Thursday, December 27, 2012

Luke 24

Our last reading for 2012 -- I hope these comments and this reading have been a blessing to all of you who have been reading along with me and following these blogs. The Christ Church community will be embarking on a new reading plan for 2013 -- visit our web site: for the list and directions.

Luke 24 is the resurrection of Jesus. It begins 1-12 with the discovery of the empty tomb. Most of the time we don't need to be taught, we need to be reminded of what we already know. The angel in the tomb replies (as will Jesus in a later encounter) he told you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again (7)." It is a curious fact of the resurrection story that the first bearers of the good news were women and would not have been able to give testimony of the courts of the time. One scandal of the early Christian movement is that women were the first evangelists.

The Emmaus story (13-35) tells of an encounter between the risen Christ and two disciples -- one unnamed the other with the Egyptian name of Cleopas which is the masculine form of the name Cleopatra. Jesus greets them, speaks to them, teaches them but they do not recognize him until they arrive at the table in Emmaus and Jesus blesses and breaks the bread "then their eyes were opened and they recognized him (31)." This rather obvious communion imagery is significant in the life of the early Christian movement. It matters to us because it moves the understanding of communion from "Last Supper" and the doom and gloom of Holy Thursday to a moment of recognition and new understanding and celebration of the resurrected Christ!

Returning to Jerusalem (35) they hear that Jesus has appeared to Peter and the others when he has dined with them, taught them and commissioned them. The language is a little different than in Matthew 28 but the intent is the same "You are witnesses of these things. and see I am sending upon you what my Father promised . . .  (47-48). Jesus ascends to heaven and the apostles are left waiting for Pentecost.

Luke 23

Finishing our reading through the New Testament in a year we come to the final chapters of Luke.

Luke 23 is Good Friday. Again, familiar reading, Jesus goes from Pilate to Herod and back again. He is sentenced to death by the Roman Governor (guaranteeing that he would die by crucifixion rather than stoning) see 23:13-25. Crucifixion was a particular cruel method of execution. Death was by asphyxiation. The body suspended on the cross would not be able to breathe properly, over time the lungs would fill with fluid and the crucified would die. This often took several days. It was so painful the Romans invented a new word to describe the pain: excruciating (that is pain from the cross). The arms would either be tied or nailed to the cross beam (the nails likely going through the wrist -- in the Greek/Roman anatomy the wrist was part of the hand so when the text says he "shows them his hands and feet" it is anatomically correct for the understanding of the time). The feet would be nailed through the ankles to the sides of the pole so that the body would have to push forward - enhancing the pain and increasing the pressure on the body.

The exchange between Jesus and the "good" thief is often told. At the moment of this man's death he seeks mercy from Jesus. "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" is one of the finer prayers in the gospel. And, Jesus promise, "today you will be with me in Paradise!" one of the greatest words of hope ever written.

Jesus dies (44-49) and is buried (50-56). Joseph of Arimathea would have been a new comer to Jerusalem. Had he grown up there he would have been known as Joseph son of ..... When someone in that culture was away from the place they were raised they were known by their name and where they came from. Jesus is called Jesus son of Joseph in Nazareth but Jesus of Nazareth every where else. Joseph is new to town which is probably why his tomb had yet to be used -- no one in his family in Jerusalem had died yet. 

Luke 2

The Birth and infancy stories of Jesus as recorded in Luke. The story of the birth of Jesus is one of the best known and told passages in all the Bible. The back drop of the Roman Empire, the birth of Jesus, the shepherds in the fields the choir of angels and, my favorite verse, at the end of the events -- Mary, "pondering these things in her heart."

Verse 21 -- 8 days later. If Jesus was born on December 25 then this would be January 1 (the 8th day) Mary's son is circumcised and named "Jesus".

22-38 are two stories of encounters with people waiting for the messiah. The first is an elderly man named Simeon who had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah. When he goes to the Temple for prayer he encounters the holy family and blesses the child -- notice "a light to the Gentiles and glory for Israel in 32" -- reminding us of the purpose of the coming of the Son of God.
     The second story is the prophet, Anna (or Hanna) who was at least 84 years old (depending on how you read the Greek she could be closer to 100) who blesses the child and praises God for the privilege of seeing the messiah.

