Spiritual Warfare

MP3 Audio:  WS330316_Fr-Michael_Spiritual-Warfare.mp3

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, November 24, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Fr. Michael Keiser.

~

Epistle Reading:  Ephesians 6:10-20

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, God is One. Amen.

The author of the epistle of Hebrews in the twelfth chapter reminds us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, which reminds us that the distinction between this creation and heaven is extremely thin, is in fact diaphanous, should be something actually that we can see to the next world through as it begins to break in into our lives. There’s no wall between us except the walls that we put up for ourselves. So the angelic hosts, the angels, the archangels, the thrones, dominions, powers, principalities, cherubim and seraphim are all around us.

The saints of the Church, all of them–including those we don’t even know, which the Church itself may not have officially recognized but are known to God alone–surround us. All the faithful departed who have gone before us, surround us. There are no dead in Christ; Christ is the Lord of the living, not of the departed. Their souls may be separated from their bodies, but they are in paradise, beginning to experience the Kingdom now.

The saints are our prayer chain, our prayer group, the ones that we can go to and ask for help and intercession when we have need, and yet often we fail to do so. The angelic beings, especially the angels and the archangels, are there for our protection, guidance and support. Each one of us, according to our Lord, has his or her own guardian angel–in my case a big honking whoop-ass archangel–but yours are equally effective and committed to your care. And yet when was the last time you asked one of them for help, for protection, for guidance? I suspect many of the saints and many of the angelic beings are rather bored, because we don’t call upon them nearly as much as we should.

So all of the angelic beings in the heavenly realm, all of these are there, in a sense cheering us on, cheering us through the last part of the race, calling us to finish, yelling out encouragement and stepping into things if necessary, with power or with intercession, when we ask them to do so.

But there is another part to the spiritual realm, which is not nearly as helpful and not nearly as cheery. That is of course what Jesus refers to as the realm of the prince of the powers of the air, by which He’s referring to Satan and to those angels which fell with him and have now become demonic spirits. They also surround us. They also are interested in what happens to us, but not for our benefit and not for our salvation. And anytime we enter into a period of Advent that we have coming down the road, we have to remind ourselves that we do have this other great mob, which is interested in tripping us up, misdirecting or misguiding us at any opportunity.

Now what you must understand, however, in which I think some Christians tend to forget, is that this is in no way an equal contest between good and evil. Christ has won the victory. Christ has endured death and overcome it. Christ, in His humanity, has ascended back to the presence of His Father in heaven and sits on the right hand of His Father. And because He–as the God-Man–in His humanity, ascended into heaven, it is possible for we human beings to follow Him there, if we are faithful, if we are focused.

Satan is only a legend in his own mind, not in anyone else’s. And Jesus said just before He goes to the cross, “Now is the prince of this world”–referring to the devil–“cast out.” So Satan and and his other followers have absolutely no power over us whatsoever. They have no ability to control, to divert, or to distract, unless we give it to them, unless we become weak, unfocused and disconnected, and make ourselves vulnerable to them.

I don’t know if you ever watch any of those those wildlife shows on T.V., like National Geographic and that sort of thing, but what you see there is that predators rarely go after healthy prey in a herd. They usually wait for one that falls behind, that gets old, that gets weak, that gets unable to keep up, and by doing so makes themselves vulnerable. Why should they waste their effort trying to take down something strong, that’s going to fight against them, when in fact all they have to do is wait for us to stop paying attention, and come at us then?

Saint Peter in his epistle reminds us, “Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour,” always watching for the odd chance, always hoping that maybe we’ll be dumb enough or careless enough not to keep our focus on Jesus, and so to slip into something else.

That is what cost my son his life. When we were cleaning out his room after the funeral, we came across a journal which had references to Satan and satanic practices in it, which we knew nothing about. We also came across journals that had references to trying to connect to God, but since he never dated anything we can’t timeline these things. We don’t know what the process was, except that the darkness overcame him in the end. He lost his fight. You do not need to lose yours.

