Demons & Ignorance at St Mary, Leake

It was my pleasure to call this summer at the Church of St Mary, Leake, in North Yorkshire. I have often admired this old lady as I zoomed up the A19 between York and Teeside. Indeed, this busy arterial road is the only method of approach. Its only neighbour is a gigantic farm, the original village of Leake having disappeared 500 years ago courtesy of Scottish raiders or the deadly plague. I drove up towards the farm and parked by the gate. I approached this wonderful building with anticipation, and I was not disappointed. Although it is probably Norman, some of the stones and carvings appear Saxon. It is left open for visitors and I had much to occupy me, within and without.

I was struck in particular by four carvings. Two are made of wood, and are poppyheads or pew ends attributed to the famous Ripon School of Carvers in 1519. One appears to be a dragon, and the other a dog; both gave me the unfortunate impression of defecating on their respective pews.

The other two were a pair of carved faces, attached to the masonry. Both human, but my! A right pair of simpletons they look. Whether the sculptor deliberately wished to portray a couple of gormless morons, dumbly observing the events within, or whether his carving talents were limited to this stylistic expression, I cannot be certain. Suffice to say, the pooping beasts look far more intelligent and express greater awareness than the two blokes. I’ll confess to seeing these two men’s expressions before, when I preach away at some churches: glazed eyes, bored expressions, brains utterly unchallenged and unengaged (for which the preacher must surely bear some blame).

The fallen angels we commonly call demons, who despise our race and hate our God, who would gladly excrete their filth into every human heart, understand well enough spiritual truth. James says they know of God (and tremble). To the Lord Jesus at the Gadarenes, Legion confessed his anticipation of coming judgement. To the sons of Sceva, they explained that they knew of both Jesus and Paul. Yet we humans are often more like our two friends at Leake- dumb and dumber. We are not as knowledgeable or fallen as the demons, but we are certainly ignorant and thick-headed. Share the gospel with an average Briton and you’ll receive a stupid expression- or be offered a stupid remark. Truly, we became futile in [our] thoughts, and [our] foolish hearts were darkened…Professing to be wise, [we] became fools. When the gospel is truly preached, the demons tremble and loosen their bowels, while the sons of Adam are too witless to comprehend it- unless God first opens their minds.

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 16:15-17