Things That Haunt Us Every Day
I love the movie “Up.” The depth of the message for adults is phenomenal. Carl is a widower weighed down by his past promises and his sense of failing his one true love Ellie. All this is symbolized by the house that Carl drags with him throughout most of the movie. Those promises and failures have bound him as sure as Lazarus was bound in burial clothes. Those memories and failures are the Vampires in Carl’s life, vampires which suck the life and energy and joy right out him.
Today I want us to explore some of the Vampires in our lives and how Christ can help us and lead us to defeat them.
A. Vampires in the movies today are very different than the one in Bram Stoker’s book Dracula and the early movie Nosferatu. Folk lore says vampires are beings who live off of or feed on the life force and essence of others. They were evil, soulless creatures of the night but with the popularity of books and movies like Twilight, today vampires have feelings and have learned to live in the light.
The notion of vampires has been around for millennia in Mesopotamian, Hebrew, Greek and Roman culture. But the Vampire lore we’re most familiar with wasn’t developed until the early 1700’s. The first and most influential book was John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” published in 1819. The second and most popular book was Bram Stoker’s 1897 Dracula.
B. Much of the folklore about Vampires parallels Christianity and is usually the antithesis of Christian belief. For example, Christ is the Light of the world who brings God’s Light into our lives. Vampires live in darkness because the Light kills them.
Vampires have a form eternal life, they have immortality but are cursed with walking this earth and never quenching their thirst for the essence of life. Christians are promised eternal life with God through Christ who is the water which quenches all thirsts.
Under a vampire’s spell and bite the victim lost their will and became just an empty shell needing to feed on others over and over again. Through the love of Christ we are set free from the darkness of sin, filled full of grace and forgiveness and given new life.
By drinking the blood of others, Vampires are doomed to their life forever. But by celebrating the sacrifice of Christ through the elements of Holy Communion, which represent both the body and blood of Christ, we are set free to become new creations in Christ. The doom of our sin is lifted, as are we.
Finally, vampires fear the cross, it causes them to shudder and turn away. Christians, on the other hand, embrace the cross because it symbolizes Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf and brings us great joy.
II. VAMPIRES AROUND US:
A. We know the vampire of folklore is make believe and has no real substance. However, there are other kinds of vampires in the world today. These vampires suck the energy and life right out of us.
And there are a number of types of vampires in this category. There are Emotional Vampires, Spiritual Vampires and Energy Vampires. Any area of life that sucks the energy out of you can be seen as a vampire of sorts. Pet Peeves can be vampires for some.
This past week I asked a lot of people to name their biggest pet peeve; the one that almost always pushes them over the edge. For me it’s the phone company’s inability to fix a simple problem. It drives me over the brink when I dial a number only to get that awful multi-tone beep and the annoying voice which says “It is not necessary to dial a 1 please hang up and dial again.” or the opposite “You must first dial a 1 when making this call please hang up and dial again.”
I know they have the technology to fix this because our cell phones are smart enough to determine which number needs a 1 and which doesn’t. But on to your pet peeves.
A couple of the biggies were: Drivers who don’t use a turn signal or don’t turn off their turn signal. People who smack and pop their chewing gum. Couples who sit on the same side of the booth when there is no one on the other side. Parents who bring their young children to R rated films. Going through the drive thru, then having to go back when they mess your order up. Roadmaps that aren’t folded correctly. The noise made when people rub their fingers on balloons or styrofoam. Procrastination. Jerks who take up 2 parking spaces. Children who lie. And one of the weirdest ones, bobby pins.
Pet peeves, depending on how we react, can be big energy suckers. They distract us from the task at hand and through the anger they generate can take us to a darker side of ourselves.
B. Pet Peeves aren’t the only Energy Vampires out there. Psychologist use the term Energy Vampires metaphorically to describe to people whose influence leaves another person feeling exhausted, unfocused, and depressed.
American author Albert Bernstein uses the phrase “emotional vampire” for people with various personality disorders who are often considered to drain emotional energy from others.
Most of us have experienced both Emotional and Energy Vampires in our lives. Their very presence in the same room threatens our sense of calm and emotional or spiritual our equilibrium. Just seeing them begins to drain us of energy. Our insides begin to quiver and tie in knots and we feel a flush of anxiety run through our veins.
C. There are also Spiritual Vampires which suck the life out of us. One of the biggest Spiritual Vampires is people sitting in Judgment of us. When someone who gets divorced is told by their church that they can no longer be a part of that congregation, the wound goes deep.
When someone attends worship on a Sunday when the church is serving Holy Communion and they are told they can’t take part because they don’t belong, they leave drained rather than filled.
When people look at tattoos or piercings; hairstyle or clothing; skin color or nationality to determine a person’s worth, walls are built rather than bridges. God’s unconditional love is denied to one of God’s precious children who was created in God’s image just like the rest of us.
Some of these Spiritual Vampires are even more subtle than that. These are the ones that were planted in our psyches a long time ago. These are the ones that make us question our relationship with God. These are the voices which tell us that God could never love us. Or God could never forgive us.
These are the voices, the old tapes in our heads that play during times of extreme stress, that tell us we can’t succeed, that we’re worthless, that we’ll never amount to a hill of beans because everything we do will fail. These are the voices that make us question God’s love and Christ’s salvation. These are the voices which make us feel like an outcast.
