The Kingdom Culture

Awhile back I was looking at a first generation iPad that was still lying around our house. Oddly, my brain still classifies iPads as new tech even though they’ve been around for 10 years. The old tablet turned on just fine – but when I tried to open an app, I got a message that it needed to be updated. When I tried to update it, I got a message telling me that only new iPads could get the updated app. This iPad had become a coaster through antiquity. It wasn’t’ that the old iPad was corrupt or even broken…it was just outdated and therefore no longer significant.

That’s similar to a point Jesus will make in our text this Sunday as we continue our journey through Luke. We’ll be reading Luke 5:27-39.

The first part of this text tells us about the calling of Levi, the tax collector. This is very intriguing, given how tax collectors were viewed in that time. “Some of the common terms for the tax collectors were ‘licensed robbers and beasts in human shape.” You can read an article about them here.

What might Jesus’ approach to this socially untouchable person tell us about who God focuses on, and how God’s kingdom treats people? What sort of person in our present time and culture might exemplify a person who is off limits or cancelled? How might Jesus treat that person, based on this text? What sort of culture might we develop around Jesus’ approach to people?

Jesus then goes to a party with a whole herd of hated tax collectors – and of course, the religious elite get their undies in a bunch over it. In response to their complaints, Jesus gives his famous statement – “it’s the sick who need a doctor, not the well”. How might eating with people who are considered sinners by popular standards be spiritually medicinal? What message does it send to those who feel cut off from God? What do we learn from that?

The Pharisees then try to shame Jesus about feasting when John the Baptist and his disciples, as well as the Pharisees were fasting. Jesus’ answer indicates that the reason they fasted was to implore God to invade this world with his Kingdom…and that time had already come through Jesus. The party Jesus attended was a sign of God’s inbreaking reign. Ponder that for a bit.

Jesus finishes off with two illustrations that contrast the living, expanding work of God with that of rigid, immoveable religious structures. Just like with outdated tech – it’s not that the law of Moses or the Hebrew scriptures were wrong or bad – they simply ran their course – and God is moving in new ways through Christ. That’s exciting news…albeit…as the church we have had a hard time retaining that truth. Historically, we have tended to become very rigid in our religious practice and expectations, only to be awakened by reformers, who breathe revival into our midst….only to find that reformation becomes rigid, awaiting yet another reformer to come along. As the church, we’ve proven we’re not very good at this…but that’s okay. God is still on the move.

What are some ways we might be tempted to turn our faith into rigid, religious expectations? How might we counter that temptation?

I hope you can join us online or in person this Sunday at 10AM.

God is Willing

On Sunday we’ll be reading Luke 5:12-26 in our ongoing series. We’ll be examining two notable miracles Jesus did during the early days of his ministry. It might be helpful to read Lev 13 to get a bit of an idea of how seriously the people of that time and place took skin ailments. The man who was a leper appeals to Jesus for help – why do you suppose he felt emboldened to take that sort of risk? Jesus responds with an affirmation of his willingness to help the man, but before that it says Jesus touched him. Why is that such a notable detail? Given what Leviticus 13 commands, do you think Jesus was dismissing the Law on this point? If not, why do you think he did this bold thing?

The next miracle describes a man who was paralyzed who was carried to Jesus on a stretcher. Failing to get into the place where Jesus was, they vandalized someone’s roof to lower him in. The morality tearing up of someone else’s roof is dealt with in an entirely neutral way. Why do you think that is? Jesus first declares the man forgiven, which upset many of the religious leaders. How would you have reacted to a statement of forgiveness if you were the friend that lugged this guy all the way to see Jesus? Would that declaration have been what you were expecting?

Jesus explains in v 23-24, why he brought an intangible concept like forgiveness into play. The tangible healing becomes a representation of an intangible reality. How difficult it is for you to believe you are forgiven by God? How might this story help to reinforce your trust in Christ’s provision of forgiveness?

We’ll go over it all in detail on Sunday – hope you can join us online or in person – 10Am on Sunday morning!

Called to Serve

Sunday we’ll continue reading and studying the Gospel of Luke. We’ll be starting chapter 5, reading verses 5-11. I love fishing – but I’m no good at it. We’re going to read about Simon Peter’s night of getting skunked, but the amazing things that happen once Jesus has gotten into his boat.

