Highbrows & Low-life’s

originally posted on http://www.thewannabesaint.com

Four blind men longed to see the wonders of the world. Wanting to help, a local Elephant owner arranged for the men to “see” the magnificent beast. The four blind men approached the elephant, arms extended, to investigate this wonder they had only heard about.

The first blind man touched the elephant’s leg and thought it must be like a tree, tall and sturdy. The second blind man touched the elephant’s side and surmised it to be as a great wall. The third blind man felt the elephant’s ear and noted it was similar to a large rug. The fourth blind man grabbed its tail and thought it as a great rope.

When they were done the owner asked them to describe the elephant. The blind men began to argue. For though each experienced it they could not agree on what it was…

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Luke 23:33-43

32 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiahof God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Today is Christ is king Sunday. Fittingly Jesus is hailed as king in our scripture.

Here is what is happening in our text. Luke bases his account on Mark 15 and Matthew 27 but Luke also gives the story his own spin. When Jesus is crucified the Gospel of Mark uses the Greek term for a “political criminal” or “insurrectionist.” Luke uses a word that means common criminal, thief. This fits with Luke’s overall theme. Throughout his gospel Jesus identifies with the common people. Luke is not afraid associating Jesus with the lower class. Luke places Jesus in the company of prostitutes, lepers and tax collectors. Jesus’ friends have made him infamous.

Isaiah 53 says;

10 The Lord says, “It was my will that he should suffer; his death was a sacrifice to bring forgiveness…My devoted servant, with whom I am pleased, will bear the punishment of many and for his sake I will forgive them. 12 And so I will give him a place of honor, a place among the great and powerful. He willingly gave his life and shared the fate of evil men. He took the place of many sinners and prayed that they might be forgiven.”

Isaiah describes God’s chosen one being numbered among the sinners. Luke shows Jesus’ relationship with the lowly ones even in his death.

Luke 23:34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots for his clothing.

Jesus clings to his relationship with the Father. He prays the Father will forgive those who “do not know what they are doing.” He trusts the Father who has led him to this cross.

Last week we talked about Luke being written near 85AD to the second generation of Christians. Jesus, through Luke’s writing, is demonstrating to these who are facing increasing persecution how to be faithful. While suffering, Jesus prays forgiveness for his abusers and trusts God. The followers of Jesus are to do likewise.

The “them” Jesus asks the father to forgive in verse 34 are the Jewish leadership. These would be the same ones who would be persecuting the second generation of Christians.

Along with Mark 15 and Matthew 27 Luke also uses Psalm 22;

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.

But I am a worm, and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.

Many encircle me, surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my mouth is dried up,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

For they are all around me;
a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the death,
my life from their wickedness!
Save me!

In Psalm 22 the writer pleads with God to rescue him from his abusers, those who mock him, surround him, cast lots for his clothes, and are killing him.

Casting lots for clothes was the soldiers way of telling a condemned man “Guess you won’t be needing these anymore.” It was mockery. The Psalmist laments; I am a worm and not human.” Similarly, Jesus is no longer a person in the eyes of the soldiers.

To be bullied, insulted, pushed around, stripped naked, and not be able to escape, is true powerlessness. Even a condemned criminal joins in. How low must Jesus feel for someone in the same position to partake in the taunts?

Unlike Mark, Luke does not have the people, the crowd, mock Jesus. In his gospel, Jesus and the people have an intimate and lasting connection.

The rulers, the religious élite, have no such qualms about insulting and reveling, enjoying, Jesus’ suffering. They mock him, jeering for him to save himself the same way he saved others.

The religious aristocracy, the Roman government, a criminal, all tell Jesus to save himself, prove he is the Son of God. From the lowest of society to some of its highest officials, Jesus is roundly condemned.

In Luke, chapter 4;

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’

11 and

‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

At his temptation, Satan says to Jesus, “if you are the Son of God…” directly attacking the words spoken by God the Father who, following Jesus’ baptism, in Luke chapter 3, said;

 …and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;with you I am well pleased.”

Similarly, four times in Luke from chapter 22 verse 67 to chapter 23 verse 39 the words “if you are the Son of God…” are used by Jesus’ accusers and killers.

36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,

The Greek words here do not mean sour. More accurately they mean watered down. In other words it is cheap wine, common people’s wine, the drink of the lower class. The soldier’s mockingly give it to one who is “the King of the Jews.”

In the midst of all this suffering, mocking, and impending death a lone voice of sanity speaks. It is the voice of the other criminal. One has mocked Jesus, now the other one has something to say. He tells the other crook to pipe down! Like Pontius Pilate, this crook notices something unique about Jesus in comparison to him and his crooked companion. Jesus is innocent.

Then, this lowly criminal, recognizes who Jesus is…Not the religious élite and their “thou shalt and shalt not” regulations & stipulations regarding who can and cannot be a child of God. Neither was it the Roman government and their desire to rule the world who don’t recognize real power when it’s staring them in the face. Definitely not the disciples who don’t get Jesus, even though they’ve been around him for three years. Everyone of them are upstaged by a crucified, crook.

A man who sees Jesus as his only hope. Nothing to lose, everything to gain. A guy looking to save his own skin, redemption of a life wasted, in his last moments on Earth, has the audacity, the gall, to want to hang out with Jesus in paradise. Jesus tells this low life thug, “okay.

Let that sink in.

Isn’t that just like Jesus, with his last breaths and his first act as crucified king, to save a lowly, common, no good, person?

Truly something to be thankful for…

Reflection

Psalm 46: “O God, You are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Help us not to fear, though everything change. When nations are in an uproar, and Earthly kingdoms totter; You speak and show us Your power. O God, You are with us, You are our refuge. May we see the works of the Lord. You have brought peace to our world through Your Son. Let us, “Be still, and know You are God! And You are with us, You are our refuge. Amen.”

