Tag Archives: Gospel of Luke

Growing in Gratitude

bigstock-Gratitude-37954498

Luke 17:11-19

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Our daughter had the most awesome caretaker when she was a year old.  Her name was NeeCee and she was loved by each member of our family.  She did really creative activities with the three little girls that came to her house every day – like field trips in the stroller to the library and our family’s favorite – baking day!  She loved the girls like they were her own, but the very best thing she did was teach the foundation of gratitude.  At 14 months old, our little girl said “thank you” for every little thing she received because it was NeeCee’s expectation 100% of the time from the each of her kids, even the ones that belonged to the rest of us!

But saying thank you the way a toddler does is not what this story in Luke is referencing. First, let’s start with the 10 lepers.  10 lepers hanging out together and walking down the road – what a sight that must have been!  Lepers lived at the lowest rung of society during Jesus’ time, so they were most likely very desperate for relief from their probably painful and definitely disabling condition.  We don’t know from this story whether they were people of faith, or just people willing to ask for healing from any Tom, Dick or Harry.  But their display of belief becomes apparent as they do exactly as Jesus says when they ask him for healing (“Have mercy on us.”).

But why did only one of the healed lepers stop to show his appreciation to Jesus?  I mean, come on, they were HEALED and headed back up the social status ladder! I remember doing something really nice for a “close friend” when I was much younger and being shocked at the lack of gratitude showed to me for my sincere effort and sacrifice I made for this friend.  It ended our friendship because I was so downright bitter about the lack of gratitude, so I can only imagine how Jesus may have felt when only one took the time to say thanks.  It’s easy to look at this story and say that 1 out of 10 lepers had the decency to say thanks for the mercy, Lord.

I’m thinking that is not the best message to take away.  For me, I know that showing gratitude for my gifts can get lost in the excitement of receiving them.  I am often guilty of taking my gifts of grace and mercy for granted.  Jesus isn’t going around Samaria and Galilee and healing in order to get appreciation and we shouldn’t do our good works for others to fish for compliments either.  But there is a tangible effort in our relationship with others when we do take the time to appreciate them for what they do for us.  Our thanks is a great relationship builder with one another and most certainly, that holds true in our relationship with Christ as well.  Doing things for others is what we are called to do.  Showing our appreciation is the least we can do and one of the most powerful tools in relationship development.  And that holds true for our relationship as followers.  The appreciation can do much in the work of our relationship, showing our intimacy and closeness to keep mindful of our gifts of grace.

I choose to focus on the one healed person who turned back and recognized his gift of healing.  The other lepers probably partied all night long celebrating their good fortune in healing.  They may have thanked God for that gift as well.  But I bet the one who took the time to appreciate Jesus had the deepest blessing of a relationship with Christ – which in the end, is better than any physical healing anyway.  His gratitude did much in the way of working in faith with God.  Our challenge is to find ways to show appreciation to our friends, families and strangers, as well as to our Lord and Savior.  It seems to be the very minimum expectation and goes the longest way to having that deep relationship we want with God.

Healing God, you give us the grace mercy we never deserve through the loving gift of your son our Savior.  Help us to find the time and the strength to be grateful for our many gifts.  We want to deepen our relationship with you and know that our gratitude will help us grow closer to you every day.  AMEN.

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Involvement vs. Commitment

pig-and-chicken-alone

Luke 14:25-33

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Cost of Discipleship

25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, 26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

Question: In a bacon-and-egg breakfast, what’s the difference between the Chicken and the Pig?

Answer: In The Chicken and the Pig riddle… The Chicken is involved, but the Pig is committed!

– See more at: http://michaelhamburger.com/the-chicken-and-the-pig/#sthash.ej6C61vt.dpuf

A pig and a chicken were walking down the road. As they passed a church, they notice that a potluck charity breakfast was under way. Caught up in the spirit, the pig suggested to the chicken that they each make a contribution.

“Great Idea!” the chicken cried. “Let’s offer them ham and eggs!”

“Not so fast.” said the pig. “For you, that’s just a contribution, but for me, it’s a total commitment.”

