Thursday, February 28, 2013

Luke in 40 - Luke 8

Luke 8:1-39

Our story today starts with Jesus teaching using parables. There were stories with a point to them that the people of the day would understand. The first parable reminds us that much of Jesus' ministry took place in a rural setting, it is a parable about a sower and where he threw the seeds. 

What do you think of this parable?

He continues on with another parable about a lamp and then deals with some family issues. After than he hops in a boat with the disciples to go to the other side of the lake, and he promptly falls asleep. While on the boat, a storm starts up and the disciples are afraid they will die, so they wake Jesus.

Jesus is not exactly happy about being woken up, and he questions the faith of his disciples. He then commands the winds to stop and the storm to end, and it does. Then the disciples are amazed, again, at the power of Jesus.

What storms in your life do you need Jesus to still?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Luke in 40 - Luke 7 cont.

Luke 7:36-50

As we continue through Luke we are reminded that Jesus truly did come to break the boundaries that the religious leaders of the day had set up. These boundaries, which were originally established to help the community as a whole, had gone to the extreme. What had now developed was basically a caste society with the insiders and the outsiders.

Today we hear about one of the outsiders, a sinful woman, who is overcome with awe when she is in Jesus' presence. At the time, Jesus is dining in the house of a Pharisee, an insider with power in the community. This woman, an outsider, comes and washes his feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. An act of pure love.

The insiders are outraged at her action, and that Jesus would even let her touch him and risk making himself unclean. Jesus respond by talking about the power of forgiveness and then forgives the sins of this woman.

Is there anyone in your life who you need to forgive?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Luke in 40 - Luke 7

Luke 7:1-35

After this sermon, word about Jesus really started getting around. people were amazed by his preaching and teaching, and astounded at his healing. Today we hear about a centurion, a Roman soldier, who has heard of Jesus and requests him to come to his house. The  soldier has a sick slave, and his is asking for Jesus to heal that slave. There are a couple of interesting things that happen here - first it is the Jews, people who had major problems with the Roman occupation, who intercede on behalf of the soldier and his slave. They tell Jesus what a good guy he is and ask him to come. Second, the soldier never actually meets Jesus. He tells Jesus that he doesn't even have to come all the way to the house, all he has to do is say the word and the slave will be healed. The centurion believes in the power and authority of Jesus.

Jesus then performs another healing, and even more so. He raises a widows son from death. This is significant not only in that he raised him from the dead, but he restored the life of the widow as well. With her only son gone, she had a very bleak outlook for the rest of her life. When Jesus raises him, he empowers the widow as well.

What comes to mind when you think of the healing stories of Jesus?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Luke in 40 - Luke 6 cont.

Luke 6:17-49

Today we get to hear Jesus preach one his most famous sermons. In  Luke it is often referred to as the Sermon on the Plain.

The sermon starts out with a series of blessings. These blessings are not something we aspire to, but rather they are Jesus' way of turning things upside down. Those listed as blessed are not what society would call the blessed. But the way of Christ is not always what we expect. God has come to break boundaries, share grace and love with sinners, and empower the outcasts. And we see that very clearly in this sermon. 

He continues by talking about love, but love in a different way than we would expect again. He talks about the importance of loving our enemies, those who harm us, those who beat us down. Once again, Jesus is turning things upside down. We are called to treat all people especially those who we have struggles with, in the best possible way.

When you read through this section of Luke, what challenged you the most and why?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Blessing Through Salsa

It was the summer of 1990 and I was home from college. I was working two jobs, trying to keep up with friends, and managing a few hours of sleep a night. As you might imagine, the summer seemed to be flying by.

On morning I got up, made a cup of coffee and started to read through the paper. For some reason I chose to look at the obituaries. Now, this was not a common thing for me to do, but that morning I just felt moved to take a look. And as soon as I opened to that page I saw a picture I recognized.

The picture was of a friend of mine from high school, Bryan. Bryan and I had spent quite a bit of time together. He was big into music and had a "kickin'" stereo we would jam out to. Oh the heavy metals days of my youth...

