Thursday, August 29, 2019

Luke 14:1, 7-14 - Week of Aug 26th-Sept 1st

Luke 14:1,7-14
1. On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.
He was going – does that mean he was invited?
Why was he invited?  In some of the verses sipped is say the Pharisees were watching him closely perhaps he was invite specifically so they could watch him?
Is that a good use of the Sabbath?
Having communal meals was a huge part of the Sabbath, but I am pretty sure that attempting to ensnare someone is not in line with Sabbath practice – but that is last week’s sermon.
7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.
Jesus is watching them as they are watching him?
8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host;
Seating order was very important in the 1st century Middle East. Everyone’s seat was determined by their “place” in society. These things were strictly adhered to. This required everyone to know their social standing in respect to all the other guests.
It would be pretty presumptuous to go sit in the most honored position before all the guests had arrived.
9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.
This would be very embarrassing.
10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.
To not take the place you believe you hold would show your humility
What does it mean when people fight over the “last” place in line at the church dinner? Have you ever seen two people try kind of “fight” over taking the “last” place at a Church function?  We can only assume they have this passage in mind when they are doing so.
Is this another way of trying to outdo one another, with an act of humility instead a false show of one’s own worth?
11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
What does it look like to be humbled in our society?
How do we try to show our societal value?
12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid.
It was a common curtesy to invite those who had previously hosted you for a meal. When jockeying for social standing there was a balance of inviting the people with the most standing who would then in turn invite you, so you could then be seen with your social “betters” and then be seen as “on par” with them, thus elevating your social standing.
13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
Invite people who can’t repay your, or who cannot elevate your social standing. Share a meal out of the goodness of your heart not so that you can gain standing in your community.
14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Living the resurrection life is about giving, not to gain anything, but because God call us to give, to love those around us because God calls us to, not because we can gain anything in return. You cannot live the resurrection life selfishly.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Learning from Jesus: Learning to be Free

