Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Text:  Luke 19:45-48 — Jesus, the Great Disruptor

Although our current president, Donald Trump, likes to advertise himself as The Great Disruptor, he was could have learned a lot about disruption from Jesus Christ, the
Great(est) Disruptor.

Today’s reading offers two illustrations:
First, Jesus disrupts the institutionalized corruption that characterized the sale of small birds and animals to worshipers for sacrifice.  That vendors were working within the temple precincts was not the issue, but their price gouging was a problem of the kind OT prophets, such as Isaiah, criticized.  When Jesus ousted corrupt vendors he disturbed an economic system that had developed to the benefit of both vendors and those who were oversaw the operations of the temple.

Second, amidst the establishment consisting of temple priests and religious legal experts, Jesus attracted the people and taught them his understanding of their religion, characterized by the summary commands to love God with all we’ve got and love our neighbors as ourselves.  And he laid out a vision of the coming kingdom of God (as we read throughout the gospels) that was one without the structures of power, position, and privilege his society knew.  He preached and taught a disruption of power and privilege that would disrupt the wealth and position those who benefited from them and showed us a world shaped by social and economic leveling that brought justice to the poor, marginalized, and disenfranchised.

As disruptions go, this is so much different than the Trumpian disruption that merely seeks to shift power and wealth from one group of the privileged, powerful, and wealthy (the so-called Washington establishment) to another (Trump and his family, friends, and wealthy supporters).

What might America look like if the existing structures of power and privilege were disrupted and transformed so that benefit did not just “trickle down” but was a flood and ever-flowing stream?

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Text:  Luke 19:12-26

. . . The readings are NOT getting any easier!

I need to read this passage every time I want to sit back, soak in, and do nothing else with that warm’n’fuzzy,  comfortable, and satisfying feeling of spiritual fulfillment that can come from reading a favorite Bible passage or being present for an uplifting worship service.  It’s all well and good to have a feel-good and/or profound experience through my spirituality, but such an experience is not meant to be merely taken in, like watching a movie or eating a pizza. There is always the need to answer the unspoken but ever-present question, “So . . . now what?”

As much as we want or claim our faith, church, and especially worship to be counter-cultural, we are more often than not driven more by the culture of consumerism that shapes us. If we’re honest, we have to admit that sometimes we’re into spirituality and worship for what we get out of it, and we sometimes get a bit cranky when we don’t get out of it what we expect or want.  Moreover, we can forget that spirituality and worship are not therapy.  Worship, especially, is not about you and me (fill in the blank: Christians worship ___________ .  If you filled in anything other than “GOD” please see your pastor, confess your idolatry, ask God for forgiveness, and sign up for remedial Christianity).

The problem with turning our spirituality and worship inward is that through them God gives us an abundance we should grow and share.  Like the good servants in Jesus’ parable, we’re called to invest the blessings of our spirituality, BIble reading and study, worship, and prayer into spreading the love of God and Good News of Jesus Christ around our parts of the world.  Especially with worship, when we merely consume the experience, we become like the servant who hid his master’s money, doing nothing with it. Don’t know about anyone else, but I want to be reckoned a good servant for sharing the abundance God gives me every day.

Howsabout you?

Text:  Luke 19:1-10

The story of Zacchaeus’ moment meeting Jesus Christ reminds me of the moment I met Jesus for the first time.  I had been involved in church since childhood but I had not developed anything that could be mistaken for a relationship with God.  Like the diminutive Zacchaeus who had climbed up a tree to see Jesus pass by, I was “up a tree” when Jesus passed by, and like Zacchaeus, Jesus stopped and called out to me–“Come down, for today I am coming to your house.”  It was an invitation that changed both our lives.

That’s the way it is sometimes.  We’re up a tree just trying to see above the crowd and get above the busy-ness to get some air, when Jesus is standing at the foot of the tree inviting us into his presence, reminding us how much we matter and offering us the opportunity to come down and experience his grace, forgiveness, and peace.  And when we accept his invitation into our lives our very existence changes.  Zacchaeus’ eyes were opened to his exploitation of his own people and the pathway to redemption.  My eyes were opened to a life centered on God rather than myself.

If you find yourself up a tree and Jesus stops to invite himself into your life, what will you do?

Text:  Luke 18:1-8

Don’t give up.

I get it when God says, “NO,” to something that either crosses his character and purposes or is something I really don’t need.  But then there are those times when the request is consistent with who God is and what God does, when the prayer is for something that ought to be done, like the justice sought by the widow in Jesus’ parable.  When God is silent and those prayers go unanswered, it can be disappointing and frustrating, and it’s not long before I give up.

