Church was snowed out the other day, which was drag because the subject of that Sunday school lesson was going to be the theology of Disney’s Frozen.
Due to the lack of worship that day, I got out my Lutheran books for at-home devotions, and while I was reading through the “Evening Prayer” at the back of The Small Catechism, I noticed something interesting. That and the morning prayer both ask that “the wicked foe have no power over me.” And I couldn’t help but think of Labyrinth. Praying, like what Sarah needed to save her brother and go home safely, relies very strongly on the right words.
In the case of the Goblin King, it was “you have no power over me.” And it gels with us humans’ relationship with both God and Old Nick. Except we usually say “you have no power over me” to the wrong one.
But daily interactions with the devil are all about power. Here’s a trick from my old Lutheran Handbook. Check your pulse. Feel it? Your will is in bondage to sin. Don’t have a pulse? Call 911– you’ve got other things to worry about at the moment. Yes, goofy humor is par for the ELCA course. But in that goofy exercise is Exhibit A.
Secondly, look what the devil offered Jesus during the temptations– food, fame, and power. Or food, power and fame. It depends on whose gospel you’re reading. This emphasizes not only the human desire to have power (that the devil would use it to try and tempt Christ) but also that the tempter has power to give. But whether to give in or not… well, that’s on us.
In fact, telling the devil to go away is actually a recommended way to avoid giving in to temptation. Jesus did it (both to the devil and to St. Peter, who had stuck his foot in his mouth again), Luther did it (find the quote– it’s funny), that insane ferret in Back at the Barnyard did it, and we can, too.
Here’s the sample speech from the book (copyright Augsburg Fortress, 2005). “You’re right, Mr. Devil. I am a sinner. Unfortunately, you have no power here. My Lord loves sinners and has forgiven me forever. There’s nothing you can do about it. Go back to where you came from and quit bothering me!”
It doesn’t have quite the same ring as “through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered,” but plain language is just as effective. You have no power over me! It’s a hard line to remember, yes, and it’s often directed at the wrong player, but when applied correctly, it topples the mighty.
Gee. Mother was right all along– David Bowie (or at least Jareth) is the devil. Please don’t tell her.