Luke 13:10-17
Chronic illness in Jesus’ day was seen a little differently than it is seen today. Today friends and neighbors would do what they could to help and support a person who was hindered in day to day life. In Jesus’ day a person who had a chronic condition such as the one this lady suffered from would cause that person to be ostracized and avoided. Her illness would effectively render her invisible to the greater society. She would pass through life alone and unseen. It would almost be as if she were not a person at all but another part of the scenery, an object which needed to be gotten around in order to go about your day.
This woman went to the synagogue that day as she would have on any other Sabbath. Perhaps she was coming especially to hear the new rabbi who had come to town. Jesus’ presence would have caused quite a stir and nobody would have wanted to miss being a synagogue that Saturday, since it was his practice to speak in the synagogues on the Sabbath. This woman would have come to the synagogue that day with little more expectations than to hear the new teacher who was in town and participate in the weekly worship service. But this turns out to be far from a normal Sabbath for this woman. Not only did she get to hear the new rabbi speak, but she got to have a life altering encounter with Jesus.
She was not coming to the synagogue that day with any thought about getting healed; one could expect that this was completely outside her expectations at this point in her life, after spending nearly two decades suffering from this problem. While Jesus was there he saw her. Not only did he actually see her, but he walked over to her and spoke to her. You can only imagine how amazed she must have been at that point, the amazement she felt at him simply coming over to her would have then paled when compared to that which she felt when Jesus reached out, touched, declared to her that she was healed and she was. For the first time in 18 years she could stand properly.
She came that morning to worship and expected to leave as she always had, unnoticed and ignored, but instead she encountered the Son of God and here life was changed, forever in an instant. Most people, who saw her that day, if they saw her at all, saw an undesirable. Someone to be avoided and ignored but Jesus, Jesus was different, when Jesus saw her he saw someone who was in need of his touch, in need of his healing. He saw a person who was suffering and he reached out and alleviated her suffering. He saw a woman who was bound and enslaved by something completely beyond her control and he acted to release her from that bondage and set her free from that slavery.
What do you think it felt like to be this woman? What was her life like before Jesus touched her that day? What do you think her life would be like after? What were the major differences?
The passage begins by looking at this woman, her suffering and how Jesus stepped into her life and set her free. She did not ask for it, did not coming looking for it but Jesus transformed her life, forever, restored her and her life in ways that were truly phenomenal. And that would be enough. That’ll preach! That alone right there would make us all feel good. But it is not enough, the passage cannot, does not end there with this truly miraculous thing happening to this woman, it does not end with Jesus doing this wonderful, kind, merciful thing for this woman. No there has to be a twist, there has to be some meat on these bones, something we can sink out teeth into and chew on for a bit. Cue, the leader of the synagogue, who steps into our delightful scene, into this heartfelt moment between Jesus and this woman, to come in to make sure that everyone knows that a grievous offense has occurred here. A woman has been healed on the Sabbath.
This is not the proper time and place for healing. There are six days one which Jesus can go about healing but the Sabbath is a day of rest given unto the Lord and no one is to do any work on the Sabbath. The synagogue leader needs to make sure that everyone needs to make sure they always keep the Sabbath in its proper place in their lives. So lets’ do that real quick, let’s take a look at the purpose of the Sabbath.
First of all we must remember God set up the Sabbath. In the very beginning of Genesis the author explains to his readers that, “On the seventh day God finished the work that God had done, and God rested on the seventh day from all the work that God had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work God had
done in creation.”(Gen 2:2-3) It was supposed to be a day which was different in all others in that on all the other days you worked to live and to survive. On this one day you were supposed to lay all that in the hands of your creator and rely on God to sustain you. To stop all work, to trust God, knowing that even if you rested all, that needed to occur, would still happen. It was about relying on God and it was about stopping all that you did, taking a break from all that you did and allowing yourself to slow down and enjoy the life God had given to you and creation which God created. Part of the thought process was if God needed to rest, surely we humans who are not God, are far less than God and therefore do not have the eternal stamina of God, must also need to rest.
The Sabbath was a day given by God, which God intended to be a day given over to God. Not only was it a day pointed to in the creation narrative but it was a part of the covenant which the Israelites had made with God. “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the Seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” (Ex. 20:8-10a) It was a day to remember that God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. It was God who heard them cry; it was God who came to rescue them when they were enslaved; it was God who said, “My people will suffer no more!” Therefore, they were called to, “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work-you, or your son or your daughter, or your male for female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord you God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” (Deut. 5:12-15)
The Sabbath was about resting, it was about respecting God and it was about trusting the creator to take care of creation. It was a day which called for people to rely on God. It was a day which allowed people to rest and rejuvenate. It was a day during which all the other cares of living were stripped from the people and they could focus on what they were created for, that is relationship with God and with each other. It was a day where nothing which HAD to be done could stand between you and your God. Traditionally it was also a day during which nothing which HAD to be done could stand between you and spending time with the people God had placed in your life, your family and those closest to you.
In the Gospel this morning, the synagogue leader calls Jesus out for misusing the Sabbath, for doing something which had been forbidden by God to do on this day. The leader tells the crowd God allows for these things to be done on all the other days of the week but they were not to be done on the Sabbath. Jesus did not see things this way. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus says the Sabbath is made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath. That is to say the Sabbath was set up for the Good and for Benefit of humankind. Humankind was not set up to serve the Sabbath.
The rest we are to take on the Sabbath was not a rest we were to take for the benefit of God. God does not need a day dedicated solely to worship. God does not need for us to rest. We need the Sabbath. We need a day which says, “STOP!” Everyone needs a day during which we can set aside all that worries and presses in on us. God understands our nature, and our weaknesses and knows unless we are ordered to stop, to rest, to take a break, our inclination is to go and go and go and never stop. God knows this is not good for us. God also knows that in our go, go, go nature we tend to begin to rely on ourselves, we tend to begin to believe that it is us who are making things happen that it is our work, our labor which keep the world spinning. God knows that we fear that if we stop, everything will come tumbling down. God knows that we, whether we admit it or not, believe that the world just might stop spinning if we do not work to keep it going. God knows that we need the reminder that God is God. God knows that we need acts of faith to help us rely on God. God knows that our relationships with each other and with our God suffers when we are not practically ordered to take time, to rest, rely on God, and focus on our relationships with one another and with our God. The Sabbath was created for us, for our good, for our benefit and not the other way around.
Now, wait and hold on before make accusations and all gang up on the leader of the synagogue, shake our heads disapprovingly and scorn him because he is yet another Jewish, scribe, Pharisee, teacher of the law, who was wrong and against Jesus, let me stand up and speak on his behalf. After all I don’t like it when anybody gangs up on anybody, especially if that person probably does not deserve to be tried and executed (so to speak) by a group of people who did not know him and lived 20-odd centuries after his death. Yay, I am the one who thinks, “Poor synagogue leader! He is just so misunderstood.” The leader of the synagogue, although misguided, has a very good point here. Sabbath was not a day during which people were supposed to seek healing. If someone was actively seeking healing on the Sabbath, this would require the “healer” to do work on the Sabbath. It simply was not fair to tell some people they needed to let go, relax, take the day off and rely on God and then tell other people this does not apply to you. You don’t get to rest, you don’t get to let go, you don’t need special time to rely on God. You do work 7 days a week because your work is too important to get a day off. 
