Devil Sunday got me thinking…

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by Erin Counihan / March 12, 2014

We church folk like to name our Sundays.
Easter Sunday
Palm Sunday
Transfiguration Sunday
Epiphany Sunday
Baptism of the Lord Sunday
Pentecost Sunday
and on and on.

Well, I’m offering a new one. Devil Sunday. This past Sunday at PCOL was Devil Sunday, the week in which we read and discuss the temptation of Christ in worship. If you came to either of our Sunday services, you heard a lot about our little, red pointy-headed foe this week. In the morning service, Kimmy Stokesbary gave us a solid list of devil characters in our books, movies and culture. And at the evening WINK service, Jeff Vamos gave us the history of the devil in biblical times. I was thinking that those of us who double dipped on Devil Sunday services should have won a prize, like a little red rubber ducky devil, or an “I worshipped with the devil…twice” t-shirt or something.Devil

And although I didn’t come away from these services with a prize, I did leave with a nagging question. At WINK, Jeff asked us, how does the devil influence you?

Now, I fall into the camp that doesn’t necessarily believe in the devil as an entity. I don’t actually think there really is a little, red pointy-headed foe out there trying to seduce me into evil ways. But I do see a whole lot of evil in this world and often in my own heart. And whatever character, power, presence or force that draws me toward that evil, and away from my relationship with God (as preacher Kimmy would point out) has tremendous influence over me.

In my life, this devil presence mostly manifests through laziness and complacency. I try to do good as often as possible, but some days, I just want to stay home in my jammies and watch Netflix. I know there are service projects happening on campus on a certain day, but it is sunny out and my dog is really cute. I know there is a group trying to organize a rally in Trenton, but I don’t know any of those players and wouldn’t know who to call even if I wanted to get involved. I watched a documentary about food production, but keep buying the cheap meat a Shoprite because it is right there and works with my budget. I have neighbors who are being racially profiled and targeted, but I am so tired of race discussions that go nowhere that I simply stop showing up for the conversations.

I’m not saying we all have to fight all battles on all fronts. We can’t. We’d never have time to eat or sleep or buy devil rubber duckies. But if I am being honest with myself, that devil presence in my life sneaks in and tells me it’s okay to skip a meeting or a class or a service project or worship or a neighborhood function or a play date with a kid, and to take a load off, and rest.  So that’s the devil I keep watch for.

How about you? How does the devil influence you?

2018-04-14T11:37:47+00:00March 12th, 2014|Blog--Lent, News, Pastor's Blog|


  1. Louise Johnson March 12, 2014 at 11:32 am - Reply

    I receive daily quotes from Joan Semenuk on a variety of topics…but this past Sunday being, as you put it, Devil Sunday, the topic was Temptation. This quote is from Barbara Brown Taylor and really put temptation in modern terms – at least terms that I can relate to. See what you think.

    “The simplest definition of an addiction is anything we use to fill the empty place inside of us that belongs to God alone. That hollowness we sometimes feel is not a sign of something gone wrong. It is the holy of holies inside of us, the uncluttered throne room of the Lord our God. Nothing on earth can fill it, but that does not stop us from trying.
    Whenever we start feeling too empty inside, we stick our pacifiers into our mouths and suck for all we are worth.
    They do not nourish us, but at least they plug the hole.
    To enter the wilderness is to leave them behind, and nothing is too small to give up.
    Even a chocolate bar will do. For forty days, simply pay attention to how often your mind travels in that direction.
    Ask yourself why it happens when it happens. What is going on when you stat craving a Mars bar? Are you hungry? Well, what is wrong with being hungry? Are you lonely? What is so bad about being alone? Try sitting with the feeling instead of fixing it and see what you find out. Chances are you will hear a voice in your head that keeps warning you what will happen if you give up your pacifier. “You’ll starve You’ll go nuts. You won’t be you anymore.” If that does not work, the voice will move to level two: “That’s not a pacifier. That’s a power tool. Can’t you tell the difference?” If you do not fall for that one, there is always level three: “If God really loves you, you can do whatever you want. Why waste your time on this dumb exercise?” If you do not know whom that voice belongs to, read Luke’s story again. Then tell the devil to get lost and decide what you will do for Lent.
    Better yet, decide whose you will be.
    Worship the Lord your God and serve no one else.
    Expect great things, from God and from yourself.
    Believe that everything is possible.
    Why should any of us settle for less.
    –from Home By Another Way by Barbara Brown Taylor

  2. jeffvamos March 12, 2014 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    Wow – excellent quote from BBT.

    As for me – I believe that the Devil is indeed real, just as the word Evil is real – it is a thing (a word, a being) that stands for something, that helps us identify and speak about how that thing operates in the world. I don’t believe the devil is real in the same sense as, say, Adolph Hitler, or Pol Pot. The Devil is simply a convenient way of thinking about the character of evil as embodied in a…character. Is The Grand Inquisitor real? Are Romeo and Juliet real? Surely they are.

    The interesting thing about Satan, the Devil, The Tempter…is that, as I understand him (her?) he has no power of his own. His is the power that we give away, when we succumb to what is not-life, when we are tempted to fill that space – the unfillable “holy of holies” – with that which is less than God. When we’re tempted to abuse things and qualities that are essentially good – power, desire, money, things.

    Evil is, indeed, real. And I find it disheartening sometimes that it’s hard for us to speak about it, especially about our own participation in evil. One of the reasons I appreciate Calvin is that he had no illusions about the fact that we are horribly and irrevocably damaged by a will that is not quite whole, that does not naturally desire the good, but tends toward evil. But the good news is this: that’s why we need grace. We can’t do it on our own. God provides the healing power to turn us toward the right direction, and “choose life,” as the Deuteronomist exhorts.

    I suppose this is one angle of view that allows us to say that the Devil may be odious, may tempt us to do what is ultimately not life-giving. But there’s a purpose for him. C. G. Jung wanted to include the Devil in the Godhead – as the trickster figure that keeps us honest. Without the trickster to tempt Jesus, would he have been able to withstand the journey ahead? In our attempt to divorce ourselves from what’s evil, do we often cut off an essential part of who we are – our “shadow side,” as Jung referred to it?

    So – the Devil. Woe to us if we don’t take him seriously. But perhaps not too seriously.

    Jeff V.

  3. Bob Sinner March 20, 2014 at 11:04 pm - Reply

    I think CS Lewis captures the devil’s snare very well in his “Screwtape Letters.” He captures humankind’s greatest weaknesses.
    Here is one of arch devil Screwtapes advice on how “to snare a human soul” :
    “Indeed the safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (a truly scary thought to me)

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