Homily for the 7th Sunday of Easter
By the Rev. Darren Miner
Three days ago, we celebrated Ascension Day. For some reason, the editors of the lectionary have reprised the story again this Sunday. My guess is that they wanted to give those who didn’t attend on Thursday another chance to hear about the Ascension of Christ. Well, folks, if you snooze, you lose! I’m not going to preach on the Ascension again. Instead, I am going to say a few words about the Devil.
Now, the Devil is not a common topic of sermons in the Episcopal Church. I venture to say that quite a few Episcopalians don’t even believe in the Devil. But Jesus did, and so did Saint Peter!
Saint Peter’s warning to us is clear: “Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.” The concern here is that we might get worn down by the troubles of this world and our faith might waiver and make us susceptible to the wiles of the Devil.
Now, it helps to know something about our adversary, if we are to be successful in resisting him. And a lot can be learned from his title—the Devil. The English word “devil” derives from a Greek word “diabolos.” It is often translated as “slanderer,” but its meaning is broader than that. It means “one who causes others to quarrel.” One aim of the Devil is to make us quarrel with God. And in a time of “fiery ordeal,” that job becomes all the easier, for we humans can get quite quarrelsome when God allows us to suffer. But it is also the Devil’s aim to bring dissension and disunity between and among ordinary people. And one of his favorite tools is the lie.
Now, it has always been possible to tell lies about someone. It has always been possible to stir up trouble. But nowadays, it is so much easier, for we have the help of cable news and social media. The Russians used Facebook to interfere in elections in the United States and in Europe. It seems that their purpose was primarily to cause disunity. I’m sure the Devil was pleased. Just last week, the President of the United States got on Twitter and suggested that the presenter of a morning talk show was, in fact, a murderer. You can imagine the stir that that little slander caused for a day or two. Again, the Devil must have been pleased. In a recent interview on CNN, Nancy Pelosi feigned concern for the President’s health, slyly commenting on his “morbid obesity.” Yes, the President is obese, but he is not “morbidly obese.” That was a lie, and the Father of Lies was undoubtedly pleased.
If we are to resist the Devil, we must find a way to deal with the deluge of lies that accost us daily on TV and on the Internet. Saint Peter gives us some good advice: “Discipline yourselves. Keep alert. And resist!” I will add to that advice. Don’t make up lies, not even little ones. Don’t repeat lies, even if you find them amusing. Don’t believe lies, no matter how convenient they may be. Instead, take the time to do some fact-checking. And when you encounter a lie, counter it with the unvarnished truth, if you can.
Admittedly, resisting the lies of the Evil One can be exhausting. And in this time of deadly pandemic and political discord, this time of “fiery ordeal,” we are already feeling worn down. So it is not surprising that, from time to time, we may be tempted to give up the struggle. But we cannot! For to give in to evil is to be spiritually devoured. So, in those moments of weakness, those moments of temptation, follow the counsel of Saint Peter, and turn to God: “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you,” and trust that he “will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.”
“To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.”
© 2020 by Darren Miner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.