1st Sunday of Lent 17.3.13 Luke 4.1-13

9 02 2013

Testing Times

Lent is the time when we are invited to the wilderness with Jesus. Like him, will be tested.  But with him, we will not be defeated.

Luke 4.1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ 4Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” ’

5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ 8Jesus answered him, ‘It is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.” ’

9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you”,
11and
“On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
12Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ 13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

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 word ‘wilderness’ means or implies?
  2. What do you take the word ‘devil’ to mean?
  3. What is the meaning of the phrase ‘put God to the test’?

Heart Questions

  1. What places, or experiences, feel like wilderness to you?
  2. What does temptation typically feel like?
  3. Unlike the accounts in Mark and Matthew, no animals appear in Luke to minister to Jesus. Do you miss them? Why? (or why not?)

Hand Questions

  1. What are you taking on as a Lenten discipline?
  2. How are you going to make time for spiritual priorities between now and Easter?
  3. Is there a wilderness that you could or should visit during Lent?

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.





First Sunday of Lent 26.2.12. Mark 1. 9-15 Wilderness and Good News

16 02 2012

Wilderness

Today we have an amazingly dense passage full of action and spirituality and with a cast ranging from wild beasts to angels. We could spend the whole of Lent absorbing the truths of these seven verses alone.

Mark 1.9-15

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

Reflections and Questions

‘the Spirit’ v10 and v12. People often say that Mark’s is a very materialistic gospel. But here the Spirit is prominent – and busy. And we see it in two modes: descending in peaceful affirmation and then roughly driving Jesus out.  We all know which mode we prefer to Spirit to be in for us.  We all love affirmation. But what is the more everyday experience? What can you say about being driven out?

‘Wilderness’ v 12. You can think back to the liberated but compass-less Israelites or forward to the Egyptian monastics, for some of whom 140 characters would be verbosity itself. Either way, the wilderness is a place where spirituality happens.  How might that challenge our views of spirituality today?  Where are the wilderness places close to home? And why does God meet is in such challenging places?

‘tempted by Satan’ v 13. Mark does not claim to know what happened between Jesus and Satan.  This gives the preacher a little more scope to use their imagination or inner experience to talk about temptation.  Is true temptation resistable by human beings?  How serious and honest are we when we talk about it? Does Satan announce his presence or come in disguise?  What disguise?

‘John was arrested’ v14   There really is no let-up here. We are only 14 verses into the gospel and such a lot has happened. And yet it is gospel, good news. Mark uses the very word. ‘John is in prison but come and hear good news.  Oh, and, by the way, it is time to repent and believe too.’ What does true repentance look like today?  And true belief?  Now – why is all this gospel?