Friday, January 29, 2010

4th Sunday after the Epiphany, Ordinary Time

Luke 4:21-30

 
21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

 
Find resources for all the passages for this week here: http://www.textweek.com/yearc/epiphc4.htm

Find the resources for this particular passage here:

 
http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/lk4c.htm


 
Find the Bible passage here:

 
http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Luke+4:21-30&vnum=yes&version=nrsv

  
Find resources produced by Chris Haslam here:

 
http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/archive/cpr04l.shtml

A Prayer

 
God of the prophets, your love reaches far beyond the boundaries of covenant and command. Redeemed by a love so patient and kind, may we offer that same love to others and so proclaim you to the world by the witness of our lives. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.

 
From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

 
Some thoughts on Luke 4:21-30

 
As the radio story-teller Paul Harvey says, “Now for the rest of the story.” This week we continue with the story of Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue at Nazareth. We might recall the passage describes the kind of Messiah Jesus is to be, the kind of work he will undertake, and the people to whom he has come. The reign of God in the Gospel of Luke is well underway and change, transformation, and restoration are coming.

 
The parallels to this passage in the other Gospels are: Matthew 13:53-58 and Mark 6:1-6.

 
Then Jesus sits down and begins to preach and teach, “Today this scripture which you have heard is being brought to fulfillment.” We certainly understand this as we think over the life and work of Jesus. What I love though is that the Greek literally means that the prophecy was “in your ears.” The idea that the prophetic message of Isaiah is being embodied in their midst and the words are inside them, in their ear, in their head, where they could not get rid of it. The proclamation was so powerful that the message was in them and with them and they could not think of anything else.

 
The people at first receive the words with grace, even commenting on the wisdom this son of Nazareth offers. There does seem in their words to be some discrepancy between the child they knew and the grown prophet who stands before them. Luke Timothy Johnson points out that this is quite minor compared to the scandal it creates in the other two Gospel narratives.

 
We might remember that we, like the first readers of Luke’s Gospel are surprised by this reaction by the people. We know this Jesus as the Son of the most high (1:32), the holy one, the Son of God (3:21-22). While no scholar I read picked up on the subtlety of this question in the minds of Jesus’ neighbors, I have frequently wondered if it is not possible that this is Luke’s answer to the skeptic new believer seeking to understand and reconcile Jesus’ earthly and homely beginnings verses the claims of his followers.

 
Jesus then offers the reality that a prophet is not often accepted in his own home town. Jesus is pulling a very ancient tradition into his teaching, recalling Israel’s treatment of the prophets.

 
Specifically you can go to 1 Kings 17:1, 8-16; 18:1 (the widow of Zarephath); 2 Kings 5:1-14 (the healing of Naaman). Luke universalizes Isaiah 61:1-2 (part of Jesus’ reading in vv. 18-19). For the rejected prophet, see also 6:22-23; 11:49-51; 13:34-35; Acts 7:35, 51-52. The pattern of the rejected prophet theme is found in Nehemiah 9:26-31. The stages are:

 
  • The people rebel, and kill a prophet
  • God punishes the perpetrators
  • God shows mercy through sending a new prophet
  • The people sin and reject the prophet. [see Chris Haslam’s web page for more on this]

It would be easy to simply see in Jesus’ words a confounding message and an incomplete idea being given in Jesus’ parallel of his ministry with Elijah and Elisha. Except here we see the beginning of Jesus’ preparation for the mission to the Gentiles. What binds these stories together is that Elijah and Elisha are sent outside Israel to Gentiles. We already know from Simeon and from the Isaiah passage quoted earlier in the Gospel that the ministry of Jesus will extend to all nations. Here Jesus himself offers a prophetic vision of God’s reign. We know because we have been reading the Gospel together. The people in the narrative are hearing this for the very first time.

 
Jesus is not accepted in his hometown because his mission extends beyond his hometown.

 
If Jesus was to enter our congregation today who would be the Gentiles? We understand of course that as followers of Jesus you and I have become inheritors of the promise of Abraham and the great ancestral faith of the Jews. Is it possible we have more in common with the people of his hometown, than those outside of the community?  Are we just as stuck?  I can’t get away from the idea that today we are more like the people in Jesus’ home town. He is our boy. We know him. Can he really be calling us to go out into the world? Is it possible that Jesus’ mission lies beyond the church today? Is Jesus already working outside of the Church to bring in the reign of God? Certainly as the church we acknowledge and believe that we are filled with God’s Spirit and are the living Body of Christ in the world. That being said, I don’t want to be caught at home.

