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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 18: September 30, 2009, Luke 20.1-47

Day 18: September 30, Luke 20.1-47

My commentary is below the text: 

Luke 20


20One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders 2and said to him, “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?” 3He answered them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: 4Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” 5They discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 7So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8Then Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

9He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. 10When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. 12And he sent still a third; this one also they wounded and threw out. 13Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Heaven forbid!” 17But he looked at them and said, “What then does this text mean: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” 19When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.


20So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. 21So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. 22Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 23But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, 24“Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” They said, “The emperor’s.” 25He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent.

27Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30then the second 31and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32Finally the woman also died. 33In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” 34Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

39Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40For they no longer dared to ask him another question. 41Then he said to them, “How can they say that the Messiah is David’s son? 42For David himself says in the book of Psalms, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 43until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ 44David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” 45In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, 46“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets. 47They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Commentary:   By what authority!  By what authority do you say and do such things!  Jesus turns the question on them and says, "tell me, by what authority did John the Baptizer do what he did?"  Jesus knew that the religious leaders wouldn't answer this question for fear of the crowds who looked up to John.  It is clear from this that the religious leaders have rejected the authority that John had and therefore the one who gave it to him.  The parable is harsh, but its meant to shock the religious leaders--which it does.  It is not a condemnation on Israel, but on leadership.

So they try to test Jesus, to see if his authority can stand up to the best that they can muster against him.  The taxes question has been preached on so many times that it probably needs no commentary---give to God what is God's...i.e. everything!   The issue of the afterlife is one that many of us secretly also want to ask.  Not to trap Jesus, but in order to know what to expect.  Will my loved ones know me in heaven?  Will the relationships that bound us together here on earth still be in place in heaven.  All we know is that we will be LIKE the angels (no we will NEVER BE ANGELS), that is we will be bound first and foremost by our relationship to God.   I have no doubt that I will know my loved ones and friends in heaven, but the bonds that tied us together here on earth will seem awful meager as compared to the love of Christ that we will know in its pure and complete glory!

What is your biggest question about heaven?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day 17: September 29, 2009, Luke 18.1 - 19.48

Day 17: September 29, 2009, Luke 18.1 - 19.48

My commentary is found below after the text.

Luke 18.1 - 19.48



18Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. 2He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. 3In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ 4For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” 6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? 8I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

9He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

15People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. 16But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 17Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

18A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” 21He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” 22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 23But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. 24Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.” 28Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”

31Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” 34But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

35As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38Then he shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, 41“What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me see again.” 42Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.” 43Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God.

19He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

11As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12So he said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. 13He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, ‘Do business with these until I come back.’ 14But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to rule over us.’ 15When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. 16The first came forward and said, ‘Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.’ 17He said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.’ 18Then the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your pound has made five pounds.’ 19He said to him, ‘And you, rule over five cities.’ 20Then the other came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, 21for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22He said to him, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.’ 24He said to the bystanders, ‘Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’ 25(And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten pounds!’) 26‘I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.’”

28After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

41As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.” 45Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; 46and he said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” 47Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; 48but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.

Commentary:  Let's face it living faithfully in the present and waiting trustingly for the future is no easy task!   First he reminds us that the life of prayer requires persistence.  Not so much that we somehow are 'getting' to God, but that we might open ourselves up and allow God to 'get' to us!  C.S. Lewis once said that we don't pray in order to change God, we pray that God might be at work changing us.  The next teaching about prayer is coupled with a crash course on humility.  Leave the grandstanding at home, come in honest humility before God and you will be justified!

We hear a familar question from this rich young ruler, what must I do to inherit eternal life?  It brings us back to the question that lead to the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Again, Jesus seems to humor the man by baiting him with what we call the 'second table of the law.'  That is Jesus mentions commandments 4 - 10, all the commandments that have to do with living with each other.  The young man replys that he has kept them all.  Yes, indeed!  But what is he missing?  The 'first table of the law,' that is commandments 1 -3 and most especially "I am the Lord your God you shall have no other gods before me."  We have to assume that Jesus knew that the man was in an idoltrous relationship with his wealth!  So here it is, get rid of it all and follow me!  The answer might seem harsh but it gets at the real spiritual problem that we all face: there are many things that we are tempted to put before God.

