Saturday, November 28, 2009

Advent 4.C, Luke 1:39-56

Advent 4.C


Connect to Textweek resources here: http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/lk1b.htm

Passage
Luke 1:39-56
39In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” 46And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 56And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Teaching

In this, the fourth Sunday of Advent, our Gospel lesson (Luke 1:39-56) offers us the story of Mary's visit to Elizabeth and Zechariah's home. We cannot read this lesson without reflecting on the passage before--wherein Gabriel visited and announced the coming of the "Son of God"--and that this child is to be born in the lineage of the great Hebrew King, David. We learned that this new royal son is to bring into creation a new reign, an eternal reign of God.

Our doubts rise at the miraculous news, just as Mary's must have, wondering and pondering the meaning of this message. The angel puts her heart and mind at rest, reminding her that this is the God of the Hebrews who had done miraculous things, things that cannot be believed, things that are told from parent to child. This is the God who sent Abraham wandering. This is the God who gave Sarah a child in her old age. This is the God who brought Joseph into Egypt and protected him there. This is the God who frees them from slavery and provides for them in the desert. This is the God who returned his people to their land and built up a great city and temple, Jerusalem. This is the God of both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel. This is the God who loves his people. He is inaugurating a new heavenly reign in which all the world will be invited to participate and to dwell within.

You may have doubts but our ancestral faith story tells us that nothing is impossible with this God. We might remember these words from Genesis 18:14: “Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son."

Chris Haslam writes: For redemption through God’s might in the Old Testament, see Exodus 6:6 (delivery from slavery in Egypt); Deuteronomy 4:34 (“by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays of power, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt”); Jeremiah 27:5 (“It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth”); Isaiah 40:10; 51:9. (find more comments like this one from Haslam at: http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/archive/cadv4l.shtml)

For Luke, the author of these passages, Gabriel's news is the inauguration of the final stage in salvation history. So then, we see these very first words of Luke's Gospel--his good news to his readers--is that their salvation is deeply rooted in the story of their ancient faith ancestors.

This is true for us just as it was for the first readers of the Gospel of Luke. Do we in this moment begin to meet and know Jesus again for the first time, renewing in this, the fourth Sunday of Advent, our relationship with Jesus -- bringing our final act of preparation for Christ's birth on Christmas to a close and opening for us a way to enter into God's eternal reign?

If this happened to me, I would rush to my closest relative's side -- and that is what Mary does -- bringing us to the Gospel for the fourth Sunday in Advent. When she arrives and tells Elizabeth, the child in her womb leaps. This reminds us of the ancient story of the leaping children in Rebecca's womb, brothers Esau and Jacob. Perhaps this is even a foretelling of their relationship and the shifting of power from prophet to savior?

Elizabeth's response is faithful as she wonders how she might be so blessed as to receive the visitation of Mary. And Mary is portrayed as a model believer, having faith and hope in God's promises to her. This is the meaning of "blessed" in Luke's Gospel, that she is portrayed as a faithful follower of God. Sometimes we believe the word blessed in the scriptures refers to God's blessings, here and throughout Luke, blessed refers to the idea that the person who receives the blessing is a good steward, faithful follower and believer. It is in their actions, not God's, that show forth and invite the acclamation from those who witness their faith that they are blessed.

I wonder what it would be like to go through the rest of the days between now and Christmas and, where we witness faithful people following Jesus and helping and aiding the less fortunate, doing kind work on behalf of others, working to heal those who are infirmed … what if we mentally and prayerfully marked them as blessed people in our lives? What if we actually verbalized, as does Elizabeth in our Gospel, their giftedness and told them they were blessed?

It is in this moment that Mary offers the words of the Magnificat. I imagine Mary reflecting on the story of her people and the immense sense of collision with her life this news from Gabriel, the leaping of the child in Elizabeth's womb, and the words Elizabeth offer. I cannot describe the potential of this moment. But Mary does describe it and speaks out proclaiming God's greatness and her willingness to serve the Lord and be obedient in all things. She will be a steward and disciple because of all that God has provided for her. In remembering her people's story she proclaims and glorifies God because God is compassionate. Mary knows and calls out that this God keeps his promises and is faithful to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses, and all the patriarchs and matriarchs.

