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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, June 23, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 8:26–39

Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”—for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him. (NRSV)

This story is one of the strangest in the Bible. In our day we don’t talk about demon possession. It’s hard to imagine demons carrying on a conversation with Jesus. And why would demons beg to have Jesus send them into a herd of swine that then proceed to plunge to their death? It’s easy to get distracted by all the drama.

Instead, let’s reflect on the presence and power of Jesus as compassionate healer. The “man of the city” who met Jesus as soon as Jesus got out of the boat reminds me of sudden, urgent encounters I have had with people who want my immediate attention and response to their plight. Sometimes in those encounters my heart goes numb. I don’t always ask the person their name or listen to their story. Especially if they look like they are in the thrall of severe mental illness or under the influence of substance abuse, I want to steer clear. I tend to think, “What’s the use?”

Not Jesus. He encountered the man face-to-face, asked his name, and returned him to his right mind. Later, when the man begged Jesus to let him stay with him, Jesus sent him away with the words, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And so the man did.

The important message here is that God cares about each one of us. God doesn’t want us to suffer. God desires our wholeness. God uses divine power to heal us and transform us to become our true selves. God sends us home. That should be our focus.

How has God brought healing into your life?

Thank you for loving me and all your people, Healing God. Open me to be an instrument of your compassion for others. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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