Now there were some things which could be done on the Sabbath; in fact they were things which really could not be put off for another day. God made a list of these things and guess what, healing people was not something which God had seen as something which could not wait until the Sabbath was over. So when the leader stepped in he was actually upholding what God had said. The leader wanted to protect the Sabbath and by doing so was in fact protecting people. The leader did not want people to start coming to the Sabbath worship service expecting to be healed, thus imposing on another person’s Sabbath and not allowing, healers to have this one day when they could set that aside, rest, worship and rely on God.
So here’s the thing, Jesus was not so concerned about what might happen. Jesus was not concerned about someone imposing on his Sabbath. This woman had not come seeking to be healed but Jesus had chosen to heal her and he would have done it whether it was the Sabbath or the fourth of July (if they had cared anything about the fourth of July).
Jesus was not concerned about what day of the week it was; Jesus was concerned for the freedom of this woman. Jesus saw a woman who was enslaved to an illness and he desired to set her free and this was something which, in his mind, was completely in line with the spirit of what the Sabbath was all about. Jesus argues his case by looking at the acts which God had allowed people to do on the Sabbath. God made allowances for animals to be set free to be able to get to the watering trough on the Sabbath, if God felt it important for an animal to be set free then, how much more was God concerned about the freedom of human beings whom God created and loved. Basically Jesus was asking, “isn’t the freedom of this woman from the bonds of this illness, so that she may able to move freely more important than releasing the bonds of an animal so that it may be free to move to get water and food as it so choose?”
The Sabbath was not merely about sanctity and rest. It was also a day about being set free. It was a day which reminded the people about how God had set them free when they were slaves in Israel. It was a day in which a person was set free from the day to day grind, a day which was free, free of work free of worry; a day to be free to rest, worship and reunite yourself with your creator and with those around you. When you think about it that way, healing this woman is a part of the spirit of the Sabbath
I firmly and whole heartedly believe God calls us to take one day, just one day out of each week to, STOP; to stop our normal routine, to take a break from that which drives us and causes us to go, go, go and rest, relax, take a day long deep breath, rejuvenate, focus on our relationships with one another and focus on our relationships with each other. I firmly believe that the call to Sabbath is just as strong as a call on the people of God today as it ever was.
The point of this passage it not that Jesus does not think that it is important that we have a day set aside for worshiping God and for rest, as commanded in Gen, Ex, and Deut. This passage is not here to show us how legalistic the Jews in Jesus’ day were, so we can look down on how they were wrong and completely misunderstood the intentions of God and pat ourselves on the back because they were so legalistic and hypocritical and we would never be like that. The point of this passage is freedom, that God desires freedom for all those who are called by Christ’s name, that God desires freedom for all humanity, that God desires freedom for all creation.
The key words in this passage are “set free” and “bound.” Jesus tells the leader, as well as us, that this woman was bound by her illness, just like the animals God made provisions for in the OT law, just like the Israelites in slavery. Jesus tells the woman that she is set free, just like the animals, just like the Israelites. Jesus himself tells us this, when he read from the scroll of Isaiah when he taught in the synagogue in Capernaum. Jesus is concerned about setting the captives free.  Setting the captive free is one of the things Jesus himself declares to is a part of his mission here on earth.  And here we have Jesus doing just that.
We would never say it this way but often times people think about Jesus as in the do’s and do not’s. When we think about what it means to become a Christian we think about how when we become a Christian we have to give up what we want to do. We have to give up our Sunday mornings and spend that time at church. We have to give up our time, so we can spend time reading God’s word and praying. We have to give up getting to act in the ways we want to and give up simply saying whatever we want to say and instead we need to allow God to work in us and through us, acting as Jesus would act and saying the things Jesus would have us say.
As Christians it is easy to get caught up in all the “rules.” And at their heart they have our best interest in mind. They are there to help us have a concrete understanding of what someone who is living and acting in Christ-like ways may act. But when we start focusing on the rules or laws for their own sake and not looking to the heart of the matter or to the real purpose such guidelines were laid down, we can be just like the leader, worried that laws have been broken and that the breaking of the rule this one time will lead to continual transgression and soon utter chaos.
So often, we are trying to do the right thing and are trying to simply encourage others to do the right thing, just like the synagogue leader. But too many times, we have our focus on the wrong thing. Our hearts are in the right places, we want what is right for God and for those around us, but our focus is not on God, our focus is not on the heart of the issues our focus is on the rules and the breaching of laws, as if the rules or laws themselves are an entity which need to be protected and shielded lest they be harmed in any way shape or form.
This passage is here to show us that Jesus did not come to bind us up with a set of rules, laws or even guidelines, but came to set us free. The “rules” that we get so focused on are not and should not be the focus of our lives as Christians. In fact they can not be the focus. Least we loose who Jesus is and what Jesus came to this earth to do. Jesus is freedom focused; focused on our freedom to love God, our freedom to live in relationship with him, our freedom to live lives that are worthy of the God that we love so much. Living life as a Christian, not a set of rules, it is that ability to live life the way it was created to be lived.
Being free is about allowing yourself to be free, as well as about allowing others to be free. It is easy to not only judge ourselves, but it is all too easy to begin to judge others by a set of standards and rules. We inhibit not only our own freedom but we try to enslave others in the same bounds in which we bind ourselves. Not only do we beat ourselves up but we make sure others know when they have done things wrong.
Jesus simply did not come so that we could live our lives bound by a set of rules, no matter how right those rules may be. Jesus came so that we can know the freedom of living life for Jesus, the freedom of living life the way we were created to live, reunited in relationship with one another and reunited in relationship with our God.
Living life as Christian may mean that the way in which we live our life will align with a list or a set of guidelines but that is not because we live by that set of rules or guidelines but because when we are living life reunited with our God, loving God and neighbor the way we were created to love, it just so happens to align with that list or set of guidelines. We live differently because we are compelled to live differently, because we are living lives marked by love; marked by love of God and love of neighbor. We live differently, but we live this way freely out of love not obligation and living life this way results in a life marked by joy.
Luke tells us that the lady and the crowd rejoiced after the healing and this whole discussion, because they were truly free to love, to worship God and to honor the Sabbath, not because God commanded them to do so, but because these things are also a part of living life the way God calls for us to live life.
Following the commands of Jesus should be a freedom which we embrace because we love him, not a chore that we do because we must, because we are commanded to do so, or because it is on a set of rules or a set of guideline which tell us what it looks like to love Jesus. So allow yourself to rejoice in your freedom, allow yourself to follow Jesus, allow yourself to love the way God calls you to love. You are free to live, you are free to love you are fee to be the people God called you to be to be the people you were created to be and now THAT is something to rejoice because about because YOU, like this woman, have been set free. How can Jesus set YOU free this morning?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Luke 13:10-17 - Week of August 19th-25th

