Luke 15

They seem to have put the chapter divisions around the themes in Luke’s reports of Jesus teaching. We’ve had two scary ones and now a wonderful one.

13 was about the stark choice of repenting or facing terrible consequences, like finding the door shut on you, the urgency of repenting… Perhaps this year is the one when the unfruitful tree will be cut down.

Then 14 was teaching about what repenting involves.. Everything. Status, family, your life, your sense of self.. You need to be willing to let it all go.

Now 15 is about the celebration, the love that awaits those who repent, how no sin is too bad, how that just makes the celebration and love greater. And the passionate concern good has for lost souls. A counterbalance to the somewhat coldly pragmatic illustration of the farmer deciding which year to cut the fruitless tree down, now God is compared to someone sweeping and checking every corner of the house for a lost coin, the shepherd risking all for the missing sheep, and carrying it home on his shoulders.. Lovely detail.

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Luke 14

If you have ears…. Jesus needs people to really listen. We often say “I won’t hear of it” making hearing a metaphorical act, and this is what hearing means here.

A Pharisee, obviously one of those who actually admired Jesus invited him to lunch. Jesus’ stories are all about letting go honour and status. Jesus does staged teaching… He upps the ante. First he discusses the sabbath… Healing is more important this is almost presented as a lawyers exception, though is there an almost sarcastic element to it.. Well duh?. Then seating seating arrangements, which is done as a practical, almost wisdom literature thing… If you sit  at a place lower than your status, you’ll look good when you are moved up.

Then the banquet story is told sort of twice… Once as a divine payment sort of deal.. Be generous to the needy rather than the influential and you will get a heavenly reward. Then a variation of the story which is a real time bomb story, ultimately a devastating attack on allowing “first world problems” fill your time on earth, and not coming to the banquet of the kingdom of God.

Then the scene changes to preaching to a crowd, but the theme continues, as Jesus ratchets it up dramatically saying that you must be prepared to hate wives, parents, children, and your own life to follow him.

You can’t be a half dedicated follower of Jesus, you have to count your cost. If you start the project of being a follower you have to be able to finish it, as when you start a building project, or as a King only goes to war if he knows he’s has a strong enough army to stand a chance of winning.

Luke 13

Such a strong theme of the urgency of our time here on earth. We are here to bear  fruit. Jesus must be God because who else would compare people to a tree that should be cut down or left another year?

Another humiliation for the Pharisees. But it is richly deserved. Jesus is healing. HEALING. And all they can see is that he is doing it on the Sabbath. They say they serve god more than anyone. But when they meet him, all they see is a threat to their position.

Jesus may have been 30 but he’s reminding us to live like teenagers. Do things from simple faith and a desire to do what’s good. Don’t think about the consequences.

Why is it that as we get older we live less and less with a sense of the shortness and urgency of our days, and more constrained by the cruft of our years. The young irresponsible attitude of living like there is no tomorrow is a literally the correct view from Jesus’ perspective. After all, he is eternal. He wants us to live like Roman candles, like flairs that burn with grace and die. No point staying unlit.

The mustard seed parable… Kingdom of God is pure potential, like a tiny seed that turns into a whole ecosystem. Kingdom of God is an activating agent… The live yeast that turns ordinary paste like flour and water into bread. He’s sort of saying it’s not a place, it’s an idea powerful enough to turn into the most concrete thing, more than earth. Powerfully transformative. You’d think from our teaching in churches that pounds and pounds of yeast was required, but a little heaven for a very long way.

Luke 12

We all have spiritual work to do. Mine is ministry to the kids. To our friends. The people at church. In thinking about using my music for spiritual work, after reading nick cave say that all music is spiritual.

Jesus is positively bipolar to highlight the importance of our spiritual work in this chapter.  Don’t worry at all about the material things of life. You won’t add an hour to your life by worrying. Lovely! Hard!

Be very very aware of being watchful for the return of the master. If you have been given much, much is expected of you. The rich fool dies while plotting his earthly treasure. So many strong messages about bad priorities.

Death is nothing to fear compared to the one who can throw you into hell. Nothing you hide will stay hidden… Your darkest hypocrisy will be shouted from the roof tops. Death is a big theme here. Very aware of the allotted time on earth and the expectation to use it well. It’s so short!

Or time on earth will involve division not peace.  The “do not worry” stands out in a chapter of lots of things pointing out what an utter disaster is trusting in your own strength and not taking god seriously.

Jesus demands absolute faith, you’ve really got to throw your lot totally with him.

In a week where I am swallowed up by my failure to cope with the practicalities of life this is overwhelming. It feels like I don’t have the luxury of choice. I am not pleasing God or Mammon. I am a total failure.  All I can do is pray.  For clarity, for sense. We should downscale. Project downscale.

Luke 11

I’m grateful that one of three main elements of the lords prayer is the constant battle with sin, and that the father’s forgiveness is so closely aligned with forgiving others. There is honouring God and seeking his kingdom, our daily needs and forgiving, being forgiven and avoiding temptation. Jesus expects us to be coming to the father every day with a story of failure, we are sinful creatures.

Adventure time!

And coming off the expectation of daily needing forgiveness, Jesus also recommends “shameless audacity”. I love the sense of adventures with God, not necessarily the ones he had planned. There are all sorts of things to be found, doors to be opened, good things waiting to be asked for. The indwelling spirit means makes prayer this sort of shared, collaborative creative endeavour.

