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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Third Sunday of Easter 22.4.12 Luke 24.36-48

16 04 2012

Frightened Friends or Joyful Witnesses

 

This passage from Luke’s gospel follows on from the Emmaus Road story.  It makes an interesting contrast with John’s second behind-locked-doors story (John 20. 26-29).  But there is  no personal interaction here. Rather it seems as if all the disciples are Thomases. They are startled, terrified and not sure what they are seeing. So they are given a series of proofs – logical and physical. And then they are given their marching orders. 

 

 Luke 24.36-48

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.

fish & chips

44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.

Reflections and Questions

 

‘why are you frightened, why do doubts arise in your hearts?’ v 38 This is one of those sentences that can sound very different depending on the tone of voice used.

 

How do you hear it? How do your hearers need to hear it? 

 

‘touch me and see.’ v 39. Interesting way of putting it! The word ‘see’ here clearly means something deeper than ‘observe’.

 

How about, ‘touch me and understand’ or, ‘touch me and know’ or, ‘touch me and believe’?

 

‘In their joy they were disbelieving’. v41 How curious to connect joy and belief in this inverse way.  But come to think of it, both belief and joy are quite mysterious. We should talk more about both.

 

Why not thow caution to the wind and preach about joy?   (Here’s a quote to get you going.. “I can say that I never knew what joy was like until I gave up pursuing happiness” Malcolm Muggeridge.) (If that does nothing for you, take a look at the picture.)

 

‘You are witnesses of these things.’ v48  No comment needed from me. But there is a question.

 

Are you a witness?

 

 

 





Second Sunday of Easter 15.4.12 John 20.19-end

9 04 2012

Doubt and Faith

At the centre of this brief passage lies one of the most memorable encounters in the Bible. That between the risen Jesus and Thomas a week after Easter Day. Caravaggio has Thomas intently inspecting the evidence. But that is not the picture John paints.  He suggests Thomas’ doubt is very short-lived.

John 20 19-end

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 22When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio....

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio.

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ 27Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ 28Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Reflections and Questions

‘doors of the house’. v 19 Although much has been made of the stone that sealed Jesus’ tomb, not so much has been made of the locked doors of the upper room. John tells us why they were locked. But our interest is more in their solidity than in the security they afford.

What do the locked doors tell you about the risen Jesus? 

‘he breathed on them.’ v 22. We immediately think of this breathing as congruent with the idea of spirit as breath, and remember the animation of dry bones in Ezekiel’s valley. But maybe should see it in the context of other acts of breathing in John’s gospel.

What happens to your imagination if you compare this out-breathing with that of John 19.30?

‘Unless…’. v26 This is how Thomas begins his utterance. With a demand.

What is your ‘unless’?

‘My Lord and my God!’. v28  Thomas again. Many people identify with Thomas. You might be one of them. There are number of reasons for doing so.  For instance, you might feel like the typical outsider, the one who would be unlucky enough to miss out on something really special. Or you might be someone who knows the keenness of doubt.  Or maybe you identify with this outburst of faith or the cry of reckless discipleship in John 11.16.

Which Thomas do you most easily identify with? What about the people you preach to?

For many people life is lived in different places up and down the spectrum between 100% doubt and 100% faith. Where are you now?

Finally, why not check out my seven tips on ‘how to make Easter joyful’ http://stephencherry.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/how-to-make-easter-joyful/