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The Other Side

One day a young man, journeying home, came to the banks of a river swollen by recent torrential rains. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on how to cross such a wide barrier. Beginning to despair, resigning himself to the impossibility of the feat, he was about to turn around when he saw a great teacher from his village on the other side raging rapids. Surely this wise one will know the answer to my dilemma! The young man, cupping his hands over his mouth to be heard, yells at the top of his voice, “Sir, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river?” The teacher stood still, pondered for a moment, smiled and called back, “My son you are on the other side”.

What was impossible for one to see was easy for the other.

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As originally posted on http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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Luke 18: 9-14

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 aPharisee 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.”

Here’s what’s happening in out text…

Jesus continues to talk with same folk he had been talking to in Luke 18, 1-13,disciples, rubberneckers, and religious leaders. A similar story can be found inSaint Matthew’s gospel, 23.

Luke tells us in v9, Jesus begins speaking about:

9“some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people.”

9(those) who were sure that God approved of them while they looked down on everyone else.

Of course we automatically think of the religious leaders listening in, those who are trying to gain more power, notoriety, prestige, money and political strength. Jesus, however, is peaking primarily to the disciples, others who want to be his followers.

Jesus knows who’s in the crowd and has used religious leaders as examples, warnings, of how NOT to follow him. In Luke 12v1-2 Jesus cautioned his disciples against “the yeast of the pharisees.” He knows religious snobbery, religious hypocrisy, can worm it’s way into any would be follower.

The disciples exhibit the “snobbery virus” in:

Luke 18v15 Some people brought children to Jesus to have him hold them. When the disciples saw this, they told the people not to do that. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Don’t stop the children from coming to me! Children like these are part of the kingdom of God. 17 I can guarantee this truth: Whoever doesn’t receive the kingdom of God as a little child receives it will never enter it.”

Jesus understood the condition of the human heart that tempts humankind to compare ourselves to others. One of the central teachings of Luke is the Kingdom of God is inhabited by the least of these. Treatment of the undesirables reveals our love for God. To think of oneself as better than, higher than, more worthy than, not as bad as, more holy, more Godly than…well, anyone…is to violate one of the key tenets of the teachings of Jesus.

Jesus tells the crowd a story…

…about a religious leader, a Pharisee, a pinnacle of societal and religious prestige and a tax collector, an enemy, a traitor and thief. You could not be more different than these two. All who listened, including the disciples viewed the Pharisees as respected and honored by all and the tax collector a money grubbing, low life who steals from hard working Israelites.

18v10“One time there was a Pharisee and a tax collector. One day they both went to the Temple to pray. 11 The Pharisee stood alone, away from the tax collector. When the Pharisee prayed, he said, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not as bad as other people. I am not like men who steal, cheat, or commit adultery. I thank you that I am better than this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, and I give a tenth of everything I get!’ 13 “The tax collector stood alone too. But when he prayed, he would not even look up to heaven. He felt very humble before God. He said, ‘O God, have mercy on me. I am a sinner!’

Jesus begins his tale by speaking of something most in the crowd have done many times, go to the temple to pray.

Luke 18v10 Story based on Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” interpretation:

Two men, at the same place, at the same time, not the same attitude…

“The Pharisee, (and) the tax man enter the Temple. The proud, religious leader, assured of himself and his exceeding righteousness clears his throat, dusts off his clothes, looks around, hoping someone might be eavesdropping, and begins…‘Oh, God! I am so incredibly grateful today that you have made me…well me. I am so relieved that that I am not like other low life types, robbers, thieves, crooks, sexual miscreants, or (rolling his eyes, fanning himself, throwing up a little in his mouth and shuddering at the thought), heaven forbid (pointing, not daring to look), like this, ugh, tax man.

Just in case you forgot, weren’t paying attention, or know how good I am so you worry about other less desirables, I fast twice a week and tithe on ALL (elongating and emphasizing words) ‘MY’ (isn’t this word telling?) my income.’” Finishing his prayer, smiling like a Cheshire cat, clearly pleased with himself, he snorts at the absurdity of sharing the same air with the tax collector, hikes his nose high in the stratosphere and goes home.

“Meanwhile’, Jesus says softly, ‘the tax man, stays in the shadows, not daring to stand up straight, his face in his hands, not daring to look up embodying the spirit of

Psalm 51, ‘knowing he has a bad record, guilt that needs to be scrubbed away, sin stains which need God’s laundry. He knows how bad he’s been; his sins are staring him down. He’s violated God’s laws and knows God sees the full extent of his evil. If God judged him as worthless and sent him to hell it would be a fair sentence. He’s been out of step with God for a long time and in the wrong for as long as he can remember. He knows he’s dirty and is nowhere near ‘snow-white.”

He needs a fresh start. Barely able to get out the words for fear of being struck down he whispers; ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”

We know the outcome of the story but imagine you are hearing it for the first time. What are you thinking? What’s Jesus’ point? Who’s coming out of this story on top? The Pharisees are known for their hypocrisy and lacking in the fundamentals of God’s Kingdom but the tax man is still worse, right?

Who’s Jesus going to hold up as the example?

18v14 Jesus (says), “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

18v14 (Jesus declares) …(of the two)… men walking back down the road to their homes…. it’s the tax collector who walks home clean before God, and not the Pharisee, because whoever lifts himself up will be put down and whoever takes a humble place will be lifted up.

18v14 (Jesus concludes) I tell you, this (tax collector) went to his house justified rather than the (Pharisee); for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The tax man goes home pure and right before God, not the religious elite and if the same situation takes place again the following week, same attitudes, same outcome. The one who is humble, not the one who keeps every law, is right before God.

Remember Jesus says in…

Luke 17v3&4 “If a believer sins, correct him. If he changes the way he thinks and acts, forgive him. 4 Even if he wrongs you seven times in one day and comes back to you seven times and says that he is sorry, forgive him.” 5 Then the apostles said to the Lord, “Give us more faith!”

He wouldn’t instruct his disciples to be this way if he, God, wasn’t this way.

It didn’t make sense to the disciples in 17, the crowd in 18 or to us in today in 2013. We are fine with the tax man getting grace, the uppity Pharisee his rightful “smack down” but we want both of them to amend their ways, get a fresh start, and then become good little rule followers.

