Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 47; 147:12-20, Jeremiah 33:1-13, Romans 14:1-12, Luke 8:26-39
Today in Luke we read about Jesus healing a man long possessed by demons. A few verses earlier, he had calmed a raging storm. One element these stories have in common is how some people reacted to the events: fearfully. Even though Jesus saves them from physical and spiritual danger, their fear eclipses their gratitude.
What exactly did the people fear? They feared an unpredictable God, or more specifically a Jesus who served an unpredictable God. We might consider them in a patronizing fashion, but we shouldn’t be too hasty to decide we are somehow wiser. What kind of messiah—what kind of God—do we think we serve? We like the Jesus who eats with sinners and raises the dead, but what do we think of the Jesus who drives evil spirits out of a person and into a herd of swine who respond by killing themselves? However we interpret this story, we must grapple with a Jesus—with a God—who operates beyond our understanding. Even when we accept that discipleship has its demands, we like to think we know what those demands will be. We are more comfortable with a God we can define, even subconsciously, than a God we can’t tame to stay within the bounds of human expectations. For if we can’t set expectations on God, we can’t anticipate what expectations God might have of us!
Like the Gerasenes, we may retreat when we realize the “easy” parts of relationship with Christ belong within a larger package, a package we can’t wrap our arms or brains around. When we think of holy or righteous lives, we tend to think of them as peaceful and orderly. An exception may be the missionary who finds herself in dangerous and unknown territory, but we think of her as just that—an exception. The truth is, when we enter fully into relationship with Christ and God, our experience of God is mysterious and wild. Our hearts are at peace, but our lives are one surprise and risk after another. This may seem contradictory, but that’s part of the mystery.
Comfort: Releasing ourselves from the need to limit God frees God to remove the limits from our lives.
Challenge: Each day for a week, write down one thing (news item, scripture passage, etc.) that confuses you about the nature of God. Afterward, thank God for being present and loving even when you don’t understand how.
Prayer: God of Mystery, thank you for not meeting my expectations. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever felt like God was inviting you to do something unexpected?
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