If you read the whole passage over, you know that Simon and his crew had been fishing all the night before. When the chapter opens up, Jesus is teaching on the beach and noticed the empty boats. What does that tell us about Simon and his crew’s reason for being on that beach? Simon then gets his boat commandeered. How would you feel or react if a street preacher just got in your car without asking first and told you he needed a lift? How do you think Peter felt at this moment? Think about this scene and consider: what was Simon’s first act of obedience? What seemingly insignificant things do you do daily that God might be participating in?

More irony builds as Jesus, the itinerate preacher/former carpenter, instructs Simon, the fishing boat owner/operator, how to go about catching some fish. Again, put yourself in Simon’s sandals. How are you feeling at this moment?

No matter what was happening on the inside of Simon, he still continues to obey, and the results are staggering.

Simon’s response tells us something very important about the king of attitude God is looking for in those who serve him. How would you describe Simon’s attitude? Look at Jesus’ response to him; what does he say? What doesn’t he say when Simon confesses his sinful state?

The final verse leaves us with a challenge. The text implies that the fishermen left their boats and the huge haul of fish to rot on the beach as they followed Jesus immediately. Still, that doesn’t exclude the possibility that they wrapped up their affairs before setting out with him. No matter how it went down – the implication is clear. They made it their main priority to follow Jesus as his disciples. What question might that prompt us to ask ourselves about our own lives of faith?

I’m looking forward to exploring this passage with you all! Hope to see you on Sunday – in person (w/a mask) or online at Facebook or YouTube – at 10 AM.

When God’s in Charge

This Sunday we’ll keep at our study in Luke – we’ll be reading ch 4:31-44.

Luke brings us back to Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, a region north of Jerusalem which had a large fishing trade. His narrative jumps around in a different sequence than the other synoptic gospels – but again, Luke presents us with a snapshot of Jesus’ ministry that in many ways sums up what he does all through the story.

As Jesus teaches in the synagogue in Capernaum, what is it that amazes, literally stuns his listeners? On Sunday we’ll talk about how the rabbis of Jesus’ day would teach and what stands out about Jesus’ approach. But there’s a lesson in this as well – what can we learn about where we find authority and whose authority to trust from this passage?

A demonized person lashes out as Jesus is teaching and Jesus sets the man free. What are your thoughts about the supernatural events described in the Bible? How comfortable or uncomfortable are you with that stuff? If the miracles of Jesus are also intended to reveal something about the nature of God’s kingdom and His authority on earth, what does this account teach us?

Jesus then goes on to heal Peter’s Mother-in-law. In the NLT it says after she was better, she made a meal for everyone. In the Greek it just says she served them (that probably means she cooked a meal, but there is a better lesson in this if we keep with the literal translation). How does it make you feel that her first act is to start working? If her restoration prompted her to service, what might that teach us about the purpose God has for us in our redemption?

Hope you can join us, masked up and in person or online via Facebook or YouTube at 10 AM this Sunday!

A Scandalous Grace

I remember going to my 20th high school reunion. It was a strange thing to be back in my home town, marking and observing all the changes that had taken place in my absence. It was also humorously frustrating to try and convince everyone that I wasn’t trying to be ironic or funny when I told them I was a pastor. That calling seemed incompatible with how I had lived when I was with them.

Jesus will have a reunion of sorts in our passage this Sunday as we continue through the Gospel of Luke. We’ll be reading chapter 4:14-30.

Luke places Jesus’ return to his hometown at the beginning of his narrative – this is to set the tone for the larger story. In many ways, what happens in Nazareth is a microcosm of Jesus’ entire ministry. He gets attention, some fairly positive, but in the end he is rejected and attacked.

Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1-2, with allusions to Isaiah 58:6. Intriguingly, Jesus leaves off the last sentence of Isa 61:2 – click the link to read it. Why do you think he leaves that part of the verse off? What does this tell us about the nature of the Good News?

Why do you think the people of Nazareth suddenly get so angry with him after he talks about Elijah and Elisha healing gentiles but not Israelites? What can we learn from their response about our own attitudes when it comes to our hope in God? What sort of Messiah were they hoping for, and what sort of Messiah did they get?

I hope you’ll join us this Sunday as we explore this passage – online here or here – or in person at 10 AM.

Triumph Over Temptation

This Sunday we’ll be looking at Luke’s account of the temptation of Jesus. We’ll be reading Luke 4:1-13. This entire account is rife with symbolism, much of it acting as a hyper-link back to the Old Testament. Remember how we said that the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) basically tell one story over and over? Well, this is the core of it. A human is called to image God into creation, like Adam and Eve were intended to do – but there is a test to determine if they’ll stay true to that calling. Adam and Eve did not, and the result is the world we live in today.