The family moves to Nazareth in 39-40. This is followed by the story of Jesus at the age of 12 visiting the temple in Jerusalem with his parents (41-51). Most of us read this and can't figure out how Jesus parents could miss him for a whole day when traveling back to Nazareth. The answer is now complicated. Here is what I think: People traveled in caravans in those days. The women and children would start walking early in the morning (with a few men for protection) and the men would begin walking later in the day -- they would meet up late afternoon after the women had set up camp and were preparing dinner. At 11 Jesus would have traveled with the women (not yet being an adult) at 12 Jesus would have traveled with the men -- being an adult in their understanding (having passed the age of Bar Mitzvah). Mary, assuming he was with the men, wouldn't have looked until night. Joseph, assuming he was with the women, wouldn't have looked until night -- the classic "what, I thought he was with you . . ." follows.

In the meantime, Jesus is playing Rabbi with the teachers in the temple: listening and asking questions and everyone is "astonished at his wisdom." When confronted by his parents his enigmatic response: "I must be in my Father's house" leaves them a bit baffled. He returns to Nazareth with them and, curiously, we don't hear any stories of Jesus until he turns 30 and is being baptized by John in the River Jordan.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Luke 1

It is Christmas eve 2012 and we are reading the precursor to the Christmas story. Luke 1 has two amazing pregnancies -- And old woman (and her older husband) who have been childless but are blessed to discover that she is pregnant and that the son she is carrying will be called John. We know John as John the Baptizer. His parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, are great examples of faithful waiting on God. John's story is Luke 1:5-25; 57-80.

The visit of the angel Gabriel to Nazareth and the home of a young woman named Mary really is the beginning of the Christmas story. It is quite -- no angel choir but one lone angel -- it is isolated -- no shepherds or choirs or visiting magi but one young woman with an amazing choice. How would you choose? I believe Mary has a choice in the story. Would you choose to bring the Son of God into the world -- a decision that ruins her reputation and whatever hope of normalcy she may have had for her life or family -- or would you choose to take the mundane and normal path? Mary's response to the angel is "Let it be with me according to your word." How many victories, how much grace and peace and justice and mercy could be won in our world if our responses matched hers. Let it be with me according to your word!

Mary's song of praise, often called the Magnificat, is found in 1:46-55. In Mary's poem, which is patterned after Hannah's song in 1 Samuel, we find that the arrival of her son will be the total disruption of the world as we know it. Mighty are lowered, the lowly are raised up. The hungry are fed and the rich are sent empty away. It is a word of total economic upheaval a releasing of the oppressed and a suppression of the privileged. The immediate application is the overthrow of Rome and a new beginning for God's chosen people. The ultimate application is hope to a lost and discouraged people in any time and place. Through Jesus we find the strength and grace to rise above.

Someone pointed out to me this week that Mary's son is given two names: 1. Emmanuel which means "God is with us" is a revealing of who he is; 2) Jesus (which in Hebrew means "The Lord Saves) which is a revealing of what he does.. .

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Luke 22

These are the events of Holy Week:
Wednesday, according to tradition, Judas Iscariot goes to the chief priests and officers of the temple and takes 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus.

Thursday's events begin in verse 7 with the Passover and the institution of the Lord's Supper. It is vital to remember that the Lord's Supper happens in context of the Jewish ceremonial meal that was celebrated at Passover. This meal, called the Seder, was a ceremonial remembering of the deliverance from slavery in Egypt -- plagues, and all. In the context of remembering and reliving a previous deliverance Jesus takes the bread and cup and announces a new covenant -- a covenant established through the death of Jesus. At this dinner (last supper) there is a dispute among the disciples about "which of us will be the greatest" and Jesus predicts Peter's denial. Jesus also tells them that life with get more difficult after he is killed -- they should take purse, bag and sword with them now.

They go to Gethsemane -- the Mount of Olives -- when they pray and where Judas arrives with the arresting band of soldiers. Jesus is arrested and taken to the home of the high priest -- there in the courtyard Peter is spotted by others but denies he even knows who Jesus is.