Luke 13:10-17 - My First Impressions  

Sometimes pastoral ministry keeps you busy until Wednesday with other things. Here are my first thoughts for this week's passage. 

10. Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.
11. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.
Appeared? She was not there and then she was? More likely she had gone unseen, unnoticed until this point. As an invalid of sorts she would have been unimportant and largely ignored. Nobody sees her until Jesus sees her.
. . . And now, as long as scripture is read and studied, she will never go unseen again.  

12. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”
Jesus sets here free. She is in bondage to this ailment. She is unable to live a normal life, separated from society by something completely beyond her control a crippling illness that causes her to go through life hunched over. Jesus sees her, sees her infliction, sees her predicament, sees her imprisonment and sets her free.

13. When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.
Her immediate response is to praise God. She realizes the place from which Jesus’ power comes, from God.

14. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”
This man is not wrong. He is merely explaining God’s law regarding the Sabbath to the people. This is part of his job as leader of the synagogue.

15. But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?
It was common practice to allow your animals to have the freedom they needed, even on the Sabbath to get the food and water they needed. The Sabbath was not to result in a lack of basic needs being met of animals. They were to be set free to be able to do these things

16. And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?”
This woman was held captive by this ailment. It bound her and hindered her. One of the function of the Sabbath is as celebration of the Jew’s liberation, to set someone free on the Sabbath is in line with the intent of the Sabbath.

17. When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
When the people see what Jesus is about they begin rejoicing.
There is joy in encountering and discovering who Jesus is and his intentions to set us free from all that binds and enslaves us.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Learning from Jesus: Learning to Interpret

Luke 12:49-56
49 "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 
Fire really?
What does fire do?  What can be done with fire?  What would fire be used for in the ancient world?  What could be done with fire?

