redefining family #LukeActs2014

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” But he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:19-21 NRSV)

I have always thought of Jesus words in Luke 8 about his mother and brothers as harsh. I mean that is not what you say when your family shows up. How would you feel if your family showed up unannounced? Most of us would overreact in some way, but we expect more from Jesus. He seems to dismiss them outright.

But I think what Jesus is really doing is redefining the word family.

He says to crowd my mother and my brothers(adelphos) are those who hear the word of God and do it. Those who are part of God’s family are related in a deeper way than those in our earthly families. This idea about family continues later in Luke 8 when a woman touches the wings of Jesus garment.

He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” (Luke 8:48 NRSV)

He also changes her name from woman(the generic noun gynē) in verse 43 and 47 to daughter(a more specific noun thygatēr) in verse 48. She was no longer an anonymous woman in the crowd. When Jesus addresses her she becomes daughter. She becomes a relative!  No longer a generic woman, but a specific daughter.

I wonder when I see people do I see generic people? Or can I challenge myself to look deeper? What if we began to see the people around us as sons and daughters of God no matter what their circumstances are?

he is worthy #LukeActs2014

Photo curtesy of imaginedhorizons. Used under Creative Commons license.

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” (Luke 7:1-5 NRSV)

Power is on display in Luke 7. A Roman Centurion is named such because he commands a century(100) of men. We can see from the passage that he had a household and slaves. The centurion understood power. He told people to do something and it was done. I am sure with all of his power he had many slaves to command in his household. If one died he could have gotten two more to replace the one.

Yet when faced with the power of death the centurion is not powerful. He becomes weak. He cannot overcome this power but he realizes that Jesus can. So the centurion sends some Jewish elders to him. The response in verse 6(“I am not worthy”) leads me to believe that the Centurion as powerful as he was paled in comparison to who he thought Jesus was. The centurion believed so strongly that Jesus could heal him that he asked that Jesus just say the word like an order given to his troops.

But there is another power on display in this passage as well. This Centurion and the community were so focused on taking care of this one slave that they were willing to risk it all. The Jewish elders went out and looked for Jesus and brought him back. The centurion was willing to surrender all of his authority to Jesus. He submitted his kingdom to God’s kingdom for one simple servant.

The phrase “he is worthy” just kept ringing in my head like a bell. The Greek word is axios meaning having weight or merit. He is deserving. If you keep reading the passage the word comes up again in verse 6 when the Centurion sends the message “that he is not worthy to have Jesus in his house”.

I now think I am beginning to better understand verse 9: When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

A slave is deemed worthy to be resurrected while a Centurion proclaims his own unworthiness. This power on full display. The power to bless others, to offer life to others, to bring Jesus to others because they are worthy.

Who do we deem worthy today? Unworthy? I wonder if it would help our ministry in the church today if we saw those around us as worthy instead of unworthy?

leave me, Lord, for I am a sinner #LukeActs2014

fishing-boat-13513304494mAOne day Jesus was standing beside Lake Gennesaret when the crowd pressed in around him to hear God’s word. Jesus saw two boats sitting by the lake. The fishermen had gone ashore and were washing their nets. Jesus boarded one of the boats, the one that belonged to Simon, then asked him to row out a little distance from the shore. Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he finished speaking to the crowds, he said to Simon, “Row out farther, into the deep water, and drop your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.” So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink. When Simon Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Leave me, Lord, for I’m a sinner!” Peter and those with him were overcome with amazement because of the number of fish they caught. (Luke 5:1-9 CEB)

When I read this verse I am reminded of my own sinfulness and unfaithfulness as a minister of the Gospel. Too often we spend time trying to get church people to come to church. Our churches for the most part are set up to attract other people who like church. Even when we plant churches we are really just planting a newer improved model of what has worked for us in the past. Open up another box and they will show up we tell ourselves.

I have begun to see this as fishing in the shallow waters. There is very little risk involved. Sometimes it actually works and we get fish to swim out of other people’s nets and come into our nets. The problem is this shallow fishing is that it has become full of boats and nets that are newer than ours and have more technology than ours and more skilled fishermen than ours.