Jesus is mocked and beaten by the soldiers and finally taken before the council where the council charges Jesus with blasphemy -- in their understanding since Jesus has equated himself with God (the son of God is as much God as God is) he must be killed under their understanding. In ancient times the penalty for blasphemy would be stoning. However, the Roman authorities had forbidden the Sanhedrin from exercising any executions. Jesus would have to be taken to the governor Pilate. This simple distinction changes the mode of death Jesus would have to endure from stones to crucifixion.

This trial takes us from Thursday into Friday . . .

Luke 21

Teaching in the temple plaza, people raise questions of the Temple and of the end of all things. Like Matthew 24, there are two different conversations being held here. The first is the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem -- and event that happens in AD 70 under general Titus of Rome. The second event is the second coming of Christ and event we are still anticipating.

In the Temple plaza they are admiring the beautiful temple that King Herod had built. Several critical elements in Jesus predictions. Notice his advice in 20/21. When you see the armies coming, Jesus says to "run away". If you are in Judea you must flee to the mountains and if you are in the city you must get out of town. In the late 60's the Christians remembered this advice from Jesus and when Titus came to quell the Jewish revolt that had begun in AD 66/7. This abandoning of the city of Jerusalem was a key element in the permanent split between the emerging Christian movement and the Jewish religion.

Beginning in 25 we hear of the enigmatic signs of the end. . . the bottom line is pretty simple. Jesus is coming back, we don't know when so be ready. Watch and be alert.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Luke 20

Now that Jesus is in Jerusalem and following the cleansing of the temple the opposition steps up their attacks beginning here in 1-8 by questioning Jesus authority to do what he is doing. Jesus response is to point to the ministry of John the Baptizer and ask if the religious leaders understood where John's authority came from.

This encounter is followed by a parable (the parable of the wicked tenants - 9-19) that is clearly told against the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Notice in 19, following the story, the scribes and chief priests are aware that Jesus has told this parable about them and are now seeking to "lay hands on him". The parable simple states that the owner of the vineyard (God -- vineyard was a common way to refer to the nation of Israel) continues to send servants (prophets) and finally sends his son (Jesus). All of them are killed or driven out and the end result is the destruction of the vineyard itself.

The next challenge is the question of paying taxes. "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's (25)" is a revolutionary context. The very idea that there might be something outside the Emperor's purview was unheard of in Jesus time. The idea that there could be loyalties beyond our loyalty to the state and the "divinely appointed emperor" is one of many sources for the idea of civil disobedience and other counter cultural behaviors. The money may have Caesar's image and likeness on it -- and therefore belongs to Caesar. But we bear the image and likeness of God and therefore have higher loyalties than the government.

The Sadducees (the Sadducees don't believe in the resurrection which is why they are sad-u-see) come to Jesus with the ridiculous story of seven brothers for one bride. The key misunderstanding is that life in the resurrection will be just like life in the hear and now -- only greatly improved. In the resurrection, we learn from other New Testament passages, everything changes. Jesus' resurrection body is different. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 writes of a new body (one that is sown and rises to be grain). There is a transformation. Notice it does not say we will BE angels but hat we will be LIKE angels -- the simile applies here to the fact that reproduction in eternity is no longer necessary.

Luke 19

The story of Zacchaeus reminds us that Jesus is inviting himself into our lives. Zacchaeus was curious and in his curiosity Jesus invited himself to Zachaeus' home. Upon accepting the invitation everything changes for Zachaeus. He restores any funds that he might have stolen in his role as Roman tax collector (the four fold restitution was only required when the theft was intentional under Old Testament law) and he gives half of his funds to support the poor -- "today" Jesus says, "salvation has come to this house (9)."