Once again, in Jesus’ upside down kingdom, the church goer, the rule follower, the socially and religiously acceptable one is worse off than the outright, no excuse, low down sinner. Jesus takes a bat to our pinata of goodness and whacks it until the illusion of anything good in us spills onto the ground. We are not ever capable of standing in God’s presence and claiming to be better than anyone!

pharisee-2

This is either disappointing or delightfully good news! For those who are certain there’s something good in us, at least a little better than some of the worst of the worst, this can be hard to swallow.

For others who know the depth of their depravity it takes the weight of hell off our shoulders.

So not only is being righteous before God, being seen by God as clean, pure, impossible in our own power, so is understanding God’s Kingdom ways.

Shifting faith from a what (laws and good works) to who. Not in ourselves, a rabbit trail of delusion which leads to nowhere, but in Jesus who’s going to Jerusalem to make all who are dirty, that’s everyone, clean.

Reflection

Psalm 84 – How lovely is your presence, O Lord, God Almighty. We long for the presence of the Lord today. Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are Your ways and who trust in Your love to make us clean in Your eyes. May we know a day trusting in You is better than a thousand trusting in our own power to save us. O’ Lord, do not withhold Your goodness from us. Blessed are those who trust in you. Amen.”

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A Stealer & a Stalker

A teacher opened up a school for all who desired to learn wisdom. Many pupils gathered, rich and poor, young and old, educated and not. During a break a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to the teacher with the request that the thief be expelled. The teacher said the matter would be dismissed without addressing. A few days later the same pupil was caught stealing again and the matter reported to the teacher. Again, the teacher dropped it and did nothing.

After this happened a third time the other students became angry and signed a petition to have the thief removed from the school or else all the other students would walk out in protest. When the note reached the teacher he summoned everyone before him. “This is not justice. You students know the difference between right and wrong. You may go elsewhere to study but this one, where will he go if he doesn’t know good from bad? Only when he knows the difference will wisdom and justice be available to him. Even if all else leave, he will stay and I will teach him.” The students understood, recalled the petition and grew in wisdom.

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As originally posted on http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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Luke 18: 1-8

Luke 18v1 Then 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?”

Here’s what’s happening in our text…

This is another Luke exclusive. Jesus is speaking to the disciples but also to the rubberneckers, folks waiting for the next controversial statement, confounding parable, or wonderful miracle. The religious leaders are also there looking for more evidence that Jesus needed to be done away with…

Jesus had just finished teaching on the “Day of the Lord” at the end of chapter 17.

Luke 17v24 “You know how the whole sky lights up from a single flash of lightning? That’s how it will be on the Day of the Son of Man. But first it’s necessary that he suffer many things and be turned down by the people of today. 26-27 “The time of the Son of Man will be just like the time of Noah—everyone carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ship. They suspected nothing until the flood hit and swept everything away…That’s how it will be—sudden, total—when the Son of Man is revealed. 31-33 “When the Day arrives and you’re out working in the yard, don’t run into the house to get anything. And if you’re out in the field, don’t go back and get your coat…If you grasp and cling to life…you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms. 

After this…

18v1-3 Jesus told them a story showing it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. He said, “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’

Luke tells us this judge had no fear of God or respect for people. The Greek here means he had no problem shaming them or keeping them from being shamed.

In other words the judge was on no one’s side but his own. Whatever benefited him or fit his whim was what he decided to do. It didn’t matter if it brought shame upon him or those in his court. His interest was not justice, fairness or equality.

A widow, under his jurisdiction, knowing the judge’s penchant for bending, breaking and ignoring the law took matters into her own hands. She was unwilling to let the judge get away with his usual behavior. She wasn’t going to let her case be decided by a bribe, law breaking or anything nefarious.

Reading the Hebrew Bible, what Christians call the Old Testament, is to know God’s commands that widows, orphans, helpless, powerless to be represented, taken care of, protected and provided for…but reading these scriptures also reveals the truth this often didn’t happen. They were taken advantage of, beaten down, cast aside and abused by those in power.

It was no different in the 1st century day of Jesus. The helpless, powerless, poor and needy were often the last to get justice. Jesus even accused the religious leaders in Luke 20:47 of “devour(ing) widows’ houses” by taking advantage of them when their husbands died.

This is a humorous scene!

On one side, a powerful judge, who was the law, occupied a high rung on the social ladder, always had a table reserved at his favorite restaurant, invited to the best parties and gala events. On the other, a widow, a woman, with no power, no social standing, no favors to pull or men to call to do her a solid, stand up for her or stand beside her, to speak up on her behalf. These two, seemingly mismatched opponents are doing battle. The widow doesn’t stand a chance…does she?

The widow will not be denied!

She’s not taking any chances. She isn’t waiting for her day in court! She hounds the judge, stalks him, chases after him, won’t leave him alone. In other words she’s driving the judge crazy with her constant demand for justice! The Greek literally says “Do me justice on my opponent! Or avenge me against my opponent!”

At first the judge doesn’t budge. Who is this widow? Why can’t she just leave him alone? Who does she think she is, hounding, stalking, chasing him? He wouldn’t give her the time of day. The Greek says the judge gave her “no earthly, chronological time.” No appointment, no moment to plead her case, not even a minute of his precious, valuable time.

But after a while, at the widows insistence, he changes his mind.

V5 “…because this widow gives me trouble, I will do her justice, unless perpetually she keeps coming, and plagues me.”

The widow is heard, not because the judge has a change of heart, the judge seeks justice because he wants her to go away! He is actually frightened of her. The word translated “plague” can also mean beaten and battered. In other words her persistence carries with it such urgency and passion the judge is worried what might happen if he doesn’t give her justice. This is hilarious! The big, bad ‘ol judge is a fraidy cat. Weirded out by a helpless widow.

Jesus helps the disciples get it…

8v6 Then the Lord said, “Listen to the words of the sinful man who is head of the court. 7 Will not God make the things that are right come to His chosen people who cry day and night to Him? Will He wait a long time to help them?

