Part of the good news of Christmas is God is with us.  I like the idea of God being with me in every situation and circumstance of my life.  But, as I have reflected upon God being with me, I confess that my thinking has been one dimensional.

As Emmanuel, God has disrupted my living. Yet, it is in the disruption that I experience the good news.

Advent Bible Reading Guide

 

God is With Us

I’ve been thinking of it this way.  God is with us in the midst of all the chaos and crisis of our time.  God is with us in the midst of the violence and pain we continue to endure.  God is with us in the midst of the joys and celebrations we experience with family and friends.  God is with us, embracing with a love that will never let us go.  God is with us offering us peace, even in the midst of the disruption.

So, I’m thinking about Christmas in a different way this year. I have received and read invitations, from several local churches to Christmas Eve worship. All of them invite anyone who reads them, to join that local congregation, to experience holy communion, candle lighting, special music, and God’s love with them at their place. It is wonderful to have such invitations. But, it is Christmas.  God is with us.  The good news is that God left God’s place and came to our place.Emmanuel God is With Us Transforming Mission

Going into the Community

I’ve been thinking, what would happen if we disrupted the community by leaving our places and going into the community to be with the people? What would happen if we took the love of God, the special music, the light of the world and became holy communion in the communities in which we live? God did not say “come to my place and I will give you peace.” God came to us with peace and love.

I will attend Christmas Eve worship, and I’ll be thinking of how over the next year you and I might disrupt our communities by bringing love and peace into every situation and circumstance we find ourselves. I’ll sing the carols and listen to the music, but I will be thinking about how you and I can bring a kind, caring, encouraging word into our communities by being God’s Word in the places we live, work, and play.

I look forward to celebrating holy communion with God’s people. But, I will be thinking of how you and I might enter our communities, come alongside our neighbors, both friends and strangers, to include all people in God’s love in Jesus. I’ll light a candle with all who gather to worship. I look forward to the symbolism of being a light in the darkness. But I will be thinking of how you and I might become part of the light of God’s love that brings peace to our communities and goodwill to all people whether we like them or not.

An Invitation

Emmanuel God is With Us Transforming Mission

I hope you will make Christmas Eve worship part of your Christmas practice. I will be praying that your worship will be a true celebration of disrupting the world so that we might become more the presence of God in the midst of the chaos and crisis, the violence and pain, and the joy and celebrations of our communities. I’ll be praying that your worship will lead you into the community with God’s peace and love. So, let it be!

O God, disrupt our peace so that we may experience your peace. By your grace fill us with so much of your presence that we have to disrupt the world in which we live to share your love and peace in all places with all people. O come, thou long expected Jesus!  Come and set us free! Amen.

My fourth grade Sunday school teacher, Mary, would greet me every Sunday at the classroom door with the words, “Timmy, I knew you were going to be here this morning.” Then with a welcoming hug, she would send me into the classroom to meet other classmates who had gathered.  As I entered the room I would hear her say, “Nancy, I knew you were going to be here this morning.” When I would look back she would be hugging Nancy and sending her into the room to meet the rest of us.  Mary greeted us as if she had been waiting all week for us and as if we were the most important people she knew.

She modeled hospitality.  She acted out what she taught us in class. I remember her lesson on Jesus touching a leper and the story of Jesus receiving a woman that was sick.  I will always remember her saying that we love like Jesus because that is the way we thank Jesus for loving us.

As important as it is, hospitality is more than a gesture of welcoming people to worship.  Hospitality is a sign of offering hope.

Four Ways to Extend Hospitality

Here are four practical ways you can offer hope by extending hospitality:

1. Become a Learner

A Prayer of Hospitality. Lord, send us the people no one else wants and help us receive the people you are sending to us. Amen Transforming Mission

Seek to understand instead of teaching. Mary was interested in who we were as people. She knew our

parents, our siblings, our school, and what we received as gifts for Christmas and our birthdays. She took time to learn about us as individuals, even though we were 10 years old.

Seeking to learn or to understand could be as simple as getting to know your neighbors. Learn their names, their needs, talents, and interests. Show an interest in them as a way of building relationships. Soong-Chan Rah writes, “In the household of God, we are called to a humility that places our relationships in a new light.”