The parable of the pounds (called talents in Matthew) is a lesson in stewardship. In Luke's version of the story the nobleman gives the servants equal amounts -- ten pounds each. Each pound "mina" was worth about 3 months wages for a day laborer -- so 30 months or 2 and a half years pay -- a lot of money. Upon his return he asks for an accounting. One doubles his funds, the other increases by 50% and the third buries his pound. The key to the third servant is his clear misunderstanding of the nature of the nobleman. The simple point of the story is this: there will come a day when we who are Christ followers will face our Lord and be asked to give an accounting of what we did with the resources we were trusted with: resources of time, talent, treasure, etc.  Are we improving on and utilizing what Jesus gave us?

This chapter concludes with Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Palm Sunday story has Jesus riding a donkey into the city. In the imagery of the time a king who came to conquer entered a city on a horse a king who came in peace rode a donkey. This journey, from Bethany to Jerusalem over the mount of olives and through the Kidron valley takes about 40 minutes on foot (probably less). Jesus weeps over Jerusalem (knowing what is coming in about 40 years) and then he cleanses the temple. Notice that in John's gospel Jesus does this at the beginning of his ministry whereas here in Luke this story is placed at the end of Jesus ministry -- as part of Palm Sunday and the beginning of what we call Holy Week. What are the different authors trying to say to us about Jesus ministry through the placement of this story?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Luke 18

On the road to Jerusalem Jesus tells a series of parables and has two very significant encounters:
The first parable is about persistence in prayer (1-8). Human beings will do what they don't want to do because they get worn out by someone continually pestering them. God, however, knows our needs, and will "grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night (7)."

The Pharisee and the tax collector is a lesson in religious arrogance versus humility. The Pharisee uses his prayer time in the temple to brag about how good he is being and how virtuous he is and that he is, clearly, better than other men (especially that miserable tax collector in the corner over there). The tax collector dared not even approach the altar of God but stood at a distance simply asking for God to be merciful. Jesus point is very pointed indeed -- the humble man is justified (forgiven, reconciled with God). We can never put God in our debt, we can never be good enough, we can never accomplish enough to earn God's love or favor. God loves us. All we can do is live into that love.

The Rich Ruler (18-30) is an encounter Jesus has with another religious person trying to justify himself. The question of keeping the rules is not enough -- there must be a change of will, a change of heart. For this man that change is to divest of his trust in his wealth, care for the poor and follow Jesus. Our lives must begin to exhibit and demonstrate for the world the compassion that God has poured into our own lives. The issue with this man is that he is very affluent and Jesus tells him, without using so many words, that his God is not the LORD but is his amassed wealth. The man has his sense of security locked into things.

The healing of the blind beggar (35-43) (he is called Bartimaus in Mark) is an encounter that not only heals a blind man but restores that blind man's sense of self. Jesus does not assume what the man wants but asks him and in this simple conversation the blind beggar is treated as a human being (probably for the first time in a long time!).

Friday, December 14, 2012

Luke 17

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and the pressure on him is increasing. He is preparing his disciples for his imminent demise (and ultimate resurrection). Notice in 1-10 Jesus is giving instructions for living life in community. Mercy, forgiveness, accountability and faithful service are at the heart of the Christian community. We challenge each other to do better and we hold one another accountable when we fail and forgive one another in the midst of those failings. Following the ascension the community of followers of Jesus become the hope of the world in hearing the good news that Jesus came to live out and bring to us.

The healing of the 10 lepers (11-19) raises the question of where are the 9? About 35 years ago Martin
Bell in a little book titled The Way of the Wolf  wrote about this story suggesting a multitude of reasons why only one of the now cleansed lepers came back to thank Jesus. His reasons were both common and extraordinary. The key to the story, for me, is that the 9 simply did what they were told -- Jesus said to go and show yourselves to the priest. Under Hebrew law the priest determined if one had leprosy and only the priest could declare you clean (cured). The 9 were hurrying to the nearest priest, as they were told, so that they could be admitted back into the community and be allowed to return to their families. One extraordinary outsider, a Samaritan, stopped, returned, fell at Jesus feet and thanked Jesus for healing him. Is it better to be obedient or grateful? I have no answer to the question but an insight into Jesus' expectation is he adds a blessing to the one who comes back -- not only is he healed but through his grateful faith he is now "Whole" or "well" one possible translation is "complete".

