Sermons on “Luke”
Today’s Gospel contains a parable, a story with a meaning behind it, and we find it only in Luke’s Gospel. Most often known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son,” it follows on two other parables, those of the lost sheep and the lost coin. They follow a short introduction where it is pointed out that Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them (which pleases the tax collectors and sinners but which annoys and insults the Pharisees and the scribes).
The parables are meant to be about how God rejoices when what is lost is found. The progression is from the sheep to the coin to the son. And all Jesus’ listeners could relate to the joy described when each is “found.” Who can’t relate to being lost and then found? We can all recall the fear of being lost and the unbounded joy in being found — or finding something or someone who was lost.
Where do you find yourself in the story? It is a complex and beautiful one. As a parable it does not give us only one moral except that God’s love is always unconditional and God’s mercy knows no limits.
The story of Moses and the burning bush in the Hebrew Scriptures is the most detailed account of a divine call in Scripture, and one known by people all around the world, portrayed so powerfully in movies like “The 10 Commandments” but also in the Disney film, “Prince of Egypt.”
In the dramatic story of the burning bush – it needs no special affects but gets plenty of them in both films – we see the four-fold pattern of commission, objection, reassurance and sign, as Moses is called to be God’s agent in the liberation of Israel.
Both passages from the New Testament today offer stern wake up calls as well, important to the communities to which they were addressed. In his first letter to the people of Corinth, Paul issues a warning: just because the community in Corinth has experienced God’s grace, just because its members have been chosen to become the body of Christ, does not make them immune to God’s displeasure. No one is, so to speak, “above the law.”
Today’s Gospel recounts the story of a number of people from Galilee being brutally slaughtered by Pontius Pilate’s soldiers while they were presenting their sacrifices. In this horrific act, the blood of the victims was mingled with that of the sacrificial animals. Jesus responds by asking if they thought these Galileans were “worse sinners than all other Galileans” because they suffered in this way.
In both cases, the disasters occurred suddenly and without warning, and the victims had no chance to repent. What is the message here? Life is precarious; repentance cannot be delayed, or as one writer puts it, “Mercy has an expiration date. Don’t put off repentance?.”
As Moses, Paul and Jesus knew, encountering God takes time, wonder, openness, prayer, contemplation, but first and foremost, simply our ready selves. As human beings, made in the image of God, we are programmed to be generous with our time and with one another, ready to see the goodness in one other, quick to forgive, as God is slow to anger and of great kindness. How do you encounter God?
The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom then, shall I fear?View Sermon
As we end this month begun with our reading of Martin Luther King Jr., we can give thanks for the witness of Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass and thousands of others who in word and deed embodied Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” May we have the courage to do the same.View Sermon
Today’s Gospel story is a continuation of last week’s where Jesus opens the book of the prophet Isaiah and finds the place where it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. …” Jesus then closes the book and gives it back to the attendant, and sits down. As everyone is watching him and he says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
With Isaiah’s words still echoing in the synagogue, Jesus turns his listeners’ expectations upside down. By saying these words from Isaiah and giving examples of the widow of Zarephath and the leper Naaman Jesus scandalizes his hearers by stating that the only successes the prophets Elijah and Elisha had at healing were with pagan foreigners. Jeremiah the young prophet and Paul the apostle also speak from a prophetic position that is not welcome, at least not at first.
This is the full service we held on Sunday, January 27, 2019 in the church office as the heat was inoperative in the rest of the church. National Grid was able to restore our heat Sunday afternoon.View Sermon
On this First Sunday after the Feast of the Epiphany we always celebrate the baptism of Jesus by John in the River Jordan. Since we are in Year C, it’s Luke’s version that we read. As the evangelist most preoccupied with the formation of the church, Luke emphasizes the importance of the bestowal of the Holy Spirit in both his gospel and the history book of the New Testament (also written by Luke), the Book of Acts.
Sometimes, but not always, it is helpful to describe things by what they are not. Let’s try this with our baptisms.
1. Baptisms are not “christenings,” even though the word “Christ” is in its name. We christen boats; we baptize people.
2. Baptisms did not begin with Jesus or John the Baptist. Baptisms were an ancient custom in Judaism for purification of the body Baptism, next to circumcision and sacrifice, was an absolutely necessary condition to be fulfilled by a proselyte, or newcomer, to Judaism.
3. Purification from sins was also not a new idea with John. Baptism was practiced in ancient (Ḥasidic or Essene) Judaism.
4. Baptisms are not about dunking someone in water, though some traditions, ie.,American Baptists, practice full immersion, but usually not Episcopalians- though we can. The water is critical to baptisms, however. Interesting to note that in ancient Judaism, full immersion 3 times in water was a part of baptism.
In addition to naming the Holy Spirit and fire, beginning in the baptisms John performed, the church has used this joining, this “initiation rite, ” to name the child or adult about to be baptized. This too is different from its ancient roots.Names are the first means by which we are set apart.