The fact of the matter is that fire is not simply known for its destructive nature.  Fire can also be a very good thing.  Fire was what cooked food. Fire was something which brought light during the night and gave warmth to a home when it was cold.   Fire was that which held the wild animals at bay in the wilderness.  It was also used to refine metal, it was used to burn out the impurities, make the metal stronger and to make it malleable so it could be shaped and formed into the properly.
Throughout the Old Testament, fire marked the presence of God. It was in the form of a smoking fire pot that God seals the covenant with Abraham. God speaks to Moses out of the burning bush, and it was the pillar of fire which leads the Israelites through the dessert.  
In this light fire is a good thing, something which can form and shape, something, which can purify and cleanse.  If we see this not as Jesus calling for fire to come to the earth to destroy but as fire coming to purify and cleanse, it makes sense why Jesus is desiring for that fire to already be kindled, for the fire to begin its work as soon as possible.  Jesus desires for us all to be cleansed and purified, he desires for the work he came to this earth to be completed, for every heart to be turned toward God and for all creation to be living the way God created creation to live. 

50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!
Baptism and Fire?  How are these two connected?
Talk to me about Pentecost, fire and baptism?
What baptism does Jesus STILL at this point in his ministry need to undergo?
What is the imagery we use today when we talk about full immersion water baptism?  What does going under and coming back up represent to us?
Jesus points forward to the purifying, cleansing fire of Pentecost and the second baptism, and then almost immediately says that he himself still has a baptism to undergo.  The death and resurrection pointed to in baptism was yet to come, therefore Jesus still has a baptism before him.  Before the fire can come, before humanity can be reunited to their creator, Jesus must first be laid beneath the earth and rise up out of it again, as symbolized in the going under the water and rising back up out of it again which took takes place whenever someone is baptized.  Not only is Jesus waiting with much anticipation for all this to come to pass but before the fire can come, before the Spirit can fall on believer, first Jesus must suffer, die, and be raised from the dead, and his passion and death is something to which Jesus is not looking forward, it brings him distress.  It is much like a mother to be, who looks forward to holding her baby in her arms but does not necessarily look forward to whole actually giving birth part.  Although she may be greatly anticipating the moment when she will hold her brand new baby in her arms, the idea of the reality of what it will take to actually give birth can cause great distress.  Likewise as Jesus looks forward to the baptism of death which lies before him this causes him great stress, although it will ultimately lead to that which he desires most for the world.

 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." 
What does it mean for Jesus to be a divisive force in this world?
What exactly is Jesus getting at here? Why would he say that he is here to turn family members against each other?  Don’t we believe that Jesus is here to bring peace?
Who did people expect Jesus to be?
Many people expected the messiah to be a great military leader who would come and make all things right for Israel, who would restore the political fortunes of Israel and restore their national identity and set himself on the throne of David to peacefully rule the nation as God intended. But this is not exactly what Jesus came to do.  Jesus did not come to bring military and political peace to a nation which had been in turmoil for hundreds of years. In fact restoring the nation of Israel not at all on Jesus’ agenda, in fact any kind of peace as they knew it was also not on his agenda.
Jesus was there to restore relationship with God.  Jesus was there to restore life to the way God created it to be.  Before all things can be truly set right all the things which are wrong have to be up ended and thrown to the wayside.  Societal norms will be cast to the side.  The things which you are told to value may not have any value at all.
Why attack the family?
What was family in ancient world? What was its place in society? What was its’ place in a person’s
In that day and age the family was the center of society, even more so than we would like to think it is today.  The family and familial relations were of the utmost importance.  A son, no matter how old was not under any circumstance to stand against his father.  This was also true for a daughter and her mother.  And when a young woman left her house and went to live in the house of her husband her Mother-in-law stood in the place where her mother once stood in her life.  These were sacred relationships, relationships which you respected at all costs.  You did not under any circumstances turn against or stand against these most important people in your life.  These relationships were to be protected and preserved above all other things and should be prize above anything else in one’s life. 
Jesus is saying not only is he to not bring peace as they would see it, but ultimately choosing to live the way God was calling people to live should come above the most important relationships in your life.  Jesus was not there to protect and up hold the norm of that society but Jesus was there to restore relationship with God and that relationship would stand over and above all other relationships and could very well break up that which would normally be considered sacred.  God was there to be the top, to be the most important, to be the most sacred.  If you were willing to follow God you must be willing to set aside all other things, no matter how important or sacred you might believe them to be. 
What is Jesus saying to us through this? About the relationships we value?  About what we value most?
Society might tell you this relationship CAN NOT be breached.  The world may tell you, that you can not at any cost cross this line but if that relationship stands in the way of your relationship with God or that line is blocking your way to living the life God has called you to live that relationship must be cast to the wayside and that line must be crossed.
Jesus did not come to bring peace, Jesus did not come to up hold the status quo and become a pillar to support the systems protected and revered by any particular society.  Jesus came to stand over and above these things.  God is more important than social structures.  Relationship with the creator of the universe is to be valued more than any relationship you may have on this earth.  The standard which Jesus calls us to should be sought after over and above, and even to the contrary of, any standards which the world around us might call us to live by. 