He was a master with his hands. He rebuilt cars, did landscaping, and could refinish and repair just about anything. There was a landscaping waterfall in his backyard that was an amazing sight to behold.

When I went to college, he entered the military. While he was there, something happened. Nobody knows what, exactly, but something snapped. One day Bryan took off and committed suicide.

That's when I saw his picture in the paper.

Later that week I went to the visitation and the funeral. I spent time with his parents and his sister. I gathered with friends from school and met people he had been friends with as well.

I mourned in my own way.

A couple of weeks after the funeral I was driving home from work. I happened to drive past his street and I felt an urge to go to his house, so I did. I parked in the driveway where he and I repaired a dent in my 'vette (that is my Chevy Chevette:), rang the doorbell, and almost immediately his mom opened the door.

She quickly recognized me, welcomed me in and brought me up to their kitchen. She was making salsa and the smell permeated the house.

She sat me down on one of the stools at breakfast bar, put a bowl in front of me and said stir. So I did.

I must have sat there for a couple of hours, making salsa. Most of the time she would just tell me what to do and I would do it. Sometimes she would say something about Bryan, a memory, a funny story, anything that would pop into her mind. Other times we just worked in silence.

After a few hours all of the salsa was in the jars, so I stood up, wiped off my hands, and started to head to the door. Before I got too far, she grabbed me, gave me a massive hug, and then, with tears streaming down her cheeks, she said Thank You.

Thank you for coming, for being with me, for remembering.

Thank you, you will never know how much this means

I promised her I would come back, and I did. And then I got into the car and drove home.

I will never forget that day.

It was a day when she and I got to grieve, to say good bye, to gather in our grief.

It was a day when both of us were comfortable enough to let our emotions out.

It was a day when I received a blessing through salsa.

Luke in 40 - A Day of Rest

This Sunday we once again take a break from our reading guide and we have a chance to sit back and reflect on what we have covered so far.

Is there anything that has surprised you so far in Luke?

What story has spoken to you the most?

What, if anything, has confused you?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Luke in 40 - Luke 6

Luke 6:1-16

Today we hear about some of the changes that Jesus is initiating with his ministry. The religious leaders of the day lived in a very black and white world. This was what the law said, this is what we are supposed to do, there is no leeway in the law.

But Jesus reminds us that it is the people, the relationships, that are more important than the law. The law is supposed to enhance relationships, not push people into one category or another. The law is supposed to build up community, not divide it. The law is supposed to be a blessing, not a curse to struggle with.

So Jesus gives a new interpretation of the law, putting the people, the relationships first. It angers the religious leaders, as it is taking away some of their power. But Jesus’ ministry is about turning everything upside down.

How have you see rules be used to build up rather than tear down?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Luke in 40 - Luke 5 cont.

Luke 5:27-39

Our journey through Luke continues with Jesus calling Levi, the tax collector, as a disciple. Then Levi invited Jesus to his house for a feast. Many of the guests gathered were outsiders – tax collectors and sinners.

In this lesson we see that Jesus concern is about meeting people where they are – in their homes, at their place of work, wherever they may be. He meets them, greets them, and develops a relationship with them. He doesn’t care if you are part of the “in” crowd or not. He just wants to be with the people.

How have you experienced Jesus meeting you where you are?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Luke in 40 - Luke 5

Luke 5:1-26

Jesus has now become a very popular teacher and preacher. So popular that wherever he goes a crowd gathers. Sometimes the crowd is so great, almost like a mob waiting to hear him, and he needs to find a new way to reach out to the people. Today is one of those days. People are pushing in on Jesus, so he decides to teach from a boat, and out he goes.

After his teaching Jesus then looks at the fishermen whose boat he was in, and seeing that they did not have a great day fishing, he invites them to try their luck one more time. So out go the nets and in comes a catch of fish so great that they need their buddies to come and help them haul it in.

After that the fisherman, Simon Peter, realizes the great power of this Jesus, and Jesus realizes the potential in Simon Peter. So Jesus calls him and his partners to change their professions, to change their lives. Here Jesus calls his first disciples.

What does it mean to you to be a disciple?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Luke in 40 - Luke 4 cont.