– See more at: http://www.jackizehner.com/2012/10/26/the-pig-and-the-chicken-a-cute-story/#sthash.6NQ8bWZv.dpuf

This passage starts off with some tough to read language.  Jesus is speaking to his followers and is quoted in this reading from Luke as saying,Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”  When I read this the first few times it came across my devotionals or in my Bible in One Year program, I just skimmed over it because it was just too hard to process.  Maybe you feel the same way – there are passages and verses in the Bible that make me so uncomfortable or are just too contradictory to process!  But if I plan to blog about the weekly Lectionary and the Gospel reading in particular, then I can’t ignore this one.  So I’ve been thinking about the Chicken and the Pig comparison:

Question: In a bacon-and-egg breakfast, what’s the difference between the Chicken and the Pig?

Answer: The Chicken is involved, but the Pig is committed

The commentaries I read are all over the place in interpreting Jesus’ words, but for me, this passage speaks to the heart of commitment.  How many times have we served on a committee with other committed folks, only to have them drop out along the way?  What about all those New Year’s resolutions we promise to follow and then February rolls around and….done.  Jesus’ message seems to call us out as believers.  I read in this passage that he is basically saying that following me is not for the faint of heart or for those who just want to be involved.  It’s all or nothing according to Jesus, and that means there will be hardship in our commitment to follow him.
I’ve been blessed to be brought up in a family of believers.  Our marriage is based on being God-centered and we have worked hard to raise our daughter this way as well.  We haven’t had family members turn away from us because of our beliefs; we haven’t lost jobs because of our faith.  We can live where we want and experience the freedom that comes from living in the United States as a Christian.  I haven’t had to face the ugly side of following Jesus (read about Christians in Syria today here: http://supportsyrianchristians.wordpress.com/) but Jesus’ words hit home for me in my safe community, for now.
Jesus then goes on to talk about weighing out the consequences of being unprepared to make the full commitment to being his follower.  He uses the planning of a construction project and the planning of the King before battle as his scaffold for comparison to choosing to believe and follow him.  It’s not just a decision to be involved in our faith; it’s a decision to play the role of the pig at breakfast and be all in with nothing left behind, considering the planning as well as the consequences.
It’s a great goal. I strive for it every day and many times during the day.  And I fail.  A lot.  But I then have to decide again to run back onto the field with all the right equipment and knowledge of the game plan (can you tell we’ve been watching some College football today?).  I can’t go into this unprepared.  I have to pray, study, and commit to Christian action (also known as “regular” action but putting Jesus at the center of it all) to be more than just involved.
And when I find myself practicing my commitment to Christ, I love my family more deeply, I laugh with my friends with reckless abandon, I have more energy and time somehow in my job and my personal life, and I feel the love of Christ very closely.  When I dabble at the involvement level…well, I bet you can guess how that turns out for me as I rely on myself for my strength.  To quote a random teenager, it’s “epic fail.”
Forgiving Lord, your grace is enough for me to give you my full commitment.  When I fail, thank you for loving me enough to welcome me back.  Give me strength in adversity to stand faithfully with you in all I think, say and do.  For in you, I am fulfilled.  AMEN.

A pig and a chicken were walking down the road. As they passed a church, they notice that a potluck charity breakfast was under way. Caught up in the spirit, the pig suggested to the chicken that they each make a contribution.

“Great Idea!” the chicken cried. “Let’s offer them ham and eggs!”

“Not so fast.” said the pig. “For you, that’s just a contribution, but for me, it’s a total commitment.”

– See more at: http://www.jackizehner.com/2012/10/26/the-pig-and-the-chicken-a-cute-story/#sthash.6NQ8bWZv.dpuf

A pig and a chicken were walking down the road. As they passed a church, they notice that a potluck charity breakfast was under way. Caught up in the spirit, the pig suggested to the chicken that they each make a contribution.

“Great Idea!” the chicken cried. “Let’s offer them ham and eggs!”

“Not so fast.” said the pig. “For you, that’s just a contribution, but for me, it’s a total commitment.”

