18th Sunday after Trinity 29.9.13 Luke 16.19-end

24 09 2013

Mr No Name

Jesus tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man in a lot of detail.  Maybe we should pay it more attention.

Luke 16.1-13

 ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” 25But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” 27He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” 29Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” 30He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” 31He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” ’

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 is the rich man given no name while the poor man is named?
  2. Is this a good story?
  3. Why is the great chasm fixed?

Heart Questions

  1. How do you feel about the rich man’s lifestyle?
  2. How do you feel about his attitude?
  3. Is this a story of hope or despair?  How does it leave you?

Hand Questions

  1. What do you need to say to the rich?
  2. What actions of yours might help you identify more with Lazarus?
  3. What could you do to break down the chasm between rich and poor today?

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.





17th Sunday after Trinity 22.9.13 Luke 16.1-13

20 09 2013

Shrewd Business

If only we could hear this story with fresh ears!  I wonder how deeply scandalized we’d be?

Luke 16.1-13

Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2So he summoned him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an account of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.” 3Then the manager said to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.” 5So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” 6He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.” He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.” 7Then he asked another, “And how much do you owe?” He replied, “A hundred containers of wheat.” He said to him, “Take your bill and make it eighty.” 8And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. 10 ‘Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.’

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. ‘Manager’ or ‘steward’ – does either word work adequately?  What might be a better one?
  2. What does the word ‘unrighteous’ mean?
  3. When is unrighteousness praiseworthy?

Heart Questions

  1. How does it feel to be caught out when you have squandered things?
  2. What mental image do you get of a man too weak to dig and too ashamed to beg?
  3. How do you feel, deep down, about the manager’s unauthorized debt forgiveness?

Hand Questions

  1. Have you been squandering?  What will you do if found out?
  2. Do you need to hold someone more closely to account than you have been of late?
  3. How could you make some friends with dishonest wealth?

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.





16th Sunday after Trinity 15.9.13 Luke 15:1-10

23 08 2013

Reason for Rejoicing

Grumbling, it seems is as old as the hills.  But Jesus reminds us that simple things can cause us to rejoice.

Luke 15.1-10

Now all the tax-collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.’3 So he told them this parable: 4‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” 7Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.8 ‘Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” 10Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’

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 do you understand by the word ‘sinners’ in this context?
  2. Why the emphasis on ‘one sinner who repents’?
  3. Which of the two stories is the more satisfactory in your view?

Heart Questions

  1. Can you recall an occasion when you were summoned to join a group that were ‘rejoicing’?
  2. How do you feel when you have lost your house keys?
  3. What life event has given you the greatest shot of joy?

Hand Questions

  1. In your context, what does it mean to seek the lost sheep?
  2. Why don’t you find an excuse for a party?
  3. Are you, in fact, a sinner who needs to repent?

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.





15th Sunday after Trinity 8.9.13 Luke 14: 25-33

23 08 2013

Looking Forward and Giving Up

Jesus is stirring the pot all the time.  His eyes are set on the future, where we no longer need to cling to things.

Luke 14. 25-33

Now large crowds were travelling with Jesus; and he turned and said to them, 26‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

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. Jesus used the word ‘hate’.  What does he mean?
  2. How does what he says about himself relate to the instruction ‘to love your neighbour as yourself’?
  3. How does the story about building a tower connect with carrying a cross?

Heart Questions

  1. What feelings does the word ‘hate’ arouse in you?
  2. Can you imagine standing next to a half-built tower with no cash left?
  3. How attached are you to your possessions?

Hand Questions

  1. What does this passage imply about the way you relate to your close family members?
  2. What does faithful planning look like in the light of this passage?
  3. Are there any possessions you can now, practically or even publicly, renounce?

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.





14th Sunday after Trinity 1.9.13 Luke 14: 7-14

23 08 2013

Move Up Higher

Jesus has beady eyes, and finds spiritual significance an unpromising context.

Luke 14.7-14

When Jesus noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. 8‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place”, and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher”; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’12 He said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

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 would Jesus go into the house of one of the leaders?
  2. Would he have expected to be under surveillance?
  3. Is there anyone present whom Jesus does not insult?

Heart Questions

  1. How do you feel when (if) invited to a big society event?
  2. Can you picture the faces of the guests when Jesus addresses their scramble for the best seats?
  3. What does it feel like to be exalted?

