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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Today’s 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)

Today’s story from Luke’s Gospel is both graphic and dramatic. The characters and the circumstances stay with us. Jesus has ventured into Gentile (non-Jewish) territory, only to encounter one of the most marginal of residents, a man who has been possessed by demonic spirits for years. Yet even this man, a danger to himself and others, Jesus manages to heal.

I have struggled over the years to grow in my understanding of demonic forces. They can be experienced both individually and collectively. And they are also referred to as powers and principalities.

Scholar and preacher Fred Craddock helps me out with two key insights. “Demonic forces, though hostile to God, are ultimately under God’s control.” Thus Jesus brings a power that can overcome evil itself.

The fear and uneasiness felt by the neighbors of the demonically plagued man also call for our attention. Craddock comments, “A community thus learns to live with demonic forces, isolated and partially controlling them.” The shootings of two African American men by police days before I sat down to reflect, followed by the shooting deaths of five police officers, tragically convey Craddock’s insight.

The horrible gun violence that shatters our common life in this country (along with attacks on other civilians worldwide) underlines the fact that we have learned to live with the demons of this societal reality, and we are isolated from one another by this demonic control as well.

My hope is that we can trust in the justice and peace of our loving God, lived out in Jesus, which can somehow heal us from this demonic possession we experience.

Heal us, O God, that we too might find ourselves in our right mind in the common life we share as your people, through Jesus, our brother and our Savior. Amen.

Written by Jeff Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

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