June: How do we respond when God comes near?
So what is our response to Jesus, and why should we respond to him? Luke looks at this question in depth. The stories of the centurion, the widow of Nain, John the Baptist’s perplexity, the sinful woman, the women who minister to the disciples — all have to do with the presence or absence of faith. Faith involves humility, gratitude and service. As we move through the Lectionary readings this month, all these questions are addressed and answered. Luke subtly shifts attention from Jesus’ miraculous work to his person and what our response should be.
5 June, Luke 7:11-17
This is an outrageous story. A funeral interrupted. A vulnerable woman’s hope restored. A community confused; coming to terms with death, they are confronted with resuscitation!
The death of her only son has left the widow without a man-connection and renders her utterly vulnerable. Jesus is moved by his love and the hard realities of the situation.
Jesus does not hesitate to break the rules regarding not touching the dead. Neither is Jesus persuaded that death has the final word.
When something seems as permanent in a culture as to be of the essence of reality, we don’t even question it. For Jesus, however, death comes across as optional — almost like a choice.
Jesus knew his action would create upheaval, but God still came near. Life and hope were renewed. Established meaning structures were dislodged. What Jesus did caused upheaval and disruption (trauma) and life would never be the same again.
When have you experienced God coming near? What was your experience like?
12 June, Luke 7:36-8:3
This story highlights the difference between what appears to be going on and what is actually going on.
In the ‘apparent’ story, Simon is an example of ‘righteousness’. He is the respected religious community leader, a learned man of God. In blunt contrast, the woman is a whore. She had not even a pretence of righteousness.
In front of Simon’s sensational dinner guest, as everyone else looks on, the woman is unable to restrain her gratitude to Jesus. This is the model for appropriate response to God!
A life of gratitude. The contrast continues. Simon sits in judgement on Jesus for apparently lacking the discernment to know the truth about this woman. But what Simon, in his righteousness, knows nothing of is that love cannot be conjured. It is the response of a full heart. The woman in her gratitude knows little else!
What are you most grateful for?
19 June, Luke 8:26-39
According to the parallel acount in Mark 5:1-20 of this demon-possessed man, he has the telling trait of attacking himself with stones — bashing himself up against the rocks. He is effectively stoning himself! It seems he has internalised the accusations of the crowd (whose job it normally is to do the stoning).
Jesus instructs this internalised accusing crowd (‘legion’) to go, and the man is transformed. No longer excluded by the demonic condemnation, he is ready to do whatever his saviour desires.
The locals are deeply disturbed by all this. Jesus is working outside their mechanisms of social order/control, which he threatens. The people prefer the devil they know. Jesus leaves the man with his community as a testimony to an alternate reality.
When have you found the ways of God’s kingdom put at threat by the control mechanisms of your community?
26 June, Luke 9:57-62
The demands Jesus put on those who would follow him seem unbearable. No place to call home? No time for the fulfilment of cultural family expectations? No clinging to the place we once belonged?
Yet, this is who Jesus is. The one who is not ‘at home’ in this world’s power structures. The one so focused on the things of life he has no time for the things that are not life. The one who is all about the Father’s Kingdom.
Jesus does not ask us to do what he does not do. Rather, he calls us to follow him into all that he does — to follow his values, priorities and desires. To do life as he models it and, so, to find the life that Jesus calls ‘eternal’.
What part of Jesus’s call to you do you find most confronting? What is it about that challenge that is so difficult for you?
What is the lectionary?
The lectionary is a pre-selected collection of scriptural readings from the Bible that can be used for worship, study or other theological uses. Some congregations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) use the Revised Common Lectionary which follows the liturgical year in a 3-year cycle and provides scriptural recommendations that compliment the current season of the liturgical year.
These reflections were prepared by the Rev. Dave Gore from Mustard Seed Ultimo Uniting Church