 

 

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…”

 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

3rd Sunday after the Epiphany


Luke 4:14-21


14Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17and 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 bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The picture is a Korazim, or teaching seat from an ancient synagogue.
Find resources for the lessons for the week here: http://www.textweek.com/yearc/epiphc3.htm

Find the scripture passage here: http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Luke+4:14-21&vnum=yes&version=nrsv

Find resources for Luke 4:14-21 here: http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/lk4b.htm

Find Chris Haslam’s comments on all three passages appointed for today here: http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/archive/cpr03l.shtml


Prayer

On this day which is holy to you, O Lord our God, your people assemble to hear your words and delight in the feast you prepare. Let the Spirit that anointed Jesus send us forth to proclaim your freedom and favor. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.

From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.

Some thoughts on the Gospel of Luke 4:14-21

In our liturgical reading we have moved from the Epiphany through the Baptism of our Lord, to his first miracle at the Wedding in Cana of Galilee. We arrive this week to settle into a reading of Luke’s Gospel as Luke intended it, sequentially. We land in this first reading (following the propers for Ordinary Time) on Jesus in the synagogue in Nazareth. It is never easy to come home, and it certainly brings its own challenges when you have been filled with the Holy Spirit, as in Jesus’ case.

We certainly have the parallels for this section in Matthew 13:53-54 and Mark 6:1-2 if you wish to read through them. And, as in Acts 13:15 and the parallel passages we are given a view of the worship that dominated synagogue gatherings of Jesus’ time. (Haslam)

We are in transition mode in the Gospel once again, and here the words from verse 14: “filled with the power of the Spirit” remind us that in Luke’s Gospel we haven’t been at the wedding but rather at his baptism. So we are in the midst of Jesus’ inaugural preaching mission which begins, according to Luke, at home.

For Luke teaching and preaching flows out of the Holy spirit, as do all the activities of ministry. This is clear throughout the Lukan Gospel and certainly in the first chapter of Acts: 5:3, 5:17, 6:6, 13:10, 22, 19:47, 20:1, 21, 21:37, 23:5, Acts 1.1. The scholar Luke Timothy Johnson believes the Holy Spirit sent Jesus out on a preaching tour of the many towns and villages and that he is just now coming to Nazareth. Jesus has returned to “where he has been raised.” Interestingly, Luke uses the term “nourished” here. Jesus is returning to where he was nourished, and the word frequently means where he was nourished in his religious studies (see Luke, Luke Timothy Johnson, p78).

Some scholars believe that the words “as was his custom” were used to describe Jesus’ custom of teaching in synagogues. I believe this better belongs to the idea that as a pious Jew, Jesus knew that the custom of attending synagogue. He was nourished in a Jewish home and educated in their religious customs and it was his nature to follow what his family had given him and return to the synagogue to worship on the Sabbath. (The Sabbath is a theme in Luke’s Gospel and can be picked up in these passages: see also 4:31-37 (teaching and casting out a demon ); 6:1-5 (his disciples pluck some heads of grain), 6:6-11 (restores a man’s withered hand); 13:10-17 (heals a crippled woman); 14:1-6 (heals a man who had dropsy).

Third Isaiah, or later Isaiah, is so very essential in the early Christian understanding of who Jesus was and understanding his ministry. This is true for Luke that begins with several citations and now continues in this passage with a reading that helps the reader know who Jesus is. Just think about the prophetic words being read and how here in the midst of the people of Nazareth is Jesus the person who will fulfill in his ministry the very words of Isaiah. Jesus will cure, bind up the broken-hearted, and announce the day of the reign of God, comfort all who mourn, provide for those who mourn free the captives, and to proclaim a Jubilee year. You and I can think of moments throughout the Gospel narrative when Jesus does these things. Moreover, you and I can also tell stories of when Jesus Christ did these things in our own lives, along our journeys.

Handing the scroll back to the minister or Hazzan – a person who is a synagogue leader, Jesus sits down.

We of course continue with the second half of the story next Sunday. What is very important here is that Luke has moved this event to the very first part of Jesus ministry – considering where both Mark and Matthew place it in the Gospel. Luke is illustrating, and highlighting, who this is, what his ministry is and what kind of messiah is he going to be. Luke’s Jesus is here for the disenfranchised and for the poor. Luke wants this message to get out right at the beginning as if to inaugurate Jesus ministry with clarity about his coming from God on God’s behalf to restore creation, making the wounded whole, and filling the hungry with good things.

Like so many stories in the Old Testament where God acts on behalf of his people because they are not being cared for, Luke gives us a vision of the incarnation where God is seeking to restore creation. The restoration of creation for Luke begins with the understanding of God’s special interest in the poor, powerless, and voiceless. Jesus’ work is a freedom and release from evil through exorcisms, healings, education, and economic transformation. Luke Timothy Johnson writes, “the radical character of this mission is specified above all by its being offered to and accepted by those who were the outcasts of the people.” (Luke, 81)

Some questions I am pondering: Are we as a church involved in this work? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus and not be directly involved in the work that Jesus was involved in? Who are God’s people today that we are not being attentive to?
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, January 15, 2010

Ordinary Time, Second Sunday after the Epiphany, 2C, Luke John 2:1-11


We take a break this week from the Gospel of Luke and jump into John's Gospel and the Wedding at Cana.


