Monday, June 25, 2007

Look ahead Luke 9:51-62

Jesus and his friends were traveling in Samaritan territory. He sent messengers ahead to the next town to announce his impending arrival. When Jesus arrived he was not accepted. Luke 9:53 says he was unwelcome because, "his face was set toward Jerusalem."

The old feud between Jews and Samaritans was on in Jesus day, same as it had been for centuries. The Jews believed the center of religious life and worship was at the temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans believed the center of worship was at Mount Gerizim in Nablus. The dispute between these two groups was generations deep. They both held onto the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible, as the Word of God. They even lived next to one another, and yet they refused to make peace because they understood God and worship so very differently. Yet no one else on earth worshiped only one God as these two groups had done for centuries.

Jesus was not wanted in a Samaritan town. And now two of his friends had an idea that would teach them not to disrespect Jesus. They asked for permission to call down fire and brimstone.

"The disciples act from human motives of retaliation. Jesus expects a disciple to act with the same motivation as the Master: forgiveness and mercy, rather than condemnation and destruction." Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux Conference Office
We respond to life's challenges out of our earthly instincts; but Jesus calls us to act for very different reasons. In Luke, following Jesus' bold instructions often moved the people he met in radically different directions than they'd have ever expected to go on their own. For James and John, the Sons of Thunder, it meant putting aside the desire to destroy those who had ignored Jesus' ministry.

Jesus went on down the road and a few others came to join him for some of the journey. He warned one that, "Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn't have a place to call his own." (Luke 9:58). Another came and said he would come follow Jesus as soon as he had buried his father. Another said he would come as soon as he said farewell to those at home. Jesus challenged his would be followers not to look back.

Jesus' invitation for us it to look ahead. In our world its easy to get trapped in memory and history. James and John were ready to see a whole town punished because of they didn't "accept Jesus". Jesus had a mission and following him means that we each have a part in that mission.
If your Bible has study notes, you'll see that some ancient manuscripts insert an extra verse in this week's Gospel at Luke 9:56. I think of this extra verse as the most important verse not in the Bible. At Luke 9:56 some Greek manuscripts add a conclusion to the story: "And Jesus said to them, 'You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.'" Journey With Jesus
Jesus mission is clear missing verse or not. He came to save and his disciples, both then and now, get caught in the most basic parts of our human nature and miss Jesus mission. For a human its easy to get caught up in the past, both bad and good. We get stuck recycling old hurts or seeking to live in the "good old days." But that's not where God wants us to live. We are called to live in the present and to minister to the people who live around us. Having a mission, like Jesus, demands that we focus on today and keep moving toward the future.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Watch out Daemons. He's coming for you. Luke 8:26-39

In Luke's story about the man possessed by a "Legion" of daemons, we see what God can do to transform the most desperate situation. The man was living on the edge of society: in the tombs. He was naked and alone. Today we might call it mental illness, addiction, or some other tragic situation; regardless of what we think of the story with modern eyes the basic outline is clear. A man needed help; Jesus met him and delivered him.
The man who was possessed by daemons wasn't in any position to demand respect from Jesus. He didn't come to God saying he was worthy of help. He met God when he was desperate; literally naked and alone. It wouldn't even be right to say that this man came to God. Luke says that, the man and Jesus met when Jesus set foot on the shore.
Jesus still works this way. He searches out the broken. He ate with the sinners and the contagious. He gives his body and blood not to a worthy church but to all of us who Luther called "beggars." We come to the table looking for a scrap of God's mercy and forgiveness and grace and God offers his own body and blood to redeem us and hold us fast until we rise again with Christ in the resurrection to everlasting life.

