Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jesus' 2 fold mission: to die and rise Luke 13:31-35

2nd Sunday of Lent year C
This reading from Luke gives us a little hint to the real on the ground interaction between Jesus and the people arround him.
Jesus had some disagreements with the Pharisees, still some of the Pharisees came with a warning: Herod, the king, was going to kill him. Jesus response to the news reveals his keen awareness of his mission and the world arround him. Jesus came into a world to die and rise; but he had other plans to fulfill before his death. Herod, the fox, may have wanted him dead but Jesus knew his death wouldn't come quite yet. He was headed towards Jerusalem to die as the true passover lamb.
Jesus had plans and other people, in Palestine 2000 years ago, had their own agendas. Herod wanted power. The Pharisees wanted to know the truth. The people wanted a healer to caste out daemons and heal their broken bodies. They wanted a king who could overthrough the Romans.
Jesus came to die for the whole world. But he had other things to do.

--first, before his death he called a small group together to spread the word: the Kingdom of God has come near.

--second he came to heal and to teach the masses.

--Jesus knew he had greater work. He set his eyes towards Jerusalem knowing that his ultimate mission was to die and rise on the 3rd day.

The church is challenged in the same way today. There's political intrigue overlapping economic struggles. There's no shortage of theological discord or denominational politics dividing the body of Christ. And if we listen close enough to our neighbors in need we can hear people cry out for a messiah.
In the church we join together with Christ in service to our neighbors. We join not to step out of the troubles of the world but to step into the world joining in God's mission. It's time to pray that God help us persevere in faith.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Surprising Light in the Dark Luke 9:28-43

Tranfiguration/ Last Sunday of Epiphany: Year C

Our Gospel reading today, Luke 9:28-43, is an invitation to take a moment for awe and wonder. This is a great story; if you have a chance just sit back and read it a couple of times. Luke tells it pretty plainly with 3 plot twists.

The first surprise: Jesus and his friends headed up to a mountain top to pray. Luke tells us the crowds around Jesus were getting bigger. Jesus and 3 friends, Peter, James, and John went away to pray. An atheist might scoff at prayer to God. Prayer, to an atheist, is talking to yourself or your imaginary friend; but for believers praying is reaching out in hope to the God you've never seen but know by faith.

Jesus and his friends were going to pray. People who pray know its tough when your tired. Jesus' companions were heavy with sleep. Somehow they managed to keep awake. Thankfully, Luke tells us, they did because they saw extraordinary things. In a flash Jesus appearance changed. He was dazzling white. Suddenly Moses and Elijah were there on the mountaintop with Jesus. Peter told Jesus that he would like to build 3 booths for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. And then a voice called out from a cloud, “This is my Son, my Chosen, listen to him.

The second surprise: Jesus and his friends and everything else was back to normal just as quickly as Jesus had been transformed before them. Moses and Elijah were gone. All that glory and wonder just vanished. Luke includes one more important detail. Jesus' friends were silent about what they'd seen in those days.

The third surprise. The next day Jesus and his friends were back in the crowds. A man came begging Jesus to help. His son was seized by a spirit that caused him to convulse. The boy's father was desperate. He'd asked Jesus followers to help the boy; but they couldn't cast the spirit out. And Jesus answered him first with words of rebuke for the people and then by setting the boy free from the unclean spirit.

Maybe you want to see God on the mountain top and you're living in a deep valley. When you get low its easy to doubt that God cares about you or any individual. Our lives are full of twists and turns; we are surprised by joy and confronted by suffering. May God reveal himself in our lives showing his light and helping us overcome our weaknesses and shames.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fishing for People: Luke 5:1-11

Epiphany 5C February 7, 2010
It had been a long hard night out on the water. And Simon hadn't caught any fish while he and the others were out in the boat on Lake Galilee.

Fishing wasn't a recreational sport for Simon, his partners, or for just about anybody else in Galilee. Fishing wasn't about story telling or communing with nature. Fishing was work. You didn't fish to get away from it all with the guys at the traditional place to play cards and reminisce around the fire. People in Galilee needed to catch fish to make a living. It was a basic part of the social fabric and economy of Galilee 2000 years ago. The fisherman had to pay their bills for their boats and nets. They had their share of taxes to pay to their overlords in Judea and in Rome.1 Simon, and the others he was fishing with, just needed to catch a break and they couldn't .

They just needed to catch something. And Peter hadn't caught a thing. He needed something; but he didn't have a thing in hand.

Its frustrating to go fishing and end up empty handed; even if you don't need a catch to survive. Simon and his friends desperately needed a catch. They didn't go out just to be on the water because its fun to be out on the water. They went out because they needed to make a living. And they had nothing in hand after a night out on the water. And in that moment of deep frustration Jesus showed up. A crowd had gathered around on the shore to hear him preach the word of God.

Simon and the other folks who just come back from fishing were pretty tired by now. But he was also probably curious. Here on the lake shore a charismatic man attracted a crowd who just wanted to listen to him. Soon enough this very same charismatic man stepped into his boat asking him to put out a little from shore.

The lake must have been pretty still that morning as he spoke to the crowd gathered on the shore. Jesus' words that morning weren't recorded, except for the few sentences that Jesus spoke to Simon we heard have here in Luke there's no other record of what was said.

4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 2

Simon was tired. It's hard work to be out fishing when there no catch. It takes so much hope to go out and search for a catch. And Simon was divided. His body and brain told him it was time to give up he'd been at it all night. But his hope was strong. He wasn't totally ready to give up. He responded to Jesus invitation in hope, “...because you say so. I will let down the nets.” Luke explains that Simon's hope didn't return empty. After an exhausting night Simon and his partners hauled in an enormous catch.

6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

Simon was caught by Jesus at the very moment. He and his partners caught all these fish and hauling them all in shock him to the very core. God has a way of surprising his people with joy. He has the audacity to meet us in surprising ways in the everyday things of creation. It's God will to work in the ordinary and even the difficult times to surprise us with joy and hope.

8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Experiencing the living God who made heaven and earth is fearful and intense. The writer of Hebrews 10:31 explains it this way. He says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” 3 Simon and his friends were regular guys and now they realized they were in the presence of the almighty. Peter wasn't a professional religious person who worked in the temple or in the courts of the high priest. He wasn't the best educated man or even the member of a prestigious family. Jesus knew all that. Jesus knew Simon and he knows who you and I really are too. Our sins, our shame, our guilt, our griefs. We stand naked before God.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

God's plan for Simon and for us is revealed in surprising ways. The God who catches us and surprises us with joy and forgiveness intends to send us out. Jesus sent his friends out to catch people with the Good News. God is going to send all of us out too.

We are sent out to catch others. And God will go with you to share the same surprising joy that he used to catch you. Simon was afraid; he knew he had nothing to offer God. And that's exactly why Jesus wanted him. God wants to use us in our weakness and in our feebleness. He wants us to catch others by spreading the Good News that the kingdom of God has come near.

1K.C. Hanson “The Galilean Fishing Economy and the Jesus Tradition.” Originally published in Biblical Theology Bulletin 27 (1997) 99-111

2The Holy Bible : New International Version, (electronic ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984), Lk 5:4-11.
3The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version, ( Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Heb 10:31.