The eye of the needle was probably a nickname for a gate that was very low.  So low that you had to unload your camel of all it's possessions it was carrying so that it could make it through.  Likewise what things are we holding on to that get in the way of us and God?  Like the camel going through the eye of the needle we may need to jetison some of our cargo!

But don't be in despair, what the rich young ruler couldn't do--is happening in others.  The eyes of the blind are being opened and even tight fisted Zacchaeus has a conversion of heart when he encounters Jesus.  Here is the real point of the previous story.  Zacchaeus doesn't give all his money away, he doesn't have to!  His conversion of heart is apparent in his willingness to not only repay but restore those he has cheated.

Can it be that we are already to Palm Sunday?  While some have had conversion and eyes have been opened, others see Jesus only as a threat?  Who in your life, family, friendship circles sees Jesus as a threat?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day 16: September 28, 2009, Luke 16.1 - 17.37

Day 16: September 28, Luke 16.1 - 17.37

My commentary is below after the text.


Luke 16.1 - 17.37


16Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ 3Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ 8And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. 10“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” 14The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him. 15So he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God. 16“The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force. 17But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped. 18“Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

17Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! 2It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. 4And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” 5The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

20Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.” 22Then he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. 24For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. 26Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. 27They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. 28Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them 30—it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. 31On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. 32Remember Lot’s wife. 33Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. 34I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.” 37Then they asked him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

Commentary:  What?  (scratch your head slightly at this point!)  That is the reaction that most of us have to the first part of our reading.  I'll be honest, I've read a thousand commentaries on this parable of the 'shrewd manager' and none of it makes much sense to me!  There is a clear point though that come in 16.8  Think how shrewd and clever we are when it comes to ordinary human things...let's be just as clever and resourceful when it comes to heavenly things.  I think that's the best take on the parable.  The following little phrases after the parable about serving two masters etc... don't seem to be related to the parable at all, but are some sayings of Jesus about money that Luke placed here in chapter 16. 
 
When will the kingdom of God come....it is within you!  This is a startling word found in Luke's Gospel.  We so often are looking for the kingdom to be something that comes from without, like a huge stamp that will be placed upon us in the end times.  No, the kingdom is already here in Luke's Gospel.  For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, the kingdom has been inbreaking all along.  It is found when our eyes are opened to the poor like Lazarus, when we take seriously Jesus' call to forgive others even seven times a day, whenever thankful hearts proclaim what Christ has done...there the kingdom has come.   Do you see yourself as a partner in the kingdom already here; or are you waiting on the sidelines for a kingdom yet to come?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day 15: September 27, 2009, Luke 15.1-32

Day 15: September 27, Luke 15.1-32

My commentary is below after the text.


Luke 15


15Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3So he told them this parable: 4“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

11Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 25“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”


Commentary:  The lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son--each of these three parables in Luke 15 are dripping from the tap of God's grace!  Take a look at the audience for todays reading, tax collectors and sinners were gathering around him while the religious leaders were off to the side murmuring.  To these lost souls Jesus gives the good news of God's love. 

Only one quick thought on the parable of the Forgiving Father (or the Prodigal Son if you prefer).  The prodigal takes what is rightfully his, 1/3 of the estate acoording to Deuteronomy 21.17.  His demand to receive his inheritance is of course in bad taste--the old man is still very much alive--nevertheless he simply wants what is his.  What he doesn't realize is that he actually has much more, the love of the father.  The older son upon the prodigals return is visibly upset.  Why?  Does he secretly want the prodigal to be punished?  Does he begrudge the father's forgiveness?  Is he angry because he was left with all the responsibility and work?  Is he jealous?  But pleae notice one thing, just as the father went out to meet the prodigal, so the father goes out to meet the older brother.  (He refused to go in, so the old man must have come out).  God comes to us both in our lostness and in our self righteousness...and offers the same thing, to let it go and come in!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day 14: September 26, 2009, Luke 13.1 - 14.35

Day 14: September 26, Luke 13.1 - 14.35

My commentary is after the text below.