Who is this Jesus?
In Luke 7 and 8 the question "Who is this" was asked twice of Jesus. Once when he stilled the storm and once when he forgave the woman who was a know sinner. In Luke's 8:26-29 the man and the daemons that tormented him knew enough about Jesus to know he could change the situation. The daemons knew enough to try and keep him away. Jesus wasn't deterred by the ugliness of reality. He didn't wait for the man to shave, get dressed, or make a statement of faith before he helped him. Jesus reached out to him from the very heart of God.
Meeting Jesus in this story is a glimpse of God's coming kingdom. Jesus is not vaguely interested in us. He was active in history and he is ready to be active in our lives. He entered right into the every day life of the people who lived around him. He didn't enter their ideal lives he entered their real lives as sinners in need of a merciful God. And Jesus is doing the same thing for us. Listen to him in Luke's stories and you meet him as person who brings the unexpected kingdom of God right into our lives

Can you admit when you desperately need the help of God?
The part of the story that sticks out is the desperation of the man who was possessed. He needed but wasn't necessarily looking for help. He didn't come qualified for it; he was desperate for it.
My old teacher Gerhard Forde, of blessed memory, wrote in Carl Braaten's 2 Volume Christian Dogmatics, about the moment when God could do the most for us (excuse the lack of proper sitation but my wife says its time to come home). He said that moment when God can make us holiest occurs when we admit we need God the most; not when we think we need a little help from God, or a little guidance from God.
The moment that God can do the very most with any of us is the moment we come naked and alone desperate for mercy and grace. When Jesus finds you desperate he can do the most to make you over in his image. Come to him when you think your ready and you'll go away unchanged. Jesus came not for the self-prepared. He came for a broken world in need of healing offering himself not as a model alone, but as the one who would take away the sins of the world.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Mercy and Love Define Jesus, not us. Luke 7:36-8:3

A woman was forgiven. A man was angry. He didn't think she deserved it.

It's a basic story and there's no telling how many times it has happened in the history of the world? One person is forgiven and another is angry. Jesus forgives things we wouldn't. He forgives people we wouldn't. The unforgiving person didn't see forgiveness as reasonable or even possible for a woman caught in such sins. I understand this man's attitude. For some reason its easy to see my sins as forgivable and somebody else's as unforgivable. For Jesus forgiveness is possible for all. For us its often impossible.

Make it worse, for the angry man, is that this woman came into the house of a Pharisee and perfumed and kissed the feet of a prophet. He thought that this prophet would want nothing to do with her. But this prophet came to bring forgiveness to the world. At the core this story is about three people. A woman who had sinned, a savior who came to forgive, and a man who was shocked by the forgiveness.

Jesus forgave the woman. He offered her new life and hope. He explained to the unforgiving man that she showed him great love because so much had been forgiven. I believe that he would have forgiven the angry man too.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Do you see the mission: Galatians 1:11-24

this is a ramble
but hey, I'm on vacation and celebrating the arrival of a new puppy this week



Reading Galatians is a reminder that Paul had a mission and he wasn't afraid of talking about it. There's no doubt. He was called to proclaim Christ. He did it for three years before going to Jerusalem to meet with the elders of the church. He did it even when it meant disagreeing with the elders of the church.

The church today has a mission, just like Paul. Paul's mission wasn't from this world and neither is ours. In the church today its easy to forget that we are called by God to do extraordinary things and not just the same old ordinary things.

Paul was called by God and the call transformed him from Jesus' enemy in to proclaimer and witness to Jesus as Lord. Paul was not alone in discovering new life and new mission in Jesus. Peter, the man who denied Jesus late in the night of His betrayal, found new purpose after the resurrection. It was Jesus forgiveness and daring trust in Peter that placed him at the foundation of the church. All of us have a mission to bring life and hope to others in the name of Jesus; and in bringing life and hope in Jesus name we can see how God is also bringing new life and hope to each and every one of us.

Meeting Jesus changes us. Our experiences of God's grace remind us that Jesus is in the business of renewing all creation and of using all of us for purposes. Sometimes we'll even get the call to do something that we have never imagined. We can brag as churches about all that we have done in the past, but like Paul we still have a mission for Jesus. Together as brothers and sisters we'll get even more done.