Calling Jesus “Lord” is Luke’s way of saying what comes next is a royal proclamation! Listen up! Jesus is speaking with authority.

Jesus says God will act! God will execute justice for his people! If this judge, who does not fear God or respect people, will give justice to this one pleading, harassing, widow, how much more will God act because of his people who cry out day and night? In other words prayers for justice, equality, and fairness, matter and God is acting.

The cries of the his people have come before God, God has heard them, God is moving. This is why Jesus has come! This is why Jesus is going to Jerusalem. It is why he will bear the brutal assault upon his body and hang on the cross. It is why he will die a most gruesome death. This is God’s justice, fairness, and equality in action. These will be completed when Christ is resurrected.

Listen again to Luke 17

Luke 17v24…on the Day of the Son of Man. (it will be) necessary that he suffer many things and be turned down by the people of today. 26-27 “The time of the Son of Man will be just like the time of Noah—everyone carrying on as usual, having a good time right up to the day Noah boarded the ship. They suspected nothing until the flood hit and swept everything away…That’s how it will be—sudden, total—when the Son of Man is revealed.

Jesus is the answer to God’s people’s prayers. He has come for this very reason. However, he will be rejected by those who say they are praying for, waiting for, wanting the Son of Man to come and exact God’s justice. But they do not recognize it when they see it. Why? Because justice, God’s justice, does not favor the powerful. God’s justice favors the weak, the powerless, the lowly, the least of these.

The Greek word meaning “justice or unjust” occurs six times in these few verses. God’s justice, embodied in Jesus, is God’s answer to the evil, wickedness and injustice in our world.

God answers and God is the answer. His justice is not the justice of the world. The disciples hope is not in worldly powers setting things right. God has come to bring his own justice. He has taken justice into his own, soon-to-be, nail scarred hands. All receive justice by Jesus, the judge, who represents the powerful, and the widow, who represents the powerless. All receive justice through Jesus. God sets things right and makes humanity right through the cross and Jesus’ resurrection.

No one, not the judge who is contemptible, or the widow, who is pitiable, receive justice on the merit of their cause or lack thereof.  Justice is not done because of who we are but because of who God is and what is done through Christ.

Saint Paul says it perfectly in Romans

3v21-24 – something new has been (accomplished). What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

Reflection

Psalm 121 – “Our precious Lord, today we lift up our eyes to You and ask for help, for safekeeping, for justice. Our help comes from the You, the maker of all things. Our God You have planted us solidly in Your love and faithfulness and will we not be moved. You keep us safe, you never sleep or forget us. You, O’ Lord are on our side. God, our Father, protect us from this world that tries to pull us away from You. By Your Son, Jesus, You have saved us and by Your Spirit, You will keep us from this time on and forevermore. Amen.”

widow2

Where’d Everybody Go?

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As originally seen on www.thewannabesaint.com

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A conquering army, marching through a defenseless region, wreaked havoc and mayhem on villages. The soldiers killed indiscriminately and were barbaric not caring for life or property. Arriving at another town the marauding army terrified and tortured the locals for sport. Into town a holy man walked, head bowed, and entered the local church. Seeing this the soldiers reported to their general the news of this unobservant priest. Upon hearing this the leader became furious! He rushed to the church, kicked in the doors and stormed inside to find this ignorant fool. The priest, praying at the altar, did not lift his head as the general roared; “Holy man. Your end has come! God will not save you from my sword! Don’t you see the kind of man I am? I can take this sword and run you through without giving it a second thought! After a moment, the priest, still not lifting his head, replied softly, “Don’t you see the kind of man I am? I can be run through with your sword and not give it a second thought.” Confused and impressed the general, and his army, moved onto the next village.

A message based on Luke 17: 11-19

Here’s what’s happening in our text…

This is a Gospel of Luke exclusive. Tale not found anywhere else. Luke introduces a new scene by “It happened…on Jesus’ way to Jerusalem” which Jesus has been journeying to since 9v51.

In Luke 4, Jesus says this;

4v16 – And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

This is Jesus’ mission statement, his purpose!

On the boundary:

Notice the places mentioned by Luke, to Jerusalem, through a region between Samaria, and Galilee. Jerusalem is where he’s going. It all began in Galilee and skirting the region of Samaria.

Jesus is making a bee line to Jerusalem. His mission is nearing its climax. As he journeys he skirts the border of the Jew‘s heated and hated rival. Samaritan were a polluted people. They had intermarried with the local, non Jewish folks, mated and had mixed children of questionable birth. No longer Jews they were traitors and to be despised. They also refused to worship in the Jerusalem temple and claimed their own holy place. A good Jew would go several miles out of his way to avoid being sullied and dirtied by setting foot in Samaria.

Jesus had run ins with Samaritans in other gospels. The woman at the well in John 4 was certainly wary and suspicious of Jesus but Jesus, unlike most of his Jewish counterparts, portrayed Samaritans in a positive way. Though they didn’t receive him in chapter 9 he tells the story of the “Good Samaritan” in chapter 10. The Samaritan was the hero not the villain in this parable.

Folks from Galilee weren’t shunned or avoided but were looked down upon because they weren’t cosmopolitan. They were country folks. Not real smart, good for labor not thinking, and needed to be educated by the smart people from the city of Jerusalem.

To both groups Jesus has come. Jesus was never about division but unity. He didn’t use his teaching to drive people apart but to bring them together. The insiders and outsiders, have and have nots, clean and the unclean, the sick and the healthy, the country and the city dwellers. Jesus’ message was the kingdom of God was meant for all and all were meant for the Kingdom.

Here comes trouble

17v12 – As he went into a village, ten men with a skin disease met him. They stood at a distance and shouted, “Jesus, (Master), have mercy on us!” When Jesus saw them, he told them,“Show yourselves to the priests.”

Though the word leprosy is used the Hebrew term here is ambiguous and can mean a number of skin diseases. Though unsure of the particular affliction we do know they were unclean because Luke notes they kept their distance. They were forbidden by law to touch anyone or anything that was clean. They were outcasts from their own communities. Shunned by family, friends and the whole society. All they had was other dirty, diseased, fellow forbidden ones to hang around. Note that Samaritans and Jews were together in this disease. Their disease had made them a community.