Luke 13.1 - 14.35


13At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

6Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ 8He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And 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. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But 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.” 15But 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? 16And 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?” 17When 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.

18He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? 19It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” 20And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? 21It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” 22Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

23Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, 24“Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. 25When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. 29Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. 30Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

31At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

14On 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. 2Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. 3And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, “Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?” 4But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. 5Then he said to them, “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?” 6And they could not reply to this.

7When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 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; 9and 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. 10But 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. 11For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 12He 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. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

15One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. 17At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ 19Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ 20Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” 23Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. 24For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”

25Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. 34“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? 35It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

commentary:    There was, and still is a belief that if you do wrong, God is going to get you!  Jesus throws that superstition right out the window when he asks:  Do you think those people who had tragedy come upon them were worse sinners than anyone else--NO!  Sometimes things happen, death happens, tragedy happens.  Jesus' call to repentance is to have lives that are fully confident in God, so that even if tragedy strikes we will not be without hope.
 
There is a puzzling theme in today's readings.  On one hand it seems that salvation is going to be hard to come by, that many folks who are called will not respond.  On the other hand, we are told that the kingdom of God is like a King who had a party and when the invited didn't want to come he opened his doors to just about everyone!  In fact there is so much room left that the servants go out into the highway and compell people to come on in.   So which is it?   I think we have to look at this teaching in light of the conflict that Jesus has been having with the religious leaders of his day.  They are so concerned about not breaking rules of the Sabbath, of which Jesus constantly breaks in order to show God's mercy.  Those who have a narrow idea of how God acts often close themselves off to the possiblity of God being at work in surprising and new ways.  For those who insist that God most be kept to a set of rules and regulations....oh, my that indeed will make the gift of grace a very hard and narrow door.  On the other hand, those who simply see they're dependence on the goodness and graciousness of God....well for those there seems to be lots of room left at the party!
 
Here at the end Jesus gives a teaching that is akin to something our Buddhist friends hold to--the need to be very careful about attachments.  Jesus does not want us to "hate" or relatives, but he does want us to see the overwhelming worth of who he is and what God offers in comparison to even the most wonderful of earthly relationships.
 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day 13: September 25, 2009, Luke 12.1-59

Day 13: September 25, Luke 12.1-59

My commentary is after the text below.

Luke 12


12Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered by the thousands, so that they trampled on one another, he began to speak first to his disciples, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. 2Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 3Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops. 4“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. 5But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. 7But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 8“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; 9but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. 10And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.”

13Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

22He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 26If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell 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. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be 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. 37Blessed 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. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 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. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

41Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” 42And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? 43Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 44Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 45But if that slave says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful. 47That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. 48But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded. 49“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they 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.”

54He 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. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? 57“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. 59I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”

commentary:  Jesus is now fully on his way to Jerusalem and so the conversation becomes more intense and he is quite honest about the demands and the benefits of discipleship.  The disciples are beginning to understand the implications of the growing hostility of powerful leaders and Jesus is quite honest in what they might expect.  But also with a little bit of humor he reminds them that they are of much greater value than a few sparrows!  And it is in front of the angels themselves that Jesus will proudly claim those who have proclaimed his name.   It is obvious that either Jesus is giving encouragement for a future time, or Luke is helping his first audience (those who lived in 70-80 AD) to be reminded that the persecution they are enduring for following Jesus is not something they should be surprised about, but it was forewarned by Jesus.  They should instead hold on to the promise that even the hairs of their heads have been counted--that is they are a precious possession of the Lord!
 
I love the story about the man who shouts out: "My brother wont share the inheritance!"  First of all, in my ministry I have seen few things destroy families faster than arguments about who gets the stuff that once belonged to the dead!  Secondly, Jesus has just poured out his heart about important spiritual realities and the cost of following him, and this joker completely oblivious wants Jesus to make his brother share.  Oh, how we too can get so concerned about what we should have coming that we fail to keep our eyes and attention on the more important things of life.   In the parable it is the only place that I know of in scripture that God calls someone a fool!  When is 'enough,' 'enough' for you?  What worries and anxiety do you need to give to God?
 