54 He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, "It is going to rain'; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, "There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
What does it mean to “see” the weather coming? Anyone ever live anywhere, where you can see the weather coming? 
How does being able to see the weather coming apply to being able to understand what is going on in the world around us?
Jesus was calling for his disciples to have that same kind of understanding of the world around them and about the gospel.  They needed to stop being ignorant of the things which were all around them, that is the truth of the gospel.  They needed to stop expecting Jesus to be who they wanted him to be.  They needed to look to the signs, look at the horizon and see what was going on all around them. Jesus was here to cleanse them, to bring a baptism of fire which would purify them and make them into the people God created them to be.  They needed to open their eyes to the signs around them and see that Jesus was not there to prop up the status quo of their society and live up to expectations which the world around them had set up for them.  Jesus was there to go against the norm, to break up the failures of the sinful status quo and set things right, not bring peace for Israel but to set things right for all creation, to bring all humanity back into relationship with God.  Jesus was not there to be the person they wanted him to be but Jesus was there to allow all of humanity to be the people God created them to be.
Jesus is calling us to be the people God created us to be.  We were created to live in unhampered relationship with God.  We were created to be pure and holy.  We were created to love God and love each other with unfettered and inexhaustible love but sin and the separation which sin caused between us and God as well as with one another (let us not fool ourselves into thinking that sin merely affects our relationship with God and is not extended to all our other relationships).  Jesus came to this earth to restore us to be the people God created us to be.  He came to this earth to allow us to live the way we were meant to live.  While he was here on earth his greatest desire was to usher in the coming of the refining fire of the Spirit which would allow this to begin to happen in the hearts and lives all those who choose to accept him as their Lord, savoir and restorer of their lives.
As Christians our deepest desire it to be who Jesus calls us to be, to be the people God created us to be, to be cleansed from all that disconnects us from God, to be freed from all that hinders us from being who we were meant to be, to be restored in relationship not only with one another, loving each other purely and wholly but to be restored in our relationship with God. 
But this may not look the way you or I would hope for it to look.  It may not follow the form or the pattern we want it to follow.  Jesus did not come to up hold our expectations.  He did not come to be who we think he should be.  He did not come to prop up the societal norms or to bolster the inadequacies of any individual culture.  Jesus came to shatter the norms, to tear away the inadequacies and restore things to their proper created order.  Jesus did not simply come to make our lives better, he did not come to simply make our society the best society it can be, he did not come to make things perfect as we would see perfection, but Jesus came to set things right once and for all.  Jesus came to shatter our understanding of perfection and show us what perfection truly is. 
Jesus came to do all these things for us, for our community and for our world, but you and I have no control over the world, we have no control over our community but we do have control of ourselves.  Jesus came to make things right beginning with me, beginning with you.  Jesus came to shatter all expectations, I have, you have of him.  Jesus came so that you might live, so that you may live abundantly, that is to live in pure unhampered, uninhibited relationship with God and so that you can learn to live same way that as you do in relationship with God in all your relationships in this world.  Jesus came to call you to be the person God created you to be. 
Jesus is calling for us to look around us to see the signs of this world, to see the truth of the Gospel to know and understand where the truth lies, to know and understand the expectations and the ways of our society and to know and understand how they measure up to the truth of who Jesus is and who it is God is calling us to be and to discern accordingly, what in this world is of value and what needs to be ignored.  We need to be able to see the signs of the gospel and see where our society falls short in what it expects of us and then to refuse listen to the voices of our society in those areas of our lives, to not follow that line but to instead to live in the ways which God is calling for us to live. 
Jesus also is calling for us to look to the horizon of our own lives, to be honest with ourselves about which way the wind is blowing in our lives and to understand how that stands up to what it means to be the people God wants to shape us and form us into being.  Living in right relationship with God; living lives which are cleansed, purified by the fire of the Spirit of God, means living the way God created us to live; that is loving God with all our hearts, strength and mind and to love one another with and through the love we have for God and the love which God gives to us.  Holy lives, lives pure and refined by God are lives of love.
In order for us to these kinds of lives, to live lives marked by the love of God, the lives Jesus is calling us to live, Jesus must be first in our life. In order for us to be the people God is calling us to be, we must live the way God created us to live, that is in relationship with the creator and that relationship must be the most important thing in our life.  All other expectations, all other priorities must be rearranged around this primary priority.  Anything that hinders, anything that stands in the way, anything which goes against God and against God’s call on your life must suffer, must be tossed to the wayside.  Nothing is as important, nothing is more important than allowing the cleansing, fire of God to purify you, make you holy and bring you to a point where you are living the way God is calling for you to live.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Luke 12:49-56 - Week of August 12th-18th

Luke 12:49-56
Series Title: Learning From Jesus
Sermon Title: Learning to Interpret

This follows the parable of the shrewd manager which lies between the last weeks passage and this one.