2. Learn the language of the community around you

Although Mary worked for the town collecting money for water bills, she took an interest in us. She learned our 10-year-old language, attended special events at the school, and gave us gifts that challenged us to become who God would have us be.

Learning the language of the community could mean learning the language of teens and young adults.  It could also mean to communicate with a Hispanic population, Congolese or Vietnamese population, or another population centered in one part of your community. Attempting to learn the language is a sign of hospitality that brings hope.

3. Share a meal together

Several times a year, Mary would bring a meal to our Sunday School class. As we ate, she would tell us how Jesus invited people to eat at his table. Once when we did not have enough room around the table in our classroom, I remember her words, “There is always enough room at Jesus’ table.” With those words, she added an extension to our table.

We extend hospitality when we bring children, teens, and senior adults together. How could you create cross-cultural connections with another congregation or with other groups of people in the community?  What would happen if you offered to provide the food they liked and gave them the opportunity to prepare it for everyone?

4. Examine and Evaluate

Examine and evaluate how you are inviting and welcoming people into the building and into worship. Mary always greeted us at the door, in the hallway, outside the classroom. She always made sure there was a place for everyone around the table.

Where do you greet people coming into the building? Is there a place for everyone who enters the space?

In regard to worship and/or events in the building, are you prepared for people who do not know the routine? Do the announcements include outsiders as well as the insiders? What is the format of the printed bulletin? Does it assume people know the Lord’s Prayer, how to respond following the reading of scripture, and/or how to pray before worship begins? Just simple acts of hospitality are signs of hope to those being included.

A Prayer of Hospitality

As you are working on the four practical ways to extend hospitality, practice praying, “Lord, send us the people no one else wants” and “Help us receive the people you are sending to us.”  When you do, you will find the above suggestions helpful.

Remember, we love like Jesus because that is the way we thank Jesus for loving us.  I am convinced that when you extend hospitality, you can expect your church and community to experience the beauty, complexity, and love that comes with being Jesus followers.

Let us welcome one another as God in Christ welcomed us. Your hospitality is a sign of hope.

 

 

For Luke, the Scriptures and Holy Communion are at the heart of the church. To read and understand the scriptures is a divine gift in and through the risen Christ. When the Lord’s Supper takes place, there is an invitation to the outsider and hospitality to the stranger. It is in the “breaking of bread” that the stranger is recognized as a friend.

When the people are feeling weary and hopeless, Jesus prays. He takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it. Through these acts of Holy Communion, Jesus is known and a new hope is born.

What does prayer have to do with it?

The story of the road to Emmaus gives us insight into Luke’s understanding of Jesus and the church.

Here is part of that story.

When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So, he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight. They said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?” – Luke 24:28-32

For me, this story clearly reveals Luke’s understanding of the meaning of resurrection faith. It is a story of two Jesus followers, walking to Emmaus, having a conversation about Jesus’ death and his missing body.

A Divine Gift

In the middle of their conversation, Jesus joins them on their journey. He is received as a stranger. Luke writes, “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”

This is Luke’s way of saying that being with the earthly Jesus, hearing his teaching, seeing his miracles and knowing the example of his life are not enough apart from an experience of the risen Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. To recognize God’s act in Jesus is not a matter of our human insight but is a divine gift.

Jesus, the stranger in their midst, asks, “What are you talking about?” The one named Cleopas replied, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who is unaware of the things that have taken place over the last few days?” And Jesus asks, “What things?”

The two Jesus followers began to give a summary of what had happened. Their summary was not wrong but, because of his death, they did not perceive that Jesus was the promised Messiah. They recited the correct events but did not perceive what had happened.

One of them said, “We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel.” I think it is important to understand that Jesus’ followers believed that God was present in what Jesus said and what he did. They believed that God’s kingdom of justice was about to dawn.

Was Hope Gone?

Then came the crucifixion and the shattering of their hopes. Their human wisdom said, “While there’s life, there’s hope.” The death of Jesus was the death of their hope. Even though they had his message, his example, and his ministry, the crucifixion meant that Jesus was another failed idealist. They had no reason to think differently.

Their hope was that God would send the Messiah to restore Israel and set Israel free from oppression. These two on the road with Jesus perceived God’s redeeming work in nationalistic terms. For them, it was over. Hope was gone.

