Christmas Day 25.12.12 Luke 2.1-20

23 12 2012

The Birth of Jesus

Luke is the best storyteller in the New Testament, but we have heard this one just too many times.  The preacher’s challenge is to get back to some of Luke’s inspiring freshness.

Luke 2.1-20

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All went to their own towns to be registered. 4Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
14 ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

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 does Luke stress the context of the census?
  2. Why shepherds?
  3. Why does Mary, who gave voice to so much in Luke chapter 1, say nothing?

‘Heart Questions’

  1. What feelings are aroused in you by the thought of a birth a long way from home?
  2. Notice that the angels say ‘fear not’. Where is fear in this story?
  3. How do you imagine the shepherds ‘glorifying and praising God’?

‘Hand Questions’

  1. Is there a journey you need to take but you are putting it off because this is not a convenient time for you?
  2. Are you sometimes a messenger angel to others ? If so, do you need to say ‘fear not’ more often?
  3. Notice that no gifts are exchanged in this passage.  Are you able simply to receive the good news and rejoice in it?

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.





2nd Sunday of Advent 9.12.12 Luke 3.1-6

1 12 2012

When and What

Luke was many things: evangelist, physician, artist and writer – big time. Luke wrote about a third of the New Testament. This brief passage tells us he was also a historian. Notice how in the first verse he cross-references different histories to point to the precise moment when the word of God came to John.

Luke 3.1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

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. Why does Luke care so much about ‘when’?
  2. Why does it matter ‘where’ the word of God came to John?
  3. Why does he quote the prophet Isaiah?


‘Heart Questions’

  1. Looking back over your own life – do you ever try to cross-reference ‘when’ significant things happened?
  2. What picture does the word ‘wilderness’ paint for you? How does it make you feel?
  3. Do you prefer the straightening or levelling images of Isaiah?


‘Hand Questions’
?

  1. What moment in your life is significant enough for you to know precisely when it happened?
  2. To whom might you say something helpful about repentance?
  3. What needs to be straightened out in your life?


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.





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?