Calling out “Master!”, a title used only by the disciples in Luke’s gospel, “…have mercy on us!” In my imagination, a soft piano begins to play in the background, as Jesus, seeing these poor unfortunate souls, speaks words of love, walks over to them and lays his hand gently upon each of them, and heals them…(RECORD SCRATCH).

Nope, as if Jesus doesn’t want to take the time to do a dog and pony show, Jesus tells them “go, show yourselves to the priests.” This seems rather rude and brief. Definitely not very Jesus like. Where’s the love? Where’s the softness? Where’s the…“tada!”? Nothing. Go to the priests. Show’s over. Tip your waiter and waitress. Drive home safe.

Going to the priest was important important for only they priests could say “yes! You are clean. Go back to your life. People can be around you again and you, them. You are restored, a part of the community. You are restored.” Still, something’s missing.

Where’d everybody go?

17v14b – And as they went, they were cleansed of their (disease). 15 One of them, (seeing what is happening goes) back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

Whether it is scales falling off, wounds drying up, rashes clearing or itching ceasing, one of the leper 10 gang sees something amazing is happening. He’s being healed! Whoa!

Pay attention to all the vision words. Jesus, having seen them, told them go and let the priest see you, and this leper is now seeing that he is healed!

Listen to Jesus’ mission statement again from Luke 4;

God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news . To heal those with broken hearts, to pardon the prisoners and restore sight to the blind, To send away the bruised & battered ones with deliverance, To proclaim,’This is God’s year to act!’”

Mission Accomplished!

The Leper gets it, he understands, he perceives, he sees his healing and this helps him see that Jesus is Lord! That’s why he turns around. He is made clean. A priest cannot make or break his cleanliness by a word or ritual. He is clean! He comes back to Jesus praising God! Loudly, energetically! Note the link, Jesus and God being praised at the same time. Jesus is God’s messenger, his holy one. The leper sees this and cannot be silent. He must tell everyone what God’s messiah has done. He falls to the ground and worships Jesus.

Like the Good Samaritan parable, the only leper who returns, the only one who sees, the one who the Jewish people should emulate is the Samaritan, the Greek word used here is alien. One from another place.

Only four times in Saint Luke’s gospel does Jesus say “your faith has saved you.” In chapter 7, the lady who bathed Jesus’ feet, in chapter 8,the woman healed from a 12 year discharge of blood, our leper friend here in 17, and the blind man in chapter 18.

Healings, miracles, works of God are not for the purpose of “wowing us!” The “tada” isn’t where we stop. What results is primary. It should lead to recognition and worship of Jesus as Lord and the Father God who sent him.

Reflection

Psalm 111 …“Praise the Lord! We give you thanks Lord for the great works you have done. We praise you for your wonderful deeds. We also confess that sometimes we become focused on the wow or your works and not on you. Forgive us for not seeing. It is you Lord who do all good things. There is no good apart from you. Your righteousness endures forever. You, Lord, are gracious and merciful. You provide for us not to entertain but so that we will love you and worship you as Father and Jesus your son as Savior. Let us be ever mindful of this truth. May we know who you are and why you give us life and blessings. You are faithful and just, all your ways are trustworthy. You have saved us. Holy and awesome is your name. Amen.”

What Needs to be Disposed Of?

Luke 16: 1-13

Then 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.”

An elder monk had two large pots, each hung on the end of a pole which he carried across his neck. Each day he traveled the road to the stream to retrieve water for the abbey. One pot delivered a full portion of water but the other was cracked and arrived bearing only half. Observing this a young monk asked; “why don’t you fix that pot? It’s cracked and not very useful. If you repair it, it would be good again.”

The elder monk smiled and asked the younger brother to accompany him to the stream. The elder monk said nothing as they walked and the younger noticed the beautiful flowers along one side of the path. This made him smile because they reminded him of the fresh flowers that adorn the tables in the dining room. Arriving at the stream, the elder asked; “Did you notice the flowers? When the pot became cracked, I planted flower seeds on that side. Every day while walking back from the stream, they are watered and each day I pick them to decorate our tables.”

Sometimes in life things we deem not very good can be used to do something great.

Here’s what’s happening…

Jesus is in the midst of telling 5 parables, this is number 4. We spoke about two of them last week and number 3 is the “forgiving father” better known as “the prodigal son” parable.

Similar to the way the lost son gave no good account of his inheritance so too the bad manager does with his master’s wealth. The Greek says the both the prodigal son and the shrewd manager, literally “scattered in all directions” the wealth. In other words they thew it away.

This parable is only found in Luke’s gospel. Jesus is teaching and Luke tells us in 16v13-14 the religious leaders are listening in.

Hard to manage…

Then 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.

The two main characters in Jesus’ tale are “a certain rich man” and his house manager.

In the first century world, the “rich man” was probably Greek or Roman and lived in luxury in Jerusalem.  His steward would likely have been a slave or freedman. The steward had access to his master’s wealth, and took care of the owner’s various properties supplying the homes and properties with what they needed. http://www.progressiveinvolvement.com/progressive_involvement/2013/09/lectionary-blogging-pentecost-18-luke-16-1-13.html

Word comes to the ears of the rich man that his manger had been less than forthright in his dealings. He’s lining his pockets with the master’s money. Upon hearing this the manager is called on the carpet. He is so busted! The owner says “you’re fired and you owe me the money you stole!”

Obviously the manager hasn’t been saving it because the Greek reads he “scattered it in all directions”! Its gone. What’s he to do? Not being able to pay your debts was, and still is, a big deal. If he can’t come up with the dough the authorities will come up with a nice long prison sentence. It’s too much money to earn doing manual labor and he’s too old to do the back breaking work. He refuses to suffer the humiliation of asking relatives, friends, for the funds.

He’s in trouble. No money, no job, definitely no references and words going to get around that he’s a thief. The embarrassment, the shame of his dismissal and the truth of him being a crook are almost more than he can bear. He needs a plan…quick! Life as he knows it is slipping away.