Day One:  Looking at the Text
49 “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
Fire? Fire is seen throughout the OT as a sign of God: Burning Bush; Pillar of Fire, Fire on the alter (Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al)
What kind of fire is this? Jesus want this fire to be ignited.

50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!
Fire is linked to Baptism – John said, “I baptize with water but the one who comes after me will baptize with fire. (basically)
“Stress” this is an interesting word – I never think of Jesus being “stressed”
Does Jesus’ “baptism” include the cross? Because this seems to be a reference to his “stress” until his death and resurrection – Could he mean something else?

51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!
Yes, Jesus I do - Jesus was heralded as the “prince of peace” – who is this Jesus who comes to bring division and no peace?

52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three;
53 they will be divided:
father against son
          and son against father,
mother against daughter
          and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
           and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
What do we do with this?
Jesus is dividing households against one another? What does he mean by that? How will they be divided? And over what?

This sounds like a reference to the American Civil War

54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens.
55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens.
When I lived in Kansas, we knew when a storm was coming –you could see if from afar. Jesus seems to be talking about this kind of basic knowledge of being able to see the weather as it is coming

56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
Jesus says being able to see the signs of the “present time” should be just as intuitive to us?
What kinds of signs would the disciples be seeing?
What should they be seeing on the horizon? Jesus’ death? The resurrection?
Should we too be seeing signs? If so what kind? And of what?
What is the “present time” which we should be interpreting?

Monday, August 5, 2019

Luke 12:32-40 - Week of August 5th- August 11th

Luke 12:32-40 - Sermon for August 11, 2019
          Series: Learning From Jesus
          Tentative sermon title: Learning to be Ready

Day 1: Reading through the text, making notes, and observations

·      This follows the things we looked at last week: Our relationship with our possessions – the things we feed our soul
·      Also follows the “do not worry passage” God takes care of the ravens and the grass – God can and will take care of you – worry gets you nothing

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
 "Do not be afraid "- this is what angels say to those to whom they are bringing a message from God - these are words that are suppose to bring calm to the hearer
"little flock" - I like the idea of believers collectively being a "little" flock - to mee this sounds endearing and calming
 God will give you the kingdom – the things of heaven – the riches only God can provide – when we are “rich toward God” then it is God’s kingdom that is what is gained

33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
The opposite of building “bigger better barns” and storing all we have in them to protect them and keep them safe, is selling what belongs to us and giving to those in need.
Purses that do not wear out – every woman’s dream ;) – but seriously –things that hold God’s riches do not wear out
Treasure in heaven –the same kind of language as “rich toward God” – that which is eternally valuable – has value beyond the possessions and wealth we can accumulate  

34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
What we value is where we “live”- Jesus calls us to dwell, to live in God’s kingdom and live by the rules and live into the culture of God’s kingdom
“thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth . . .” – here, now
 Where we hold what we value is where we live, are we living in God’s kingdom and living in God’s culture or are we living in this world and ruled by the culture here

35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit;
I wonder what “being dressed for action” looks like. Was this a military image? Or an image of household life in 1st century Palestine?

36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.
Earlier in Luke, Jesus tells us if we knock, the door will be opened, but here Jesus is knocking – well it seems Jesus is the master in this context
These two verses seem to harken back to the Parable of the Bridesmaids from Matthew 25

37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.
Having them sit down, eat and then serving ones servants/slaves was not common behavior for masters, even ones who are extremely pleased with the work that has been done.
This is a role reversal – slaves serve their master – but here the master serves the slaves – Markers of God’s kingdom? – The culture of the kingdom? – Traces of the way in which Jesus turns everything upside down with his life, teachings, death and resurrection?