Mary is rehearsing Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. We see that the past work of God is begun anew in the conception of Jesus. Mighty work is done from the lowliest of people. God is continuing salvation history and fulfilling his promises made to Abraham. But the message of Jesus is a reconstituted reign and a diversified Israel where by all those who have called their father Abraham (remember John the Baptist's words from last week) are joined by all those whose baptism with the Holy Spirit by Jesus may now find their home in Jerusalem. This is not simply an ethnic heritage, but one open to the adoption of God's children not in the fold of Abraham's family.

As we meditate upon the meaning of the words of Luke's Gospel it would be too easy to see this as a past event. Yet this is our story. It is certainly my story. From my parents and faith family I inherit the story of Jesus and the ever widening circles of his reign and his grace-filled embrace. Like Elizabeth I have the opportunity to bear witness to visions of blessed people who faithfully follow Jesus and aid those who are without, in accordance with John the Baptist's proclamation.

I also have the opportunity to thank God in this the fourth Sunday of Advent for my inheritance and the gift given to me in Jesus. Still more opportunity lies before me though, recognizing that my heart leaps at the news of my relationship with the about-to-be-born Jesus. But I also have work to do. So may my words and your words be as Mary's … “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

To view material, links and source material for this Sunday's reading from Luke and for all the readings for this Sunday click here: Haslam's Sunday Readings



The Lambeth Bible Study Method

This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.

Question #5 "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question

Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process

2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.

3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.

4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.

5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.

6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.

7. Each person responds to the questions "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"

8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.

9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father…”

Advent 3.C Luke 3:7-18

Advent 3.C

Connect to Textweek resources here:  http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/lk3b.htm

Passage
7John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”


15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Teaching
The passage can be found here at oremus: http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Luke+3:7-18&vnum=yes&version=nrsv

We continue this week the story of John the Baptist's proclamation of baptism. We remember the uniqueness of this baptism as a metanoia or turning that is essential bedrock within the catholic tradition of our church. While there were many prophets in that time and scholars recognize that baptism was not unusual, we see in the Gospel a self differentiation for the follower of Jesus in the lukan community that sees baptism as a primary way a Christian marks their choice to follow Jesus. We can easily imagine in this unique combination of accepting an ordered life in the manner of Jesus and the water of baptism as a cleansing ritual the growth of our understanding that our sins are forgiven and life is forever changed.

John the Baptizer is not offering us an opportunity to adopt his way of life where home is the desert, clothes are skins, foods are grasshoppers and wild honey, there are no alcoholic beverages and prayer and fasting mark the hours of the day. John is offering us in his proclamation and act of baptism an opportunity to turn away from our previous life to a life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is very possible that some of these words, which make up the synoptic tradition, are deeply rooted in the earliest Christian documents of sayings and traditions. Sometimes this document is called Q.

We know in the Gospel of Luke that the Pharisees and high priests will reject John's baptisms (7.30 and 20.5). Nevertheless, crowds of people looking for a savior come out to the Jordan to hear the message and receive the baptism, to take a sacramental journey into the wild places and wash as a pilgrimage towards ever new and transformed life.

They are met there by the wild John the Baptist calling them vipers! Jesus also will call those who live questionable lives with alternative and destructive intentions vipers (23.33). The people who come to John are recognized by him as people who are in need of change. They are in fact creatures of the desert place and the washing may prepare them for the coming kingdom, and deliverance from the wildness of this world into the grace of the coming reign of Christ.

We might well remember Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians 1:10 where Paul says, "you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming”.

In verse 8 we see the word “repentance," metanoia. The word in Greek literally means returning, or coming back to the way of life charted by the covenant between God and Israel. See also Exodus 19:3-6 (where God commands Moses to tell the Israelites “if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation”); 24:3-8; Jeremiah 31:31-34 (“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. ... I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts ... they shall all know me ... I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more”).

John the baptizer is demanding right living based on a sincere search for God’s will (Matthew 7:15-20; Galatians 5:22-23) and suited to the promise of repentance. We see this ancient covenant connection and the life of our faith ancestors throughout Luke's Gospel and Jesus teaching as we are reminded of “Abraham our ancestor”. See also Luke: 1:54-55, 72-73; 3:34; 13:16, 28-29; 19:9; 20:37; Acts 3:13, 25; 7:17, 32; 13:26; 26:6; 28:20; John 8:33, 39; Romans 2:28, 29. We are then named a desert people who have found our life and our faith in the bosom of God and deep within the well of his heart. For those who choose to live a life oriented on the Christ and his reign we see the promise and potential of a life lived not in scarcity but the bounty of grace which promised manna from heaven, that the lilies be clothed, that the poor would have good things and the hungry fed.