The coming of the Kingdom (20-37) has two startling little things in it. First, notice verse 21 -- the Kingdom of God is not a location or an event it is an awareness. The kingdom of heaven is "among" or "within" you. The kingdom of God is lived out in the community of Christ followers -- it is not some experience waiting for us after death it is lived out here and now in the Christian community. Second is its suddenness -- no one will know when but when it comes grab on and go. The signs of the end are similar to what is recorded in the other Gospels. Great trials and tribulation will precede the end and then it will come.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Luke 16

This chapter begins with the very odd story of the dishonest manager. The manager is a cheat and a scoundrel, yet Jesus uses him as a positive example. The example (and what is usually missed) is that cheaters and scoundrels are shrewd dudes with what they have. We who are followers of Christ need to use the resources God has poured into our lives resources to make a difference in this world and the kingdom of heaven . . . we should approach our spiritual destiny with the same level of shrewdness. The key here is verse 10 "whoever is faithful in very little is faithful also in much and whoever is dishonest in very little is dishonest also in much." If we can't be trusted to use our money and resources faithfully we will never be trusted with "true riches!"

The Rich man and Lazarus (19ff) is all about the sin of indifference. The rich man never actually abuses Lazarus, he does not kick him, he does not sick the dogs on him, he does not begrudge the crumbs of bread that are Lazarus' livelihood. The Rich man simply ignores the destitution of the man sitting at his gate. The points Jesus makes at the end are not intended to give us a glimpse into heaven and hell (rich man in torment Lazarus in "Abraham's bosom"), rather, as with all Parables we have to look for the central theme and point. Here is is pretty simple: "if they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead (31)." Jesus tells this story against the Pharisees and Scribes who believe they have it all figured out and are "in love with wealth." One's wealth will not secure a place in eternity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Luke 15

Context matters and notice that Luke 15 begins with tax collectors and sinners coming to Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes grumbling about it. This is the only place in the Gospel where Jesus tells three consecutive parables to make the same point (the lost matter to God). There are three parables of things lost and found: There is the lost sheep (one of ninety-nine) which the shepherd searches and finds; there is the lost coin (one of ten) that the woman searches and finds; and, finally, there is the lost son (one of two) for whom the father waits and who eventually returns. Three parables one point: God cares for those who are lost and desires them to be home.

The items get lost in different ways: the sheep just wanders off -- looking for greener grass? Got scared by a puff of wind? Either way the sheep is lost and the Shepherd has to leave the 99 and go and search until it is either found or evidence of its demise is found. The coin has no self determination or self awareness. It is just lost. It has inherent value to the woman who is looking but had no choice in the matter of being lost or found. It was lost, the woman found it (after searching diligently).

The lost son chooses to disrespect his father and get lost. The story of the lost son holds the context in perfect balance. There is the younger son (the tax collector/sinner) and there is the elder son (the Pharisee/scribe) and in the middle is a loving and gracious father. The attitudes of the two sons are intended to be reflections of the attitudes of the two groups around Jesus with the loving invitation of the father between them. Both sons are outside the will of the father, the younger son because he is disobedient and the elder son because he is obedient for the wrong reasons. The key for us is whether we have wondered off and squandered our living or we have stayed home and been "good little boys and girls" God's love for us is unchanged and constant and transformation. All we need do is fall into the embrace of the father to begin again.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Luke 14

A series of teachings on humility, being called, and the cost of discipleship. Jesus reminds us, once again, that pride of place and position is contrary to Kingdom values. Humility, according to John Dickson, is using what power we have in the service of others. In 7-14 Jesus is speaking more of not putting ourselves forward or "putting on airs". It is better to be elevated than to be abased. If I choose the lowest place then I will be content at whatever place I may be assigned. If I assume I belong in the front, in the places of honor, but there are people more honorable (or closer to the family than I) . . .

