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”

Hospitality and The People of God

Emma LazarusBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

For Jesus followers in the US, this week’s Gospel offers a powerful counter-narrative to the flag-waving patriotism of the 4th of July. Nearly every detail challenges those of us who live and thrive at the heart of empire to reconsider which “sacred story” binds us together as a people. Continue reading “Hospitality and The People of God”

All In

Jesus JerusalemBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

This week’s Gospel offers some of the most challenging, urgently needed by us today messages found in Luke’s Gospel. It is a companion with next week’s Gospel, which directly follows this week’s passage. We will address them as a two-part unit in this and our next commentary. Continue reading “All In”

Confronting Legion

DemoniacBy Ched Myers, Fifth Sunday of Pentecost, Luke 8:26-39

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 Sunday’s text is Luke’s version of the infamous Markan “political cartoon” of the Gerasene Demoniac (Mk 5:1-20). Here Luke follows Mark relatively closely (whereas Matthew changes and shortens it significantly, Mt 28-34), including placing it on the heels of Jesus’ crossing and storm-stilling on the Sea of Galilee (which Luke insists on calling a “lake”). Continue reading “Confronting Legion”

Do You See Her?

Anointing FeetBy Ched Myers, Fourth Sunday of Pentecost, Luke 7:36-8:3

Note: This is part of a series of weekly comments on the Lukan gospel readings from the Revised Common Lectionary during year C, 2016. Thanks to Wes Howard Brook and Sue Ferguson for their reflections that took us through Eastertide and into Pentecost; we’ll again now trade off more regularly during “Ordinary Time.” As this story represents a hermeneutic key to Luke’s social outlook, my comments here will be longer; their purpose is to reveal exegetical details that can help restore the dynamism of this encounter (I recommend acting the story out). Painting (above right) by Wayne Forte.   Continue reading “Do You See Her?”

The Scandal of the Compassionate Way

widow's sonBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

Luke pairs last week’s shocking Gospel passage (7.1-10)about loving enemies with an equally shocking one this week about the resurrection of a widow’s son (7.11-17). Part of the shock this week is in how matter-of-factly Luke narrates Jesus doing the seemingly impossible.

Consider how different this brief passage is from the elaborate Johannine story of the raising of Lazarus. There, the narrator and Jesus together walk us through the various characters’ attitudes toward death. The dead man’s two sisters are portrayed as caught between anger and frustration over Jesus’ failure to show up in time to save Lazarus from death on the one hand, and a seemingly impossible hope that “even now” Jesus can do something for their dead brother (John 11.21-22). Luke, however, presents the restoration of life to a widow’s only son as an almost routine element of his messianic ministry, echoing a similar action by the prophet Elijah (1 Kg 17.8-24). Continue reading “The Scandal of the Compassionate Way”

A Scandalous Shock to the System

CenturionBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson

All the dynamics of this week’s passage from Luke’s Gospel are “wrong.” For instance, how are we to imagine Jewish elders in Capernaum speaking on behalf of a Roman centurion? Further, they paint him as the primary patron of their synagogue. And not only this, but the centurion sends the elders to Jesus, at this point in Luke’s narrative, an itinerant preacher and healer with no official authority at all. Finally, Jesus praises the centurion for having a faith that Jesus has not found among the people of Israel. What could be going on here? Continue reading “A Scandalous Shock to the System”

The Male/Female Image of God Made Flesh

SophiaBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson, commentary on the lectionary for May 22

In this ongoing season of Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit, not simply as “a spirit,” but as Spirit-infused-flesh in human bodies. This week’s reading from Proverbs 8 connects with the recent sequence of selections from the Johannine Last Supper Discourse (John 13-17) to present us with the perhaps surprising portrait of Jesus as the male-female God-made-flesh. Continue reading “The Male/Female Image of God Made Flesh”