Verses 10 - 14 are unique to Luke's Gospel. Here we see the Gospel's proclamation that right living has to do with sharing what we are given, and that it is characterized by a special concern, sensitivity and action on behalf of the poor. Jesus in Luke's Gospel will speak clearly about stewardship of possessions and so central was this to Jesus' teachings that we see it mirrored throughout the Acts, see Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32-35.

We get a sense of the rich and the poor being unified in this proclamation of change and baptism, and in their ministry one to another. We cannot read verse 12ff without remembering here we are to hear of the story in Luke's Gospel of Zacchaeus the tax collector who gives half of his possessions to the poor.

So powerful was John's message and such a figure of hope and transformation was he that others believe he may be the messiah. So it is the last verses of this passage that we see him continue to refocus our attention, beginning in verse 15, on the coming of Christ who ultimately will provide the Holy Spirit to the baptism of water. How often do we move into positions of power or authority or ministry and the glory which rightly belongs to Christ comes to us? In this advent season we are challenged to remember the humility of the Christ family as described in the Gospels and be challenged to do as John the baptizer does and point forward to the Christ who is truly working in us and our life together greater things than we can ask for imagine.

As I think about these verses and the opportunity to preach this weekend, I am wondering how the season of Advent can serve to reorient our lives to our baptismal promises? How can our time, in the midst of preparations for Christmas celebrations, help us to see that we are to change, take a step back into the life of Christ? That we are called and challenged to live a particular life of continuous returning to the desert and waters of baptism for refreshment in a life's long journey. When we come to this place of Advent, we are to realize our place within the faith family of Abraham and seek not only to be reconciled with our Jesus but also to be reconciled with the right living which is to give to the poor, and to aid those who go without.

I recently read this Christmas rant: http://expatminister.org/2009/12/04/something-i-have-to-get-off-my-chest/. What was particularly stunning were these figures. Americans will spend some $450 billion to celebrate the in breaking of God’s just & righteous presence. In comparison, it would only take $10 billion to ensure clean water for every human being in the world, and $13 billion to keep folks from going hungry. Certainly these are numbers to make one pause in the face of Zaccheaus who gives away half of what he possesses to the poor. What if we lived out the change and right living John the Baptist offers us not only at Christmas but throughout the year?
Other Links:
To view specific and detailed material, links and source material for this passage and for all the readings for this Sunday click here:  Haslam's Sunday Readings

The Lambeth Bible Study Method

This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.

Question #5 "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question

Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process

2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.

3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.

4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.

5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.

6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.

7. Each person responds to the questions "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"

8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.

9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father…”

Advent 2.C Luke 3:1-6

Advent 2.C

Connect to Textweek resources:


Passage
Luke 3:1-6
Commentary by verse here:  http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/archive/cadv2l.shtml

Reflections
The opening words of our Gospel for Sunday give us on the one hand the authority of this world (vs 1: "Fifteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius") and on the other hand a new authority (vs 2: "the word of God came"). This new authority is one inaugurated in very real time and is measured by grace and not power. It is a time of renewed salvation history deeply linked to the past and intimately connected with readers, and our own, present.


Who cannot relate to the feeling of "wilderness." While we might know of John's possible connection to Qumran and other wilderness communities it is not this that connects us but rather the feeling of being followers of Jesus in a strange land with competing stories about the nature and values of culture. We relate to the ancient Hebrews in Israel, we relate to the occupied Israelites of Jesus' own time. We relate because we too struggle with a captivity which is hallmarked by consumerism and debt and recession; not to mention the stress and strains of family and relationships. The world is a wild place and we find our home in it as foreigners in a strange land, longing for the Kingdom of God present, and not yet fully realized. We long in that wilderness to hear the voice crying out.

We as Christians understand John the Baptist as the agent to fulfill the ancient prophesies: Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; 4:5 (“Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes”).

Baptism we are shown in Luke's Gospel is at once seen as the ancient and present way of deliverance and entrance into the kingdom of grace with a prophet king named Jesus. To the Jews of the time and to Luke's reader John is proclaiming and acting out a preparation for the coming of Jesus. It s a proclamation being made to the whole world a proclamation we know as the Gospel.

I will be thinking this week of how the time and the season of Advent offer us a time to connect with the real world wilderness of the people in and outside of our congregations. How do we as people already baptized, already living within a kingdom without walls, take a Gospel of grace into the world around us, proclaiming Jesus and proclaiming the opportunity of hope and joy and transformation that awaits those who choose to follow him and work under his Lordship? What are the real world differences we as Christians can make?