In a New Light

Jesus then says, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

After the resurrection, Jesus’ disciples began to understand the scriptures in light of their Christian faith. They discovered many passages that illustrated their new faith. Luke is clear.

He believed that the risen Christ, through the Holy Spirit, was guiding the church into the true meaning of the Scriptures. In his story of the road to Emmaus, Luke introduced the process of reinterpreting the Scripture under the guidance of the risen Christ.

Prayer and Hospitality

While on the road with the two travelers, Jesus is not recognized as the Christ but only as a weary fellow traveler. The two extend an invitation to food and fellowship. As they offer hospitality, Jesus is revealed to them. It is here we get a clue to prayer and hospitality.

“So, he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him…” Luke 24:29-31

Jesus did not force himself on them, but when invited, the guest became the host. The meal was an ordinary meal, but the words were the familiar words of Holy Communion. The words, “took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it…” reflect the language of the liturgy of the Lord’s Table.

Jesus took and blessed the bread. Blessing in the Greek is the word “eulogy.” Blessing is to eulogize God. The prayer was, “Blessed are you Lord God creator of the universe. For you sustain all your creation and satisfy our hearts with good things.” God is eulogized as creator, sustainer, and keeper of life. So, the prayer was praising God and not the food.

prayer and hospitality are essential to the Christian life. What do we encounter in Luke's gospel that illuminates how we can unite prayer and hospitality? Read the blog post at transforming mission.Word and Deed

For Luke, God’s saving work in Jesus was a matter of both word and deed. He spoke the word of God and reflected God’s justice and mercy that represented the kingdom of God. Jesus’ followers did the same thing in the church. They not only proclaimed the gospel but they embodied the gospel in their lives. They became the evidence of the Jesus alive on earth.

Word and deed were integrated into both Jesus’ life and the life of the early Church. Words without deeds are hypocritical and hollow. Deeds without the word of the gospel miss the point of God’s act in Jesus as the source of normal loving living.

I find it interesting that the church in the past has been guilty of speaking without acting, but the church of today might be guilty of acting without speaking the Word.

Being Known

With that in mind, there are two things important to Luke and to his church.

  1. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

Jesus provides the lens through which we are to look at the scripture. He is the key to our understanding the scripture.

Luke wants us to know that knowing about earthly Jesus, hearing his teaching, seeing his miracles, and knowing the example of his life are not enough apart from experiencing the risen Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

  1. Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of bread. (Luke 24:35)

Three times in Luke’s gospel, we get a story of eating with others: feeding of the 5000, last supper in the Upper Room, and with the travelers on the road to Emmaus. In each story, we have the liturgical formula used in Holy Communion.

The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, is central to the life of the Church. In the house at Emmaus Jesus is a stranger, yet a guest. Even though he is the guest he becomes the host.

It is in the breaking of the bread, the stranger, the outsider, becomes known to them as Jesus himself.

Word and Table

Prayer and hospitality come together at the Table. There is enough room for you. Read more on the blog.

For Luke, this is the church. The services of Word and Table are at the heart of the church. To read andunderstand the scriptures is not solely a matter of our human intellect and insight but is a gift in and through Jesus, the risen Christ.

When the Lord’s Supper takes place, there is an invitation to the outsider and hospitality to the stranger. It is in the breaking of bread that the risen Christ is made known to the community.

When the people are feeling weary and hopeless, Jesus prays. He takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it. Through these acts of Holy Communion, Jesus is known and a new hope is born.

Even though there were only three at the table that day, the table was large enough for the stranger.

I think it is important to understand that Jesus put prayer and action together. When you are at the Table with friends and strangers, and when you are giving thanks and praising God, look and listen closely.

You are in the presence of Jesus.


 

Brennan Manning, in his book, Ruthless Trust tells the following:

When ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at “the house of the dying” in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life.  On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa.  She asked, “And what can I do for you?” Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.

“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked.  He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the United States: “Pray that I have clarity.”

She said firmly, “No, I will not do that.”

When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.”  When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust.  So, I will pray that you trust God.”

What I have learned in our study of “What Does Prayer Have To Do With It?” is that Jesus prayed to keep his focus upon God. After ministering to the crowds, he would go into the wilderness, a lonely place, a deserted place, to pray.