– See more at: http://www.jackizehner.com/2012/10/26/the-pig-and-the-chicken-a-cute-story/#sthash.6NQ8bWZv.dpuf

Mostly About Me

Mostly Me

Luke 14:1

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Heals the Man with Dropsy

14 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

Luke 14:7-14

Humility and Hospitality

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

*Warning:  This blog post will reference a Broadway musical called “The Book of Mormon.”  The play is not the topic of discussion but will be used as a reference point for today’s post.

We saw the “Book of Mormon” yesterday as a family – it was our daughter’s birthday present from June and she has been begging to see this play since about a month after its Broadway debut.  We tried to get tickets to see the show in NYC, but then as luck would have it, the traveling version came to Dallas for a two-week run.  My very wonderful husband spent almost three hours in the queue online the day the box office opened and scored the tickets.  I knew a little about the play, and knew it was irreverent and a bit naughty, but I was just blown away by the brilliant writing and the talent on that stage.  GO SEE THIS IF YOU WANT TO LAUGH UNTIL YOUR HEAD HURTS!!!!

One of the great songs – there are many – is a track titled, “Mostly Me.” Here is a link so you can enjoy this song too, although you will not have the hilarious context unless you GO SEE THIS PLAY!

Today’s Gospel reading ties in perfectly with this song!  Jesus gives the wedding guests some great advice.  His parable is one of both grace and humility.  Grace – because we really never deserve the honor of being a child of God.  We get this as a free gift in spite of ourselves.  And humility – one of my favorite traits to find in others and one I constantly work on having myself – the ability to be humble; or as I like to think, putting others ahead of yourself.  Jesus’ advice to the guests who are trying to decide how important they are at the wedding feast as compared to the other guests is to assume that all are important and you are no more special than the rest. 

One of the things I loved about the song “Mostly Me,” is that it speaks to that ugly monster that can live inside us when we get too big for our britches.  It’s a well written song to which many of us can relate.  We may have felt as if our presence saved the day at one point or another, and conversely, we all have been in the presence of someone who really embodied the lyrics of this song to our annoyance as well.  God calls us to love one another, just as he loves us (John 13:34), which I interpret to include that we don’t put ourselves before others in order of importance (among other things that very complex yet simple Bible verse is telling us!).  The presence of humility in our beliefs about ourselves gives us a schema for lifting up others rather than judging them, living a life of service in our community, helps us show love in the way we interact with others and gives us the chance to really enjoy when we receive grace and forgiveness.

The Book of Mormon as a play is best enjoyed with a great dose of humility for all who are called to spread God’s word.  In teaching others about Christ and the gift of everlasting life, Christians will do well to laugh at ourselves and reflect on our place at the feast.  Let’s let others sit in the place of honor, for God will surely call us to be with him though we will never really deserve it.

God of grace and mercy, we give thanks that you invite us to join you in the feast of the resurrection.  Help us to put others before you and to continually serve you in all we do and say.  We look forward to our perfect life with you when our work here is done.  We ask this in your Holy Name.  AMEN.

Am I Ready?

treasure

Luke 12:32-40

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Watchful Slaves

35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

When I was little, back in the days before cell phones, internet and scheduled playdates, the front window of the living room was my view of the world.  I watched my parents leave us with a babysitter to go to a party from the yellow rocking chair by the front door and sat there waiting very impatiently for my first date to arrive to pick me up a few years later.  My 9th birthday party was my first slumber party and I waited at that window for the first of my 9 friends to arrive.  My sister fell over the handlebars of her bike and opened up a nice gash on her chin and we waited there on the porch for Mom to come home with a washcloth covering the wound.  As a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up because I knew that being adult had to be so much better than the limits of being a kid (!!!!!!!) and I waited for the phone to ring when I got my first teaching job.  We hurry to arrive at the airport in time to wait for the plane to board and we wait until winter or summer or whatever season for the weather to change from the current unbearable state.  We wait a lot.

