So far this Advent, every pastor’s column has explored one of the many gifts that await us under the tree, that is, the cross of Christ. And there are some awesome gifts – to name the ones mentioned in previous weeks – forgiveness and mercy. Now we have arrived at the Third Week of Advent, Gaudete Sunday! The name comes from wording in Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! It is another week, and another gift awaits. Like any kid in the days leading up to Christmas you have begun to peer under the tree, assessing the shapes, sizes and weight of gifts – and guessing what could possibly be under wraps. You have to wonder what other awesome gift is waiting right there under the tree, the cross of Christ. Let’s open up another gift! But wait…it’s not Christmas yet. What’s the rush? Christmas is only over a week away. Of course, when I was 7 years old, “only a week” seemed liked a lifetime. Now that I am 67, “only a week” is but the blink of an eye. I am much more patient about most things…. Not all things, most things. So, what’s the rush? Maybe we should practice a little patience? Continue reading
In the epic novel The Lord of the Rings, the elves of Lothlorien admit that they are losing their forest lands. But they battle on. The describe their struggle as “fighting the long defeat.” This is source of the comment made by Paul Farmer, who has fought a “losing battle” for health care for the poor. In Tracy Kidder’s biography of Farmer called Mountains Beyond Mountains, Farmer says, “I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I’m not going to stop because we keep losing… I actually think sometimes we may win… So, you fight the long defeat.”
Reminds me of the persistent widow. Continue reading
1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread 4 and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” Continue reading
1 ”(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,4 so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.5 “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.6 But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Continue reading
Of course we all know that after the meal with his disciples that Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Actually, no gospel says that. Matthew and Mark wrote that he went to a garden. John says he went to Gethsemane. Fuse them all together and you get the “Garden of Gethsemane.” What does Luke say? Luke only calls it “the place.” There is no garden specifically mentioned nor is Gethsemane. Is it important? Well, it is a reminder to be attentive to the text before you and not meld the familiar stories and scenes from other sacred writers. Each sacred writer has something distinctive that can be missed if one fuses all the details from other accounts. Continue reading
As the whole State of Florida prepares for Hurricane Irma’s approach and landfall, we ask you all to keep the people of the Sunshine State in your prayers. The southwest coast of Florida seems to be in for the worst of it. Tampa and Tampa Bay region will also feel the full brunt of the storm. May God watch over us all and keep us safe.
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A Parable of Reversal? I tell you, the latter [tax collector] went home justified. We might object to God forgiving the tax collector. He doesn’t actually confess any sins. He makes no statement of repentance. He doesn’t offer to change his life. He doesn’t make any reparations for his sins (as the tax collector Zacchaeus does). This appears to be very cheap grace. This parable probably should not be understood as an example story, but is it simply a story of reversal, as the final saying indicates. If the Pharisee is viewed as a villain and the tax collector a hero, besides the historical inaccuracies, the parable loses its power. They have only received what they deserved. There is no need for the reversal in this last verse. Continue reading
The Tax Collector. 13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
Consider what Luke has already recorded about Jesus vis-a-vis “sinners”
- “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” (Luke 5:32)
- “…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:7)
The Righteous Who Despise. He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.(Luke 15:9)
The use of exoutheneo – “to despise” (v.9) raises an interesting question about who are the self-righteous people who are despising others in Luke’s time. Is this parable directed against Pharisees and others outside the community of believers who despise those inside the church? In Luke’s other uses of the word, it refers to those who despised or rejected Jesus (Luke 23:11; Acts 4:11). With this understanding, it might be easier for (self-righteous) Christians to assume that the problem is with “those people out there,” but not with “us”. Continue reading
We hear this parable differently that the first century listener. We know how the parable ends and we also know how Luke has been describing the Pharisees, thus even at the words one was a Pharisee we know how this will end. Won’t it be that the Pharisee will represent the one who trusts himself and his own righteousness rather than God and the one who judges others and holds them in contempt? But lets consider how the first century listener might have heard this narrative.
These two parables are connected linguistically by a number of words with the Greek root –dik– = generally referring to “what is right”. Continue reading