Week of 4 Epiphany: Monday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Christ Exorcising the Gerasene Demoniac

What God Has Promised

JANUARY 30, 2017

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 11:32-40 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And what more shall I say?  For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets–who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.  Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life.  Other suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated–of whom the world was not worthy–wandering over deserts, and in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Psalm 31:19-24 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19 How great is your goodness, O LORD!

which you have laid up for those who fear you;

which you have done in the sight of all

for those who put their trust in you.

20 You hide them in the covert of your presence from those who slander them;

you keep them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the LORD!

for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.

22 Yet I said in my alarm,

“I have been cut off from the sight of your eyes.”

Nevertheless, you heard the sound of my entreaty when I cried to you.

23 Love the LORD, all you who worship him;

the LORD protects the faithful,

but repays to the full those who act haughtily.

24 Be strong and let your heart take courage,

all you who wait for the LORD.

Mark 5:1-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.  And when he had come out of the boat, there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who lived among the tombs; and no one could bind him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been bound 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 crying out, and bruising himself with stones.  And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped him; and crying out with a loud voice, he said,

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 him, you unclean spirit!

And Jesus asked him,

What is  your name?

He replied,

My name is Legion; for we are many.

And he begged him eagerly not to send them out of the country.  Now a great herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside; and they begged him,

Send us to the swine, let us enter them.

So he gave them leave.  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 herdsmen fled, and told it in the city and in the country.  And people came to see what it was that had happened.  And they came to Jesus, and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the man who had had the legion; and they were afraid.  And those who had seen it told what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine.  And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their neighborhood.  And as he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.  But he refused, and said to him,

Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.

And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and all men marveled.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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To date in this series of Monday-Saturday devotionals we have been following Hebrews and (except for one day) Mark.  Sometimes the link between the two readings has been difficult to locate, but that is an easy task today.

This day’s reading from Hebrews makes a connection between the faith of our forebears and ourselves, and by extension, between us and those who will follow us.  Great and brave men and women of faith have preceded us; many of them have been heartier than you or I.  They kept faith in God alive in their lifetimes, so we who practice this faith in our times are their legacy.  And we will have faith legacies, too.  The forebears the author of Hebrews mentioned lived and died before the time of Jesus, the fulfillment of promises in which they trusted.  They looked forward; we look backward. Jesus is the focal point.

But does Jesus disturb us or encourage us in faith?  This is a question of how we approach him, not what he seeks to do.  The Gerasene demoniac was most likely a man with severe psychiatric problems, that is, until Jesus cured them.  The man’s neighbors feared him for good reasons when he was ill.  So one might think that they would take comfort when he was well.  At least they might be glad for him.  No!  The neighbors feared him after his recovery, too.  Their basis for self-definition (“I’m not like that guy.”) was gone.  So who were they now?  Jesus had disturbed them.  Instead of using this disturbance as an opportunity for spiritual self-examination and repentance, they asked Jesus to leave, and the former demoniac had to go away, too.  Often we humans prefer not to look closely upon our sins.

And all this is beside the economic costs to the owner(s) of the swine herd.

Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the promise of God.  If Jesus disturbs us, we need for him to disturb us.  The proper response is to recognize the fault(s) Jesus highlights and to repent.  May we do this.  Unfortunately, we tend to ask Jesus to leave, as if he were a scapegoat.

What will you do?  What will your legacy be?

J. B. Phillips translated the end of this Markan passage accordingly:

So the man went off and began to spread throughout the Ten Towns the story of what Jesus had done for him.  And they were all simply amazed.

The former demoniac’s legacy was one of more believers.  Belief was born of simple amazement, which was an appropriate response.  Yet what of the townspeople?  They were not amazed; they were scared.  They had been oddly comfortable with the unpleasant and dangerous status quo, and now they were uncomfortable.  Their legacy was not one of faith.  May your legacy be one of faith–faith that encourages others and brings people closer to the God who loves them.  And, long after you are dead and your name is forgotten by all except God and genealogy enthusiasts, may your legacy of positive, Christian faith thrive.

In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

KRT

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