38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
This seems to point forward to the parable Jesus tells directly following this passage. But it also reminds me of the parables about servants in Mark 13 and Matthew 25

39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.
If any of us knew when the thief was coming . . . we would not have anything stolen
Don’t be an unattended house?
Be ever vigilent – but ever vigilent about what, toward what?
We are not to worry – like ravens and grass – but we are to guard against thieves
What are we guarding?
Do we spend too much time and effort guarding the wrong things? Like our “stuff” – bigger better barns to keep our “stuff” safe, when we should be rich toward God and instead be building purses or barns that cannot be too small and can not break?
The first question is what is it we value?
The Second is where are we storing that stuff?
Where we store our stuff is our kingdom, and what kind of stuff we are holding as valuable will determine where we are storing it.
Where is our kingdom?

40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
And all this has to do with being ready
Ready for God’s kingdom to truly come – we pray for THAT ever Sunday, are we ready for it?
Are we prepared for God’s culture to be the dominant culture, by already living into that culture here and now?
Are we living out God’s values now by valuing what God values and not what our society tells us is valuable?

What does all this tell us about being ready?
What is it Jesus is trying to teach us here?
What is Jesus saying to us, 21st century disciples?

Day 2-3: Reading Commentaries and taking notes

Day 4: Thoughts derived from my commentary reading

“Do not be afraid“

We live in a time and place where there is much fear – it is almost as if Jesus speaks across the millennia to us telling us to not be afraid

These are scary times – I was going downtown to go shopping with the girls this week and paused for a hot second and wondered, “is it safe to there?” after all it is a crowded location with lots of people

“Father’s good pleasure”

Good pleasure is a gracious decision in favor of  - this is God’s grace toward us at work

God is good and God takes pleasure in giving to us, in comforting us, in the midst of the often frighten world in which we live

“give you the kingdom”  

The kingdom of God is given to us. God graciously gives all that is God’s kingdom to us

Reminds me of the beatitudes . . Do no be afraid; for the kingdom of God will be given to you

The Gospel is Good News – reminds me of a my friend Jonathan Phillips’ definition of evangelism, “communicating (through words and/or actions) what God has done in and through Jesus Christ in a way that is received as good news.”

This follows a passage about not worrying about what we eat or wear and now he says just sell it all – only keep what has real value – only hold on to that which can be held in eternal storage

Jesus moves from anxiousness to financial stewardship

Our anxiety including financial can get in the way of being ready

Being ready is allowing Jesu to relieve our worries of keeping our stuff by giving it away freely

We are ambassadors of the kingdom which God gives to us; ambassadors of a kingdom ethic security is not found in what we have or the gathering of possessions

Our bent toward sinning (as Wesley puts it) is often manifested in a bent toward consumerism and materialism – this gets in the way of being the kingdom people God is calling us to be – how can we take a hold of God’s kingdom when we are holding on to the values and what is considered valuable of our current kingdom?

Jesus is calling us to give up our life of anxiety for a life of devotion by providing for the needs of others

“sell your possession and give alms”

The Disciples had left everything to follow Jesus

Sell what you have and give to the needy – this is not giving from what is extra, from what you can spare – this is sacrificial giving, giving of yourself

 “alms” – charity – a particular kind of contribution to the needy that is an act of mercy

“treasure in heaven”

A vision of a society where wealth is seen differently

Where we invest our wealth matters

Do we value God and God’s kingdom over and above what we own?

“watchfulness. . .”

Detaching from our possession is a way to be ready

Readiness is faithful fulfillment of an assigned responsibility

“dressed and ready for action”

Akin to, “let your loins be girded

This mean you belt your robe up so that it is up and out of the way so you can do work
Being ready is the sign of a good servant – ready to do the work

 “Master” – Lord – words used interchangeable to translate ‘kurios’ – Jesus is Lord.

Role reversal – the Master serves the servant – sit down relax – recline

The master is returning from a banquet and the servant is asked to take the position of one at a banquet.

But being a servant of Jesus Christ means that we can be surprised by a master who serves us even as we are ready to serve him

Being ready of the coming of Jesus is not found in anxieties and possessions but instead being devoted to Kingdom lifestyle

Readiness is trusting the Lord – relying on Jesus in a violent world – Do not be afraid. . .

Living kingdom lives is giving up our anxiousness, giving up our worry, choosing to not be afraid and living lives instead which communicate peace

Jesus is calling us to be a non-anxious presence in an anxious and fearful world – we live into something different – we live upside down lives in this world

Fear not! Ours is the kingdom

Let us continue to pray, “God’s will be done.” Here. Now.

Johnson, Luke Timothy, "The Gospel of Luke", Sacra Pagina Series vol 3, edited by Harrington, Daniel J., The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1991.

TanneHill, Robert C. , "Luke", Abingdon New Testament Commentary, edited by Furnish, Paul Victor, Abingdon Press, 1996.

Tedder, Roland. “Luke 12:32-40.”,