Scripture Passage John 2:1-11




2On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. 9When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom 10and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.


Art: Mattia Preti, 1655, Oil on Canvas


Get the passage electronically at Oremus here:  http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=John+2:1-11&vnum=yes&version=nrsv




Connect to Textweek resources here:  http://www.textweek.com/mkjnacts/jn2a.htm




Link here for Textweek resources for all the lessons this Sunday here: http://www.textweek.com/yearc/epiphc2.htm




Link here for Christ Haslam's reading of the John text: here:  http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/cpr02l.shtml


A Prayer:
O God of salvation, the people in whom you delight hasten with joy to the wedding feast.  Forsaken no more, we bear a new name; desolate no longer, we taste your new wine.  Make us your faithful stewards ready to do whatever Jesus tells us and eager to share with others the wine he provides. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


From Prayers for Sunday and Seasons, Year C, Peter J. Scagnelli, LTP, 1992.


Some thoughts this week about our upcoming lesson from John's Gospel on the Wedding at Cana


As we move into ordinary time, also known as the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, we have in the Gospel of John Jesus' first miracle at the wedding at Cana. We are going to see great things through the Gospel of John and we know that we will see and come to believe in even greater things after his resurrection. Remember, in John 1:50 - Jesus words to Nathanael: "You will see greater things than these."

We begin our passage today with these words: "On the third day..." (v1) Theologically Christ, the second person of the Trinity, is the image through whom all creation flows, and comes to be. Jesus is the incarnation of God and inaugurates in all the Gospels a new creation time. Here it is very possible that John is tying this theme to the creation story and its seven days. The "third day" is the third day after the first followers were called: Philip and Nathanael. So we have the evolving creation story renewing the world with the calling of new disciples and now a recreation miracle is about to take place.

The setting is of course a “wedding." (It was most likely a Wednesday if you are curious in that the Mishnah (Kethuboth 1) says that the wedding of a virgin is to occur on that day. R. Brown, The Gospel of John, 98). What is perhaps more interesting is that in the prophetic tradition of Jesus' own time, one of the images of the fulfillment of God's work, the coming of God's reign, and the recreation, was a Wedding feast. ( Isaiah 54:4; 62:4-5, Matthew 22:2-14; 25:1ff; Mark 2:19).

So it is that Jesus' first miracle is to take place at a wedding feast in Cana, just about 15 km outside of Nazareth, and Mom is in charge. It is possible that Mary's concern regarding the shortage of wine comes from the relationship with the families being married. Some might say that Mary is persistent, maybe to the point of frustration, because Jesus uses a word not customarily appropriate for a son to his mother. I believe this is a common misunderstanding and stems from the English translation. Interestingly, it is the same word he uses when addressing the Samaritan Woman and Mary Magdalene. Scholars remind us that this was actually a polite way for a man to address a woman at the time of Jesus and that it is attested to in other Greek literature of the day.

This very much changes the English reading of the text and allows us to see that it is not Mary's involvement in Jesus' ministry that is important but rather the revelation of Jesus' mission. His response in verse 4 is: “My hour has not yet come" or "Has my hour not yet come?” Both readings are ok, and help us to understand that the work of Jesus in and throughout John's Gospel is seen as the work of Glorifying God most of all. All that he does is to glorify God. This helps me to understand that both in the seemingly trivial things of life and in the great episodes the Christian, walking the way of Jesus, has the opportunity to glorify God.

Mary of course is assuming that Jesus will do something to meet the situation (v. 5). See also 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1. So she says, "do what he tells you."

There have been and will continue to be tons of paper expended on the ideas around the numbers given: six stone jars, and fifteen to twenty gallons. While the material they are made of (stone) may refer to Lev 11:29-38, the meaning of the numbers seems to miss the idea: a lot of water was turned into wine. Some scholars further want to de-mystify the event by changing the amount or offering the idea that only the water drawn out was

turned into wine. Again, this misses the point that Jesus turns a huge amount of water into wine quite miraculously.

This lesson was Friday, January 15, 2010's morning prayer New Testament reading, and a number of people in the office were struck by who the first witness of the miracle is and who proclaims the meaning of the miracle: the steward. The steward is the first to draw the wine from the containers, the first to taste the bounty of God, the first to see and experience the miracle.

In this God is glorified. The greater glory of resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit following the crucifixion is foretold and we see a theme that will serve as a road map through this gospel. Perhaps a foretaste even of the Eucharistic feast.