Luke 4:31-44

Our journey in Luke continues with Jesus teaching, healing and casting our demons. In this reading we see the authority and the power that Jesus has, an authority and power that has not been seen before.

When you think of Jesus and his ministry, what image stands out to you and why?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Luke in 40 - Luke 4

Luke 4:1-30

After his baptism, Jesus is led out into the wilderness where he is tempted for 40 days. During this time the tempter, the devil, offers Jesus a variety of things, all in return for abandoning his faithfulness to God.

This passage speaks to us in many ways. There are times when we are tempted to stray from what we know is right and good for us. There are times when we struggle to keep true to what we know is life-giving. There are times we falter and fall.

And it is during this times that we are reminded that the God who loves us is the same God who walks with us, even when we fall to the temptations that surround us.

Today, spend some time in confession, reflecting on the ways you have faltered in the past, and then listing for the word of forgiveness that God wants to share with you.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Luke in 40 - Luke 3

Luke 3:1-38

We start this week by meeting up with John the Baptist. This is the first time we have seen him since he did his somersaults in his mother’s womb when Mary visited. Now he is grown, traveling the countryside, and living the life of a prophet.

As he is out and about preaching, teaching, and baptizing, his relative Jesus comes to the water and is baptized by John. As he comes out of the water, God speaks and claims his as his Son the Beloved. This is the start of the ministry of Jesus.

Do you remember the last baptism you attended? What do you remember for the service?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Luke in 40 - A day of rest

 Sunday, a day of rest

Throughout Lent we will be taking a break from our daily readings on Sunday so that we can reflect on what we have read so far. What has spoken to you about the reading for this week?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Luke in 40 - Luke 2 continued

Luke 2:22-52

Today we read about Jesus’ visit to the temple and how a man and a woman see Jesus for who he really is.

There is a man, Simeon, who the Holy Spirit speaks through. When Jesus is brought to the temple, Simeon cradles that child and proclaims that this child, the Messiah, is the one who will bring glory to all. Now Simeon can rest, for the Christ child has come.

This is followed up by Anna, a prophet, who basically lived in the temple. Upon seeing Jesus she overcome with joy and praises God to everyone she encounters.

How have you seen people respond to the Good News of the Christ child?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Luke in 40 - Luke 2

Luke 2:1-21

Today we hear one of the most popular passages in scripture, the Christmas story in Luke. In this passage we see how God fulfills his promise by bringing the Christ child into the world through this young mother, Mary. We also see that this royal birth does not happen the way we would imagine a royal birth to take place – the royal castle is a stable, the midwives and nurses are cattle and sheep, and the visiting dignitaries are dirty shepherds.

No this does not look like a royal birth, but it is the birth which changes everything. For on this day, new life is born in a child who sleeps in a manger.

As you re-read this story, does anything new speak to you?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Luke in 40 - Luke 1 continued

Luke 1:39-80

Our reading today continues with Mary and Elizabeth. Both of these women are expecting a child, but there are some major differences as well. Elizabeth believed she was too old to have children, and Mary was quite young and yet to be married.

In this reading we also hear two songs, from Mary and Zechariah. Both of these songs praise God for what he has done, and what he has promised to do.

What speaks to you in today’s reading?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent 2013 - Luke in 40

Lent 2013 - Luke in 40

This year I am inviting you to join me as I read through the Gospel of Luke during the season of Lent. For those of you at our church, or at any church that is using the Narrative Lectionary, this year we are traveling through the Gospel of Luke. So for the 40n days of Lent, I will be putting together a reading guide so we can read through the whole thing during that time.

Ash Wednesday – Luke 1:1-38

As we enter into the season of Lent, we enter into the Gospel of Luke. 

In reading this first section, what is Luke telling us about this gospel?

If you attended as Ash Wednesday service, what was the most powerful part of the service for you?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Weekend of Whys and Wonderings

For the past few years, Jennifer and I have selected one weekend at church to answer questions that people have. Some of these are questions of faith, some are biblical interpretation, and some are just our opinion about things that are going on in the world.

