Daily Devotion for September 24, 2009
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Gospel of Matthew 8:28-34
Jesus Casts Demons into the Herd of Swine
When he had come to the other side [of the Sea of Galilee] into the country of the Gadarenes, Jesus met two men possessed by demons, who came out of the tombs with great ferocity, so that nobody could get past them. They cried out to him, "What have we to do with you, you Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?"
Now, there was a large herd of swine feeding in the distance. And the demons begged him, saying, "If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine." And he said, "Go." And they came out, and went into the swine: and the whole herd rushed down the slope into the sea, and died in the water.
The people tending the swine fled to the city, and told everything that had happened to the men that were possessed with demons. And all the city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they asked him to leave their lands.
Comment on the Lesson
As outlined in yesterday's geographical comment, the city dwellers had similar Semitic roots to Christ and his company but were more sophisticated, having generally adopted Greek culture. They ate pork and were more likely to speak Greek; some of them would have had mixed emotions about the incident, perhaps like a New York City merchant seeing a religious group from Peoria smashing sex shops in Times Square; the great herd of pigs was enormously valuable, but many residents would find them distasteful or even repugnant. The upshot is that Christ is asked to "get out of town", but not imprisoned or fined.
This wonderful story has many layers of meaning. A great herd of swine, meant for food, would have physically embodied the repudiation of God's word to the band of Hebrews. (Even today, not eating pork may be the most widely-known religious practice associated with Jews, especially among people who aren't very familiar with Judaism.) The destruction of the herd foretells a day of judgment to come. The demons appear to understand the coming judgment, because they complain that Christ is casting them out "before the time", that is, before the day appointed for judgment.
At the same time, Christ has, symbolically and perhaps literally, saved the souls of the two men who had been possessed. He has shown love both in healing the possessed men, and in destroying the symbol of sinful disobediance to Hebrew dietary laws. But his love also contains a warning of destruction and death to those who ignore God's laws.
A Coptic Cross, drawn by Egyptian student Andrew Fanous