Jesus tells Simon Peter to row out a little further, into the deep water. Simon Peter starts to complain master I have worked hard and caught nothing. I remember all those times that I have complained about the other fishermen in my community especially the ones with the new fancy boats that have taken my fish. I complain and tell Jesus it’s too hard.

Those fish in the deep are messy.

Those fish have never been in a net before so you know they are going to be unruly.

Those fish don’t look or act like the fish that I am used to.

Those fish might require us to change our nets and boats entirely.

be quiet #LukeActs2014

jesusIn the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice,  “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”        “Be quiet!”  Jesus said sternly.  “Come out of him!”  Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

I find a lot of noise in my life. My neighborhood is noisy. I live in what most people would call the “bad part of town”. We had a drug dealer across the street from our parsonage until he was busted by the cops about a year ago. Stereos are always loud in the neighborhood. You can hear people cussing and fighting on the streets every single day. It is a noisy place to live.

My kids are noisy. They talk much louder than any normal person should talk. Their indoor volume is definitely set to 11. Not only do they talk loud, but they watch TV loud and play loud. So as you can see the house is very noisy.

But do you know where the most noise comes from in my life?

Me.

I spend way too much time letting the voices in my head speak. You know the voices. The ones that whisper to you that you can do something you shouldn’t. The ones that say you can get away with doing something wrong. The ones that make you feel haughty or mean. The ones that tell you to envy what others have. The ones that make you covet.

These voices are much louder than anything else in my life, and these voices are the reason that I keep returning to God each day in prayer.

What are the voices in your life that you need Jesus to hush?

what should we do then? #LukeActs2014

20140120-143700.jpg“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:10-14 NIV)

 

There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man.(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Today we celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. His prophetic voice is one that continues to push us forward in our journey with Jesus. Every year I take time on this day to reread his Letter from the Birmingham Jail. More than anything else in Dr. King’s legacy this letter is addressed to those of us in a pastoral profession. Every year this letter is tough for me to read because I forget.

I forget how I have failed to stand up for the neglected.

I forget how well I have it compared to others.

I forget to act with mercy and justice.

I forget that I am an agent of transformation.

Dr. King’s voice reminds me most of John the Baptist. His persistence calling us back to the right way once more.

And I need to be reminded of what I should do.

What is John the Baptist and Martin Luther King, Jr. telling you to do?

my eyes have seen your salvation #LukeActs2014

Photo by Lawrence OP
Photo by Lawrence OP

A man named Simeon was in Jerusalem. He was righteous and devout. He eagerly anticipated the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Imagine what it would be like to wait your entire life for one single event. Simeon waited his entire life just to see Jesus, and then he sings:

“Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word,
because my eyes have seen your salvation.
You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.
It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and a glory for your people Israel.”
Simeon wasn’t the only one in the Temple.
The prophet, Anna, was also there waiting for this incredible event. Can you imagine this 84 year old widow praying and fasting in the Temple night and day? Every single day! She knew something was going to happen and wanted to be ready. As soon as she saw Jesus:
She began to praise God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Two people expressing so much joy and thanksgiving for one event. Simeon is so happy that he says he can die in peace. He knows that God’s plan is being fulfilled and the redemption is here. Anna is so overjoyed that she cannot contain it. This 84 year old widow starts talking to everyone who will listen about Jesus!
Why have we turned Jesus into such a cliche when clearly he is so much more amazing than we can even begin to imagine? These two people saw this little baby and knew God had just changed the story.
When has your story been changed? How did you react?

unable to speak #LukeActs2014

Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure of this? My wife and I are very old.”
The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in God’s presence. I was sent to speak to you and to bring this good news to you. Know this: What I have spoken will come true at the proper time. But because you didn’t believe, you will remain silent, unable to speak until the day when these things happen.” – Luke 1:18-20

I have been unable to speak many times in my life.

Once when I was getting married. Everything around me just froze and I found myself unable to form words.

Once when I was getting ordained. I felt the hands of my mentors and friends on my shoulders and I found myself mute in that moment.

Once when I found out we were getting children. My wife and I are unable to have children or so we thought. This past year we became foster parents to three amazingly wonderful children with the hope to one day become permanent parents. I remember sitting in the sanctuary crying and then I found myself unable to speak. I still worry and doubt, but Zechariah reminds me to be silent while the Lord works in mysterious ways.

How does God render you speechless?