Fourth Sunday after Trinity 23.6.13 Luke 8.26-39

16 06 2013

Meeting Legion

As soon as he puts a foot on dry land, Jesus is met by a most alarming man. But the way he deals with the situation seems to alarm people even more.

Luke 8.26-39

Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’— 29for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. 31They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. 33Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for 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. Where is the country of the Gerasenes?
  2. Who wants to be near Jesus and who wants to  be distant?
  3. What word would you use to describe the man’s problem?

Heart Questions

  1. How would you feel if you came across such a man?
  2. Do you feel anything for the pigs?
  3. How would you feel if you observed all this as a disciple?

Hand Questions

  1. How could you reach out to those wo suffer like this man?
  2. Who needs to hear this story?
  3. Could you find ways to use the question, ‘what is your name’ to greater effect?

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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Second Sunday after Trinity 9.6.13 Luke 7.11-17

2 06 2013

Compassion in Action

Jesus’ journey continues and we are given a detailed account of an important incident. People notice. Word gets out…. This is exciting.

Luke 7.11-17

Soon afterwards Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ 14Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’ 15The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen among us!’ and ‘God has looked favourably on his people!’ 17This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

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. How far is it from Capernaum to Nain?
  2. What, precisely, is your understanding of compassion?
  3. In v 13 Jesus is described as ‘the Lord’. Later he is described as a prophet?  What’s the difference – and how are things developing?

Heart Questions

  1. What sort of situation is most likely to draw a response of compassion from you?
  2. Does it matter that Jesus touched the bier?
  3. The emotional response to the miracle was fear. How surprising do you find this?

Hand Questions

  1. Is God inviting you to notice some local sadness and feel compassion?
  2. Is it conceivable that there might be way for you to reunite a mother and a son?
  3. See v 17. How might you be better able to spread the word?

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.





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.





Sixth Sunday of Easter 5.5.13 John 5.1-9

27 04 2013

I Have No One

Here we  see compassion triumph over law and healing as a stepping stone to trouble. In these ways this passage is typical of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

John 5.1-9

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. 5One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ 7The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’ 8Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ 9At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

Now that day was a sabbath.

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 is off to Jerusalem again. How many times is that so far in this gospel?
  2. Why did Jesus ask the man that question in verse 6?

Heart Questions

  1. What would it be like to be ill for 38 years?
  2. How does it feel to ‘have no one’?

Hand Questions

  1. Jesus noticed those who needed to be healed. Who do you need to notice?
  2. Who is waiting for you to take them to a place of healing?

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.





Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity 9.9.12 Mark 7. 24-end

2 09 2012

Reluctant Healer

Jesus’ desire to be alone, to be hidden, is powerful. But one way or another he is drawn out of his shell and news of him is broadcast – despite his best efforts to keep things quite.

Mark 7.24-end

Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ 28But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ 29Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ 30So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ 35And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37They were astounded beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’

Reflections and Questions

‘little daughter’ v 25

We know how much parents care for their children. But there is emphasis here – this is a little daughter

What does the word ‘little’ add to the way you imagine both the way the woman approaches Jesus and the scene back home where the child is lying on the bed?

‘He said to her… but she answered him… then he answered her”  v26, 27, 28

This is quite an exchange; it’s verbal ping-pong. The tone of voice and the look of the face matters in exchanges like this – but they are not recorded.

So… how do you see the exchange? Does the woman push Jesus somewhere that he does not want to go or is it more teasing and ironic than that?

‘a deaf man who had an impediment of speech’ v32

This is a powerful combination which is potentially very isolating. A deep loneliness is being implied here. Jesus is not just healing but re-connecting.

Who are the most isolated, disconnected and lonely people today?

‘Ephphatha’ v34

As John Pridmore says in The Word is Very Near You, ‘this is a ‘wonderful tongue-twisting Aramaic imperative’ and he suggests trying to say it ten times in rapid succession.

What does ‘Ephphatha’ mean to you?





Fourth Sunday after Trinity Sunday 1.712 Mark 5.21-end

21 06 2012

Double Healing

This is wonderfully exciting and closely interwoven couple of stories. It is amazingly dense and richly repays attention to the human detail.  Notice how it  hides real sophistication under a very a surface of very ordinary and straightforward language.

Mark 5.21-end

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered round him; and he was by the lake. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, ‘My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.’ 24So he went with him.

Page 52r: Healing of a bleeding women / Ressur...

Page 52r: Healing of a bleeding women / Ressurection of Jairus’ daughter, Mk 5:21-43 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, ‘If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.’ 29Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ 31And his disciples said to him, ‘You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?” ’ 32He looked all round to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, ‘Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?’ 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.’ 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, ‘Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.’ 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha cum’, which means, ‘Little girl, get up!’ 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Reflections and Questions

‘begged him repeatedly’ v 23 This is powerful image.  There is real desperation here – coupled with determination.

When have you seen those two things blended together?  Have you ever felt both desperate and determined?

‘She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.’ v 26. This verse tells a story. In fact it makes a story out of four separate points – each of which builds on the first and underlines the sadness of the situation.  

What scope is there to slow this story down in the pulpit? 

Some people who listen will have been through this sort of experience. How can you help them connect more deeply with the passage?

‘Immediately’ v29 and v 30  You get the picture. Suddenly time has speeded up.  Quick! Quick!  Extraordinary things are happening at an extraordinary pace.

Change of pace matters. Both slow to fast and fast to slow. Does your preaching reflect this important dynamic in human experience? Or do you just plod on and on and on…

‘The laughed at him’ v40 

I will be honest and say that I have never noticed this phrase in this passage before. We easily read over it. And yet when we are laughed at in real life it usually gets to us.

Did being laughed at ‘get to’ Jesus?

If our faith had a bigger impact on our lives, would we be laughed at less often – or more often?