Last night a friend reminded me of Jackson Browne's song Rebel Jesus. Find it on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxDwy8JkFFI&feature=fvw  That has me thinking of the challenge we face. It has me thinking of how the mission field can really challenge us to be better at our work as a church.

As Mary pondered these things, the season of Advent is a season of pondering. So, I am pondering and hope you will join me in that corporate work of prayer, discernment, preparation, and pondering.


To read comments for this Sunday's readings click: Haslam's Sunday Readings

For Group Discussion

The Lambeth Bible Study Method
This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.

Question #5 "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question

Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process

2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.

3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.

4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.

5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.

6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.

7. Each person responds to the questions "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"

8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.

9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father…”

Friday, November 27, 2009

Advent 1.C Luke 21:25-36

Connect to Textweek resources: http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/lk21b.htm

Advent 1.C
Luke 21:25-36

Passage

Luke 21.25-3625“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”



29Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”


Lines of Interest in the this weeks text:



25: there will be sign 
Recalling chapter 11:16 and the disciples desire to have a sign – marks the transition from earlier teaching to discourse on the last things



Anxiety among nations
Jesus introduces the idea that this is a global, worldly, creation event and not just one concerned with Jerusalem



26: Collapse from fear

These events will be shocking; and the idea of an“inhabited world” will bring an expanded vision to the ministry of Jesus and the event



27 the coming of man
Luke ties these images in with Daniel as do other gospel authors. He is coming with power and glory on clouds…Jesus has prepared for this in 9:26, 11:30; 12:8, 40; 17:22; 24, 26, 30; 18:8 – each is a passage speaking the Son of Man coming in glory



28: Stand up, lift up your head
Your liberation is coming near. Hear the words are the very same words used earlier in the story of the woman who was crippled 13:11, she could not stand because she was bound by Satan. So, the sentence begins to reveal this sense and understanding of rising up to meet our Lord. We are unbound by Jesus ministry and work, so we are able to stand up.



Your liberation is coming near
The idea that perhaps what liberates you is your freedom from slavery – assumed slavery to in Egypt as in 1:68, freedom of Jerusalem in 2:38, we had hoped he would free Jerusalem 24:21. We see here is that the theme then is the freedom received as Gentiles is the same freedom received by the Jews.



29 fig tree and all the trees
Parable (other short parables in Luke 4.23, 5.366.39) echoes the fruitless fig tree in 13:6-9.



30 see and know for yourselves
Anyone can see



The kingdom of God is near
The kingdom of God is present in the words and works of Jesus (10:9,11), but it has not realized itself yet.



32 This generation will not pass away
Luke typically uses the term generation to mean those whoa re resistant to the prophetic message of Jesus



33 my words will not pass away
prophetic motif



34 pay attention to yourselves
this is an exhortation, and in part I think because of his disciple like instructions, he is guiding those who follow (see also 12.1, 17.3, 20:46)



Dissipation and drunkenness and the distractions of daily life
This is a unique Lukan entry into the text. Dissipation is kin to a drinking bout.



Comes on suddenly
It is going to happen quickly



36 Awake in ever season, “be alert at all times”
We see this eschatological theme here



Keep praying
Luke uses this uniformly throughout the Gospel: 5.12, 8.28, 38, 9-38, 40, 10:2; 22.32



Flee all these things
Echoes John the Baptist question about why do you flee all of this 3.



37 teaching during the day
Jesus continues his ministry in the Temple and in fact has delivered this entire discourse within its walls. Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives at night to pray and rest. All the people are coming out to him, getting up early in the morning to meet him at the Temple.



Thoughts to Share

As Luke begins his story, he tells us he is writing to help the reader understand the life and work of Jesus and what it will mean to follow him. In the first part of the Gospel Luke tells the story of Jesus in relationship to those things that have already happened. They have been foretold, and come true in the incarnation and in the events of Jesus’ life.

But here we move in Luke to a time of speaking about the signs and he calls us not to look at the past but to understand how that past shows us the reality of Jesus Christ in the present. Just as the Jews received signs before their deliverance so the Gentiles receive signs. We know that Jesus’ kingdom became a partial reality in his ministry, it is about to become a full reality and as his followers we should be looking for the signs.

The fig tree comes as a sign and it simply is offered as a witness that those who follow Jesus will know by looking at the sings around them.

As they wait and watch they must be diligent and careful so as to be prepared.

