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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 11:14–26

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?—for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (NRSV)

There’s nothing quite like opening a story by casting out a demon and closing it with a dire warning about demons not only returning but bringing others with them. The last three verses don’t exactly express reassurance, do they—especially in light of the first verse, where Jesus drives the unclean spirit out of mute man. As with any act of healing, we’d like to view this moment as transformative. We hope this man, suddenly able to speak, is free to take on a new, engaging life.

But we don’t know that. We don’t even know that the man approached Jesus—as so many others did—expressing his desire to be healed. And then we confront the last three sentences Jesus speaks on this matter: be prepared, lest an unclean spirit return to take up residence in our lives again. His teaching reminds us to fill our lives with the right kind of treasure; to store up rewards for ourselves in heaven, or to fill our minds—as Philippians 4:8 instructs us—with whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. We, ourselves, have a responsibility in the healing process. We have work to do. And one thing we can do is hold fast to a vision of life that leaves no room for unclean spirits—such as the vision George MacDonald expressed in one of his Unspoken Sermons:

“For the only air of the soul, in which it can breathe and live, is the present God and the spirits of the just: that is our heaven, our home, our all-right place. Cleansed of greed, jealousy, vanity, pride, possession, all the thousand forms of the evil self, we shall be God’s children on the hills and in the fields of that heaven.”

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.

Written by Sarah Forbes Orwig, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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