Deviled Ham

Like the demon-possessed man in the Gospel lesson this past Sunday whose problems were Legion, we often feel as though our lives are possessed by other forces, as if we are chained to patterns and behaviors from which we are helpless to escape.

We’d like be able to blame our struggles on an external force or circumstance, yet, like Legion, the real oppression is almost always inside us. Then one day Legion had an encounter with Life in the person of Jesus and somehow he was set free.

In my sermon last Sunday on living congruently, I talked about one of the most dramatic parables of the Bible. In the story, Jesus sends the legion of demons from a man into a nearby herd of pigs who then run off a cliff and throw themselves into the sea. It seems that one of the lessons that get missed in this story is that even swine are unwilling to live lives that are not congruent with their true nature so they threw themselves off the hill into the sea.

I started to call my sermon Bay of Pigs, but I figured many were too young to remember that piece of history. Actually, I wondered why they didn’t just fish the drowned pigs out and cook them. They could have served Deviled Ham.

Although I could find no evidence of this I couldn’t help but wonder if the swine throwing themselves off the cliff is the origin of the phrase “when pigs fly.”

This story originated in a Jewish context where pork was definitely not kosher. These swine herders apparently were violating their core values to make money by selling pork chops to the Romans.

So it’s not surprising that Jesus, ministering to this disturbed man, somehow got linked with a stampede that destroyed a nearby herd of pigs. Jesus got credit for it, but destroying any of God’s creatures seems to me to be out of character for him. In the story, though, people were making money raising pork, when their own faith/values taught against it.

Perhaps the loss of all that pork money was a lesson that it always costs us to do things that violate our core values.

by Michael Piazza
Co-Executive Director
The Center for Progressive Renewal

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