Fifth Sunday after Trinity 30.6.13 Luke 9.51-end

23 06 2013

No Place for Excuses

Jesus isn’t at all happy in this passage; but he is not as cross as his followers.  There is tension here and the words are harsh. There seems to be no place for the half-hearted in Jesus mission.

Luke 9.51-end

When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village.

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 59To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 61Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom 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. Focusing on Jerusalem changes everything. Why?
  2. Do you think the person mentioned in verse 57 follows or gives up?
  3. Why is looking back such an offence against the kingdom of God?

Heart Questions

  1. What do make of Jesus’ tone of voice in these verses?
  2. What’s going on in James’ and John’s minds and hearts  in v 54?
  3. How do you feel about Jesus by the end of this passage?

Hand Questions

  1. How does this passage challenge your sense of mission?
  2. What does it mean to follow one who had nowhere to lay his head?
  3. Can you share a story about how following Jesus has made a demand on you that you have found really difficult?

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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1st Sunday of Advent 2.12.12 Luke 21.25-36

24 11 2012

Be Alert At All Times

This passage takes us back a fortnight. Then we were looking at the first eight verses of Mark 13. Now it is an equally worrying passage from Luke.

Welcome to Luke’s gospel, by the way. We are with Luke for a year now. (It’s not all like this.)

Luke 21.25-36

Jesus said,‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

29 Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection I am going to suggest 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. You might prefer to stay in one area. But beware of staying in your comfort zone. That’s rarely where profound preaching comes from.

‘Head Questions’

  1. Who is the ‘Son of Man’?
  2. Why does Jesus not invite his hearers to consider a tree in the autumn?
  3. What do you make of Jesus’ prediction that, ‘this generation will not pass away’?

‘Heart Questions’

  1. How do you feel when caught in a storm?
  2. Do you ever get ‘weighed down with dissipation and drunkeneness’ – or is ‘worry’ more your thing?
  3. How do you feel about standing before the Son of Man?

‘Hand Questions’?

  1. Can you tell the signs of the times?
  2. How much of your life are you investing in that which will not pass away?
  3. Can you ‘be altert at all times’ over the next four weeks? ( If not, how much alertness can you expect of yourself?)

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.





4th Sunday before Advent 4.11.12 Mark 12.28-34

27 10 2012

A Wise Scribe

Today’s gospel describes brief encounter which goes very well for the scribe who initiates it. He asks a good question, ‘which commandment is the number 1 priority?’ and then engages well with the answer he gets. He does not simply say, ‘yes rabbi, thank you very much’. Rather he reflects the answer back, explaining how he sees it.  Jesus warms to this approach of intelligent dialogue and yet the result is that no one else asks questions. I wonder whether we need to ask why.

Mark 12.28-34

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ 29Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ 32Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; 33and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Reflection

To help give shape to the reflection I am going to suggest 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. You might prefer to stay in one area. But beware of staying in your comfort zone. That’s rarely where profound preaching comes from.

‘Head Questions’

  1. What would your question be if you were a scribe who was impressed with Jesus?
  2. If you had chance for a 5-minute one-to-one with Jesus, what would you ask him?
  3. Suppose the scribe had asked you the question, what would your answer have been?
  4. What, in your view, is the third most important commandment?

 

‘Heart Questions’

  1. How have you felt when you have approached people who are arguing?
  2. How do you feel about the repetition of ‘all’ in the great commandments?
  3. How would it impact on you if the word ‘all’ was replaced with ‘some of’?
  4. What does the word ‘dared’ signify in the final sentence?

 

‘Hand Questions’

  1. For the scribe this was a very successful episode. How can you follow his example of asking a good question?
  2. What evidence can you give that you have lived a life consistent with the two great commandments over the last week?
  3. What can you do differently next week to align more closely to them?

 

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.





Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity 7.10.12 Mark 10.2-16

30 09 2012
Mark 10.2-16
Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ 3He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ 4They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.’ 5But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” 7“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
Questions

1. Why did the Pharisees ask that question? What was their motive?

2. Why did the disciples repeat it later? What was their motive? What does the second answer add to the first?

3. Why would the disciples think it was appropriate to stop the children coming to Jesus?

4. What does it mean to ‘receive the kingdom of God as a little child’? How does that challenge us today?

Please let me know what you think of this new approach.





Second Sunday after Trinity Sunday 17.6.12 Mark 4.26-34

30 05 2012

Talking in Parables

We take parables for granted. As if they are merely just the way Jesus chose to get his message across. But parables are not just Jesus’ chosen way of speaking about things. They are more connected with their subject matter than that, They are, in fact, fitting. Like all good stories they are not to be explained but told, entered into, enjoyed, imagined and maybe even imitated. Parables are good listening. It is a travesty if a good parable is followed by a dull, didactic sermon.

Mark 4.26-34

Jesus also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’

English: An etching by Jan Luyken illustrating...

English: An etching by Jan Luyken illustrating Mark 4:30-32 in the Bowyer Bible, Bolton, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

30 He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Reflections and Questions

‘The kingdom of God is as if ..’ v26 This introduces Jesus’ priority – the kingdom of God – and the way in which he is going to speak of it – indirectly.

Why does Jesus not speak directly about the kingdom of God? Might it be because it is not actually possible?

‘It is like a mustard seed.’ v 31. It is vital not to think of mustard and cress growing in trays on the window sill. These bushes are BIG.

How does God’s kingdom grow?

‘the birds of the air can make nests in its shade’ v32 The vast bush representing the kingdom of God, is not only for its own sake. It is a hospitable kingdom.

How do you connect ‘hospitality’ and kingdom’?

‘he did not speak to them except in parables’ v34

Let us assume that this is for good reasons – that parables are somehow appropriate for spiritual teaching.

Why not have a go at writing your own parable? (Make it short. 50-75 words is plenty long enough.)