Hand Questions

  1. How big a part does hospitality play in your active discipleship?
  2. How truthful can you be about your own desire for a place of honour?
  3. Can you organize a hospitable event that would meet Jesus’ standards as spelt out in verses 12 – 14?

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.





13th Sunday after Trinity 25.8.13 Luke 13.10-17

16 08 2013

Set Free to Stand

In the ministry of Jesus, teaching, healing and liberating are all interwoven.  But not everyone rejoices.

Luke 13.10-17

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ 15But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

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. Who initiated the healing?
  2. Is Jesus saying: a) The Sabbath is irrelevant;  b)  Healing is not ‘work’; c) Freeing of people from Satan is always a priority?
  3. What’s this story of a daughter of Abraham being bound by Satan?

Heart Questions

  1. How did the woman feel when Jesus noticed her?
  2. How do you feel when you picture her ‘restored’?  [Imagine her standing upright for the first time for nearly two decades.]
  3. ‘All his opponents were put to shame.’  v. 17.  Can you begin to describe the depths of the feeling of shame?

Hand Questions

  1. What priority does healing or freeing others have in your life?
  2. Where would a hostile critic find hypocrisy in your life?
  3. What could you do, or say, or point to, cause a crowd to rejoice?

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.





12th Sunday after Trinity 18.8.13 Luke 12. 49-56

11 08 2013

Fire and Storms

Jesus speaks of bringing fire and division. This sounds like big trouble for everyone.

Luke 12. 49-56

Jesus said, ‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’54 He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. 55And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. 56You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

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. Did Jesus really come to bring fire? What does this mean?
  2. Jesus said he came to bring division. What do we make of that claim today?
  3. What does it mean to be a ‘hypocrite’?

Heart Questions

  1. What do you make of Jesus’ stress (or distress) in verse 50?
  2. What do you feel about Jesus’ tone of voice in this passage?
  3. What would it be like to read verse 53 when your family are gathered together?

Hand Questions

  1. Is there a fire that you should be kindling?
  2. How do you get on with the members of your own family?
  3. What would your religious weather forecast predict for the future?

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.





Eleventh Sunday after Trinity 11.8.13 Luke 12. 32-40

6 08 2013

Where your treasure is …

In order to follow Jesus we need to grow in self-understanding. Knowing what counts as treasure for us is integral to Christian learning.

Luke 12.32-40

Jesus said, ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

35 ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

39 ‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

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. Does verse 35 give a helpful image of ”readiness’? How might you better communicate the idea today?
  2. What is a purse that does not wear out?
  3. When is the thief coming?

Heart Questions

  1. What arouses fear in you?
  2. What arouses fear in your congregation?
  3. What is so close to your heart that it is, in truth, your treasure?

Hand Questions

  1. What are you doing with your treasure?
  2. What possessions could you sell to raise money for the poor?
  3. How are you making yourself ready for the Son of Man?

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.





Tenth Sunday after Trinity 4.8.13 Luke 12.13-21

1 08 2013

Eat, Drink and be Merry

Well, that’s one philosophy of life.  Jesus offers a very different one:

Luke 12.13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ 14But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ 15And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ 16Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” 18Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” 20But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” 21So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards 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. ‘Teacher’, ‘Friend’, ‘Judge’, ‘Advocate’ – How do these words of address set the scene for this passage?
  2. What does the word ‘greed’ say to you?
  3. What does it mean to be ‘rich towards God’?

Heart Questions

  1. How did the person from the crowd feel by the end of this episode?
  2. How do you feel about being warned against greed?
  3. How do you cope with the prospect of your own death?

Hand Questions

  1. What plans do you have for any inheritance that might come your way?
  2. What could you do with your savings?
  3. How can you become rich towards God?

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.





Ninth Sunday after Trinity 28.7.13 Luke 11.1-13

21 07 2013

Keep on Knocking

People see Jesus praying so they ask him how its done.

Luke 11.1-13

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ 2He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’

5 And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” 7And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

9 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

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 theme do you see emerging in these verses?
  2. What is your answer to the request, ‘teach us to pray’?
  3. Compare and contrast Luke’s Lord’s Prayer with the version you use most frequently.

Heart Questions

  1. What does it mean to pray ‘by heart’?
  2. How do you feel about the ‘friend at midnight’ story?
  3. What is your most heart-felt prayer?

Hand Questions

  1. Is your prayer-life exemplary?
  2. Write a short prayer (no more than 40 words) that you could encourage others to use.
  3. Is there a spiritual door that you need to knock on in prayer?

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.