Sneaky…

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;

The light bulb comes on. He’s got an idea. The dishonest house manager, instead of coming clean, is going to save himself by doing what he’s good at, being dishonest. Remember, there’s no facebook, instant messaging or even telephones. It takes a while for word to get around. Instead of waiting for the rumor of his firing to reach the client’s ears he visits them on his way back from his master’s house to collect his things. He powers on his laptop, pulls up the accounts on his quick-books software and starts cold calling folks who are in debt to his ex-master. He then makes them an offer they can’t refuse. He tells them the “generous master” is offering an opportunity, to make major cuts into their debts, as much as 50%! They must sign the new bill quickly before the deal expires.

By doing this he is making his master very popular and placing him in a bind.  The clients would have no way of knowing this wonderful offer wasn’t valid and the master’s reputation would be at stake if he decided to void the new deals.

In a culture where shame and honor are so very important, by the time the master finds out what the steward has done he would have no choice to but to honor the agreement. To take back his gift of discounting their bills and admitting he can’t control those under his watch was very shameful. The steward has the master between a rock and a hard place. He is much more clever, shrewd, dishonest and ruthless than the master realized. 

Interesting story but what exactly is Jesus saying?

v8…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.

We don’t often find Jesus using a dishonest person as an example to follow. Is that what he’s doing? Not really, but he is telling the disciples to be shrewd, clever, resourceful enough to use things of this world, such as money, for the kingdom’s advancement.  

Both money and power can corrupt resulting in much suffering but God can use these to make an eternal difference.

When used for selfish means money and power bring slavery, oppressions, taxes, indebtedness. Used for kingdom purposes, for others, they can bring freedom, provision and help for those in need.

Luke’s gospel is very much concerned with the plight of those who have little or no social standing, who depend upon the generosity of others to survive. In Luke 14, Jesus tells a host to invite the poor, lame, blind, those who cannot help themselves to his banquet table. In Luke 15, Jesus tells the religious leaders they have failed at their jobs because they are eating their full, clothing and taking care of themselves when those they are responsible for are hungry, naked, hurt, lost and dying.

v10“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.”

This is not Jesus ranting against wealth. It is a warning. Whether we have a lot or little what we possess must not possess us. We must be willing to give it away. Oftentimes Jesus’ teachings on riches are for others those who have more than we do. Everyone, no matter the size of their bank account, car they drive or house they live in, have things in their life they treasure, value greatly. Could be money, might be family, even their life. If the treasures aren’t being used for God’s kingdom then the treasure is more valuable to them than God’s kingdom.

John Petty, New Testament writer states: More than any other gospel, Luke confronts the issue of money and wealth.  In Luke’s (version) of the Lord’s Prayer, … forgiveness is explicitly linked with… (monetary) debts. “…(we obtain) release us from our sins, (as we release others from what is is (earthly) owed to us).”

What we hold onto reveals what has a hold on us. In Luke 6, Luke 12, and Luke 15, Jesus calls on his followers to release their earthly treasure to those in need. Whatever we value must be at God’s disposal. This is what it means to be a part of God’s kingdom.

Reflection

Psalm 113 says “I will praise the Lord! I will blessed be the name of the Lord forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting I will praise the name of the Lord. There is no one like my God, who is high above all. He raises up the lowly, lifts up the needy and gives ones who are cast out a home. He calls me a child of the Most High. Praise the Lord!”

Repeat these phrases after me and reflect upon what the Lord has said to you in the service today

Losing is Winning

Luke 15:1-10 http://www.progressiveinvolvement.com/progressive_involvement/2013/09/lectionary-blogging-pentecost-17-luke-15-1-10.html

Now 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.http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke%2015&version=NRSV

What’s happening is… 

In Luke 5v29-32, Jesus was in the house of a tax collector named Levi. Of course this displeased the rank and file of the religious leaders and they grumbled in their hearts and out loud about Jesus hanging out with sinners.  

Following Jesus’ public relations disaster in Luke 14, with the crowd was at his beck and call, Jesus doesn’t give a rousing, running out of the locker rooms ready to take on the world kind of speech, instead he says to the people “only if you hate your family, hate your life, carry a cross and get rid of everything you own can you follow me. 

In the Jewish world a father’s wishes, desires and commands always came first. He was the first and last word on any subject (dads and guys are thinking “ah, the good ol’ days!)”. To disobey a father’s instructions, to go another direction, to stray from his direction was a serious breach of family values and would be considered separation from the the family. A good Jewish father would forbid his children from following unlawful teachings and sinful instructions as espoused by Jesus. A child wanting to follow Jesus would have to go against their father’s commands. This would be tantamount to turning their back on their family, pulling away from the ones who raised them, hating their father and family. Being disowned would be the result.

Jesus laid it all on the table when he emphasized that following him, being a disciple, would be to sacrifice anything that pulled you away from the way of the Master. No doubt that some who followed Jesus left everything behind, invested their very lives, physically and socially to be his disciple.

The words of Jesus take new meaning when he says, in Luke 18v19-21; “My mother, my brothers and sisters, my family are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

This table’s open

Luke 15v1 – Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.

Luke tells the reader that ALL tax collectors, sinners, law breakers and outsiders were drawing near and being drawn to Jesus. All of them! Think about that for a moment. The very people the religious establishment shunned, had been told weren’t welcome, pushed away, were flocking to Jesus. This is amazing…and condemning. It’s not that sinners dislike Jesus, they dislike a lot of those they find around him. See how that works? The religious leaders didn’t like the people hanging out with Jesus and maybe those folks felt the same way. Hmm...maybe this is why there are so many empty chairs in our churches today.

Of course the pharisees, being the sticks in the mud they are, begin to grumble, mumble against Jesus being with these undesirables. They had a problem with Jesus allowing them to come to him, partaking of a meal with them, partying with them, most of all, sharing God’s message and love with them

Similar to their question, actually a complaint, in Luke 5v29-32 when they inquired; “Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?” in other words, “what do people like that have to do with God?” Jesus, gives a coherent answer to this bewildering question; “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.” In other words, “those who know they need God, get God.”

