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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Today’s Scripture Reading | Mark 5:1–20

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.

The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. (NRSV)

Walking along the streets of the city, in such large public spaces, it is not difficult to encounter people experiencing trauma, hurt, and pain. They often hide in plain sight with physical, emotional, and spiritual afflictions that make them less fully themselves and steal from them their unique and God-given gifts. But it can be difficult to respond to their distress.

In the land of the Gerasenes, Jesus encounters someone who has been ostracized and imprisoned in deep pain. This person spends their life in real and metaphorical tombs, only experiencing a shadow of the life they perhaps once had. Many, it seems, were keen on avoiding this burdened person. It was unclear what burdens might be shouldered by the person who dared to help the one in distress. However, Jesus steps forward and engages this possessed man, speaking to the very pain that held him captive for so long.

How often are we willing to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, hearing the cries of our distressed neighbors? Likewise, are we willing to let someone enter the tombs of our own lives and speak words of healing and hope? As we encounter each other on the sidewalk, in shopping aisles, or in church pews, can we listen attentively to each other’s stories of pain and trauma? If we can, then we might experience the healing possibilities Jesus speaks to in this passage. We might discover that those dispossessed of their humanity and dignity can, through the power of relationship and the Spirit of God, receive it back again.

Healing God, you lift up the downcast spirit. Give us hope this day to rise from the tombs of despair. Help us exchange tender words of love and care that will lead us back to life. Amen.

Written by Joseph L. Morrow, Minister for Evangelism

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