In the reading for this week from Luke, there are two messages that really stick out to me.  The first message is about where we put our treasures.  This is a theme from the last few weeks that continues to niggle right into my brain and shake a finger at me.  We must stop collecting THINGS and start collecting our faith and trust in Jesus.  Move out the stuff that is standing in the way of that perfect relationship with Christ and invest our time, talent and treasure in Kingdom work with God.  Ok, ok….I think I am starting to get the picture!

The second message that I take from today’s reading is that waiting by the window for the time to be with Jesus isn’t really helpful.  There is no way to be fully ready by just sitting and doing nothing as we wait for our entrance to the Kingdom of God.  We must continually discern God’s will for us and be ready at any time.  The other day, I had some friends coming over and needed to run to the restroom before they arrived.  Wouldn’t you know that they picked that exact time to knock on the door – and I wasn’t ready!  In thinking about being ready for Jesus, I don’t want to be caught unavailable, not matter the time of day/night or the circumstances.  My heart needs to be ready to come face to face with that very real future.  My sinful desires, my gossipy snippets, my anger and frustration with others – will those be the very moments where God is revealed to me and I miss it entirely?

Waiting for Jesus…means actively getting ready.  Preparing through our thoughts, words and actions; discerning his will for us and getting back on track when we veer away.  I want to be ready.

Gracious Father, help me to discern your will and serve you in all I think, say and do.  May I honor your name and be alert and ready when you need me the most.  I pledge to you the treasure that is in my heart.  In your name I pray.  AMEN.

In Your Presence

Martha

Luke 10:38-42

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

As a child growing up in our family, we entertained friends pretty often in our home.  When one of these visits or events was coming up, we all were given jobs to do to prepare the house.  To say that it was stressful was an understatement and it didn’t always bring out the best in each of us, especially my Mom.  She was so worried that the house wasn’t clean enough, that the food and drinks wouldn’t be ready and that our guests would think less of her and our family because the conditions weren’t “perfect” for entertaining.

My Mom was like Martha, and I am sure if Jesus had been the invited guest himself she would have complained about all of us not helping her enough too! Mom often spent so much of her energy worried about what others might need or what needed to get finished that she may have missed out on some really special moments.  I think I have the same tendencies – I don’t entertain as much or often as Mom did, but I do get worried and stressed out when I know someone is coming over…is the house prepared, the bathroom cleaned, the food enough to feed everyone, etc.  I have to really make a conscious effort to plan ahead so I don’t fall into the trap that caught my Mom over the years because I so enjoy when folks are over at our home for a visit.

Then there’s Mary.  Mary may not share Martha’s gift of hospitality, but she is certainly able to capitalize on the opportunity of having Jesus in her home!  While we may not have the physical presence of our Lord and Savior at the kitchen table with us for a meal, do we take the time to stop and just be with Jesus?

One of the readings from Morning Prayer today was Psalm 63 – one of my all time favorites.  Here is the text of my favorite verse from this psalm:

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

The first line of this Psalm sets the tone for me.  I need to find the time, make the time if needed, to just BE in God’s presence.  I need this….we all need this like we need water and our other basic needs.  Like you, my life is quite busy.  I have a very demanding professional life and a full family life as well.  But I want to define myself first and foremost as a follower of Christ.  There are ups and downs in any relationship – with our spouse, our friends, our co-workers, and others.  I think we can all agree that the more energy we put into a relationship the more likely that it results in a great outcome!  When I invest the time, no matter how busy I am, and choose to be in the presence of God just like Mary did that day amid the hustle and bustle of Martha’s scurrying about, then I will choose the “one thing” Jesus describes in verse 42 of today’s reading from Luke.  Choosing to be in the presence of the Lord will give us more meaning, more joy, more security, more love and more purpose than all the chores in the world.

So I commit to spending just the right amount of time in my Martha role preparing for and serving others and more time in my Mary role, enjoying the grace of our Lord.  Both are necessary in this gift of relationship with Christ, but we need to make sure it is balanced time spent.

Your presence is all I need today, Lord.  Help me stay focused on serving others when it is time and carve out time to talk to you and be with you every day.  Thank you for your presence in my life.  AMEN.