Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Reluctant Dinner Invitation


Over the years I’m sure we all played the familiar game, who are the three people you would like to invite to dinner and why. The guests may have included Mother Theresa, Mickey Mantle, Joe Namath, Hitler, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Mary, my mother and father, St. Paul, etc. Of course, it was a given… Jesus was always listed among the three and while the proposed dinner guests invariably changed depending on where we were at given points in our lives, Jesus was a constant.
However, after reading Luke these many weeks I might rethink inviting Jesus to dinner. Really, he always tends to make a scene or create a disturbance. We could find ourselves possibly siding with the Pharisees as they raised their eyebrows at Jesus and his disheveled group of “party goers” who tended to eat and drink to excess. And remember the woman who in the middle of having a “meltdown,” crashes an important dinner party and cries all over Jesus feet? What about Jesus taking poor Martha to task for complaining about her sister who instead of helping with the dinner, is hanging around with all the men in the dining room. And now here in Luke 14:1,7-14 he is not only telling us who to invite to our party, but where they should sit when they do arrive. Frankly, Jesus can be a risky guest.

 Although it can be confusing and at times disturbing, there is a consistent theme in Luke’s gospels. He warns us about becoming too comfortable with protocol for protocol sake. Self-imposed cultural niceties fast become devices to exclude “others” who are different from us. Of course it’s easier for us to associate with those who are just like us and reinforce our comfort zone. But perhaps we should ask why do they make us uncomfortable? Do we see in them, something about ourselves, if circumstances were a little different? Or is it that we believe that associating with the “disenfranchised” cannot help us socially, economically, or emotionally…but what about spiritually?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I Come to Bring Fire to the Earth



History by its very definition is an account of the past which while a recording of, cannot be separated from the time and events of the day in which it is written, or for that matter, read. Likewise, history’s account is influenced by the author’s own perspective. And so it is with Luke, who while conditioned by traditions that he has inherited, is focused on his goals for relating the story of Jesus to his community.

Luke’s Gospel (Luke 12:49-56) appears to be a departure from his preceding accounts. In earlier writings he reminds us not to be “foolish” and to be at the ready but He also tells us that the God’s Kingdom is ours. So how does this all fit with Jesus’ stern message when he says I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

 As stated earlier, all history is written backwards; yet, what we learn from history is projected forward and applied to our experience. As interesting as the historical context of Luke’s day may be, we ask what we can learn from this account and what does it say about us and our lives today. Jesus’ words set in the time of Luke were written for an audience that lived almost a century after Jesus died. This period reflects the turmoil of Luke’s day: there was wealth; poverty; political domination; dissension among the ranks of the new Christian communities, and a growing impatience created by the delay of Jesus’ anticipated return.

No doubt that Luke is providing insight for what is in store for Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem. Here, we get a glimpse of Jesus’ humanity as he reveals and what stress I am under until it is completed!  Jesus proclaims that the Kingdom of God is a “new world order” that is centered on the power of love not the love of power.  As with the “rich fool” those governed by wealth, status and power will live in a “house divided" on so many different levels. Families, nations and communities will live in turmoil. There is no other way to peace but through love, forgiveness and humility. So, what can we learn from this Gospel in 2013?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's Your Father's Good Pleasure to Give You the Kingom

It’s your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom, for no other reason than it simply pleases Him to do so. It’s not because of what we’ve done or really, what we are but simply because it pleases Him. I suppose one of Luke’s messages in our Gospel Luke 12:32-40 is that when we completely trust in God’s unconditional love we can be ourselves and be free of all anxiety, guilt and unworthiness.

It is beautiful to be loved just for who we are, isn’t it? However, Jesus’ message as Luke continues to narrate Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, is that God’s unconditional love does not give us “license” to live recklessly but it is for us to be prepared…“The Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” So, we are asked to travel light; to free ourselves from those attachments that get in the way of our being God centered as opposed to our being self-centered. Living fully human does not mean living for our selves, as did the rich farmer who had to have more of those things that were as finite as his fragile life was. Living in the Kingdom of God is less about any actual time and place and more about living Jesus’ Word today. Passively living and just going through life as if we were waiting for instructions are not really what Jesus means by “being prepared.” Actively living the love we share with one another as Jesus did, is a state of being that enables us to celebrate the joy of God’s kingdom in the present moment and in the hereafter.

We live in a world that wants us to treasure acquiring more and more stuff. Jesus wants us to find the pleasure in letting go and giving “stuff” away. What happens if we too started giving things away just for the pleasure of it as God does for us?