Over and over that pattern is repeated – from Abraham to Moses to Israel to her kings – and each time the choice is made to order things around human wisdom instead of God’s. It all culminates with Israel sent into exile, without form and void.

The Good News is introduced into that repeated pattern – the Son of Man is identified and goes into the wilderness, ready to image God into the world, and he is tested. It is here that the pattern breaks.

Jesus is tempted with three different suggestions from the satan. One thing I won’t be able to get into on Sunday is how each environment correlates with agencies of influence in Jesus’ day. The wilderness was the place of the Zealots and Sicarii who hoped to gain power through an insurrection of outliers. The kingdoms were the realm of the Herodians, who looked to leverage politics to gain power. Then there was the temple, where Israel’s spiritual leaders grasped for power through religion. I find it intriguing that Jesus is arrayed opposite of all of these.

Jesus overcame these three particular temptations. What do you notice about how he did that. To what did he appeal in response to the suggestions? At one point, the satan quotes Scripture. What does that tell us about how Scripture can be used? How can we discern the proper use of Scripture?

I hope you can join us this Sunday – in person (wearing a mask) or online via Facebook or YouTube at 10 AM.

Preparing the Way

I’m looking forward to getting into the Word together this Sunday – we’ll be continuing our exploration of Luke – reading Luke 3:1-14.

The narrative will skip ahead 18 years, and return to the story of John the Baptist. Luke will locate him in time by listing off all the main leaders of the Mediterranean and Jewish world, but he’ll also be doing that for other reasons which we’ll consider.

Luke also locates John in the context of the larger Biblical story – what his role is in the Messianic advent. We’ll be talking about the implications of his message – and how we gain an understanding of God’s kingdom through it.

His final exhortations drive home the unyielding ethic that permeates both the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures – the sacrificial call to treat people well. As you read his instructions to the people, including the government employees (tax collectors and Herod’s soldiers), what strikes you about the nature of God’s kingdom? What do you see as our role in God’s Kingdom activity today?

Hope you can join us – masked up if you are in person, or watching online via FB or YT.

In My Father’s House

Welcome to a new year! This Sunday we’ll be continuing to study the book of Luke – and we’ll be reading the section of Luke 2:41-52. This is one of the only places in canonized Scripture that gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ childhood.

In this account, Jesus has a “Home Alone” experience – where he gets left behind in Jerusalem after his family had visited to celebrate Passover. There is a lot that this passage reveals, least of which is Jesus’ first recorded words in Luke, and what they reveal about Jesus’ self awareness and specialness of his mission.

In this study we’ll consider who Jesus declares himself to be, and we’ll look at what this story tells us about our own lives as those who follow Jesus.

If you can’t join us in person, you can catch our livestream on YouTube or Facebook – all of which happen at 10 AM.

Hope for a New Year

Well – we’re almost done with 2020…and I know that it couldn’t come soon enough for many of us.

What’s interesting is…we really don’t know what 2021 holds for us…but we’re anxious to be rid of the last year because we’re HOPING that the next one will be better…right?

We’re going to continue our study in the Gospel of Luke, reading chapter 2:21-40. In this section Mary and Joseph have two prophetic encounters which speak about hopes maintained and hopes fulfilled. We’ll be considering what we can learn about keeping our hopes alive and well after the year we’ve just had.

We’ll also be celebrating communion, so if you won’t be joining us in person, have some symbol of sustenance handy so that you can join us virtually in this celebration.

The Surprising Power of Christmas

Christmas is almost here! We’re really getting excited, preparing for our Christmas Eve service – doing all we can to make it special and safe.

This Sunday, still in our study of Luke, we’ll be reading the most famous Christmas passage of all – Luke 2:1-10!

As you read through the text, take note of the power dynamics, and especially the contrasts that they provide. Who holds the greatest power in this section, according to the world’s standards of power? How seems insignificant and small?

God chose to invade this world, not through a spectacular means – not as a mighty supernatural being, wielding a flaming sword. God entered into the mess of this world through the tears of an infant and a baby’s cry.

What does that tell us about power from a biblical standpoint? What can we learn about God’s methods of revealing Himself and what does that mean to us, the ones through whom He continues to reveal Himself?

I think this is going to be an encouraging, yet challenging, study! Hope you can join us – again, in person or online on Facebook or YouTube at 10am!