Friday, October 28, 2016

Who is Scaring Whom?

Copyright © Edward Riojas

The advertising has been at a feavered pitch for weeks now, and half of us seem terrified. No, I’m not talking about the upcoming election. I am talking of things that go bump in the night.
“Jesus and the Gadarene Demoniac”
15th Century woodcut.

What once was a fairly tame affair on All Hallows’ Eve has jumped the tracks and now brushes awefully close to the demonic side of things. Haunted houses, haunted forests, and haunted corn mazes are now the paranorm, promising to scare the heebie-geebies out of everyone, and reducing macho football players into screaming girls. Ghouls and zombies and demented clowns come out of the woodwork faster than 10-lb. bags of candy corn.

For some reason, everyone likes a good fright. It’s that morbid curiostiy; that strange, little nook in our brains that actually wants to be scared. Even the diciples thought Christ was a ghost as he walked on the water, until He calmed them with the simple words, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” One wonders if any in the sorry group were actually a bit let down knowing there was no ghost.
“Victorious Cross”
© Edward Riojas. 2016.
(Collection of the artist)

Folklore and secular traditions have long since taken Holy Scripture down a dark alley where terror and fear dance with demons. But The Word is unmoved. Movies like “The Exorcist” spun threads off men of the cloth, unnerving viewers and clergy alike. And yet The Word is unmoved.

The real question is: Who is scaring whom? Brilliant minds behind the new Lutheran Service Book intentionally gave the hymn number 666 to “O Little Flock, Fear Not the Foe.” It’s a nod to the Truth, and not simply a vain attempt at doomed heroics.

Perhaps one of the most telling verses in Scripture occurs when Jesus confronts a Gadarene man posessed by a demon called Legion. Even the name is given for our benefit in Mark 5, for we know that Christ does not have some insignificant imp in front of Him; this is hell spewn on the earth; this is our every nightmare. Yet when confronted by The Lord of all; the soon-to-be-victorious Lamb of God, this demon-posessed man utters fear that out-does our own.

“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”

Recognizing The Christ is one thing, but what we do with that simple knowledge is quite another. The Epistle of James puts a sharp point on it when it declares, “ You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!”

Fear, therefore, is something to be owned by the hoardes of hell and by Satan, who has a sphincter where his pie-hole should be. Fear is not ours to own. We have a Savior who has taken our guilt and shame to the cross, hoodwinked hell itself, and rose victorious to new life so that we may follow in His trail.

This side of heaven, Satan still lurks in the shadows. This side of heaven, storms still gather. The darkness can breed anxiety and fear. The children of God, however, are comforted in even the stormiest days of life, when Jesus assures us, “It is I. Do not be afraid.”


  1. I don't have LSB in front of me, but I think 666 is "O Little Flock, Fear Not The Foe." I noticed that, too, and love the symbolism.