Third Sunday of Easter Luke 24:13-35 4.5.14

2 05 2014

This is another welcome contribution from the Reverend Jan Ashton.

I would warmly welcome other guest contributions by email to stephen.cherry@durham.anglican.org . Also, offers to write sermon starters for a period of, say, a month or six weeks would be great

Gospel Passage Luke 24:13-35

Need to Know

  1. Did Jesus do a special fourfold taking, blessing, breaking and giving so they could recognise him? Or is it just in the actions themselves?
  2. How important is this personal encounter with Jesus? They did, after all, have the women’s account.
  3. Why does Jesus vanish at this point?

Need to Challenge

  1. How crucial is hospitality to this event?
  2. The two go back to Jerusalem in the dark. What risks are we being asked to take?
  3. In our ‘testimony’, where have we seen Jesus this week?

Need to Comfort

  1. Jesus calls the two ‘foolish’ and ‘slow of heart to believe’. Does Jesus then leave them for someone wise and quick to believe?
  2. On reaching Emmaus, if the two were asked whether they’d seen Jesus, what would they have said?
  3. Sometimes words don’t have any impact. What actions might help us?

 

 





Candlemas 2.2.14 Luke 2.22-40

27 01 2014

Following Customs

This famous and lengthy reading has the feel of a deep spiritual saga.  The feast of ‘Candlemas’ closes the Christmas season but points to the whole life-span of a child of God.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

1. Why does Luke describe this customary event at such length?

2. Who is the main character in the story?

3. What does this passage say about the religion/spirituality distinction which matters so much to many people today?

Heart Questions

1. Which aspect of this story draws you in most profoundly?

2. How would you describe Simeon’s attitude?

3. How do you feel about verse 35?

Hand Questions

1. Are Mary and Joseph good parents?  Explain your answer.

2. What does this passage teach you about the dignity of waiting and the spirituality of keeping vigil?

3. What do we learn about the human life cycle – both growth and ageing – from this passage?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





Christ the King 24.11.13 Luke 23.33-43

19 11 2013

At the Place Called the Skull

We conclude the Christian year by remembering that Christ is King  – but what sort of king is this?

Luke 23.33-43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[ 34Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ 38There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ 40But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ 42Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ 43He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. What does this passage say about the kingship of Christ?
  2. Why does Luke tell us this is the place of the skull – ‘kranion’?  Something to do with ‘headship’?
  3. Do kings forgive?

Heart Questions

  1. There is a lot of ridiculing and mocking here.  What do you feel about it?
  2. How do you feel about the speech from the repentant criminal?
  3. ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’ : what’s your emotional response to that?

Hand Questions

  1. How can you exercise authority in a Christ-like way?
  2. How can you witness to the kingship of Christ in your life?
  3. Who do you need to forgive?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





Second Sunday before Advent 17.11.13 Luke 21.5-19

11 11 2013

Do Not Prepare In Advance

Jesus is dealing with uncertainty and confusion here, perhaps because faith is most acutely tested when anxiety runs high.

Luke 21.5-19

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’7 They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ 8And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.9 ‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ 10Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

12 ‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. What attitude is Jesus encouraging his hearers to take towards the future?
  2. Which are the most serious threats mentioned in this passage?
  3. What precisely do you take the word ‘endurance’ to mean in verse 19?

Heart Questions

  1. Does any of this passage frighten you?
  2. How do you hear Jesus speaking these words?  Remember he is called ‘teacher’ in verse 7.
  3. How do you feel about the discipline of ‘non-preparation’ (verse 14)?

Hand Questions

  1. Do you give an example of active, waiting and positive patience, or do you seek to control the future?
  2. What advice do you give about not following false prophets?  Could you say and do more?
  3. Reflect back over the last week or two.  Can you identify opportunities for testimony that you have a) taken and b) missed?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





Third Sunday before Advent 10.11.13 Luke 20.27-38

4 11 2013

Trick Questions

You would have thought that by now people would learn not to ask Jesus trick questions.  But here we go…

Luke 20.27-38
Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him 28and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. 29Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; 30then the second 31and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. 32Finally the woman also died. 33In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’34 Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; 35but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. 37And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. 38Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. Is this passage more about marriage or death?
  2. In what ways are the departed like angels – and in what ways are they unlike angels?
  3. If you were there, would you have been silenced by Jesus’ answer in v. 34-38 or would you have asked a supplementary?  What would that supplementary be?

Heart Questions

  1. Which is easier emotionally – to believe in the resurrection or not?
  2. Do you feel that the Sadducees’ question is simply an intellectual question to catch Jesus out, or is there a genuine pastoral question there?
  3. Verse 39 says that the scribes praised Jesus’ answer.  Do you feel he spoke well?

Hand Questions

  1. Does this passage give you any suggestions about how to develop your ministry around weddings or funerals?
  2. How does the idea that God is not ‘of the dead’ but ‘of the living’ challenge your priorities?
  3. Part of the power of this is that Jesus addressed the top concern of the Sadducees straight on.  What is the top concern of people today?  What would a ‘head-on’ answer look like?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





Fourth Sunday before Advent 3.11.13 Luke 19.1-10

28 10 2013

Party Time

The story of Zacchaeus is remarkable for what it does not say.  Specifically, Jesus did not march in and say “Give the money back!”

Luke 19.1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. 3He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ 6So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ 8Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ 9Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. Zacchaeus was ‘wealthy’.  Who else have we encountered in Luke who was rich?
  2. People described Zacchaeus as a sinful man.  What did they particularly mean by that?
  3. What did Jesus mean when he said “salvation has come to this house”?

Heart Questions

  1. What did Zacchaeus feel and think when he heard Jesus was coming?  What caused him to climb the tree?
  2. What did the onlookers feel when they saw Jesus heading for the company of a wealthy sinner?
  3. What happened to Zacchaeus’ heart that day?

Hand Questions

  1. Is there someone whose life might be changed if you simply reach out to them and treat them as a person with something to give?
  2. Do you have scope or reason to give away possessions or pay back ill-gotten gains?
  3. Do you have a story to tell about salvation coming to a house?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.





Last Sunday after Trinity 27.10.13 Luke 18.9-14

20 10 2013

True Confidence

Yet another unforgettable little story.  This time about prayer and pomposity.  Sadly it’s a connection that can easily be made.

Luke 18.9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

Head Questions

  1. What does the word ‘righteous’ mean in this context?
  2. What’s wrong with holding others in contempt?
  3. What do you make of the word ‘justified’ in verse 14?

Heart Questions

  1. Have you ever felt a bit like that Pharisee?  Would you call that feeling ‘self-confidence’?
  2. Have you ever felt like the tax collector?  What word would you use to describe that feeling?
  3. How did they both feel after their prayer?

Hand Questions

  1. Who do you hold in contempt (be honest!)?
  2. Do you ever use a repeated phrase in prayer?  Why not join in with the tax collector (and the many who use the Jesus prayer based on it)?
  3. Here’s a challenge: find a way of humbling yourself every day for a week.  Can you do it?

Finally

These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you. That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands. Take your time.