First Sunday after Trinity 2.6.13 Luke 7.1-10

26 05 2013

Authority, Healing and Faith

We return to the gospel of Luke and as ‘ordinary time’ continues will be making a more linear journey through it.  We begin with a famous story that raises many issues for us today by touching on two of our obsessions, authority and health, and connecting both with faith

Luke 7.1-10

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, ‘He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.’ 6And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, ‘Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ 9When 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.’ 10When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

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 think the Centurion was expecting when he asked for healing for his slave?
  2. Can you list the Centurion’s virtues?
  3. How do you connect the Centurion’s understanding of authority with Jesus’ authority?

Heart Questions

  1. What was in the heart of the Jewish elders who acted as messengers?
  2. What did the friends who followed with the second message feel?
  3. How did the Jewish elders feel by the end of the episode?

Hand Questions

  1. How does this passage challenge your response to authority?
  2. How does this passage challenge your exercise of authority?
  3. How does this passage challenge your faith?

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.

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3rd Sunday before Lent 5.2.12. Mark 1.29-39 Prayer, Vocation and Mission

22 01 2012

Prayer, Vocation and Mission

Last week’s passage was about teaching and authority. This week’s is about healing and prayer.  But the questions of power and authority are never far from the surface.

 Mark 1.29-39

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’ 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ 39And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Reflections and Questions

‘as soon as’ v 29. The pace remains crisp. There are no pauses.  Synagogue – home – sickness – healing – service: breathless. It seems odd to us that the poor woman sets about serving as soon as she is well. ‘Normality is resumed’ seems to be the message.  To what extent do you see Jesus as the restorer of the normal – or its questioner?

‘the whole city’ v 33 Once again we have a crowd scene.  But this time the demons do not speak (see Mark 1. 24).  Jesus has complete power over them.  The plot is beginning to develop.  What do you understand by spiritual power?

‘In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed’. v 35  Well, what else is there to do after a day’s healing and coping with demons?  Might it be that the pace and dynamism of Jesus’ ministry both requires and enables such withdrawal?  How do you imagine his ‘deserted place’?  What are yours?

‘Let us go on on to the neighbouring towns’  v 28 The energy level is back. The missionary passion is there. But notice that before, or at least alongside, mission comes vocation: ‘that is what I came out to do’.  Maybe that was what the prayer was about: reconnecting with vocation which is both ‘call’ and ‘send’.  What is your call? How does it connect to your ‘send’?





4th Sunday of Epiphany Mark 1.21-28 Astonishing Authority

15 01 2012

Astonishing Authority

We are back in Mark’s gospel for two weeks now.  Two back-to-back passages.  This week’s is about teaching and authority. Next week’s is about healing and prayer.

 Mark 1. 21-28

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ 26And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ 28At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Reflections and Questions

‘he entered the synagogue and taught’ v 21. This is a bold sentence suggests no-nonsense decisiveness. No procrastination here. No beating about the bush.  Jesus (and Mark’s) evangelical urgency is apparent. Is yours?

‘astounded’ v 22  There is a lot of astonishment in the early part of this gospel – and amazement too. People are clearly shocked and maybe a bit stunned by what they hear. And this is before any casting out of demons or healing. It’s Jesus words and presence which astound and alarm them. Can you connect with this? Can you convey it?   (N.B. Mark does not tell us what Jesus said.  Why is that not of more importance to Mark?)

‘I know who you are’. v 24 It’s the unclean spirit who is talking and who tells the truth about Jesus. The spirit says who Jesus really is: ‘I know who you are, the Holy One of God’.  But why does the spirit blurt it out?  Is it raw fear? Or threat?  Or maybe the spirit just saying what everyone else is thinking.  Who has that role in your community or group or family? Do you listen?

‘Fame’  v 28 So: Jesus began to become  famous.  Today  a lot of people desire to be famous, thinking that fame is an end in itself.  And so it is in a ‘celebrity culture’. And yet we tend to look down on those who begin to become famous – this too is part of the being a celebrity culture; it is ironic and cruel as well as star-struck.   What, then, are we to make of Jesus’ fame? Did he seek to become famous?  Or did it just happen? To say he became well-known might be easier and better. To say his reputation went before him might be preferable.  But the translators have used the word ‘fame’.  What might be the lessons for the Church or its ministers in this?