come hither;
one here will constant be,
come wind, come weather;
there’s no discouragement
shall make him once relent
his first avowed intent
to be a pilgrim.
Whoso beset him round
with dismal stories,
do but themselves confound,
his strength the more is.
No lion can him fright:
he’ll with a giant fight,
but he will have the right
to be a pilgrim.
Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
can daunt his spirit;
he knows he at the end
shall life inherit.
Then, fancies, fly away;
he’ll not fear what men say;
he’ll labour night and day
to be a pilgrim.
John Bunyan (1628–1688)