15-24 is another of those stories Jesus tells to try to get the attention of the religious elite. They have been invited by God to the great banquet. They are the chosen people. Yet, when Jesus comes to announce that the very thing they were chosen for has arrived; when Jesus comes to invite them to the very messianic banquet they have longed for they make excuses. The excuses in the parable are intentionally lame excuses. One would not buy a piece of land without first inspecting it, one would not buy a yoke of oxen without first trying them out, and the wife would have been invited to the celebration. In other words, all three invited guests are simply begging off, their excuses are not valid. To the religious elite Jesus reminds them that all of those they (the elite) believed to be unworthy and "outcasts" sinners, etc. are the ones coming into the Kingdom of God and attending the messianic banquet.

There is a cost to following Jesus. The lie perpetuated in American Christianity is that coming to Jesus is essentially fire insurance - we are told it is about being "saved from the fires of hell" and getting gold plated deeds to a mansion in heaven. As I read the Gospel I realize that this is only a fraction (and not the biggest fraction at that) of the invitation. Jesus is inviting us to live into the Kingdom of God. Eternal life begins the moment we choose to answer Jesus invitation to follow him. Eternity is Now. Jesus is calling us to enlist in his mission of the transformation of the world. It is a mission that will align us with his life, his way, his values, his mission, his ministry. If we simply remember how Jesus himself was treated for that kind of life focus you can see why we might want to think through the cost of building that tower or taking on that particular battle. Coming to Jesus is joy, it is peace, it is a whole new beginning. But it is as much about time as it is about eternity. Following Jesus is living abundant and eternal life here and now and not just in some heaven far away. There is a song called "Gather Us In" that has this line:
      Not in the dark of buildings confining
      Not in some heaven, light years away,
      but here in this place the new light is shing
     ow is the Kingdom, now is the Day.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Luke 13

The confrontation between Jesus and the religious elite leads to Jesus showing in sharp contrast the difference between "the religion of the scribes and Pharisees and life in the Kingdom of God." 1-5 -- repentance is not about "feeling sorry" but is about change. Unless we make the change to the Kingdom of God we will have gained nothing. Religion gives us the illusion that we are in control -- if I say the right words, do the right actions and avoid certain bad actions I will be OK -- but that kind of control is an illusion and misses the central Biblical point that God's first and foremost desire is that we live our lives in relationship with him. The door is narrow (22ff) not because God has made it difficult but because we want to be in control.

Notice Jesus calls those on the outside "evildoers" (27). There is a difference between "doing evil" and "evil doing". Doing evil would be murder and mayhem, breaking the commandments, etc. Evil doing is doing right things from wrong motivation. Performing acts of a charity for the human accolades; serving in mission for the thrill or so we can appear to be important and "big" in our own eyes or the eyes of the world. Evil doing -- see Matthew 5-7 -- is pretty common and completely misses the point of the Gospel. The point is simple: God desires that we live our lives in a love relationship with him. This love relationship will lead us to align our wills and our desires with his which will lead us to do acts of charity and mission. The doing is a consequence of the relationship. We go because we are called and desire to go . . . not be cause we have to.

The mustard seed (18) and the yeast (20) teach us that it does not take much of the Kingdom of God in us to transform us. The smallest of seeds grows into a tree the smallest bit of yeast transforms the entire lump of dough. So it is with us -- the smallest of steps the simplest of choices the tiniest bit of change -- begins a process of entire transformation. All too often all we need to do is to make the first step and begin the journey.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Luke 12

Chapter 12 begins with a warning against the "yeast of the Scribes and the Pharisees." Which is to say be aware of their hypocrisy. This is followed by a weaving of parables and teaching that balances faithful living (and its difficulty) and examples of hypocrisy.

4-12 -- make the fearless confession remembering that God values us and cares for us. The great fear of all fears would be to find oneself in the presence of Christ on the last day and not be known. Don't worry about what the confession is going to be. . . trust God in this and all situations.

13-21 is the parable of the rich fool. It is a grave mistake to believe that all that we have or have acquired is somehow ours. Biblical stewardship teaches us that everything belongs to God (all that I have all that I am all that I dream of being is a gift from God) we are merely managers of these resources. The rich fool has forgotten that God has not blessed him for his own ease and comfort but that he might use those resources faithfully for himself, his family and for others.

