Most of the titles for Wesley’s sermons are bland or kind or inoffensive but here we know he is going to be digging deep into our hearts. Bigotry is rife in the world and in the church and even in this sermon. There are some 18th century, empire thinking, sweeping statements made about whole swathes of populations. Giving Wesley his due, he does mention the atrocities done by his own country in the name of God, but mainly he focuses on others.
Can someone cast out demons? Do people have demons within? Wesley argues that there was a time for demons and now in his modern world there is no need and the Devil has changed his methods instead of superstition and idolatry he points us to self worship, pride, greed and gluttony.
He argues that the Devil, who we know rules this world, uses different ways of ruling depending on the country. The Devil chains us to sin, not allowing the light, who is Christ be seen in our lives.
I will ignore his pontifications on different populations because to me they don’t sit right and also his ideas on how others ought to preach, I don’t see the relevance in a sermon for this.
I will however focus on what for me is the main point of the sermon.
DO YOU BELONG
The scripture reference is from Mark 9:
38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,
He was not one of us. Not in our club. Not part of our sect. Not European. Not English speaking. Not Irish. How often in your life have you felt you don’t belong?
I hate it when groups norm because I am never in the norm. I like chaotic, disparate groups that come together for a common aim and then disband. I used to play football (oh I love that game) and brought some of my fitter mates along. One of my mates wouldn’t come at all. I am not part of that, she said. Another one was kicked out because she was not “one of us.” Should I have tried to reason with them, ask them why me and not them? Perhaps I should’ve put up a fight, or aided them in their fight. They didn’t belong, they were outsiders and not allowed to participate based on one criteria. I, the non-national, the unfittest of the three was accepted but they weren’t.
They were the women that in those days were talked about in hushed tones, the ones who were not invited to anything. One more thing to set them apart from everyone else. I have another mate and we concur that it is better to go in smiling and talk about the weather and be grateful for each crumb of a kind word we receive. We each time we have to face this brick wall of hostility, smile, because over time brick walls crumble and nature tumbles into the space. We may never be accepted, but we are tolerated.
I went to a funeral, I travelled to another country and took a place in the pew. Behind me, my childhood best friend’s parents turned to each other and said “What’s she doing here?”
I love now because first the dead person whose funeral I attended loved me. Loved me in spite of the impossible situation we found ourselves in, loved me in spite of the horror of the situation that neither of us understood, it was not of our making but we were on different sides of a chasm of hurt and lies and betrayal and abuse and horrific, horrific things. But we still loved.
I love now because God loved them and they showed that light of Christ to me which enabled me to turn and seek that love of God for myself.
I was in a church and a place where I did not belong, that was made perfectly clear to me. But the person I was remembering was a person who I could turn to when my whole life turned upside down, who would sing lullabies to me of Jesus’ love for me. We belonged.
Belonging is important, I have found my belonging now, safe in the arms of the King.
The casting out of demons is still a contentious issue because there is the need for proof, even John Wesley calls for that. He says the proof is 1. That the person was a notorious sinner 2. Now they are not and living a Christian life and 3. The change was made by hearing someone preach.
What is a notorious sinner?
I am not going to answer that. What a responsibility on those who preach! But that is what we do, we preach to bring lost souls to Christ. People can’t know they can be saved if we don’t tell them.
Wesley goes on to extoll the virtues of the laity in preaching. His mum, Susanna, strongly suggested (you have to read about her to know what this means) the use of lay preachers, ecclesiastically unordained people to preach the word of God in their itinerant ministry. Now John Wesley could’ve said no but he was open to it and open to women preaching. Psalm 139 –
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
We are all part of one big chaotic family, made up of people with differences who come together ignoring the differences to love to fellowship to belong because God first loved us. We love