Jesus had dared a host, in Luke 14, not to consider the influential, upper crust, well to do, can do something for you, folks the next time he’s sending out invitations to a party. Instead, welcome those who never get an invitation since they have nothing to offer in return, “…the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind…” Jesus practiced what he taught. It is those who have nothing to offer Jesus, and he nothing to gain, who are having their lives changed by him.

Eating with outsiders though was more than grabbing a bite at Burger King…

A Jew’s commitment to purity, their sense of what God requires of them and their fear of risking exposure to the world which caused them to shun outsiders and criticize those who engaged, more than necessary, with non-Jews. To share a meal, have table fellowship, in the ancient world meant mutual acceptance, to receive, condone, not only the person, but what they represented. For the religious leaders, Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, violated their worldview. “Why would Jesus get close to the socially objectionable, to people like tax collectors and sinners? If Jewish people were the chosen ones, why bother?” http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Luke/Gathering-Disciples

Jesus makes friends with the lowest of the low. Sinners, sexually impure, thieves, diseased, poor, beggars, women, and worst of all? Tax collectors! Nasty, sell outs collecting revenue for the Romans, the enemy, the oppressors of the Jewish people!

Again, Jesus needs a good relations manager because he’s not good and winning the acceptable friends and influencing the proper people!

Little BO-Peep…

Instead of telling them where to stick it, Jesus tells one of his stories;  

v3 – So 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.’ 

When we hear this story it’s a reminder that whoever is lost, wherever the are, whatever their worth, Jesus finds them and brings ’em home. However, that’s not what the religious leaders, charged with the care of God’s children, God’s flock heard…

Prophet, speak against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat-lings; but you do not feed the sheep. 4 You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.”

Whoa! This text is from Ezekiel 34:1-6 and it levels the so-called “shepherds of Israel.” Jesus is telling them “You’re not doing your job! You stink! You’re terrible! If you’re not going to do it then God will raise up someone who will! I wouldn’t have to be doing these things you find so repulsive if you understood it’s what God called you do!

What an indictment! Jesus is “strengthening the weak, healing the sick, feeding them, clothing them, binding their injuries, and bringing back the strays” because the religious leaders have forgotten it’s what their occupation requires. The sheep are wandering, lost, being killed, because they have no shepherd, their leaders have failed.

Before anyone is tempted to chime in regarding clergy, pastors, ministers, elders, deacons, boards and church leadership, Jesus calls all of his followers, every disciple, to do the things the Jewish leaders refuse to do…“strengthen the weak, heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, bind the injured, and bringing back the strays.” Hmm..maybe this is why there are so many empty chairs in our churches today. Again, just a thought.

Jesus says seek, not avoid the lost. Look for, not the other way. Carry, don’t add more burden. Heaven rejoices when the dumb, dirty, disoriented, sheep is found, so why do the religious leaders condemn it for being lost? Hmm..maybe this is why there are so many empty chairs…I digress.  

Jesus says; v7 – “…there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Who are these 99 who need “no repentance?” or asked a different way “am I, are you, one of those 99 who need no repentance?” (shaking head emphatically “no”) Exactly. If you have to ask the question you aren’t one. Only those who think they need no repentance seek none. Ironically, they are the most lost of all.

Change in the couch cushion

 v8 – “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.’

Here, Jesus goes, turning over the apple cart again. This time the main figure is a woman! Jesus just can’t help himself making people uncomfortable. Our heroine is turning the house inside out, tossing the couch cushions, sweeping under the fridge, looking everywhere for her valuable treasure. She looks all day, doesn’t find it, gets dark, doesn’t stop. Broom in one hand, flashlight in the other, keeps on looking. Finally, after diving into every nook and cranny she locates the coin! Immediately she posts a photo on facebook, tweets out the discovery, texts her best friends, and calls everyone in her address book. “I found the coin! I found the coin! Let me show you the money!”(Jerry McGuire imitation)

Notice a couple of things. One, family isn’t mentioned. Remember, in Luke 14, Jesus just told them to “hate” their families. Chances are there are some in the crowds who left their families when they chose to follow Jesus on the way.

Second, there’s no formal repentance from the sheep or the coin. No special prayer is mentioned. Simply lost and then found. Granted neither the sheep or the coin is capable or repentance, but to get stuck here missed the point. This isn’t about us. Jesus is giving a glimpse into the heart of the Father and the Son. A look into their earnest desire for us. It’s about God and relationship not us and our response. 

Listen to what Jesus says in verse 10,

v10 – I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

God is after us, pursuing us, chasing us. Coming to us. Receiving us. He is the seeking shepherd! We are the dumb, dirty, disoriented sheep. The clueless coin that rolls away. Why? His love, his nature, who he is, compels him to do so. Motivates him to go to staggering lengths to prove his desire to to pull you close! We just need to be willing to be found.

Reflection

Psalm 79 says “O’ Lord, do not remember our faults and let your love and compassion find us. For we are lost and lowly. Help us, O God, for only you can save us. Deliver us and forgive our sins. We desire to be free. Let our cries come before you and according to your great love keep us safe. Let us be one of your sheep, part of your flock. We will praise you and give you thanks.”http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm%2079&version=NRSV

Repeat these phrases after me and reflect upon what the Lord has said to you in the service today:

God, we are lost and lowly...

Father, forgive us and free us

Jesus, you are my shepherd

God, we give you thanks…”

Attach and Distract

Luke 14:25-33

Now 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.

BOUNTIFUL, Utah — A red car, waiting to be picked up by its new owner, was destroyed Thursday morning after it was hit by a runaway semitrailer carrying 45 tons of sand. The truck driver, traveling up an incline to a local golf course, lost control when he attempted to downshift. The large vehicle’s gear shifting went out and the brakes failed as the heavy semitrailer rolled backward down a steep hill. The runaway truck coasted about half a city block, burst through a retaining wall, smashed into the car, and finally came to a stop partway inside a home where the residents were eating breakfast. No one was injured.