These knock/seek/find phrases are often used for finding christianity in the first place. And that’s OK, but this analogy is for regulars in the fathers neighbourhood, asking seeking and knocking all their lives. At midnight, for a loaf of bread, because someone just turned up, and the shops are closed. He seems to be saying be spontaneous, have moonshots, fly kites, be creative. I gave you autonomy and free will, use it and I will run with you. There are a whole bunch of spirit inspired experiences waiting to happen. This is a more exciting gospel than the one which leads to finding it, and just stays there.

Be bold!

Devil

The parable is how a pseudo religious person is worse than one with no religion, I think. Because the person is a house, Jesus kicks the devil out of the house and it is clean, but it’s unoccupied, which means Jesus is not living there… And the devil then comes back stronger than before.

The sign of Jonah seems to be about peoples capacity for unbelief… They have God with them in human form and it is still not enough. The sign of Jonah is the condemnation of the people who believed on much less proof.

Another quite hard parable, the lamp. It is easiest understood as an attack on the Pharisees. Jesus is the lamp… God’s salvation in full view. The Pharisees are seeing the lamp with bad eyes… Those who look and look but do not see. So they are full of dark. There is a lamp on the table shining brightly, but there is not a light in their hearts.. The spirit or lack of it, that is dark

Woe to you!

So then come the list of open bads… Saying how the Pharisees and teachers are bad in various ways.

“But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you”. Jesus had no illusion that religious leaders can be motivated by greed. God made the inside of the cup as well as the outside. Don’t just clean the outside… Great analogy.
You can’t fool God.

They tithe down to the herbs. But what do they neglect? Justice and love.

I can really see the love of the good seats in the synagogue and the respectful greetings in the marketplace… The cosines, the goodness. These are good people!

They will be held responsible for the killing is all gods previous messengers, from Abel to zechariah.

So insulting. When Jesus says they are like an unmarked grave, he means you get decided by talking to them like coming close to routing human flesh even though they look normal to the naked eye.

They object to how insulting it is and Jesus just goes further. The essence of religious hypocrisy is that they not only don’t enter the kingdom themselves but hinder others from entering.

Luke 10

Jesus send out 72, big publicity, they are amazed at the devil obeying them, but Jesus says they should be amazed at their own salvation, and gets very excited about the gracious nature of it and his role in it. He used his classic oxymoron phrasing, given to children, hidden from the wise. He reminds the disciples how lucky they are, many faithful men would have loved to be them.

The good Samaritan is a simple message, love everybody. People find find it so hard, we are born pattern makers, can’t avoid social categorisation.

It’s a story with a tricky protagonist. The question is “who is my neighbour”. So in context, it’s saying “I” am the robbed man: vulnerable and dependent, the socially unacceptable one is the one doing the loving, and the love is inevitable, not a chore, its about how we will naturally accept goodness from those who we wouldn’t normally like. But when Jesus says go and do likewise, has the protagonist switched? Is it the good Samaritan we are supposed to emulate and relate to, or is the message of doing likewise a message about not being prejudiced against Good Actions by those we would normally write off?

Martha and Mary… Jesus lived this priority. He would pray all night. He would take time to go and be alone with god.

Luke 9

The disciples go out in faith – taking nothing for the journey. If they go hungry and without a place to sleep, that is the fault of the town. Their faith makes others also be expected to have faith.

Is time for Jesus to make a big noise… And herod, who we are reminded beheaded John, starts to get reports.

Another big splash, feeding the 5000. The disciples assume it’s a bad thing when the crowds come but Jesus says it’s good. Reminds me of the bridegroom parable… Jesus says his time is party time.

The miracles are all a bit like the first miracle… Making wine from water, Abbott generosity… Feeding and healing. The twist is that it’s designed to get him killed. Jesus is deeply ironic but compassionately so. He wouldn’t make bread for himself while starving when he was tempted, but here he makes baskets left over. Like the first shall be last, listening and not hearing, the bridegroom has to die sacrificially.

Big credential chapter… Who do they/ you say I am? His true identity, messiah, is still a secret for now.

Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) One of my favourite ever verses.

The transfiguration is followed by images of failure and illustrations of the toughness of following Christ. Its hard edged. The disciples deeply don’t get it, and this is not spared. I missed the example of them being rebuked for calling down fire on the village that wouldn’t offer them hospitality. Compare “shake the dust”, the cost response. Move on, don’t get retribution for rejection of the word.

Luke 8

Jesus trusted God and women for the money.

Persevere is the key word for the sower. The 3 bad examples are all different length failures of perseverance. Never started, a brief fling, a slow divorce. It’s the nobility of perseverance that makes the good soil bountiful.

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.” say what? Jesus?

Mega chapter.. Parables About listening and serious credentialing. The demon man is told to tell everyone what Jesus did. But no one is to know that he could raise the Girl from the dead

Luke 2

Birth of christ. Such a strange story, the return to hometown, the line of David, the inn, the swaddling clothes. Such a miserable birth.

The punch line is so often “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart”.

All these people get signs and wonders indicating that Jesus is the messiah, God’s salvation.

Simeon and Anna. Remarkable gender equality. Both old people.

Mary didn’t really understand when Jesus said he would be in his father’s house. But she treasured it in her heart anyway.