22-34 is paralleled in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6). We are told not to worry. God provides. Do not worry about food, clothing or our very lives. God knows what we need. It is God's pleasure to give us the kingdom (32). The key verse in this passage is the last one. "For where your treasure is there you heart will be also (34)." Jesus says we do not value what we love we love what we value -- our treasure owns our heart. Put another way whatever has the highest claim, whatever we give the greatest value in our lives is essentially god for us. What has first claim rules our lives. Where our treasure is, there our heart will be.

Understanding that life is not about food and clothing but about our relationship with God and one another we come to verses 35-48 which are two parables about faithfulness and staying awake and alert. If we are to be faithful we need to pay attention and watch for the signs of Jesus arrival -- in our day to day lives and his ultimate return.

49-53 -- Jesus causes division. I do not believe it is Jesus plan to divide but his very presence does divide. Before I became a Christian I had two good friends. We were dope smoking buddies. That is what we did. we went out a night to score some dope, to smoke it together, and, to make a little music when we could. I thought we were the very best of friends. When I became a Christian these two friends disowned me after one invitation from me to them to at least give Jesus a look. It was clear that what bound us together was not our friendship but our activity together.  We were quickly divided. This same scenario plays out in clubs, homes, schools as one or more choose a different way of living. This scenario is played out in churches as people choose to stop playing pious games and religious activity and actually enter into a relationship with Jesus.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Luke 11

Chapter 11 begins with teaching on prayer. Luke's version of the "Lord's Prayer" is somewhat abbreviated when compared to Matthew, however, the prayer was never intended to be a rote memory religious exercise but a structure for prayer. Prayer 1) acknowledges God (Father holy is your name); 2) aligns us with God's purposes (thy kingdom come!); 3) we pray for our physical needs (give us each our daily bread); 4) we pray for our spiritual needs (forgive us our sins); 5) we pray for our relationship with others (for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us); 6) finally, we pray for help in times of difficulty (do not bring us to the time of trial). This is a structure for prayer and when compared with Matthew the phrases may have changed slightly but the structure and intent is identical. I don't believe the words of the prayer have any inherent value -- what matters is the structure, the focus and intent of the prayer.

5-13 is about being persistent in prayer. Prayer changes us. When I continually place myself in the presence of God and my needs in God's hands this changes me and my attitude and makes me deeply aware of God's abundant grace. God's love always knows what is best for us (we don't get scorpions when we ask for eggs).

14-26 Jesus is accused of being in league with devil or Satan. This is a pretty common charge. Whenever we are aligned with the religious establishment and the power structures of the world in which we live we look to those who are challenging those structures and expectations as evil and beneath contempt. It would have been extraordinary that Jesus, who was challenging the core of the religious establishment not to have been considered in league with the evil one. Whenever someone challenges prevailing opinion or prevailing theological positions this charge is leveled against them.

37-54 The chapter ends with Jesus denouncing the Pharisees and the Lawyers (or Scribes). The Scribes and the Pharisees along with the chief priests are the ones most invested in the prevailing religious establishment (and are the ones most benefiting from it). These religious groups have consistently denounced Jesus and his message and his work. Jesus turns up the pressure on them by openly denouncing their practices, their attitudes and the consequences of their work.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Luke 10

In Chapter 9 Jesus sent out 12 Apostles in 6 teams of 2, now he "doubles down" by sending out 70 Disciples in 35 teams of 2. These preaching teams are the advance teams heading up to Jerusalem. Notice in verse 1 that they are sent "to every town and place where he himself intended to go." This is the advance team preparing the way. 35 teams of John the Baptists announcing that Jesus was coming and would soon be passing their way.

In leaving the Galilee for the last time Jesus laments over the cities along the sea of Galilee who never fully understood who he was or why he was there. Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum were all cities along the west short of the Sea of Galilee and were the location of many of Jesus miracles in his sojourn in the Galilee. Even seeing Jesus, even hearing Jesus, even being present for his miracles these towns never get it and created more struggle than grace for Jesus ministry.

The 70 return and are rejoicing in their success and victory in ministry. Jesus rejoices with them but also recognizes that this moment is also one step closer to the his coming crucifixion in Jerusalem. The final beatitude in Luke is "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!"