If they are prepared, both in the watchfulness, prayerfulness, and in their work on behalf of others will have nothing to fear in the presence of the Son of Man. In fact they will be able to stand up straight, unbound from dwelling in this world, and fully participate in the kingdom of God.

“Those who endure, who bear witness, who remain alert in prayer, have nothing to fear from the coming of the Son of Man. For them there is not distress or confusion or dread. For them it is the time of ‘liberation.’ And they can therefore stand up straight, hold their heads high in happy anticipation before the Son of Man.” (LTJ, Luke, 330)

“Be awake in every season, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” V 36.



For Group Discussion

What are the secular signs of seasonal change?

What are the signs within our liturgy that something is changing?

As change is happening around us, what are some of the emotions and thoughts that begin to play in your life as we get closer and closer to Christmas?


What might be some disciplines or exercises that would allow you to truly prepare for Jesus' arrival?

How might those actions be helpful in dealing with the work and emotions and relations that are tested at this time of the year?


The Lambeth Bible Study Method


This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.

Question #5 Can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question

Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process

2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.

3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.

4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.

5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.

6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.

7. Each person responds to the questions "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"

8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.

9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father…”

Mapping Contents and Themes of Luke's Gospel

Introduction
What follows is a brief introduction to the contents and themes of the Gosopel of Luke. You can download a PDF of this teaching here.

One volume or two?
Like many scholars it is my belief that the Gospel of Luke is the first volume of a two volume work. Luke's Gospel and Acts take up more than 1/3 of the New Testament, so this particular Gospel plays a large part of our understanding of who Jesus is and how the earliest gentile followers understood his mission.

The prologue to Acts is a summary of Luke’s Gospel, and a great place to begin if you are interested in the cliff notes.

Luke Timothy Johnson writes, “The volumes are joined by an intricate skein of stylistic, structural and thematic elements which demonstrate convincingly that the same literary imagination was at work in both.” (LTJ, Luke, I)

Who wrote this Gospel?
Luke, follower of Jesus and partner with Paul, is the person identified in the work of patristic writers, (earliest Christian theologians) and in the letters of Philemon (24), Colossians (4.14) and 2 Timothy (4.11).

Early collections of Christian writings, like the Muratorian Canon, also mention that Luke traveled with Paul. For instance:

“The third gospel according to Luke. After the ascention of Christ, Luke, whom Paul had taken with him as an expert in the way (teaching), wrote under his own name and according to his own understanding. He had not, of course, seen the Lord in the flesh, and therefore he begins to tell the story from the birth of John on, insofar as it was accessible to him” (Muratorian Canon lines 3-9)

The “we” passages in Acts, are written from a first person perspective. This leads many to believe they are written from the vantage point of an eye witness, leading credence to the idea that the author traveled with Paul. These passages are: Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-15, 21:1-18, 27:1-28:16. (LTJ, Luke, 2)

Some say that would make the author too old. There is nothing to preclude a person from having traveled with Paul at age 20 in the year 50, to writing the Gospel in the year 80. Most mainstream scholars place the date of the Gospel of Luke around 70-80.

Some scholars question why Luke doesn’t include the letters of Paul or mention their existence in Acts. Still others aren’t so sure that there are not remnants of the Gospel of Luke in the Pauline letters.

Where do we get the tradition that Luke was a doctor? Eusebius thought he was a doctor from Antioch. And, Col 4, 14, Phlm 24, II Tim 4:11 testify that he was the beloved physician.

To Whom is Luke writing?
Both Luke and Acts are written for the same reader, Theophilus. Scholars believe that Theophilus might have been a new Gentile Christian or the benefactor of the two literary masterpieces. In my mind what is clear is Luke's intent on instructing those who follow Jesus. I have always believed that this reason is why Luke makes a wonderful first Gospel to read as it can help anyone come into contact with Jesus and provide direction and instruction on living a life that follows Jesus.

Luke is well educated, as his arguments and structure within the text demonstrate. He is most certainly a Greek – speaking author, and writing for a Greek – speaking reader. Leading us to believe his community was most likely very similar.

His first readers were Christians. As it says in 1.4, Luke is writing to confirm teachings already held by his readers.

Most of all Luke was a story teller. His intent is story telling, to tell the story of Jesus. He weaves a wonderful tapestry of conversations, events, and miracles along the way to Jerusalem. Luke is certainly an apologetic writer on behalf of the Gentiles. His view of the Empire is also without malice. This gives the tale quite a different reading than Mark’s Gospel for instance for instance.