I have discovered that his life of prayer was not only to keep him focused on God but to keep his trust in God.

Jesus did not need clarity as much as he needed trust.

A Prayer of Trust

In Luke’s gospel, while he is on the cross, Jesus prays a prayer of trust.

The death of Jesus occupies six verses in one small paragraph. In the middle of that paragraph, Jesus is praying.

“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed, and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.   But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things” Luke 23:44-49

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,” (Luke 23:46) is a prayer of trust.

Nowhere in Luke’s story is there a call for an emotional response. Nowhere do you feel you need to feel bad for Jesus.

With Luke’s story in mind, let’s look at the death of Jesus in the context of the gospels and how this first prayer unfolds. The Gospel writers expresse Jesus on the cross in different ways.

The Cross and Mark’s Gospel

In Mark’s story, Jesus is on the cross for about six hours. We are told he is crucified at 9:00 in the morning, darkness covers the earth at noon, and he dies at 3:00 in the afternoon.

When I read Mark’s story, I get the feeling that crucifixion put family members in a difficult situation. I can image questions like:

  • Do we protect them from the sun?
  • Do we cover them when it is cold?
  • Do we give them water?
  • Do we hope they die soon?

Many Jewish families knew the pain of crucifixion.

The Cross and John’s Gospel

But in John’s story, there is nothing that shows a problem or pain. Jesus knows everything that is going to happen.

It is as if Jesus is taking care of business. He takes care of his mother. He fulfills the scripture by saying he is thirsty (Psalm 69).

There is no thrashing about, no struggle, no pain.

The Cross and Luke’s Gospel

In Luke’s story, there is quietness. Luke has Jesus praying from the time he is baptized to the time he ascends into heaven. Jesus is not surprised by life but is prepared for life. There are three responses to his death:

  • The first is the Roman Centurion who says, “Certainly this man was innocent.”
  • Next, there is the crowd. These spectators come to all these kinds of things. Then they go home beating their breasts which is an act of grieving as well as an act of bewilderment and disgust.
  • Finally, there are the followers of Jesus, his friends. The group includes the women who had been with him since Galilee. They stand off at a distance and watch what is going on. We later find out that they are preparing to take care of the body when the Sabbath is over.

The Seven Last Words

Over the years, tradition teaches us that there are seven sayings from the cross. We know these sayings as “The Seven Last Words of Jesus.” Three of the saying are found in Luke.

  • “Father, forgive them they don’t know what they are doing.”
  • “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”
  • “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

You can find three sayings in John.

  • “Mother, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.”
  • “I am thirsty.”
  • “It is finished.”

Matthew and Mark share one of the sayings.

  • “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Both Mark and Luke have Jesus praying from the cross. There is one prayer in Mark, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

In Luke, there are two prayers. We have examined one of those prayers, “Father, forgive them they don’t know what they are doing.”

The Second Prayer

Let’s look at the second prayer, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,”

The prayer shows no distance or pain in relationship to God. It is a prayer of trust. Jesus is praying the psalms, “Into your hands I commit my Spirit” (Psalm 31:5).

This is not a resignation. This is who Jesus is.

In Luke, he is conceived by the Holy Spirit. After he is baptized, while he is praying, the Holy Spirit descends upon him. The Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness to pray. It was in those moments of prayer that he sought clarity and direction in regard to God’s call upon his life.

In his sermon in Nazareth, he quotes the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, he has anointed me…” In Luke, Jesus not only possesses the Holy Spirit but promises the Holy Spirit to his followers. So, in The Acts of the Apostles, we witness how the Holy Spirit lives and works in and through the church.

In this prayer, “Spirit” simply means “breath,” or “life.” “Father, into your hands I commit my life.” Luke replaces the despairing cry of Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” found in Mark with a quiet confidence and trust. Just as Jesus’ prayer of forgiveness becomes a model for his disciples, so his dying prayer of trust in God is used by Stephen at his death (Acts 7:59).

The way Jesus died brought glory to God. “Certainly, this man was innocent.” Rome recognizes that Jesus’ death was a great injustice, that in executing Jesus they killed an innocent man. This is a theme Luke carries throughout The Acts of the Apostles.

