Monday, August 23, 2010

Look who's coming to dinner Luke 14:1,7-14

Jesus told parables, like the one in Luke 14:1,7-14, to help people understand what he saw happening as the kingdom of God arrived. The parable isn't just about how we eat at fancy meals or even who we eat with. This parable is really about how God regards all of us and how God in turn wants us to honor the people around us.

Unfortunately the lectionary leaves out part of the story. Luke starts out telling us that Jesus was going to a meal on the sabbath. The missing part is that Jesus came in and met a man with dropsy, probably today we'd call it edema. Jesus asked the pharisees if it was legal for him to heal on the sabbath. The pharisees were silent. And Jesus healed the man and sent him on his way. Jesus wouldn't accept their silence. So he asked pointedly,

“If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?” And they could not reply to this. Luke 14:5-6 NRSV
I think that Jesus invitation to dinner was a set up. The meal was to be held in the home of a leader of the pharisees. They wanted to watch him closely waiting for him trip over one law so that they could discredit him.

The house was filling and Jesus watched as everyone took their places for the banquet. Then started to tell a story about honor and place. Honor and recognition matter to you and to me and it surely mattered to the pharissees. But humility and hospitality matter to God.

Jesus came in flesh and blood to fulfill the law and the prophets. He came bringing the glory of God with him. He came not to serve people or to be judged by people. He came revealing the Kingdom of God in his words and in his actions by healing the broken, forgiving wrongdoers, and finally dying to save the whole world. In his rising from death Jesus opened the way for the world to come join him in a feast that has no end.

We can't make ourselves ready for such a feast. We need an invitation; but we have done nothing worthy of such a gracious gift. Jesus, crucified and risen, has prepared the way for us in our poverty and brokeness to join him at the eternal feast and now he invites us to bring in the poor, crippled, lame, and the blind.

May God help us to be a church that opens its doors to the poor and seeks no place of honor. May God give us the humility to follow him always serving as his emissaries to the poor and forgotten.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

God's unauthorized power

The story in Luke 13:10-17 makes me want to stand up and cheer. The kingdom of God was coming at unexpected hour. It happened as Jesus taught in a synagogue on the Sabbath. In the crowd he saw a woman hunched over. We might speculate as to the cause maybe arthritis, maybe scoliosis, maybe an injury. Jesus said it was something more sinister naming the power that held her bound as daemonic.
Jesus called to her saying woman you are set free. He went over and placing his hand on her Jesus healed her. She started praising God. She was free: Alleluia.
The leader of the synagogue protested rather than offer any kind of praise. He insisted that the Sabbath wasn't the right day for healing There are other days in the week to come and be healed. But not this day he exclaimed.
Jesus called him out. “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? 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?” Luke 13:15-16 NRSV.
The man in the synagogue knew the law very well; but he didn't approve of Jesus' merciful actions on behalf of the suffering. He thought that because he knew the law he knew what God could and couldn't do. God's kingodom comes in many ways both expected and unexpected, both seen and unseen. Even the law was no limit on Jesus' mercy.
In the Lord's prayer we say again and again, "Thy kingdom come." Martin Luther wrote in his small catechism,

"To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us." Theodore G. Tappert, The Book of Concord : The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ( Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2000, c1959), The Small Catechism: III, 7.
May thy kingdom come. AMEN.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

waiting for fire

Jesus words in Luke 12 move from inspiring confidence in what God can do on behalf of his people to showing us the reason why Jesus came.
He came to bring fire to the world. 3 years ago I wrote a reflection on this weeks Gospel that still gets a hit every now and then. The reality is still the same. Jesus' passion for us is no different. He burns to see us alive and on fire for his sake and not our own. And still we wait as a church in idle speed. Listen to George Barna and others and you can start to see the effects of idling as the church while the Spirit moves past us.
Jesus' words in Luke 12 start with a promise that God will be present and that he will provide for us in every need and every way. We can trust in that promise. The trouble is we are waiting for signs that tell us God's promise is good when that's been true all along.
A few years ago Peter Stucki presented a great painting No Waiting for Signs at the Northeast Minneapolis Spiritual Art Show a.k.a Spargex. Pete's painting of a street sign with the words NO WAITING FOR SIGN is a message for us. (if anybody knows a link for Peter or this painting please pass it on. We don't need to idle any more. The Good News is in our hands and on our lips. Spread it and watch God do the work. You will see the fire move.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Trusting in God Luke 12:32-40

Jesus gives clear instructions in the gospel reading for this week.

  • do not be afraid
  • sell your possessions and give alms
  • make purses in heaven where thieves can't steal or moths destroy your true treasure
  • be dressed for action with your lamps lit
These instruction go hand in hand. He says to trust him knowing that he will supply us with our every need. He says trust knowing that we are here today by God's grace. But we aren't supposed to live with our eyes only on this world alone. We are to live confident that God keeps his promises and that we won't be cut off from his gracious provision either here or in the world to come.

Martin Luther wrote of this confidence as he explained the 4th petition of the Lord's Prayer.
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that God may make us aware of his gifts and enable us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
What is meant by daily bread?
Answer: Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs, such as food and clothing, house and home, fields and flocks, money and property; a pious spouse and good children, trustworthy servants, godly and faithful rulers, good government; seasonable weather, peace and health, order and honor; true friends, faithful neighbors, and the like. Theodore G. Tappert, The Book of Concord : The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ( Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2000, c1959), The Small Catechism: III, 11-14.

Jesus remind us again that we can be confident in God's love. AMEN