Some recent scholarship invites speculation that perhaps Luke was writing not only an apology for Christians in general but an apology for Paul’s ministry specifically.


Prophetic Theme
Luke has a prophetic message for the Christian church today. Luke’s Gospel shows a Jesus lifting up the eyes of the people (mostly Gentiles) to see the coming kingdom and to prepare and work for its coming. In the midst of our own worries and church struggles we too need to have our eyes lifted up to the work of God in the restoration of creation.

The prologue leads into the first major section of the Gospel 1:5-4:13. This section moves through the historical antecedents: announcements of the birth of John to the baptism of Jesus, Jesus’ ancestry and his temptation. This section sets the stage that Jesus is himself the one prophesied, the Son of Man, to come and bring the Kingdom of God.

The second section of the Gospel is from 4:14-9:50, it is Jesus' ministry and mission to Galilee. These healings and this action move the reader from the first recognition of the disciples to the confession of Peter the second passion prediction. It also holds major teaching moments on topics such as the Sabbath, the sermon on the plain, and the parable of the sower. This is a very rich section.

The third section is from 9:51-13:30, and it is marked by Jesus beginning his journey to Jerusalem. We have the sharing of mission with the disciples in this section and sending out of the 70. This section holds a number of teachings on the nature of discipleship. Guidance on preparation for the judgment are given by Jesus to both disciples and people alike.

The fourth main section is 13:31-19:27, begins after the teaching to disciples and people and we see a marked and steady march to Jerusalem. This section has the most Lukan material. And, it is in this section that we see Luke’s particular vision of Jesus and how he lays the stage for the story of Acts. It is a major teaching section on discipleship with material dealing with: Jesus need to go to Jerusalem, sitting at table, parables of tower-builder and warrior, parables of lost sheep and lost coin, and the two sons, instructions on attitudes towards earthly goods, the parable of the unjust householder, how to deal with offense, reconciliation, faith, obligation and the blessing children. This section concludes with Zacchaeus almost as an exclamation point to the whole section on discipleship.

The fifth section is 19:28-24:53 where we arrive at Jerusalem and we see the actions unfold as prophesied. We have the last supper and arrest on the Mount of Olives, to the account of the crucifixion and the Easter message of the empty tomb. This last section sets the foundation for Acts. (1.1-1.14)

The Prophets
The Gospel of Luke is a book about the Holy Spirit. It is about the prophetic voice of Jerusalem foretelling through the power of the Holy Spirit the coming of the Messiah, the Son of Man. It is the story of how the Holy Spirit brings about the history of Jesus, who himself will be a great prophet of the Kingdom of God, and who will provide the Holy Spirit that those who follow him may work for the realization of the Kingdom of God in this world.

The apostles are seen as prophetic, these first followers of Jesus are men of the Holy Spirit, filled and empowered to be bold in their proclamation of the Good news and the Word of God. They are witnesses. They work signs and wonders themselves. They preach and perform these wonders among the people.

Jesus is a prophet like Moses. Luke makes major changes in the Joel quote from Peter in Acts (Acts 2:17-21). The changes he makes to Joel 2:28-32 in Peter’s speech. These changes are: after these things in Joel to in these last days. This appears to define the Pentecost moment as an eschatological event in and of itself. He adds the words, “and they shall prophesy” in verse 18, accentuating the prophetic character of the Spirit. And, he adds the words “sings on the earth below” in verse 19, tapping in to the signs and wonder imagery of Luke and in keeping with the idea that with Jesus’ birth a major event occurs that begins the revelation and realization of the kingdom of God in this world.

Luke hangs a great deal of this idea that Jesus himself was a great prophet upon the a passage from Deut 34:10-12. For Luke he believes that this particular passage reveals to the faithful that the the Holy Spirit is speaking specifically of Jesus. There has not arisen a prophet since, or in Israel, like Moses, whom the lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt…and for all the mighty power and all the great and terrible deeds which Moses wrought in the sight of all the people.

The people of Luke's time were people in expectation. They believed that God was going to “raise up a great prophet.” Luke recognizes Jesus as the great prophet and his resurrection takes on even greater meaning in this light. We see Peter in Acts 2:22-24 referring to Jesus in just this way:

“Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst….this Jesus you crucified…but God raised him up.” (LTJ, Luke, 18)

If we hold on to this idea that Jesus is like Moses in the eyes of Luke and we turn again to Acts 7:35-37 we see perhaps a view of the parallel of lives lived.

