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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, June 18, 2022  

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

Then they arrived at the region of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on shore, a man from the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had not worn any clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him, shouting, “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 stampeded 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 became frightened. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then the whole throng of people of the surrounding region 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 out 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)

In one of my favorite films, The Princess Bride, one of the protagonists, Inigo Montoya, is asked in the closing scene what he will do now that his lifelong quest to avenge his father has been completed. He responds with perplexity: “I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it's over, I don't know what to do with the rest of my life.” There are struggles that consume too many of our waking hours. There are battles we always seem to be fighting with ourselves and others, and it is hard to let them go.

In this most peculiar of healing and exorcism stories, Jesus offers a possessed man release from the ills that have tormented him. Kicking the demons out of the man’s body and into a group of pigs cast off the side of a hill, Jesus dramatically brings to an end the battle that consumed much of this man’s life. But when the townspeople heard what Jesus had done, the reaction wasn’t what you might expect. Instead of gratitude, they expressed outrage and fear. Which raises the question: Did the townspeople express this outrage about the prior condition of the man who needed healing? Why weren’t they cheering Jesus, who had not only healed this long-suffering neighbor of theirs, but through Jesus’ actions stopped the cycle of torment?

The irony here is that sometimes we become so accustomed to our own fears that we fail to see how we live without them. They take up permanent residence in our lives, and we are loathe to leave them behind. We resist having them exorcised. A future without our fears can be as unsettling as life with them. But this man, who begs to follow Jesus, is sent back to his community, the one so enwrapped in fear, to proclaim that there is vitality and hope beyond the diminished life for which they have settled.

What kind of fear is God calling you to walk away from? What fears do you think God is calling our congregations, cities, and society to walk away from?

Liberating God, who gives relief to those who are burdened, help us this day to not give into a spirit of fear. Let us boldly seek justice and righteousness, trusting that what you intend for our lives is worthy of our courage. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Associate Pastor for Evangelism and Community Engagement

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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