Temptation and Technology

The playwright Oscar Wilde once wrote, “I can resist anything except temptation.” The humor of the remark is mixed with a sad recognition that we fail so often to resist the temptations that come our way each day and from every direction. Of course, there are temptations and then there are temptations writ large. What are people’s greatest temptations? Why? What are their “favorite” sins – indicated by frequency and repetition? Why do we so often find ourselves in the same position as St. Paul? “What I do, I do
not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.”
(Romans 7:15) Each of us is called to name our temptations as part of a moral and ethical struggle in trying to live a holy and righteous life. Then once we name that temptation, to begin to unfold and inspect, to then start to answer what it is about this temptation that becomes especially alluring. Such are the first steps to healing. Continue reading

On the plain: sermon

This passage is the introduction to a new major section of the book of Luke (6:17-9:50). While previous passages have dealt with the early ministries of John the Baptizer and Jesus, and have only referred to the teachings of Jesus, here for the first time the actual content of his teaching to the crowds is presented. Also, for the first time, teachings are addressed directly to Jesus’ disciples. There has been a steady progression within Luke from a focus on God’s work in the world in Jesus (the infancy narratives, chs. 1-2), to the preparation for Jesus’ ministry by John the Baptizer (3:1-20), to Jesus himself and his own preparation for ministry (3:21-4:13). Then Luke begins to highlight how Jesus and his teachings were received, beginning with the hometown folks in Nazareth (4:14-30) and concluding with the choosing of the twelve, who were among those who responded by leaving everything to follow him (6:12-16). In this section, Luke begins expanding that dimension of response by focusing on Jesus’ teaching related to the “ethics of the Kingdom,” the responsibilities and consequences of being disciples. Luke continues this focus on discipleship until the journey toward Jerusalem begins (9:51), where it takes on a slightly different tone. Continue reading

On the plain: blessing and woes

At this point in his narrative, Luke incorporates part of the same material that Matthew had included in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5–7). But instead of staying on the mountain to deliver his discourse, Jesus comes down from the mountain like Moses descending to deliver the law to the people (Exod 34:15). As before, people crowd around him to hear the word of God and to be healed (5:1, 15).

And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way. Continue reading

On the plain: more context

And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground. A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon  came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.

As you have already considered, this Lucan passage is very similar to Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” – the beginning part referred to as the Beatitudes. Both versions are (and will, no doubt, continue to be) the source of much scholarly inquiry and debate. Some ask whether this is a single-setting sermon or if this is a compilation of Jesus’ sayings arranged in a “sermon.” As we have been doing throughout our study of Luke, it is helpful to compare Luke with the parallel passages in Matthew to help understand Luke’s concerns here (there are no parallels in Mark or John, although some of the same sayings are found scattered throughout the books). While questions about origin, sources, and redaction of the text are certainly valid and interesting, it will probably be sufficient here simply to acknowledge the fact that Luke and Matthew differ in how they have constructed these sermons. Continue reading

On the plain: context

And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground. A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.  Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all. And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.  Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.  But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.  But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.  Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way. Continue reading

Into the Deep

“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4)

My tale begins during my time at the US Naval Academy. There are two kinds of people who come to plebe summer – them’s that can swim and them’s that can’t.  I was one of the former. I had swum competitively since I was 12 years old, surfed since about the same age, and so swimming and water was as natural to me as breathing.  One of my service projects was as a volunteer swim instructor for other midshipmen who needed to learn to swim – not only a good thing for a naval office – but also a requirement for graduation. Continue reading

Patience

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned….” Among the most frequently confessed sins are anger, being judgmental, and impatience. “Patience is a virtue.” We’re all familiar with that expression. Patience is listed by St. Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 as among the fruit of the Spirit. So, there’s no disputing that the Christian ought to be patient. But is impatience a sin? W. H. Auden, the English-American poet, wrote “Perhaps there is only one cardinal sin: impatience. Because of impatience we were driven out of Paradise, because of impatience we cannot return.” Insightful about the human condition to be sure, but not sure that has standing in the world of moral theology. Continue reading

Fishing: reaction

Fishers-of-men-iconThe Reaction. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” 9 For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, 10 and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon.

The focus of these verses is on Simon, now called Simon Peter for the first time in Luke’s gospel – even James, John, and the unmentioned Andrew, are referred as partners of Simon. It is here that Luke calls Simon as Peter for the first time, “the Rock,” the name he will later have as the leader of the church. His eyes are opened through his act of faith, and he falls before Jesus. Peter is the first person in the public ministry to call Jesus “Lord” (no longer only “Master”: v. 5). Suddenly we realize that the story has been more than the initial calling of the fishermen disciples. From earliest times the church has seen herself as the “bark of Peter” in which faith in Jesus is tested (Mark 4:35–41; Matt 8:23–27). Jesus chooses Simon’s boat, sending him into deep water and calling for a decision based solely on personal faith. The faith of Simon’s response is what makes him the rock on which the church is built (Matt 16:18). Continue reading

Fishing: the Word

Fishers-of-men-iconThe account begins with a wide-angle view: the press of the crowd leading to Jesus’ teaching in a natural amphitheater from a boat on the lake. Quickly, however, events on the boat move to the forefront and the crowd disappears completely from view. The important interaction here is between Jesus and Peter, who represent the ones who respond positively to Jesus. Continue reading