Beyond Christian Duty Into the Way of Jesus

treeBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

Many vivid images are squeezed into this week’s Gospel passage from Luke (17.5-10), including one of the oddest in all the gospels: a tree being “planted” in the sea. Understanding this puzzling passage is even more challenging because the lectionary cuts it out of context. We need to start by taking a step back to listen to what’s going on at this point in Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. Continue reading

The Rich Man and Lazarus: Warning Tale and Interpretive Key to Luke

fyodorBy Ched Myers, on Luke 16:19-31 (19th Sunday after Pentecost)

Note: This post is part of a series of weekly comments on the Lukan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during Year C, 2016. As was the case last week, this is a longer post, because of the importance of Luke 16 to those of us suffering from “Affluenza.” For a recording of a recent webinar Ched did on this gospel text, go here. [Right: Fyodor Bronnikov, “Lazarus at the rich man’s gate,” 1886.]

This Sunday’s gospel completes our journey through Luke 16. How rare it is that the lectionary allows a sustained look at Luke’s narrative argument! Last week’s text was Jesus’ subversive tale of the “defect-ive” discipleship of the beleaguered middle manager of a “filthy rotten system” (16:1-13). I read it as a poignant fable for those who would try to monkey-wrench the dominant economic system to provide a modicum of Jubilee justice for themselves and others.  The “paired” story of Lazarus and the Rich Man represents, in turn, a warning tale about the dark consequences of failing to deconstruct the systems of vast social and economic disparity that hold our world hostage. Continue reading

Discipleship as Defection from the Mammon System: Jesus’ Parable about a “Manager of Injustice”

luke16By Ched Myers, on Luke 16:1-13

Note: This post is part of a series of weekly comments on the Lukan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during Year C, 2016. This week Ched offers a longer study because of his conviction that this is a crucial text for middle class Christians. A more detailed version of the reflections below can be found here; a webinar exploring these themes can be found here. [Right: “The Wicked Servant,” Ian Pollock, 1972.]

Summary: This Sunday’s gospel can be read as a poignant fable for all who realize that they have been disenfranchised by the dominant economic system, and who would try to “monkeywrench” whatever status they have in it to provide a modicum of Jubilee justice for themselves and others.  This parable illustrates the contemporary strategy of navigating what Wendell Berry calls the “Two Economies” by using capital to build social relations, rather than sacrificing social relations to build capital.  Continue reading

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

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

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

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