Just as the widow in the parable badgers the unjust judge until he gives her satisfaction, we too must sometimes persevere and be persistent.  That God sometimes (often?) answers only after a time of silence is just what God does.  After all, God is God and can do things any way he desires.

I believe that God is not quite so inscrutable when it comes to answering prayer.  When God is silent for a time, I am forced to test my commitment to that which I have requested of God.  When the request is for something large that will take much effort to realize, I think God wants to know that I am willing to stay the course and even sacrifice to reach the goal.  And when the prayer is for something that can not and should not happen overnight, then God wants to know that I will stick with it until that goal is reached.  I did not learn to make music on any of the dozen or so instruments I play without a long time of learning to play each.

Right now, I have some big prayers outstanding and would be delighted to wake up one Sunday morning with all of them answered.  But today, I have to wait . . . And ought not sit still but continue, in faith, to persist and persevere and pray.  “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faithfulness on earth?” (v.8)  I hope he finds me faithful.

Text:  Luke 17:26-37

It will happen.  No preview of coming attractions (suitable for all age groups).  No series of announcements in bulletins and newsletters.  No email or text blast.  No notification on Facebook, Twitter, et. al. social media.  “Thy kingdom come” will be answered without fanfare or pomp and circumstance.  Without warning, the old, established, comfortable for some, hard-scrabble for many, reality will be gone, transformed into God’s new reality.  The prophetic imagination that throughout the Bible offered views of an alternative reality to our own will be itself realized.

Are we ready?
Can we let go the old?    What will we be giving up?
Are we willing to embrace the new?

Today’s reading, with its recollections of Noah and the flood, the fiery end of Sodom, and vultures gathering around a corpse, has a fearsome tone.  God’s kingdom will come and all the broken-world stuff we cling to, but which dominates and plagues our lives, will be swept away, and with it all those unwilling to let go.  For the really scary bit is that we will not simply wake up one morning in the new kingdom but be confronted with the new reality that calls us to give up all the ways we live high on the hog at the expense of others and the health of our planet, all the ways we inflict violence in the name of national interest and security, all the ways we profit from injustice, all the ways we take it upon ourselves and our churches to judge who is loved and who is condemned by God.  In other words, we will be confronted with giving up our lives and gaining Christ and kingdom or saving our lives as they are and losing everything.

We had better get ready.
We had better be able to let go the old.
We had better embrace the new.

After all, it’s not just some delusional Camelot but the Kingdom of God and God is good!

Text:  Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Poised to enter the Promised Land where the wilderness-wandering Israelites would experience a prosperity they had never known, they received a warning:  When you get fat and happy, don’t forget the Lord your God who made it all possible!  Furthermore, do not deceive yourselves into believing your success is your own doing.

A trope within our culture is the increased attendance in churches and an associated low-level religious revival that come when there is a major crisis.  A response to disaster is to seek out God.  While we may argue whether this is still a widespread phenomenon, there is, will likely always be, something within us that looks to whatever we think of as more powerful than ourselves for help in times of trouble.

Peace and prosperity bring about the opposite–a comfortable, self-satisfied complacency in our relationship with God.  For the nominally spiritual, this is expressed as religious apathy.  For those more engaged with the divine, being fat and happy can be a spiritual disaster.  Prosperity can stimulate a fat-headedness that ranges from a wholly self-centered belief in one’s own success to a delusion that God has given a special dispensation of wealth and privilege to the faithful.

Today’s passage reminds us that our success, our prosperity, and the good that we experience is not just our own.  Indeed, we participate by farming our crops and writing and testing our source code, and more, with as much excellence as we can muster, but without God all our efforts would not amount to much.  We can become rich, powerful, and even famous without God, but such prosperity as the world know it is fleeting and eventually meaningless.  But in God’s rich grace, we can be rich without money and prosperous without wealth, power, and privilege.  The riches of God are neither fleeting nor meaningless.  Thanks be to God!

Text:  Luke 17:11-19

Jesus heals 10 men with skin diseases.  One returns with gratitude and praise to God.

A rich passage to dive into. . .  I can imagine myself as Jesus, having given the grace of healing to 10 men I’d never met but who were in desperate need, or I can imagine myself as the one man who, upon being healed, returns to praise God, or I can imagine myself as one of the remaining 9 who were healed but did not return giving thanks, having forgotten the source of my healing in all the excitement.

Another approach is to ponder on the role of faith in the one man’s healing and how his healing might be different than that of the other 9, whose skin diseases were cured as well.

Today, I work through this passage by imagining myself as each of those in the story in order to avoid a cynical judgment against any.  It would be easy, for instance, to think of the 9 who went on their way as self-centered and entitled, too easily distracted by their new condition, or simply forgetful of saying “thank you”.  But how easy it would be for me to do the same.