Wednesday, March 4, 2020

What's In Your Personal Witches Market?


Dear Friends,

A Monk tells of his Lenten pilgrimage around the world and describes the “el Mercado de las Brujas” (the witches market) in La Paz, Bolivia. The street is lined with shops and sidewalk stalls selling love potents and magic charms. Dried frogs that will attract money and make you wealthy. Differently-colored candles that release their unique magical powers when burned. Rows of dried llama fetuses are for sale and the monk is told that no one in Bolivia would even think of building a house without first burying a llama fetus under the foundation for good luck. Reading the Monk’s Lenten Devotional with its description of the witches market brought back long ago memories of walking into the witchcraft store at the Redondo Beach pier. 

Incongruously located among the retail stores selling ice cream, clothing, brightly-colored garden flags and wind chimes, we found this strange store on the second floor at the top of a narrow wooden staircase. My then wife looked inside, shuddered and refused to step over the threshold. Curious about the underworld of witchcraft I knew existed but had never seen, I went inside. The faint smell of candle wax filled the small store and shelves were lined with small bottles of powders and liquids. Books on witchcraft lined the shelves on one wall, dark cloaks and long dresses on hangers filled another. The brown-skinned woman wearing a gypsy outfit (who saw my wife refuse to come in with me) helpfully asked me if I would like a love spell and as I shook my head no, I noticed there were dried chicken feet tied to large loops of twine on the counter. The witch told me they were to be worn around the neck for protection against evil. As I was considering buying a chicken foot necklace as a thoughtful Valentine’s Day gift for my wife, I noticed some large glass jars filled with brown liquid. The contents were just shadowy shapes floating in the dark liquid but looking more closely at one, I saw a face and large dead eyes of some creature staring out at me. I suddenly felt an urgent desire to leave this spiritually dark place. Apparently, the dried chicken feet that guaranteed protection against all evil and misfortune were defective since a short time after our visit, a huge fire destroyed the witchcraft shop along with the other stores, restaurants and nearly the entire Redondo Beach pier. 

What does all this have to do with our Lenten journey as we seek to discern and then cast off what comes between us and our Lord? As Christian believers, we all know that our trust should be in God and not in an object like a dried chicken foot, but is it really? 

Many Catholics wear a cloth square called a “scapular” around their neck and under their clothing to protect them from evil and misfortune. Wearing the scapular guarantees salvation and is their ticket to heaven when they die. Protestants scoff at this Catholic superstition as they go to the healing evangelist’s web site to buy an “anointed” prayer cloth that heals all disease and ailments when it is rubbed on the body. 

A good Catholic would never hang a small glass amulet filled with desiccated lizard from their rearview mirror to prevent misfortune. They hang a St. Christopher’s medal or a special rosary from the rearview mirror to provide protection from auto accidents. We would not even consider going to a fortuneteller or palm reader to find out what fate has destined for our future – we depend on our daily horoscope instead.

We don’t bury dead animal fetuses under our house for good luck, but Catholics, Orthodox and Lutherans honor Saint Joseph, the patron saint of house sales, and to guarantee a quick sale on a home, many bury a statue of the saint in the ground (Important Note: Statue must be buried within 12 inches from the For Sale sign to work) and then you must say a special prayer for nine days. Buy it on Amazon.

Mormons would shun a New Age crystal worn around the neck or carried in a pocket or purse to provide spiritual protection. Instead, all Mormons are required by their faith to wear special underwear called “temple garments” 24 hours a day to provide spiritual protection and ward off evil. 

Protestant Pentecostals would denounce Wicca incantations for wealth as demonic while those same Protestants, who believe in the Prosperity Gospel, “take authority over their circumstances” in prayer and with the “power of their words” command that their bank accounts be filled with money. Is there really any difference between a Wicca incantation or a “name it and claim it” prayer? Magic is our attempt to seize divine power in order to use it – we pray my will be done. Christian religion is trust in Christ and devotion toward God and His divine power – we pray Thy will be done.

My intention is not to mock the sincere beliefs of Catholics, Orthodox, Mormons, Protestants or Pentecostals but to show how easy it is for all of us Christians to replace our trust in God alone with something we wear, carry or bury. Trusting in any thing for physical and spiritual protection is superstition. When I was a young boy, I carried my “lucky” rabbit’s foot with me at all times for protection. My boyhood scars are proof that it didn’t work.

This Lent we might want to consider whether we’ve replaced our trust in someONE with someTHING. The aforementioned Monk suggests that “Lent is a time to stroll through your own personal witches market and take a careful inventory of the things you tend to rely on when God is not enough, or when God is not answering as quickly as you would like.” Discern what are the created things you depend on for guidance, direction and protection in your life instead of trusting in the Creator Himself. Those “God-substitutes” are the things that you might want to consider giving up for Lent. 

Many years ago I learned a little-known worship song and taught it to the congregation. In Christ alone..I place my trust! It has become the Christian “theme song” of my life. May it become your’s too.


Listen to IN CHRIST ALONE here


No comments:

Post a Comment

The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

enter your email to receive the AMEN Corner every wednesday