Standing at the Cross

I find it interesting that Luke does not rush to the joy of Easter morning. For Luke, Easter can only be grasped by those who have stood at the cross and reflected upon their own involvement in the sins of humanity that have led to the rejection of God’s revelation in Jesus.

Just as the tax collector, who lamented and beat his breast in repentance, did not presume that he would go home justified, neither did the mourners at the crucifixion anticipate the resurrection. As we have seen before, for Luke, grace can only be amazing grace.

What does prayer have to do with it?

So, what does prayer have to do with it? In quiet trust and confidence, Jesus commits his life into the hands of God.

From his baptism to his decision to go to the cross, Jesus prays.

From his teaching about his death to the misunderstanding of who he was as the Christ, the Messiah, Jesus prays.

From teaching his followers to pray to forgiving those who intentionally turned their backs on God’s love, Jesus prays.

As he commits his life into God’s hands, his witness continues, “Certainly this man was innocent.” So, Jesus prays, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.”

O God, we pray for such trust and confidence as we continue to commit our lives to you.

 

 

read “We Have Received Power” – Part 1

We Need Help

For me, the more important something is, the harder it is to say. When something is profoundly important to me, the first thing to go is my voice.

I confess you to you, that for me to witness, to say something about God, about Jesus, or about my faith, I need help. For me to put my faith into action, I need something more than my good intentions and the backing of the crowd.

When I read about Jesus and the work of those early disciples from Luke’s perspective, I see that Jesus promised to give me and you the power to witness. That means that you and I, to be faithful to our call as followers of Jesus, we will have to witness past a lot of obstacles, barriers, and silences.

Pentecost

On the Day of Pentecost, there was a lot of excitement. Simon Peter stood up and got carried away. He stretched out his arms and said, “For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” (Acts 2:39).

His message was all-inclusive.

It was for everyone.

A little later the Holy Spirit led him to the home of a Roman soldier, Cornelius. I can image Simon Peter saying, “Lord, I have never been in the home of an Italian, a Gentile, in all my life.” And God responds, saying, “Peter, on the Day of Pentecost you said…” And Peter replies, “O God, I was only preaching.”

We need help in our witness.

Casting Out Demons

Do you remember when one of the disciples said to him, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us”? Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:46-48) Were those early disciples separating themselves into groups of “who is for” and “who is against”?

We need help in our witness.

Teaching

Remember the story of Jesus teaching? There was a group of mothers bringing their babies to be blessed by Jesus.

When the disciples saw what was happening, they sternly ordered the mothers not to come to Jesus. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Luke 18:15-17).

Was the early church trying to decide whether they should extend their witness to persons who could not teach, give, or who weren’t prospects for ministry? Was it too costly to include everyone?

We need help in our witness.

Baptizing

Remember Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch?

Deuteronomy 23:1, (Bias paraphrase) “Any man who by surgery or accident who cannot father children does not have a place in the assembly of God.” The scripture is clear.

Philip encounters the eunuch on his way to Jerusalem. The eunuch is reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asks him if he understands what he is reading. The eunuch replies, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”

Then he invited Philip to get in the chariot. Philip tells him about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch asked, “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Philip baptizes him. (Acts 8:26-40).

Overcoming Barriers

How was it that those early disciples and the church moved past the barriers of race, gender, nation, and condition?

How were they able to witness past the barriers?

It was by the power of the Holy Spirit! And unless you and I have the power of the Holy Spirit to witness, we will give up in the face of difficulty.

That is the reason I need help. I need the power of the Holy Spirit to be a faithful witness to the resurrection.

Our Next Step

Please continue to pray that I will take people by the hand, walk them around the edges of their inheritance, tell them of the unsearchable riches of God’s love and grace, and then be quiet. I need help to be a witness. Pray that I will receive power to be a witness starting right where I am.

Remember, I am praying the same for you!

This week we’ll be reading, reflecting, and responding to the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector found in Luke 18:9-14.

 

May 13

  • Read Luke 18:9-14
  • This Reflection on Reality challenges our assumptions of pride and humility and offers a way of living as a Christ follower in active devotion to God.

 

May 14

  • Read Luke 18:9
  • In today’s world, who would be those who trust in themselves that they are righteous and who regard others with contempt?

