3rd Sunday of Lent 3.3.13 Luke 13.1-9

22 02 2013

Repentance is All, But it Takes Time

This is a really challenging passage for any preacher. Might it help to connect it with the sort of question you might have on a street corner with a prominent local atheist or maybe with some sixth formers? How do Jesus’ methods of engagement and argument compare with what might work today?

Luke 13 1-9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. 4Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’

6 Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. 7So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” 8He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. 9If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” ’

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’s the back-story on the Galileans?
  2. What is the meaning of ‘repent’ in verses 3 and 5?
  3. What does the parable tell us about God?

Heart Questions

  1. How do you think the people mentioned in v 1 felt about what Jesus said?
  2. What do you feel about the tower of Siloam?
  3. And if you were the fig tree – how would you feel?

Hand Questions

  1. What would be a good starting point or next step in your journey of repentance?
  2. Is there anyone you need to give a second chance?
  3. What good fruit might do you hope to bear in the future?

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 of Advent 16.12.12 Luke 3.7-18

8 12 2012

Wrong Expectations

This is a great passage. The language is direct and powerful from the outset. John is addressing the hearts of his people and demanding some action. Two things are clear – living faith is not a merely intellectual exercise, and repentance involves more than a change of mind

Luke 3.7-18

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

10 And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ 11In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ 12Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ 13He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ 14Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

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 was John so fierce with those looking for baptism?
  2. What is the connection between the use of the word ‘good’ in verse 9 and verse 18?
  3. What is the expectation of the people in verse 15?


‘Heart Questions’

  1. How would you feel if called a viper? (Defensive, perhaps?)
  2. What force does the phrase ‘more powerful than I’ have? (See verse 16)
  3. How does this passage make you feel about the ‘good news’?


‘Hand Questions’

  1. The people explicitly ask what they should do. Do you ever ask that? Are you ever asked it? If not, why not?
  2. The instructions in verses 11-14 are all about possessions or money. What do you make of that?
  3. What are you going to do differently because of engaging with this passage?


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.