Providentially, I had hoped, I and so many of my small children went to see some little piglets this morning. I say ‘hoped’ because I thought for sure some amazing insight would rise up out of the pig pen about Jesus sending the legion of demons in to the pigs and them casting themselves in to the sea.
Unfortunately, no insight presented itself At All. Instead, muscling my kids back into the car, arguing with them about whether I or whether they would buckle themselves into their gargantuan seats, struggling to get them all out of the car and into the house without loosing shoes and sweaters and bits of bagel, a different word from this text hit me between the eyes--the word ‘go’. Verse 18, As he, that is Jesus, was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And Jesus did not permit him but said to him, “Go”… “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he had mercy on you.”
Which is exactly what I want to do, for just one minute, is tell you how much God has done and how he has had mercy on us.
Last Thanksgiving the Southside Ecumenical Council Thanksgiving Service was at St. Andrew’s Catholic on Conklin Ave. which is now my spiritual and physical home. Earlier that morning, a year ago, as I sat down with my boatload of children, they had all prayed and prayed that we would not have to leave our warm comfortable home on Kendall Ave. They prayed for our old bishop, that he would change his mind about suing us and so forth. And none of their prayers, in my mind, were answered.
The opposite of what they asked for came to be. In January, on a bitterly cold day, amazingly hard working and gracious people from Good Shepherd and from the Shepherd’s Bowl came and helped move us out of that house and into the very comfortable home we know inhabit on Conklin Ave.
The line from one of the prayers in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer has come to my mind over and over these last few months--grant us those things which we dare not, or in our blindness can not ask. In other words, though we may not have been demon possessed, though we may not have been out of our minds and unable to be controlled, we, at Good Shepherd, me around my table with my children, were blind--to the future, to God’s ultimate purpose, to even know what it was that we needed to ask. We prayed for what we thought we wanted.
But God had mercy. He was gracious, abounding in steadfast love showering his grace and mercy so much that we could not even hold it all. Not only did he not answer our prayers prayed in blindness, in his mercy he showed us his good will and pleasure. He showed us that he has plans for us, he made provision for us, he held us in his hand step by step, he manifested his glory and his grace and victory over sin, he used you all of the Southside to encourage, strengthen and provide for us. He had mercy.
Now the prayers of my little ones have changed. Every now and then they remember to pray for our old bishop. But mostly they pray out of gratitude for the beauty in which we live. They pray for those who don’t have enough, for food and water especially, and very often for a ‘good time’. And Romulus, who for months asked every day when we were going to go home, now says ‘here we are in my pretty house’ at least once a day.
Go, this Thanksgiving, tell your friends and family and everybody you happen upon what God has done and how he has had mercy on you.