"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering." (Romans 12:1, MSG)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

#LukeActs2014 - Luke chapter 7

It is no secret how much I admire Eugene Peterson and reading his paraphrase of Luke chapter 7 this week evoked yet again the familiar response of being awe-inspired by his gift for language.

I was first intrigued by Peterson's subtitle for verses 1 thru 17 - A Place Of Holy Mystery, especially when you consider this passage is first to follow the Sermon on the Mount and the concluding section he titled Work The Words Into Your Life. 

Near the end of Luke chapter 6, Jesus gives this instruction to the hearers of his sermon:
"These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on."
That foundation is faith and it is sometimes discovered, and often affirmed, in places of holy mystery. 

In chapter 7, we first read about the centurion in Capernaum whose servant was ill and sent for Jesus to heal him. Apparently, this Roman captain had "worked the words into his life" and established a firm foundation, having faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. For when he heard Jesus was coming to honor his request, his sense of unworthiness to be in the presence of the Lord led him to send word to Jesus and ask him to simply speak the word from afar so his servant would be made well. Jesus responds, "I've yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know God and how he works." As expected, the servant was made well.

Next, we read how Jesus restores the widow's dead son to life. All who witnessed this "realized they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them." And, the evidence that Jesus is the Son of God, sent to deliver his people, continues from there. 

"The blind see.

The lame walk.

Lepers are cleansed.

The deaf hear.

The dead are raised.

The wretched of the earth have God's salvation hospitality extended to them."

Then, in verse 23 Jesus asks, "Is this what you were expecting?" I would say that for those who had "worked the words into their lives" and found themselves in "places of holy mystery," the answer was likely a resounding, "Yes!" For as Tim Keller so eloquently tweeted last week, "When you're face to face with the gospel, no one is hopeless." The truth of Keller's statement finds proof in the conclusion of the chapter.

A sinful woman washes Jesus' feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, and anoints them with expensive perfume at the dinner table of a Pharisee. This, of course, draws the typical reaction from the Pharisee and his guests, which Jesus ignores by rewarding her kindness and gratitude with these final words for the chapter:
"Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
John Wesley preached in his sermon Salvation By Faith, "Grace is the source, faith the condition, of salvation." Luke chapter 7 is filled with stories supporting his claim. May we all work the words into our lives and, through faith, experience God's saving grace in places of holy mystery.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

#LukeActs2014 - Luke chapter 6

This week we find ourselves reading yet another chapter from Luke's gospel that is so rich in content. Forty-nine verses to be exact...and that's why it has been difficult to determine what to focus on and keep it within the confines of a weekly blog post.

In chapter 6 verses 20 through 49, Luke relates a rather compressed-feeling version of the Sermon on the Mount, especially when compared with what we find in Matthew's gospel. In fact, it is only one-fourth the length of Matthew's. That interesting point aside, I think for today's blog I want to focus on Luke 6:37-42 (CEB).
37 "Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return."

39 Jesus also told them a riddle. "A blind person can’t lead another blind person, right? Won’t they both fall into a ditch? 40 Disciples aren’t greater than their teacher, but whoever is fully prepared will be like their teacher. 41 Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s or sister’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Brother, Sister, let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when you don’t see the log in your own eye? You deceive yourselves! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye."
I think about this passage often when I hear Christians say things like, "Love the sinner. Hate the sin." Such sentiments leave me wondering when it became our job to make judgments about someone else's behavior (regardless of whether or not we have sufficient biblical evidence to support our determination that they are committing what in God's eyes likely would be a sin). I mean, it's not as if God is too busy with pouring out love, grace, and forgiveness on His created ones to have the time to the judging Himself, right? No. God is God, after all, and He did say, "Judgment is mine; I will pay people back." And he also said, "The Lord will judge his people." (Heb. 10:30)

Besides, in my estimation anyway, God commanded us to do things like:

  • "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth." 
  •  "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind." 
  • "You must love your neighbor as you love yourself."
 And, oh yeah, let's not forget the Ten Commandments. 

I just don't seem to recall a commandment that says, "Judge your neighbor and call them out on their sins...especially the ones you find most offensive."  

I guess how I see it is that we are to call people to turn toward God, to change their hearts and lives, and that we all "must be holy in every aspect of our lives, just as the one who calls us is holy." (1 Pet 1:15) But, I also believe it is up to the Holy Spirit to convict someone of what they must change about their lives so that they might become more fully the person God made them to be.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a log in my eye that needs my attention.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

#LukeActs2014 - Luke Chapter 5

I had every intention of writing this week's blog with a focus on the call stories of Simon (Peter) and Levi (Matthew) found in Luke chapter 5 and what they have to say to us today; but, my sermon for the 6:35 service tonight will go into these and this morning something else grabbed my attention instead.

In Luke 5:15-16 we read:
"News of him spread even more and huge crowds gathered to listen and to be healed from their illnesses. But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer."(CEB)
Not being one to shy away from sharing the words of another when they express something better than I can myself, I want to invite you to read what Fred Craddock has to say about this passage:
"The people are not to be faulted; they want to hear and be healed (v. 15). But Jesus will not permit himself to be defined by the people or be so occupied as to be cut off from the source of his power. He is in the desert again, praying and perhaps, as in the desert before, struggling. It was no simple or easy matter to turn away, even for prayer, so long as even one diseased or possessed person asked for help. Some of us regard turning from evil to good a victory; only persons of extraordinary spiritual discernment can at times turn from good to the power necessary to resource the good. In verse 16, Luke says literally, "But he was withdrawing in desert places (plural) and praying." This is not a reference to a single instance but a pattern of repeated behavior. This is as customary for Jesus as going to the synagogue on the Sabbath." (Interpretation, p, 72)
How good is that?! As someone who has an ongoing struggle with making time to withdraw from the busyness of life to enjoy Sabbath rest, I really appreciate this reminder.

And so, that is where I am going to leave things for this week. Before I turn to my calendar of obligations and growing to-do list, I am going to withdraw for a few moments to pray - for my family, my friends, my colleagues in ministry, anyone who might read this. May we all find time in the middle of things to turn to the "power necessary to resource the good" and may grace and peace be with you this day.