Monday, August 31, 2009

Word Choice; Luke 9:31 & 51

We often talk of Jesus' death. He talked of his "departure" and time "to be taken up to heaven".

Maybe it is a little thing but I have to think that it is an expression of something much deeper. We see life as ending when a person dies. We mourn profusely at a graveside believing that a life has ceased. Yet Jesus addressed death as if it were a journey or transition. If physical death is "departing" or being "taken up", then the sting is dramatically reduced. Actually, joy is infused into the idea. Taking a trip does not sound so bad.

We are often encouraged to live with the end in sight; yet, if the end is a journey and not a termination, how does this affect the way I live in the present?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Scraps; Luke 9:10-17

I wonder how you feel when God looks at you and says "feed these 5000 people now"? Surely the apostles did the same thing I would have done, i.e., look for whatever was available. The great conclusion was five loaves and two fish. Obviously these were not five pound bass either. The put all their resources together and had an embarrassing amount of resources to bring before God.

The point, however, was that they brought them to God. Jesus took what they had and did more than they had imagined.

Then there were the baskets. As if to put an exclamation point at the end of the lesson, Jesus sent them to pick up the leftovers. That there would be leftovers from the distribution of five loaves and two fish seems an absurd concept to add to an already unimaginable situation. Yet he ends the story demonstrating that God's scraps were more than mankind's resources.

So often I've read this and thought of how the apostles lacked faith. Maybe they had faith but lacked vision or imagination. I wonder what God could do with my pitiful resources if I could only see through his eyes?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Questions; Luke 8:40-56

Questions, questions, questions. Since creation God has asked questions. "Where are you?" "Who told you?" "Where is your brother?" Here in the New Testament, Jesus keeps up the custom.

A crowd closes in but he knows what is happening with the individuals. He does not lose one in the many; each person retains significance.

Then he stops and does it. He asks a question. Rather than point out the action, he asks "who touched me?" Even to Peter it seems a ridiculous thing to do. Yet without it, she would never have had the opportunity to make a public confession. As always, Jesus used questions to pull people into his story. He used them to include.

How will I include people today?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Gardening; Luke 8:1-15

Mountain laurel - dead. Spanish broom - dead. Crepe myrtle - sickly. There is this section in the yard that just refuses to grow anything. No matter what gets planted there, it dies. Its not the fault of the plant but the fault of the soil.

I think Jesus would point to my section of yard and help me remember that a lack of spiritual growth on my part is not the fault of anyone or anything except my heart. The word of God will do just fine in good soil. What his seed needs is a "noble and good heart".

So where do I put my effort for growth? So often my tendency is to blame the Bible for not being clear enough or point the finger at God for some hard times I go through. His parable doesn't leave much room for finger pointing. My job - my only job - is heart preparation. After that, growth will come in his way and his time.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Marginal; Luke 7:36-50

I fear that I might have been agreeing with the Pharisees that day. It must have been somewhat confusing to watch the scene unfold. A lady comes in that everyone knows as a person with a bad reputation. Maybe she was still flirtatious after her third divorce, maybe she had experienced a few abortions, maybe she was selling her body to make a living or maybe it was one of a dozen other things. The point it, she was known and any "good Christian" knew to avoid her.

Then Jesus just sat there and let her touch him. She wept over him and anointed his feet. No one could avoid forming an opinion or overlooking what was happening. Jesus forced everyone in the room to learn something that day.

First it seems that Jesus gave her back her dignity. He looked at her as his child, as his creation. She was a person not a thing to be avoided. He looked beyond the actions into the heart.

Then he called others to do the same. He called the Pharisees to move from exclusion to inclusion.

Where would I be? Where am I now? How hard it can be to not stereotype or label people. How easy it is to avoid someone that my class of society disapproves of. How easy to forget that I am called to help people -- all people, whatever person -- to polish the image of God that was placed within them at creation.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Seek or Sit; Luke 7:18-33

The author's comments are insightful. If Luke stepped outside the story to inject a comment, it must have been something meaningful to him that he did not want us to miss. In verses 29-30 he separates the crowd into two groups, i.e., those baptized by John who subsequently accepted Jesus and those not baptized by John who subsequently rejected Jesus.

To be baptized by John meant to go looking for something. He lived in the desert, taught somewhat harshly and called people to change their lives. You didn't bump into John at the supermarket or run into him on the way to the synagogue. Being baptized by John meant a sacrifice of time and effort.

Luke's insight is followed by Jesus' rebuke where he compares the people to children sitting around the marketplace complaining. They invested no time nor effort.

So the passage is about John but also about me. How much time and effort am I putting into seeking God? Does God view me as one willing to walk through a desert to find him or as one who sits and complains about life? Am I a seeker or a sitter?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Power; Luke 7:1-16

They said he deserved special attention; he said they were wrong. As a soldier, he understood power and authority. He understand that if Jesus was a powerful prophet or God-man, then Jesus very much out-ranked him. Yet he knew someone that high up in God's power structure could change the life of his beloved servant.

In the next scene Jesus brought a funeral procession to a stop. He committed a seriously impure act, i.e., he came in contact with the dead. It was an action that would make him unclean for a week. Touching the dead meant being cast out of the community for seven days with ceremonial cleansing on the third and seventh days in order to come back in.

Yet, Jesus did not become an outcast by touching the dead. He did not become impure but rather the impure son became pure again. The child who had been the source of death for the community came into contact with the source of life for all communities.

These stories make me question my view of Jesus. Do I see him as the source of utmost authority? Do I believe that being touched by him gives life? Is my religion focused on naming outcasts or on restoring life? Would I have been a Jew appalled at Jesus violating the law by touching the dead or would I have realized that the law was meaningless when the giver of life was present? What defines me today . . . law-abiding or life-abiding?