But what he did was to isolate himself, to pull back from family, and friends, from church, from anyone who actually cared about him, into a non-communicative state. We would grunt as we passed each other in the hallway, and I just simply gave up trying to talk to him, because there was no response. He did the same thing with friends. He let his drivers license lapse, so he couldn’t go anywhere, he couldn’t leave the house unless somebody took him someplace else. And gradually, through the last two years, he isolated himself from all who cared enough to be concerned to support and try to help.

Again, the author of Hebrews reminds us, be careful that you not refrain from coming together as is the custom of some. Anytime you pull yourself back from the Church, you separate yourself from the herd and you make yourself vulnerable to the predators.

Anytime you cease to be fervent in prayer or in the reading of Scripture, you make yourself vulnerable and weak, and separate yourself from the herd.

Anytime you are not consistent and faithful in repentance and in humility in coming and confessing your sins and preparing to receive the resurrected, transformed body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Communion, you make yourself vulnerable.

Again, these beings have no power, unless we are so foolish as to let them have it.

In our case, there was an entity in our home that we had to confront with an exorcism. It was an entity that had first bothered my granddaughter, in which she had turned her life around and managed to separate from, but apparently was still hanging around waiting for the next vulnerable person to come along. I remember now that when Daniel got out of the psych hospital, he insisted on moving into the very room that had been the locus of this being’s presence. I had forgotten that. And he had said, “That’s the only place that I can feel comfortable and safe.” And I cannot help but wonder if he had not been actually drawn there.

His taking of his own life was his decision. But it was a decision that was warped and misguided by something that was seeking the weak and the vulnerable. And since it was seen, it was touched, it was encountered by virtually everyone in the house, including those who came in from the outside, we knew we had a serious problem, because the next vulnerable person there was my dear wife.

And I could not leave and travel, knowing that this was staying in the house with us. So we did what we could have done had Daniel told us what was going on. Father Cassian, who is the rector of our church, and myself, having taken advice from a godly bishop, and having confessed to each other–because the demons will try to use your sins against you, but they cannot do that if the blood of Jesus has covered them–we stood in that room with holy water, with incense, and with prayer. And I can assure you that what was confronting us there was no theory, no superstition; it was evil.

I believe we have succeeded. There had been an immediate lightening of the atmosphere around the house. No one has encountered this since, because we didn’t give it the power to act, because we confronted it. You need never be fearful in the face of evil, if you are focused on Christ and living the life of the Church. You need never be fearful of being separated from God, if you are actively seeking to be with God. That’s why you have to remember the collect for this Sunday: “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people.”

Salvation doesn’t come by chance, osmosis or luck. It comes because we choose to pick up our cross and follow Christ everyday, as He calls us to. Righteousness doesn’t come from reading books, it comes from seeking to gain power and control over our own passions, those habitual sins that become so much a part of us because we are so used to them, but which cut us off from the presence of God. Holiness doesn’t come from just listening or reading about the exploits of saints in the Church, it comes from us saying our own prayers, reading our own Bible, humbling ourselves before each other, repenting of our sins, and allowing Christ’s love to flow through us and embrace all who are around it.

We come into a time of spiritual effort and struggle. And it’s always the time therefore, when those who don’t have our best interests at heart, seek to distract and to divide. But if you stand against them, if you make your cross, if you say the name of Jesus, if you call upon the help and guidance of your guardian angel and of your saint, you have nothing to fear.

You will come to God, you will be with God, you will find the Kingdom.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, God is One. Amen.

~

This homily was preached on Sunday morning, November 24, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Fr. Michael Keiser.

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About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
Video | This entry was posted in 1 Peter 5:8, Ephesians 6:10-20, Fr. Michael Keiser, Hebrews 10:25, Hebrews 12:1, Prayers to Angels & Saints. Bookmark the permalink.

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