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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Today’s Reading | Matthew 8:28—9:1

When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” And he said to them, “Go!” So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood. And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town. (NRSV)

We don’t know what the Gadarenes thought of the demoniacs living among the tombs. Presumably, they weren’t welcome in polite company—no one who observed the rules of decency spent much time around dead bodies—but we don’t hear that they were a feared, potent force of evil either.

On the other hand, we know how the Gadarenes felt about Jesus: They wanted him gone.

You might think that our fear of the terrible evils of the world—our demons—might move us to care, force us to act, motivate us to change our lives. But if we can find a place to set them aside, to keep them away from our everyday consciousness (like demoniacs in a graveyard) we can do a pretty good job of going about our lives calmly, with willful ignorance.

The thing we will do our best to remove is often not the evil itself; it’s the person who will not let us ignore it, who will bring our attention back to it, and who wants to help us overcome it. It’s Jesus casting out demons with a great display of power. It’s activists confronting us with evidence of global warming and plans to reduce carbon emissions. It’s community organizations that point out housing segregation and that advance plans for mixed-income developments. It’s support groups that highlight statistics about depression, mental illness, rates of suicide and homelessness, who demand more funding for treatment and social work. It’s protesters who read the names of those murdered by white supremacists and law enforcement, who shout for us to acknowledge that “Black Lives Matter.”

Are we really ready to welcome Jesus into our world and into our lives? Or would we too beg him to leave our neighborhood?

God of holy power and healing, grant me the courage to pay attention to the forces of evil in the world. Give me the strength to hear the truth. Fill me with the grace I need, to enter places of hurt and pain, and to work to bring your peace there. Amen.

Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism and Young Adults

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