 

May 15

  • Read Luke 18:10
  • With whom do you identify in this scripture: the Pharisee or the tax collector?

 

May 16

  • Read Luke 18:11-12
  • How do you show your obedience to God? Through your daily prayer and scripture reading? Through your giving? Through your service? What does it mean to say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I?”

 

May 17

  • Read Luke 18:13
  • How do you show your reverence to God? Through your daily prayer and scripture reading? Through your giving? Through your humility? What does it mean to say, “God, be merciful to me a sinner?”

Note: “God, be merciful to me a sinner” is the prayer of the person who knows he/she is not righteous. But it was also a standard element of the synagogue prayer prayed regularly by Pharisees and all who worshiped at the synagogue. The Pharisee would pray the prayer because he was righteous.

 

May 18

  • Read Luke 18:14
  • What does it mean to be justified? Are you justified?
  • God’s grace is always amazing grace. When it is calculated, even as “grace to the humble,” it is no longer grace. Who goes home justified?

 

May 19

  • Read Luke 10:36-37
  • Have you ever prayed, “Thank God I’m not like that Pharisee?” Have you ever thanked God you are not like the people you named on Monday?

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Over the past several weeks, you have prayed that I am a faithful witness to the Resurrection. Today, as I write to express my gratitude for your prayers, I also write to ask for your help.

Through prayer and responding to God’s call to love you and to resource and equip you for ministry, I have grown to recognize and to understand that I cannot be a witness to the resurrection without help.

Read more

Here is a plan to read, reflect, and respond to the Parable of the Lost Son found in Luke 15:11-32.

Missed Part 1? No Problem!

Return to Part 1: Luke 15:11-23

 

 

Day 1     
Focus on Luke 15:24-32.  The entire parable begins at verse 11. If you missed part 1, start here.

This Reflection on Reality challenges our assumption of being good and earning our salvation. It offers us an alternative understanding of what it means to be a Christ-follower.

prodigal son transforming mission

Day 2

  • Read Luke 15:25-27
  • Reflect and respond: How do you react when you feel like you are not important to the people around you?

 

Day 3

  • Read Luke 15:28-30
  • Reflect and respond: When have you been angry because someone gets something (especially if you have determined they don’t deserve it) that you feel like you have earned or deserve?

 

Day 4

  • Read Luke 15:31
  • Reflect and respond: Can you think of a time you were the center of your own goodness? You never strayed from what you were supposed to do, you never broke the rules, and you deserved to get a little more or better than those around you?

 

Day 5

  • Read Luke 15:32
  • Reflect and respond: Who is included in God’s grace? Is there anyone not included?

 

Day 6

  • Read Luke 15:25-32
  • Reflect and respond: After reading the story of the older son again, how do you respond to God’s compassion?

 

Day 7

  • Read Luke 15:11-32
  • Reflect and respond: Both sons are welcomed home; one who went off to the “far country” and the other who has always been with his father. As the older son, would you go to the party for your younger brother?

 

What Parable is Next?

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14

Over the past several weeks, I have asked you to pray that I am a faithful witness to the resurrection of Jesus. I have asked you to pray that I become the resurrection, that the presence of Jesus be seen and experienced in the life I live. The following story helps to illustrate my desire to be that faithful witness.¹

God’s Invitation

    Many years ago, there lived a young and gifted woman named Sophia. She had received a vision in which God spoke to her as a dear friend. In this conversation, God asked Sophia to dedicate her life to the task of translating and distributing the Word of God through her country.

    Now, the printing press had only recently been invented, and the only Bibles to be found were written in Latin and keep under lock and key within churches. Sophia was from a poor farming village on the outskirts of the city, so the task seemed impossible. She would have to raise a vast sum of money to purchase the necessary printing equipment, rent a building to house it, and hire scholars with the ability to translate the Latin verses into the country’s common language.

    However, the impossibility of the task did not sway her in the least. After having received her vision, Sophia sold the few items she possessed and left the village to live on the streets of the city. She began to beg for the money that was required, as she dedicated herself to any work that was available in order to help with the funds.