D. But then there are the Spiritual Vampires we propagate within ourselves through jealousy, anger, bitterness, an unforgiving spirit or plotting to ‘get even’ with someone. These don’t just drain us emotional or spiritually, these drain our souls and build chasms between us and others. These build chasms between us and God.
The only purpose these thoughts and actions serve is to prevent us from living and experiencing the joy and fullness of life in Christ. If we hold on to our resentments and hurts, and constantly relive our anger and pain, then we only punish ourselves, not the ones who caused it. And then that anger; that pain seeps into every aspect of our life, tainting everything and draining our soul.
III. DEFEATING THE VAMPIRES:
A. So, how do we defeat these vampires? In the movies all you needed was sunlight and a wooden stake through the heart.
In a sense that’s all you need for these vampires as well. When we pull these vampires into the Light of the Son of God, they are exposed for what they really are; denizens of the dark. What was once huge and frightening in the dark, shrivels to a powerless nothing in the light and love and forgiveness offered by Christ.
And when we fill our hearts with the stake upon which Christ died, the cross of Calvary, and embrace all that it means for us, it will give us life and defeat the darkness of sin in our souls.
But in order for us to use these tools to defeat the vampires, we have to unleash the power of God’s Word and the power of God’s Holy Spirit to raise us to new life. We have to shine the light of Christ into the darkest reaches of our souls. And we do that through prayer. We do it through the study of Scripture and the Scriptural promises. But mainly we do it by living in the Spirit.
Listen to what Paul writes in Galatians 5:16-25 (NRSV)
 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.
 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.
 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.
 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,
 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,
 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
B. If we live by the Spirit then we will be able to take a bite out of the vampires in our lives, especially the Spiritual Vampires in our lives.
Living by the Spirit and being Guided by the Spirit means we have to take the time to feed our soul. We have to take time to pray. We have to focus on the fruit of the spirit. We have to cultivate the soil of our souls so the fruit of the spirit can grow and bear fruit in our lives.
So let me give you a couple of simple prayers, easy to remember, which will help you plant, grow, cultivate and harvest the fruit of the spirit in your daily lives.
The first is simply to pray to be filled with the fruit of the spirit.
“Lord, fill me with the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Let them take root in all I do.”
Second, use the breath prayer we use when we begin Worship. Doctors have said that deep-breathing techniques are extremely effective in handling depression, anxiety, stress and even digestive disorders. So, use the Breath Prayer to fill you with the presence of God. And if you need more than just breathing to help you focus, then as you breathe in pray simple words like: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Savior, Friend.” Or “Come Holy Spirit, Come.” Fill up all the places of your mind and spirit with Christ.
Maybe you need a little deeper prayer, one of my favorites that I learned in seminary is very simple, “Lord, you love me, a sinner saved by grace, and I love myself, unconditionally.”
Pray it as you breathe in very slowly, then as you are releasing your breath, imagine what that would feel like and look like in your life. Repeat this prayer three times in a row. Do it three times a day. It WILL make a difference. “Lord, you love me, a sinner saved by grace, and I love myself, unconditionally.”
C. There are some of you who are thinking, that’s too touchy feely for me. Or maybe you’re thinking, it’s got to be harder than that, there has to be more to it than just breathing and prayer.
Well there is more to it than just breathing and prayer. There’s the living out of our faith. That’s the hard part. Fueling our souls, fueling our spirit, fueling our minds and bodies is the simple part. When you gas up you vehicle before a trip it’s simple, it’s easy, it doesn’t take long but it’s essential to your goal of getting from here to wherever you are going.
It’s the same with living by the Spirit and being Guided by the Spirit. Your GPS won’t help you if you don’t turn it on. Take time to turn on God’s Powerful Spirit through prayer and study. When you do, it will help you take a bite out of the vampires of life. It will help you be victorious over the Emotional and Spiritual Vampires that suck the energy out of your life.
Do any of you know what the highest scoring college football game in history was? It took place 96 years ago on October 7, 1916. Georgia Tech played Cumberland University. Cumberland University never made a first down, never scored a single point. It’s rumored that Coach John Heisman let the Yellow Jackets run up the score against the Cumberland Bulldogs because, earlier that year, the Bulldogs had crushed them in baseball with a score of 22 to 0, under allegations that Cumberland brought in professionals as ringers.
Whatever the reason, the final score between the Ramblin’ Wreck of Geogia Tech and Cumberland was 222 to 0. Georgia Tech never threw the ball, it was all a running game.
The thing is, there never was and never will be any dispute over who was victorious in that match.
For us, through the Sacrifice and the Cross of Christ, through the empty tomb and the resurrection, there can be no dispute over God’s victorious defeat of sin and death.
That’s the kind of victory Jesus wants to have and can have in our lives every single day if we will live by the Spirit and be guided by the Spirit; if we will take time to pray and take time to let the words of Scripture be inscribed on our hearts.
The Emotional, Energy and Spiritual Vampires of the world are real. They drain us and suck our spirits dry. But we can take a bite out of them and be victorious over them simply by spending a little time in prayer and a little time reading the Scripture.
Bow your head and bend your knees, open you Bible and take a bite out of the vampires in your life.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.