“This Moses, whom they refused, saying “who made you ruler and judge?” God sent as both ruler and deliverer by the hand of the angel that appeared to him in the bush. He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea an in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, “God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up.” (LTJ, Luke, 18ff)

We cannot know if Luke’s idea of who Jesus was informed his idea of Moses, or the other way around. What is clear is the powerful imagery being used in the telling of this Gospel story for the purpose and empowerment by the Holy Spirit of God’s church.

What is important is the reality that in the Gospel of Luke we have a pattern of authority rooted in the Holy Spirit that follows the succession pattern of Moses. Jesus is a prophet like Moses. Jesus was not simply raised up because he was chosen; Jesus for Luke is the Lord of the Resurrection. Moses received and gave the living words to the people, but Jesus receives the Holy Spirit from God and pours it out on his followers. (LTJ, Luke, 20).

Other Themes
The Prophetic theme is not the only theme in the Gospel. Luke has a positive understanding of the world and history, the lost, the word of God, and conversion.

Affirmation of the World
To affirm the world and culture is not to mean that everything goes. The prophetic imagery leads to very clear religious expectation on social values. We see this especially in the section on discipleship and teaching about how to live life as a prophet of Jesus. (Third and fourth section described above.) Luke pays attention to women, outsiders of all kinds, the poor, and those in need.

The Lost
The prophetic work of the kingdom and its partners in ministry, their lives, and discipleship living in Luke is not given for the destruction of the wicked – but for the saving of the lost. Luke amplifies more than any other gospel the sense that this is Good News. Jesus is philosopher and king, he is savior too, bringing salvation, through signs and saving acts. This theme of salvation, the saving of the lost, is the theme of parables after the teachings on discipleship and daily living. Why do we do these things? To find the lost, comes the answer.

Word of God leads to Conversion
The Word of God is powerful in Luke’s Gospel. It is alive in the people and in their prophetic actions, and in the prophetic actions of Jesus.

Conversion and the disciples’ response are the last two major themes. “God’s restored people answer the challenge of his visitation with fruits worthy of repentance (Luke 3:8, Acts 26:20. People who hear the word are converted, by their turning around, their metanoia, literally their facing a different direction (away from worldly values to kingdom values). The followers of Jesus respond with faith, which for Luke is defined by hearing the word and patient endurance. It is not a momentary decision but a journey, it is a response daily. This is nurtured by faith in Luke’s Gospel. And, this work changes the way we live our lives. Following Jesus means that we change our social behavior to imitate God. Luke Timothy Johnson writes, “The opening of home and heart to the stranger is explicitly connected to the theme of accepting or rejecting the prophet. Luke provides concrete examples of the proper response of hospitality in Luke 10:38 and Acts 16. In the same way, as the Messiah showed leadership as a kind o table-service, so is leadership in the messianic community to be on of service spelled out in the simple gestures of practical aid.

The Road Map to the Gospel of Luke

When preparing to read through a Gospel it is good to see the landscape of the text. Here is a great road map to see the journey of Jesus and his followers through the Gospel of Luke.

The sections are according to Luke Timothy Johnson (Luke, Sacra Pagina, 1991.)
Descriptions by Werner George K├╝mmel (Introduction to New Testament, trans. Kee, 1973.)

The prologue
1:5-4:13
Chs. 1-2: names and places of origin of Jesus; genealogy of Jesus (1:1¬17); birth and naming of Jesus (1:18-25); homage of the Magi in Bethlehem (2: 1-12); flight to Egypt (2: 13-15); slaughter of the children in Bethlehem (2: 16-18 ); return from Egypt and residence in Nazareth (2: 19-23). 3: 1-4: 16: preparation for the activity of Jesus: John the Baptist (3 :1-12); baptism of Jesus (3:13-17); temptation of Jesus and residence in Capernaurn (4:1¬3) .

The second section
4:14-9:50
4:17-16:20. After the account of the call of Jesus' first disciples (4: 18-22) and his first teaching and healing activity (4:23-25), portrayal of his action through word (5-7: sermon on the mount) and act (8-9): ten miracles, interrupted by conversations (8: 18¬22; 9:9-17): healing of the leper (8:1-4); healing of the servant of the official from Capernaum (8: 5-13), of Peter's mother-in-law and of many sick (8: 14-17); dismissal of unsuitable followers; stilling the storm (8 :23-27); healing the Gadarene demoniac (8:28-34), of a lame man (9:9-13); question of fasting (9:14-17); healing of Jairus' daughter and of the hemorrhaging woman (9:18-26), of two blind men (9:27-31), and of a mute demoniac (9:32-34).