    Raising the money proved to be a long and difficult task. There were only a few who gave generously, most only gave little, if anything at all. In addition to this, living on the streets involved great personal suffering. Gradually, over the next fifteen years, the money began to accumulate.

    Shortly before the plans for the printing press could be set in motion, a dreadful flood devastated a nearby town, destroying the homes and livelihood of many people. When the news reached Sophia, she gathered up what she had raised and spent it on food for the hungry, material to help rebuild destroyed homes, and basic provisions for those who had been displaced.

    Eventually, the town began to recover from the natural disaster that had taken place. Remembering the vision that God had planted deep in her heart, Sophia left and returned to the city to start over again.

    As the years passed, the task of making and saving money took a toll on the beautiful Sophia. Many were impacted by her love and dedication, even though the people were poor, the money began to accumulate once again.

    However, after nine more years, disaster struck again. This time a plague descended upon the city, taking the lives of thousands and leaving many children without family or food.

     By now Sophia was tired and ill. Yet, without hesitation, she used the money that had been collected to buy medicines for the sick, homes for the orphaned, and land where the dead could be buried safely.

    Never once did she forget the vision that God had imparted to her, but the severity of the plague required that she set this sacred call to one side to help with the emergency. Only when the shadow of the plague had lifted did she once again take to the street, driven by her desire to translate the Word of God and distribute it among the people.

    Finally, shortly before her death, Sophia was able to gather together the money required for the printing press, the building, and the translators. Although she was, this time, close to death, Sophia lived long enough to see the first Bibles printed and distributed.

    Even though she got the Bibles translated and printed only once, it is said that Sophia accomplished her task of translating and distributing the Word of God three times during her life. The first two were more beautiful and radiant than the last.¹

The Resurrection is the Presence of Jesus

Using the Word of God as a focus, this story reveals the reality of the resurrection with this question: “Is the resurrection something to be proven or is the resurrection the presence of Jesus lived out in and through my life?” The reality of the resurrection cannot be heard or received without the incarnated presence of the living Christ.

For me to say I believe in the resurrection apart from being the place where the resurrection becomes a living, breathing act is inconsistent with my witness. The resurrection is reflected in what I say, in what I do, how I relate to people, how I respond to the social, political, economic, global structures in which I live.

If I attempt to explain the resurrection or to prove the resurrection, I will always end up describing something less than the reality of the resurrection. To say, “He is Risen” is not a statement to be repeated as much as it is an act of faithful living. He is Risen exists in the world only when we live it out by engaging fully in the world in which we live.

Please continue to pray that I am fully engaged in the world in which I live, the communities in which I work, and the lives in which I experience God’s love. It is my hope that one day, you will say, he was a faithful witness to the resurrection of Jesus. We could tell by experiencing the preaching, teaching, healing, caring, loving of Jesus in and through him.

  1. Story adapted from The Orthodox Heretic by Peter Rollins, pages 13-15.

This week we’ll be reading, reflecting, and responding to the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin found in Luke 15:1-10

 

April 22

These Reflections on Reality reveal the extravagance of God’s amazing grace. Jesus not only does not reject sinners; he does more than merely tolerate or condescendingly accept them. They are guests at his table.

 

April 23       

  • Read 15:1-2
  • Reflect and Respond: With whom do you identify? Tax collectors and sinners? Pharisees and scribes?

 

April 24          

  • Read Luke 15:3-6
  • Reflect and respond: When have you risked your reputation and security to care for someone who cost you both time and money?

 

April 25  

  • Read Luke 15:7
  • Reflect and Respond: When have you celebrated when someone has experienced God’s amazing and extravagant grace? Have you ever been offended by God’s amazing and extravagant grace?

 

April 26 

  • Read: Luke 15:8
  • Reflect and respond: How much time and effort do you put into caring for people who are considered outsiders

 

April 27   

  • Read: Luke 15:9
  • Reflect and respond: What are you rejoicing about today?

 

April 28     

  • Read: Luke 15:10
  • Reflect and respond: Can you imagine the joy over one person whose life is transformed by the grace of God?

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What Parable is Next?

Week of…

April 29: Parable of the Lost Son – 15:11-31 – Part One (Focus upon 15:11-24)

May 6: Parable of the Lost Son – 15:11-32 – Part Two (Focus upon 15:25-32)

May 13: Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14