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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, March 12, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 7:24–37

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” (NRSV)

Have you ever prayed at “intercessory prayer” with a deacon in Stone Chapel after Sunday morning worship? This passage from Mark refers to two intercessions by Jesus that led to miracles. It's a meaty passage that could lend itself to several devotions, especially ones that might probe Jesus' unusual and initially harsh interaction with a Syrophoenician woman, a Gentile.

But today's focus is on the two interventions. Like many intercessory prayers, these were initiated by others. They were on behalf of two marginalized individuals. And because of them, a woman's young daughter cursed with a demonic spirit and a deaf man with speech impediments, brought to Jesus by people who knew him, were made well. These individuals would never by themselves have connected with Jesus. But a compassionate mother and friends set aside their own needs to secure healing for their loved ones.

These intercessions underscore that our own prayers on behalf of others are heard and can help change someone's life for the better. They make us wonder how many other people—marginalized or not, of our faith or not—need our prayers and active assistance.

O Lord, our all-inclusive God and Savior, each of us at times has seemed hopeless and in need of a breakthrough in our lives. Good Samaritans often have offered that solace and support. Please help us recognize those in need, including those outside our traditional circles. Give us the courage and confidence to intercede on their behalf so they can experience Jesus’ power to heal. Amen.

Written by Tim Schellhardt, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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