Sinners & Lost Sheep

sheepBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

This Sunday’s passage from Luke (15.1-10) seems straightforward: like a man seeking a lost sheep and a woman a lost coin, Jesus seeks and finds people who are “lost.” But like so much of the Bible in general and Luke in particular, a close reading reveals there is more than what meets the eye at first glance.

Our first task is to show how Luke subtly but clearly suggests that the Pharisees’ resistance to Jesus’ message is the primary topic of our passage. Next, we’ll look at the passage itself, and how the first two parts of the parable (sheep/coin) are parallel to the two sons in the final section (15.11-32). Finally, we’ll consider how this speaks to our call to discipleship today. Continue reading “Sinners & Lost Sheep”

The Way Costs Exactly Everything

BabelBy Wes Howard-Brook & Sue Ferguson Johnson

It is no mystery who Luke’s audience is in this week’s Gospel (14.25-33): “For which of you, intending to build a tower (Gk, purgon)…” (14.28). Clearly, this is not a building plan envisioned by landless peasants, lepers and other poor and marginalized people. Luke is speaking here to the young elite of the Roman Empire, seeking to instill in them the cost of rejecting their imperial formation and choosing Jesus’ Way of discipleship. Continue reading “The Way Costs Exactly Everything”

Too Big—and Failing! Jesus’ Cure for Affluenza

DropsyBy Ched Myers, 15th Sunday after Pentecost, Aug 28, 2016 (Luke 14:1-14)

Note: This is part of a series of weekly comments on the Lukan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year C, 2016. This week’s gospel text is related to last week’s; see the background comments for last week here. Much of the post below is adapted from a sermon given at Downers Grove (IL) First United Methodist Church on 10/10/10.

Luke 14:2-6 is unaccountably skipped over in the lectionary. Yet it is profoundly germane to last week’s reading, and moreover introduces the theme of the whole sequence through 14:24: namely, the issue of how social power and privilege is mirrored in meals, and what to do about it. So I strongly advocate re-instating this beginning episode as part of this Sunday’s gospel. Continue reading “Too Big—and Failing! Jesus’ Cure for Affluenza”

Healing as Liberation from Crippling Debt

DebtBy Ched Myers, on Luke 13:10-17, for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost

Note: This is part of a series of weekly comments on the Lukan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year C, 2016.

This part of Luke’s gospel offers two symbolic stories about the healing of “political bodies” that signify pathology in the body politic: the “bent over” woman (13:10-17) and the “too big” man (14:1-6). Sadly, the second of these is (literally) skipped over by the lectionary. These intimately related healings bracket a series of Jesus’ sayings concerning the Kingdom as surprise and mystery (13:18-21), the “narrow Way” (13:22-30) and the cost of prophetic discipleship (13:31-35). Continue reading “Healing as Liberation from Crippling Debt”

Jesus of Nazareth, Arsonist

FireBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

Jesus, erstwhile proclaimer of peace and love, hopes for fire and anticipates division within households. Was the Lord having a bad day on the Way to Jerusalem in this Sunday’s Gospel? How can we reconcile his word in this week’s lectionary text (Luke 12.49-56) with what we hear in the rest of Luke’s Gospel? Continue reading “Jesus of Nazareth, Arsonist”

Staying Awake in the Summer

St LukeBy Wes Howard-Brook & Sue Ferguson Johnson

In the soporific summertime, it is easy enough to lie back, close one’s eyes, and fall into a tranquil sleep. Indeed, many of us could use more sleep, driven as we often are by the exigencies of empire into never-ending task mode. Perhaps ironically, getting more sleep could help prepare us for Jesus’ word to us this Sunday: stay awake (12.32-40)!

The church cycle offers us Lent and Advent as seasonal opportunities to practice anti-imperial wakefulness. With school out, though, the church year seems to take a break from the call to faithful vigilance. But the lectionary surprises us this week, just as Jesus’ message within the text from Luke gives us images of surprising arrivals. Perhaps equally surprisingly, a close listen to our Gospel text invites us to hear precisely what we are called to stay awake against: the lure of the exploitative, anxiety-ridden, imperial economy. At the same time, we are called to stay awake for the opportunity to be servants to one another and all creation. Continue reading “Staying Awake in the Summer”

A Fool’s Economics

DollarBy Ched Myers, Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, July 31, 2016 (Luke 12:13-21)

Note: This is part of a series of weekly comments on the Lukan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year C, 2016.

In Luke’s gospel, the deep memory of Sabbath Economics is shown in Jesus’ wilderness feedings of the poor (Lk 9:12-17), and told in the central petition of the Lord’s Prayer:

“Give us today enough bread” (Lk 11:3).

But nowhere is the old vision more clearly asserted than in Jesus’ teaching in Luke 12:13-34. Continue reading “A Fool’s Economics”

Imploring God: Black Lives Matter!

Black Lives Matter

By Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

A fascinating narrative sequence sets up Luke’s version of “the Lord’s prayer” (11.1-4). Chapter 10 began with the commissioning of the Seventy as laborers in the harvest, seeing cities and houses of “peace” that will provide them hospitality. It continues with Jesus’ powerful condemnation of cities that refuse hospitality. After this, when the Seventy return joyously celebrating their power over demons, Jesus responds with an apocalyptic image of Satan’s fall from heaven and his own rejoicing over the revealing of God’s Way to the “simple” (Gk, nepioi) while it remains hidden from the intellectual elite. Next we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan in response to a lawyer’s attempt to justify himself. Finally, we have the story of Mary and Martha, from which the Lord’s prayer follows immediately. Continue reading “Imploring God: Black Lives Matter!”

Embracing the Personalist Approach

By Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson JohnsonMartha

“Some people are Marys, and some are Marthas.”

Uh, no.

The little story of Mary and Martha in Luke’s Gospel is one that we regularly hear interpreted as a choice between two lifestyles, the “active” and the “contemplative.” Read in context, though, Luke’s message is not that at all. Let’s try to listen to this familiar story with fresh ears. Continue reading “Embracing the Personalist Approach”

To Do Is To Know

the-good-samaritan-1907By Ched Myers, the 8th Sunday after Pentecost (Luke 10:25-37; right: “The Good Samaritan” by Paula Modersohn-Becker)

Note: This is part of a series of weekly comments on the Lukan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year C, 2016.

The famous Parable of the Good Samaritan is often sentimentalized, but its subversive character and genuine profundity can never be exhausted. It comes on the heels of Jesus’ sending out of the “seventy,” and his long “missionary discourse” (Lk 10:1-24).  How different the history of Christianity would have been had disciples in every age followed these relatively simple but incisive instructions to travel with the gospel in a vulnerable and provisional mode, rather than a dominating one! But if the unholy joining of mission and empire has been the first pillar of Christendom’s apostasy, surely the second has been the church’s tendency to define faith through dogma. It is this religious bad habit that Luke addresses in this Sunday’s parable. Continue reading “To Do Is To Know”