What about the ending of this chapter....settle before you get thrown into jail.  I wonder if the point isn't to help us realize that all of us are in need of a "settlement" for we all are guilty?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 12: September 24, 2009: Luke 11.1-54

Day 12: September 24, Luke 11.1-54

My commentary is below after the text:

Luke 11


11He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” 5And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

14Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. 15But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” 16Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. 17But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. 18If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. 19Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. 21When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe. 22But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his plunder. 23Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 24“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but not finding any, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order. 26Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

27While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” 28But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

29When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. 31The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! 32The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! 33“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar, but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. 34Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness. 35Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. 36If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”

37While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. 38The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. 42“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. 43Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. 44Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.” 45One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.” 46And he said, “Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. 47Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. 48So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. 52Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” 53When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him and to cross-examine him about many things, 54lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

commentary:  Notice that the prayer that Luke records is slightly different than the prayer that Matthew records in Matthew 6.9-13.  Luke's version of the Lord's prayer is terse and to the point:  God you are Holy!  May you rule here and now! We trust you to provide! Forgive us and help us to forgive! Help us stay clear of temptation!   Then Jesus goes to explain a little bit about prayer.  All of his explanations have to do with being in relationship.  Whether it is the friend who knows that their persistence will not be disappointed or the parents who knows how to give good gifts, prayer is based on trust and the expectation that God will respond. 

The rest of the chapter I freely admit that I don't like very much!  How about you?  It has some good stuff, we certainly should look at our outward actions and carefully contemplate how these actions reflect light to others.   And there is a great word of warning about needing more than just eliminating sin (the demon that is cast out) we also need to fill our lives with Godly works of devotion, worship and service; otherwise we leave room for even more temptation (demon returns with 7 others). 

Perhaps most disturbing in this little chapter is that it seems like Jesus is picking a fight.  After all the one poor guest even says:  You are insulting us!  And then Jesus puts even more insult and woes on the table.  This is what we call the LAW.  It is the pointy finger of God which condemns and convicts.  The Law has two main purposes:  one it is to help us know what is right and wrong and how to live in community; but it's primary purpose is to send us running into the arms of Christ!  Once we realize that we stand condemned, we have no where else to go than to the grace and mercy of Christ.    This is what we call in the Lutheran church, Law and Gospel.  Can you have one without the other?  

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 11: September 23, 2009, Luke 10.1-42

Day 11: September 23

My commentary follows the text below.

Luke 10.1-42


10After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town. 13“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades. 16“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

17The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” 21At that same hour Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 22All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 23Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! 24For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

38Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Commentary:  What a great chapter we have before us today in Luke's gospel.  Do you remember back in Chapter 9.1-6, Jesus sends out the 12, now he sends out the 70!  Twelve suggests a mission to Israel (the 12 tribes); but 70 represents a mission to the whole world (7 and multiples thereof are synonomous with completeness).  There were certainly miraculous things happing, but the followers of Jesus are to find their utmost joy not in what they did, but that their names are written in the book of life--that is they are saved by what Jesus does!   That's good for us to remember too.

Only Luke gives us the parable of the good Samaritan.  What is the point?  The question is about eternal life.  The Lawyer answers correctly that to follow God's law would be the right path--the problem, none of us can!  So Jesus turns what is an issue of 'Justification--how am I saved," into a lesson in "Sanctification--how shall I live."   Those who only know the law will pass by the man on the road.  In contrast, the Samaritan, a foreigner much despised  by Jews as a religious hereitc, embodies the living demands of the law.  God's law finds fulfillment in acts of love, and God's kingdom is open to all who in the words of James realize that "mercy triumphs over judgment."  (James 2.12).  We are to go out and do likewise, that is let mercy triumph over our judgment.

Finally the little vignette of Martha and Mary.  Simply put, I think Luke reminds us that there is a balancing act between "doing" and "listening."  If one is always doing, you will never have time to set at the master's feet and have your own soul nourished.  If one is only listening, then you fail to live out the lesson of the good Samaritan.  Ultimately, however, it is the word of Christ, the presence of the living Lord which is must important as it is the means to eternal life.  Why not spend some time with your Lord right now?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 10: September 22, 2009, Luke 9.1-62

Day 10: September 22, 2009, Luke 9.1-62


My commentary is found below the text:

Luke 9:1-62 (Today's New International Version)


Luke 9 Jesus Sends Out the Twelve

1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 He told them: "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5 If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them." 6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, 8 others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life. 9 But Herod said, "I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?" And he tried to see him.