The third section
9:51-13:30
Conversations follow in Chs. 11 and 12, framed by the discourses of Chs. 10 and 13 and introduced by a new description of the teaching and healing work of Jesus (9:35-38). Sending out of the twelve and address to the disciples: instructions for the mission; words concerning the fate of the disciples; warning about fearless confession and suffering (10: 1-11:1); Jesus and the Baptist (11: 2-19); pronouncement of woe on the cities of Galilee (11:20-24); shout of joy and summons of the Savior (11:25-30); conflict conversations with the Pharisees (Sabbath conflict; defama¬tion of Jesus as being in league with Beelzebub, demand for signs) 12:1-45; the true relatives of Jesus 12:46-50; seven parables of the kingdom of God (Sower, with explanation; mustard seed, leaven; treasure; pearl; fishnet) 13 :1-30.

The fourth section
13:31-19:27
Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth is found in (13:31-58). Then follows a series of reports which show Jesus as itinerant, beginning and ending with the question who Jesus is (14: 1-16 :20) : Herod's opinion about Jesus (14: 1-2); arrest of the Baptist (14:3-12); feeding of the five thousand (14:13-21); Jesus' walking on the lake and Peter's sinking (14:22-23); healings in Gennesaret (14: 34-36); discourse on clean and unclean (15: 1¬20) ; Jesus and the Canaanite woman (1 5:21-28); healings of the sick (15:29-31); feeding of the four thousand (15:32-39); de¬mand for signs (16:1-4); warning about the leaven of the Phari¬sees (16: 5-12); Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi (16: 13 -20) . 16:21-25:46. First prediction of the passion (16:21-23) ; sayings about the sufferings of the disciples and the coming of the Son of man (16:24-28); transfiguration and conversation about the return of Elijah (17:1-13); healing of the epileptic boy (17:14-21); second passion prediction (17:22-23); question about the temple tax (17:24-27); discourse on discipleship (sayings about behavior toward the "little ones," about offenses, about behavior within the community, parable of the roguish servant, 18:1-35); conversations about marriage and divorce (19: 1-12); blessing of children (19:13-15); the rich young man (19:16-26);

The fifth section
19:28-24
We begin this last section with a teaching on the reward for following Jesus (19:27-30); parable of the workers in the vineyard (20:1-16); third passion prediction (20:17-19); Jesus and the sons of Zebedee (20:20-28); healing of the two blind men near Jericho (20:29-34); procession toward Jerusalem (21:1¬11); cleansing the temple (21:12 f); homage of the children in the temple (21:14-17); cursing of the fig tree (21:18-22); ques¬tion of authority (21:23-27); parable of the dissimilar sons (21:28¬32), of the evil vineyard-workers (21:33-46), and of the royal marriage (22:1-14); question of the Pharisees about the tribute money (22:15-22) ; question of the Sadducees concerning the resurrection (22:23-33); question of the Pharisees about David's son as Messiah (22 :41-46); discourse against the Pharisees and scribes, including seven woes (23:1-36); lament over Jerusalem
(23:37-39). Eschatological chapters: 24-25; destruction of the temple (24:1f); warning signs of the End (24:3-14); the great tribulation (24:15-28); the parousia of the Son of man (24:29¬31); determining the End (24:32-36); parables of the flood, of the watchful master of the household, of the faithful and slothful servants, of the ten maidens, of the entrusted talents (24:37-25: 30); prediction of the judgment of the world by the Son of man (25:31-46).

Conclusion: Passion Narrative and Resurrection Report 26:1¬
28:20. Passion narrative (26:1-27:56): decree of death (26:1-5); anointing in Bethany (26:6-13); Judas' betrayal (26:14-16); preparation of the Passover (26:17-19); identification of the be¬trayer and institution of the Lord's Supper (26:20-30); prediction of the denial, Gethsemane, capture of Jesus, hearing before the high council, denial of Peter (26: 31-75); handing over Jesus to Pilate, death of Judas, proceedings before Pilate, condemnation, mocking, way to Golgotha, crucifixion and death of Jesus (27:1¬56); burial (27:57-61); guard at the tomb (27:62-66). Resur¬rection report (28: 1-20): message of the resurrection at the empty tomb (28:1-8); appearance of the risen Lord to the women (28:9 f); the Jewish lie about the theft of the body of Jesus (28 :11-1 5); final word of the risen Lord to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee: command to evangelize and to baptize (28: 16¬-20).