This weekend is our Weekend of Whys and Wonderings. For the past two weeks we have been receiving questions and this week we are putting together our answers. So far we have gotten questions about suffering, heaven and hell, and a few others.

As we do this, I was wondering what questions you might have. What are some of your faith questions? What about faith or God or the Bible do you wonder about?

Send me your questions, and maybe we will include them this weekend as well.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Clean Scan

Yesterday Jennifer and I went in to see the oncologist and get the results of my latest PET Scan. The scan was clean, no sign of cancer, but there were a few minutes where things were a bit tense.

Let me explain.

The way it normally works is the nurse comes out and gets us, I get get weighed in, have the blood pressure and other tests done (my blood pressure is always high as I sit there, but that is no surprise when I am waiting for the results. I bet it drops a ton after the results are read.) Then the doctor comes in, reads his little printout from the radiologist that says there is no change between this scan and the last one, which is a good thing, and then we look through the images on his computer before physical exam.

Yesterday it pretty much went the same way, with one little bump.

The doctor came in, told me that all was good according to the readout he had from the radiologist. Then we look at the pictures. As we were look at the pictures he said, remember we are looking for spots that light up yellow or white, those are the ones that could be problems.

Well, we already had the report of the radiologist, so there would be no surprises, right?


We started to look at one of the lateral views, and then he stopped and went back to the previous image.

There was a spot around my vertebrae that appeared to light up.

It looked like it was in the same place as where I had radiation last spring even.

So he looks at it, then he looks at the pictures from last time, and then calls up the radiologist and they look together.

I am sure this only took a few minutes, but in my mind it took forever.

Finally he hangs up and says, the radiologist sees no difference from the last time. His screens are better than ours at looking at this stuff, and two of the radiologists over there agree there is nothing there, so I trust them.

This meant the scan was clean, no cancer.

He went on with the physical exam, told me that this cancer is one a number of places are working very hard on and there are more drugs coming out "just in case."

It's always good to have a just in case drug, I know from experience.

The meeting wasn't as calming as the times before, but the result was the same. The pill is working. There is no cancer. And there are more options coming in the future.

All of this is good news.

So last night Jennifer and I went out and celebrated. Now I am trying to put together a sermon.

Luckily I have 5 hours to finish it. I will need all the time I can get this time :)

Friday, February 1, 2013

PET Scans and Anxiety

I should be used to this by now.
This is my fourth PET Scan this year.
I had three PET Scans before this year.
I have had three MRI's.
Numerous chest x-rays, CT's, two bone biopsies, and a brochoscopy.
I am used to tests.
I should be used to this, but I am not.
And I don't think I every will be.
The tests themselves, they are fine. I know the nurses well. We catch up on each others families, talk about work, and talk about people we both know. It is like a little family gathering whenever we get together.
This time there was a new member to the family, a new nurse. She was excited to insert the needle on me because I have such good veins and she needed practice. I was happy to help.
Yes, it really is like a family, united by medical tests, knowing that one of the members possibly has some issues and all are there for that one.
And then there is the test. Getting injected with radioactive dye, having to sit completely still for an hour, then spending 25 minutes being scanned in a tube while lying still.
It's not hard. I am used to it and have my own little rituals I go through, my prayers I say, my meditations I focus on.
And then I leave, go and get something to eat, and come home to the family.
But then there is the waiting.
This is the part I will never get used to. No matter how often I do this, no matter how sure I am of the results, I will never get used to the waiting for the results.
Today I have to wait until after 1:00 pm.
Now don't get me wrong, I am confident about the results. I am sure that my pill is still doing exactly what it needs to be doing.
But there is always that nagging little doubt that something, some little thing, could be off.
I hate that nagging little doubt.
And I hate the waiting.
So I have sleepless nights, busy myself at the Y before the crack of dawn, get the girls ready for the day, and load up my morning with activities so I don't have time to sit and think.
I make myself busy during my time of waiting, because it is the best way to get through it.
By mid-afternoon everything will be fine, this quarterly test will be over and I will have three months until I have to go through it again.
But until then ... I wait.
What do you do when you have to wait?