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

10 When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.

12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, "Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here."

13 He replied, "You give them something to eat."

They answered, "We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd." 14 (About five thousand men were there.)

But he said to his disciples, "Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each." 15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah

18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?"

19 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life."

20 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Peter answered, "God's Messiah."

Jesus Predicts His Death

21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."

23 Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for you to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit your very self? 26 If any of you are ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of you when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

27 "Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."

The Transfiguration

28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31 appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, [a] which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.)

34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy

37 The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. 38 A man in the crowd called out, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. 39 A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. 40 I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not."

41 "You unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here."

42 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil [b] spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. 43 And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time

While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 44 "Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered over to human hands." 45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

46 An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For whoever is least among you all is the greatest."

49 "Master," said John, "we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us."

50 "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you."

Samaritan Opposition

51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them [c]?" 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.

The Cost of Following Jesus

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."

58 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

59 He said to another man, "Follow me."

But he replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."

62 Jesus replied, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."


Commentary: The first thing that strikes me about Luke’s account of Peter’s confession, “You are the Messiah of God” is that Luke, for whatever reason, doesn’t follow it up with Peter’s rebuke of Jesus. We are pretty certain that Luke had a copy of Mark’s gospel with him as he wrote, so why do you think that Luke goes easy on Peter here? Perhaps he’s trying to protect the reputation of the disciples or maybe he doesn’t want to highlight the disciple’s lack of insight, or perhaps Luke just didn’t find it that important and decided not to write it down.


As I read the reading for today it struck me that the feeding of the 5000 occurs right after Jesus commissions or sends out the disciples. In the feeding story he tells the Disciples, “You give them something to eat.” The Disciples seem to balk at this, but I think it is connected to their commissioning and being sent out. We are called to feed! Not just physically, although that is a part of it, but we are called to provide for our neighbor just as God provides for us. Through the miracle Jesus shows them that when we bring our gifts to Christ, no matter how meager, those gifts will be multiplied and used to provide abundantly for others. What gifts do you have that you consider too small to share on behalf of Christ (“oh, I couldn’t do that,” “I’m not that good,” “Certainly there’s someone else more qualified.”). Can you trust that God might use them?


Finally, I love this section with the Samaritan towns that don’t receive the disciples and their request on behalf of Jesus. James and John want to know if its ok to rain fire and brimstone upon them. It’s the same reaction we often have when people belittle or seemingly mock our faith. Jesus, however, rebukes James and John for even thinking about such a thing. Jesus simply goes to another town. How often to we waste our time and energy on those who are against us? Jesus seems to suggest, move on!!! Don’t obsess about them, don’t try to do them harm, simply move on. Are you obsessing about a situation or person who has been an obstacle for you—give it God in prayer and move on!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 9: September 21, 2009, Luke 8.1-56

Day 9: September 21, 2009, Luke 8.1-56



My commentary is found below, after the text:

Luke 8.1-56
PARABLE OF THE SOWER

8 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
4When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5“A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. 7Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. 8Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

9Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’

11“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. 14As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.


LAMP ON A STAND


16“No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light. 18Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.”

JESUS’ MOTHER AND BROTHERS

19Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” 21But he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

JESUS CALMS THE STORM

22One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they put out, 23and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. 24They went to him and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. 25He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”


THE HEALING OF A DEMON POSSESSED MAN

26Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”— 29for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. 32Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. 34When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.


A DEAD GIRL AND A SICK WOMAN

40Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41Just then there came a man named Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. He fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to come to his house, 42for he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, who was dying. As he went, the crowds pressed in on him. 43Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; and though she had spent all she had on physicians, no one could cure her. 44She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his clothes, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. 45Then Jesus asked, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” 46But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” 47When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” 49While he was still speaking, someone came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.” 50When Jesus heard this, he replied, “Do not fear. Only believe, and she will be saved.” 51When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But he took her by the hand and called out, “Child, get up!” 55Her spirit returned, and she got up at once. Then he directed them to give her something to eat. 56Her parents were astounded; but he ordered them to tell no one what had happened.