Were the home owners expecting this? The car buyer? The truck driver? Nope. Many things you can’t plan for but there are some you can. In our text today Jesus gives us the details of what it takes to follow him. No surprises.

Background and situation 

Our text is preceded by the parable of a great banquet given in Luke 14:15-24. Those invited to the banquet declined to attend, citing other priorities; care of land, possessions, and family. The host then throws open the doors to the less desirable to come to the party.

V25 “Great crowds were going along with him.”  A reminder that Jesus is heading to Jerusalem, since Luke 9:51,and he wasn’t alone. Jesus was a popular guy. He was love by many.

Are we really supposed to hate our family and our lives?

Jesus “turns” and speaks to the crowd including his disciples. In Luke, anytime Jesus “turns” we should pay special attention to what he says next. These words grab our attention and shock us!

Lots of people love him, fame is at his finger tips, reputation ready to be cemented and popularity exploded. This is the time to rouse the crowd, get ’em excited. He say one of those great parables, or do one of his wondrous miracles. Give the people what they want! Keep the folks charged up on the way to Jerusalem. Keep them coming back for more, hanging on your every word.

Jesus, ever the malcontent, instead iterates;

V27 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, that one is not able to be my disciple.”

At a time when Jesus has their attention why not tell the folks, “go let your family know, your ma and pa, your cousins, aunties and uncles, grandmas and grandpas! Tell them how great this is and the adventure of being my follower!” Jesus does the opposite…He says separate yourself from your family.

In Luke’s story, Jesus seems to be not focused on the family but on separating the familyLuke 8:19-21, 9:59-62, 12:51-53, 14: 26-27, 18:29, 21:16.  This one in chapter 14 is just seems harsh! If Jesus speaks so much regarding love, why is he telling people to hate?

The word “Hate” should be understood in the context of the first-century middle-eastern world.  It is not so much an emotional position, but a matter of honor and shame. 

New Testament writer Robert Tannehill says; “In the ancient world…hating one’s family meant doing something that injured them, particularly by disgracing them.  Life was family centered, and the honor of the family was very highly valued.  Every family member was expected to protect the honor of the family.  If some members joined a suspect movement,(a cult, or other religion) and abandoned their home, this brought disgrace on the family.”  

A break with tradition, especially in religious cases, can tear a family apart. Religious leaders have condemned Jesus’ teaching. To be a honorable and faithful Jew was to go the way of the forefathers, not the new way of Jesus. If a person chose to follow Jesus, or another religious movement, they would be shunned and their blessing as a child of God forfeited according to Jewish law. This would certainly cause much angst and heartbreak for Jewish families. Jesus grew up in Jewish culture. He knows that he is not a law breaker but the one who fulfills the law. The teachers and law givers though have said Jesus’ way is not the Jewish way. Jesus knows and understands this so he tells them his way is a path of suffering, servitude and separation. To walk with Jesus is sometimes to walk alone. 

Hating used in this context means that a person disconnects themselves from their families and choose Jesus. This was a momentous and costly decision. It would truly cost them their life as it had previously been.

Bearing the cross  

Deciding he hasn’t offended enough with the “hate your families and your lives” he ratchets up the verbiage… 

27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Shame of turning away from family was not as great as the shame and embarrassment of being crucified. The cross was a symbol, a warning, a terror for the 1st century Jew. The Roman empire used the cross as a means of execution and a sign of imperial strength. It was used for lower class, slaves and criminals. Roman citizens were almost always exempt from being crucified because of the shame associated with it.

The cross was a common site in the early first century. Caesar Augustus crucified thousands of runaway slaves. 6000 slaves involved in a rebellion were all crucified at once on the road leading to Rome. 2000 people in Palestine were crucified for their rebellion in the time of Roman occupation.

For a Jew, the cross represented the worst way to die. To be crucified was to be cursed by God.”

And now Jesus, the great pied piper, tells people to pick one up and carry it around.

He doesn’t candy coat, soften the blow, or take it easy.

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.

Parables on counting the cost, making a plan, knowing what you’re in for, before acting on this decision. It’s not to be entered into lightly. Jesus doesn’t believe in bait and switch. Plainly and painfully, Jesus lays out the cost walking with him.

As Jesus is turning the crowd’s remnants away he tells them to go ahead and forsake all things.

It’s almost as if Jesus is enjoying alienating the crowd. “I’m too popular! he says. What can I say that will just chase everyone away? Oh! I know, Those people you are close to, who raised you, cared for you, taught you right from wrong, have always been there for you? You gotta hate ’em. And, if you hang out with me you’re going to be shamed and probably die in the worst of ways!” Finally, if there was anyone left, he orders them them abandon everything they own, terrible things like a roof over your head, food in your stomach.

Jesus isn’t being hyperbolic. He hammers it home by 3 times using the phrase “you cannot be my disciple” if you do not forsake family, carry a cross, give up all possessions.

I’ll ask the question… “why?”

Listen to this parable…

Luke 14:16 Then Jesus said, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. 17 At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18 But 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.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ 20 Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So 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.’ 22 And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ 23 Then 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. 24 For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”

There is something in us that desires to attach ourselves to things other than God. Something in us that pulls us away from his purpose for our lives. We desire, distract ourselves and find many ways to separate from the Kingdom of God in our midst. These seemingly harsh words of Jesus aren’t against being a part of a family, having some possessions or enjoying life. They are harsh words against how easily we are pulled away from the things of God. Jesus tells us plainly, simply, there is nothing worth losing our seats at the great banquet table and to be ever on our guard or we’ll settle for other things instead of the only thing that matters, Him.

Reflection

Psalm 27 says “… Teach us your way, O Lord, and lead us on your good path… 13 We believe that we shall see the goodness of the Lord in our lives. 14 We wait on you Lord; helps us be strong, help our hearts take courage; we wait on you, Lord.”

Repeat these phrases after me and reflect upon what the Lord has said to you in the service today:

Lord, Teach me your way

Lord, lead me on your good path

Lord, keep me strong and encouraged

Lord, I wait on you…”