Luke

Equal to the Angels…

Give them their due. It was a clever question in keeping with their commitment to the text of the Law (Luke 20: 27 – 38). While liberal in engaging with the world around them, they were fundamentalists when it came to handling the scriptures. They were also consistent in their approach. They did not believe in the resurrection because it was not mentioned in the teachings of Moses.

The question put to Jesus could have come straight out of Deuteronomy (25:5) and may well have been one of those eternal essays assigned to every class of trainee Sadducees in their respective training courses. So, of the seven brothers, whose wife will she be at the time of resurrection?

Whatever of the possible rationale supporting family, land, inheritance and the perceived blessing, in and of children, which underpinned the teaching of Moses promoted here by the Sadducees, Jesus appears to allow the questioners their fundamentalism. He does not challenge their use of the words of Moses. He does transcend, however, their interpretation of the scriptures using them to challenge the Sadducees’ position on the resurrection.

Yet more than this, Jesus also pushes the hearers to consider their value before God. A value which is not based on whether or not people have children but on the reality that each and every one of them is a child before God!

Thus, it seems Jesus is trying to encourage the questioners, and any others who are listening, to realise primary family connection is through each one being a child of God. When this is acknowledged and recognised all other family arrangements become secondary and therefore less relevant. So the key point at issue is not whose wife is the childless woman going to be in heaven, but to whose family does she belong as a child of God.

This may well be a challenge to many today who promote an understanding that when we reach heaven we will remain within our families and see those loved ones who have gone before. While not directly challenging this, Jesus’ words again reminds us that being with our loved ones is secondary to being primarily loved by God and belonging to his family when we reach heaven.

Here, not only will we be counted as children of God, but we will be equal to the angels in relationship with him!

So in this week to come,

  • may we acknowledge the integrity of people where they seek to live out lives of faith based on their understanding of scripture, even when it does not accord to our understanding nor practice
  • may we find ways to dialogue that share understanding and enable constructive insights to be gained
  • may we ever affirm people as children of the God and who are each counted as equal to the angels before him; and,
  • may we strive faithfully to bring the heavenly resurrection into earthly living that all may live in him today

Amen; Lord, have mercy…

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Today Salvation Has Come…

It was probably incumbent upon him to know what was going on. His employment as Chief Tax collector demanded it, while his social standing as a wealthy man required it. So when word came to him about this man Jesus who was passing through (Luke 19: 1- 10), he just had to go and see who it was that created so much interest and fuss. For who knows, maybe there was something about this event that would give an edge to getting more taxes out of the people or maybe this could be an opportunity to further increase his wealth. Whatever the reason was, Z found it impossible to stay away. He had to see this man.

It seems that, even with his wealth and power, however, Z was not able to see Jesus due to the crowd and his physical stature. The crowd simply got in the way and if anyone had a reasonable place to see what was going on they certainly weren’t going to give it up to someone maligned and despised in the community. In addition, his physicality curtailed him from either seeing over the heads of those gathered on the road, or pushing his way to the front to ensure a viewing spot. That said, I cannot help but wonder if his physical limitations may have also been indicative of his spiritual, religious and moral shortcomings as he was lost within, and to, the community of his faith and culture due to his tax collecting.

It is sad and chastening to reflect on how the crowd got in the way of preventing someone from seeing Jesus. Does this happen still? Are there people who would like to see Jesus today, know something about him today or even begin to journey with him today but who can’t get near him because the church crowd has got in the way? Worse still is that it can seem as though the ‘in-crowd’ can erect barriers of expectation, tradition and judgment which help to keep them securely in and others, not of their group, out.

Despite this, the shock in the story for me is that Jesus saw Z even though he had been prevented from seeing Jesus. Not only was Z seen up the tree, but Jesus took that next step of initiating a transformative relationship towards salvation by offering to step over the threshold of Z’s malignment and exclusion into his home. The simple reason for this being that Z still belonged to the community of his fore-fathers and fore-mothers; he belonged, even if he was lost to his community. He was not, lost, however, to Jesus.

I wonder how many people who belong have also been lost to their community through malignment and perceived limitation. The challenge for all of us may be to realise that no matter how lost they, or we, may feel, no-one is lost to Jesus. Hear his offer; no, his desire, to come home with us and, when we allow him in, may we know again we belong at home with him, and within his community of welcome, even as we are all passing through.

Amen; Lord, have mercy…

Increase our Faith!

The disciples seem to have got Jesus on an off day. It’s hard to imagine them asking for anything more in keeping with what Jesus was about – faith, and its increase. Yet, according to Luke (Luke 17: 5 – 10), when they ask him simply to ‘increase our faith’, the disciples get a sarcastic retort and a story about remembering their place instead of his smile and affirmation . What is it about their request that appears to evoke his begrudging response?

The stories told by Jesus in response to the disciples’ request are salutary. He seems to have heard something from them of a request for reward and appreciation. Maybe this is not an unfair expectation recognizing everything, even up to that moment, the disciples had given up for him and experienced with him. In truth, who of us does not look for some kind of reward as one of his disciples? After all, have we not also proven ourselves sufficient, at least occasionally? Perhaps, the human in them, and in us all, wanted to be noticed and thanked for their response, their commitment and their support of him.

But the responding challenge to uproot and plant the mulberry tree in an alien environment appears something of an ironic joke at their expense. Of course, this won’t happen. However, it suggests to me that Jesus wants to challenge the disciples about the faith they already possess rather than how much faith they don’t have.

Where the people of God believe they do not have enough faith, it can give an excuse for not living in faith. So we say, ‘If only Jesus would give me more faith just think what I could do!’ Here the blame for not taking the faith into the world, and not bringing the kingdom in, lies with Jesus. It becomes his responsibility, not ours… because if he wanted me to do that then he would give me more faith that would enable me to respond better to his calling.

Yet what is it we are prevented from doing? What would we do differently for the kingdom if we had more faith? What can we not do, even with the mustard seed of faith we already possess?

This is the paradox. It is not that someone can give, or be given, more faith. However, as the faith which we do possess is tested and proven while we live out God’s calling in the day to day, the more faith is found; faith is indeed increased!

Mustard seed faith is about doing… it is about uprooting and planting in extreme and/ or unfamiliar environments; taking risk; practicing the miraculous; remaining open to the disbelief and laughter with the incredulity of the ‘You’re doing what?!’.

With such practices of discipleship, faith is increased.

Thus, the more we live in faith the more faith we find in which to live; even until the end when irrespective of our need for reward, we are simply welcomed as those who have done our duty and lived fully by the faith we have.

Amen, Lord have mercy…