Luke 10:25-37 is one of the best loved best known parables in the Gospel. It is the parable of the Good Samaritan. It helps to remember that the hero of the story is the most unlikeliest of heroes. Jews and Samaritans did not like each other and would often refuse to help each other. Notice that the "religious establishment" represented by the Priest and the Levite are more interested in their own situation to actually help someone in trouble. It is the barbarian -- the outsider -- who makes the effort to help the man in need. The context of the story is the lawyer trying to justify himself. Jesus message is pretty simple: the religious establishment that surrounds you is not enough. You have to live and practice mercy, grace and love. Or, in Jesus words, "go and do likewise" by following the example of the outsider.

Luke 9

Luke 9 marks the shift of focus in Jesus ministry. Jesus has been in mission and ministry in and around the sea of Galilee with occasional forays up to Sidon and over into the Decapolis. In Chapter 9 the intensity of his ministry steps up. It begins with the mission of the 12 -- traveling, preaching, sharing the good news of the Kingdom of God -- this multiplies the message and influence. We find the feeding of the 5000 and the 12 baskets of fragments (10-17) -- which spreads his fame and reputation on a while new level. The key to the early part of 9 is to notice what happens after Peter's declaration (18-20) that he knows that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ). As soon as Peter confesses that he gets who Jesus really is, Jesus predicts his death and resurrection (an idea that the disciples do not understand until after the events).

In 28 we have the transfiguration -- so, after the revelation that Jesus is the Messiah by Jesus' followers he is revealed in a whole new way. Jesus is "transfigured" who he is on the inside is reveled on the outside. Notice that this is not a public event but is only seen by the inner leadership circle: Peter, James and John. Jesus in his changed state is joined by Moses and Elijah (the Law and the Prophets). It is the first time that any of the original 12 are allowed to see Jesus in his fullness and proper relationship to the spiritual history of the world.

Verse 51 of chapter 9 is the pivot of the Gospel. "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem." I have often pondered what this must have been like. Jesus knew (he has said on two occasions in chapter 9) that when he gets to Jerusalem he will be betrayed, crucified and buried and after three days rise again. I cannot imagine what it had to have been like to face his purpose and destiny and all of its anguish and pain and horror with such resolute determination. How often it is vital for us to set our faces to the struggle and difficulty necessary to become all that God has called us to become.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Luke 8

There is a lot to be said for chapter 8: Several things stand out. The first is the parable of the sower (4-15). Not everyone who hears the good news about Jesus Christ will be able to respond or be able to follow through. The life that Jesus calls us to is counter cultural and different from the life the world has to offer. This Christ life is a life that lives in the world but by different values. It is a little like being asked to live in foreign country but to live according to rules and values different than what is around you. This life causes friction. Some are choked off by that friction, others by cares and riches and pleasure and, therefore, never mature. The goal of the Christian ministry is to raise up disciples of Jesus Christ to bring us to maturity. In the church we are aware that some are still stuck on the rocks, others are tangled in the weeds -- we still love and are in ministry with where ever we are on the journey. Some on the rocks and in the weeds will allow for transplanting to better soil -- we do that. Others just need care on the journey.

Notice in verses 22-25 that Jesus calms the physical storm outside of the disciples. Then notice that in 26-39 Jesus calms the very profound storm that is inside of the Gerasene demoniac. Both storms are real both storms are deadly. The storm on the lake could lead to the boat sinking and the people drowning. The storm called "legion" in the man has led to violence and the destruction of an individual. Jesus heals both. Someone once said that Jesus will either calm the storm in his child or the storm the child is in. Either way Jesus brings peace and help to all of us.

The chapter ends with the story of the healing of the woman with the issue of blood and raising of Jarius' daughter. Notice, once again, the two stories held in tension and contrast. In the one case the woman, because of the bleeding has been considered "unclean" and has been cut off from her community and spiritual life. Jairus' daughter has been cut off from physical life. We see the stories in juxtaposition and are reminded that Jesus is the bringer of life. He restores us physically, relationally and spiritually.