This story of Jesus' first miracle is dense and filled with theological themes and ideas about Jesus and his ministry. As I reflect on the passage I am reminded of the theological work of Clement of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Cyprian. Each one of them sees in this miracle a tie between water and wine in this story and other symbols in the Johanine Gospel like water, light and food for God's providence in Jesus -- the gift of salvation.

Having said all of this the themes that ultimately stand out for me are:

1.  The charge as followers of Jesus to glorify God in the least and greatest of occasions along life's journey.

2.  To embrace the call of others, the invitation to minister on behalf of Christ.

3.  The expectation of the miraculous.

4.  To be witnesses, like the steward who tastes and sees, and proclaims the goodness and bounty and providence of God.


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, January 8, 2010

Baptism of our Lord, Luke 3:15-22

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. 19But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, 20added to them all by shutting up John in prison.
21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and 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.”

Link here for Oremus: http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Luke+3:15-22&vnum=yes&version=nrsv

Link here for Textweek resources: http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/lk3c.htm
Link here for Textweek resources on all the lessons: http://www.textweek.com/yearc/baptismc.htm

Link here for Christ Haslam's reading of the text: http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/archive/cpr01l.shtml

We begin our lesson with the Advent theme of expectation. The people were filled with expectation. This expectation and hope for the Messiah is pricked with the emergence of the prophet and Baptist John.

In Luke's Gospel John clearly points forward to the coming of Jesus and the baptism of fire promised and fulfilled in Luke's second book Acts. We cannot get away from the Gospels in this moment defining Jesus' ministry from John's. We may guess that both had followers and that the question may very well have remained alive well after John's death and Jesus' resurrection. We might also remember here that Luke's Gospel tells us that John the Baptist will send two of his disciples to inquire of Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" (Luke 7. This of course correlates with Paul's later proclamation that indeed he is the promised one in the Book of Acts in the synagogue in Antioch. Acts 13:25) It is quite the switch from Mark's Gospel where John the Baptist makes the proclamation and from John's Gospel where- in the people ask the question of John the Baptist.

The themes of power and might are apocalyptic themes and again highlight the transformative power of Jesus and the transformative power of baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is a transforming fire. Fire of course is prominent throughout the Old Testament proclaiming the presence of God and returns again in the fire of Pentecost.

Leaning on Isaiah 21:10, 41:16, and Jeremiah 4:11, 15:7, 51:2 John the Baptist reminds those gathered around him that God is sending this great and powerful prophet with a winnowing fork to clear the threshing floor and to gather the wheat, burning the chaff in an unquenchable fire. This always reminds me of how John the Baptist's message is a corporate one. He is not the one deciding who is wheat and who is chaff. Rather, he is reminding the nation and all the people that this is God's work and each will be judged and that the whole nation shall be judged. There a mutuality in this judgment and a reminder of whose judgment it is that is often lost in our modern day discussions on matters of the church.

Now something interesting happens here in the text. Herod imprisons John. Some scholars argue that Luke's text does not say that Jesus was baptized by John. I find this a difficult proposition. It is true that this particular Gospel says Jesus was baptized sequentially after John's imprisonment. But is certainly not clear and in the different texts that I have looked at I am more apt to read that simply Luke has removed John from the baptismal event to highlight the actions between the Father an the Son, rather than to imply that John did not baptize Jesus. It is an interesting thought and may simply have been a literary way of ensuring that Jesus' baptism is a Spirit baptism depending upon no one else. I categorize this as things in the bible that make you go, "Hmmmmm?"

What is important though, and highlighted by Luke, is that the baptism has happened. It is over. And, Jesus is praying. This seems integral to an understanding of Lukan spirituality. It is only when Jesus is praying that the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the bodily form of a Dove, and God's voice speaks. Heavens are opened in prayer, and you can hear God's voice in prayer.

The image of the opening of the heavens is an image of new time. This is a new moment in Luke's Gospel, a new moment in the life of the people Israel, a new moment in judgment, a new moment in the unraveling and gathering of "all the people" including the gentiles (as we will see in Acts). So this is a new moment, enabled by baptism, but triggered by prayer and the descending of the Holy Spirit.

You can read more about the imagery and details of the words used by Luke here: http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/archive/cpr01l.shtml

The last thing that stands out for me in the Gospel reading this week is the "Beloved" proclamation in verse 22. Beloved is an act and not a feeling, it is a charge if you will to Jesus as Son and servant to take the power given to him and to begin to use it to restore creation and transform the people of God.

So I have been thinking and praying about this text and I am wondering from myself and for us. As we, you and I, look forward into the year, as we look forward into our lives we must be ready to do the work God has given us to do? We are baptized. Are we praying and are we receiving the Holy Spirit given to us in the grace of that prayer conversation with Jesus and with God? We have been expecting, now we are ready, will we take up our charge as Jesus did, to restore creation and transform the world even as we are transformed? And, most of all are we ready to do this in partnership with all of our brothers and sisters and most of all with Jesus?

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).