Commentary: God bless the women of the church! I have always said that without a strong group of women in a church, that church is doomed to mediocrity. Our reading starts out with the mentioning of some specific women (Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna). And then there is a little passage that is so important and so easy to overlook: (8.3) “and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.” Without these faithful women, the ministry of the Gospel doesn’t go forward. THEY provided out of their own resources the money needed to carry out the work of Jesus. Our partnership with God on behalf of the Gospel truly matters and these women lead the way to what it means to be faithful. I wonder what names of faithful women, both past and present, would be recalled as providing for the work of the Gospel here in San Clemente?



Our reading today feels like a marathon of events each coming right on the heels of the others: parables, teachings, healings, storms, and demons all coming at us in a relentless pace. I think Luke wants us to realize that once this Good News has been released there is no shortage of places where it needs to be proclaimed. One thing in this chapter really stands out for me. After the Gerasene Demoniac (the guy with the legion of demons living in the graveyard) is healed and presented in his right mind to the townspeople—the townspeople’s reaction is not joy, or gratitude, but FEAR? Why were they afraid? Are we afraid that Jesus might ‘cast out’ some of the demons in our own lives that we’ve become quite used to? Sometimes we prefer the devil we know to the good we have yet to encounter.



Finally look back at the parable of the sower: take an honest look at your own spiritual welfare. Do you find yourself mostly on the path, battling birds; in the rocks trying to grow roots; in the thorns, easily distracted; or amongst good soil that is allowing you to grow?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 8: September 20, 2009, Luke 7.1-50

Day 8: September 20, 2009, Luke 7.1-50


My commentary follows the text.

Luke 7.1-50

Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Servant

7After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.’ 6And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ 9When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’ 10When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Jesus Raises the Widow’s Son at Nain

11 Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ 14Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’ 15The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen among us!’ and ‘God has looked favourably on his people!’ 17This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

Messengers from John the Baptist

18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. So John summoned two of his disciples 19and sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ 20When the men had come to him, they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” ’ 21Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. 22And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. 23And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’

24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 25What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. 26What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27This is the one about whom it is written,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.”

28I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.’ 29(And all the people who heard this, including the tax-collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. 30But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves.)

31 ‘To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32They are like children sitting in the market-place and calling to one another,

“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.”

33For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon”; 34the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!” 35Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.’

A Sinful Woman Forgiven
36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. 39Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’ 40Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Teacher,’ he replied, ‘speak.’ 41‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’ 43Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ 44Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ 48Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ 49But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ 50And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

Commentary: Jesus brings life to the dead and the almost dead! Thanks be to God! Jesus is about life, his words and his presence are about brining life—not just to a few, but to the world. Jesus heals the centurions slave and also brings back to life the widow’s son. Death is the common enemy and Jesus has come to deny death its ability to separate us from one another and from the love of God.

But wait! Is this really the kind of Messiah we wanted? Is this what we were expecting? John from prison seems to have some doubts. Where is the separating wheat from chaff, where is the winnowing fork, the fire, the damnation? Alas, the problem to be eradicated is not the Romans, or the sinners, or the unclean. God has not come to rid us of those whom we don’t like or offend us. No the problem is sin, death and the devil. The problem is that this good world of God’s has been hijacked by bad news and fear.

The woman who comes in to meal is us. She is a sinner, she knows it, the host knows it, and Jesus knows it. She certainly comes with great boldness—barging into the party—and with the possibility of being kicked out and shamed even more than she already is. But Jesus by his response lets her—and all of us—know that her faith in him is well placed. He is the one who can forgive sins, he is the one who can make us new and whole. When Jesus says the one who has been forgiven little, loves little, he’s not suggesting that we all go out and sin purposely so that we can find even more forgiveness. That is absurd. What he is saying is that we all need to rid ourselves of any presumption of righteousness or of understanding ourselves to be better than others. It is when we realize that we are most in need, that we understand the depths of God’s love.