Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

January 24, 2009 Demons and Blasphemy

READ: Matthew 8:28-9:8
28 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way.
29 And behold, they cried out, What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?
30 Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them.
31 And the demons begged him, saying, If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.
32 And he said to them, Go. So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters.
33 The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men.
34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.
1 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city.
2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.
3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, This man is blaspheming.
4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, Why do you think evil in your hearts?
5 For which is easier, to say, Your sins are forgiven, or to say, Rise and walk?
6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins—he then said to the paralytic—Rise, pick up your bed and go home.
7 And he rose and went home.
8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

We don't take blasphemy very seriously these days. We also don't take forgiving sin very seriously. I think that's because we don't really believe in blasphemy these days. How can you blaspheme what isn't really there? How can you forgive sin when there really isn't any such thing as sin? It really shouldn't bother us that Jesus healed the man. What should bother us is that nagging question of whether he really was God. If he wasn't really God in human form and he healed the man in God's name, then he was guilty as charged. It isn't so much a question of faith as it is of logic.

C.S. Lewis, writing about the experience his four Pevensie children have in the land of Narnia uses the character of old Professor Kirk to ponder this very question. One of the children, Lucy, had been to Narnia (and gotten there through a wardrobe in a spare room in the professor's house). The other children hadn't and wouldn't believe her story of a magic land where animals talk. Finally they go to visit the professor in his study.

"They went and knocked at the study door, and the Professor said "Come in," and got up and found chairs for them and said he was quite at their disposal. Then he sat listening to them with the tips of his fingers pressed together and never interrupting, till they had finished the whole story. After that he said nothing for quite a long time. Then he cleared his throat and said the last thing either of them expected:

"How do you know," he asked, "that your sister's story is not true?"

"Oh, but -" began Susan, and then stopped. Anyone could see from the old man's face that he was perfectly serious. Then Susan pulled herself together and said, "But Edmund said they had only been pretending."

"That is a point," said the Professor, "which certainly deserves consideration; very careful consideration. For instance - if you will excuse me for asking the question - does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the more reliable? I mean, which is the more truthful?"

"That's just the funny thing about it, sir," said Peter. "Up till now, I'd have said Lucy every time."

"And what do you think, my dear?" said the Professor, turning to Susan.

"Well," said Susan, "in general, I'd say the same as Peter, but this couldn't be true - all this about the wood and the Faun."

"That is more than I know," said the Professor, "and a charge of lying against someone whom you have always found truthful is a very serious thing; a very serious thing indeed."

"We were afraid it mightn't even be lying," said Susan; "we thought there might be something wrong with Lucy."

"Madness, you mean?" said the Professor quite coolly. "Oh, you can make your minds easy about that. One has only to look at her and talk to her to see that she is not mad."

"But then," said Susan, and stopped. She had never dreamed that a grown-up would talk like the Professor and didn't know what to think.

"Logic!" said the Professor half to himself. "Why don't they teach logic in these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth."

Susan looked at him very hard and was quite sure from the expression on his face that he was no making fun of them.

"But how could it be true, sir?" said Peter.

"Why do you say that?" asked the Professor.

"Well, for one thing," said Peter, "if it was true why doesn't everyone find this country every time they go to the wardrobe? I mean, there was nothing there when we looked; even Lucy didn't pretend the was."

"What has that to do with it?" said the Professor.

"Well, sir, if things are real, they're there all the time."

"Are they?" said the Professor; and Peter did'nt know quite what to say.

"But there was no time," said Susan. "Lucy had no time to have gone anywhere, even if there was such a place. She came running after us the very moment we were out of the room. It was less than minute, and she pretended to have been away for hours."

"That is the very thing that makes her story so likely to be true," said the Professor. "If there really a door in this house that leads to some other world (and I should warn you that this is a very strange house, and even I know very little about it) - if, I say, she had got into another world, I should not be at a surprised to find that the other world had a separate time of its own; so that however long you stay there it would never take up any of our time. On the other hand, I don't think many girls of her age would invent that idea for themselves. If she had been pretending, she would have hidden for a reasonable time before coming out and telling her story."

"But do you really mean, sir," said Peter, "that there could be other worlds - all over the place, just round the corner - like that?"

"Nothing is more probable," said the Professor, taking off his spectacles and beginning to polish them, while he muttered to himself, "I wonder what they do teach them at these schools."

"But what are we to do?" said Susan. She felt that the conversation was beginning to get off the point.

"My dear young lady," said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression at both of them, "there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying."

"What's that?" said Susan.

"We might all try minding our own business," said he. And that was the end of that conversation.

So let me ask, when you hear stories from pentecostals or people from third-world countries about healings and the raising of the dead, what sort of reaction do you have? Do you pooh-pooh it as fantasy? Do you smile and say, "I have heard things like that happen in far off places," wanting to patronize those of weak mind? Or has it ever occurred to you that maybe... just maybe... the stories are not just stories. Let's face it. If Jesus was not a blasphemer; if he really was God in the flesh, then maybe in places where people's experience is not clouded by their capital; in places where the poor need miracles because there is no medicine; in places where Jesus still walks the earth through the work of his disciples, maybe there still are miracles.

Why don't they teach logic in these schools?

Jon

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