Narrative Lectionary Reflection
March 12, 2017
Luke 13:1-9, 31-35
A man leaves home to head into the Big City and work in one the cities tallest buildings. But it was September 11, and the man’s family never saw their husband and father again.
A woman calls home to tell her husband and daughters that she is leaving work and will be home for dinner. She leaves downtown and heads on the freeway during rush hour. She wades though traffic as it crawls across a bridge over the Mississippi River. Out of nowhere, the bridge collapses and the woman never comes home.
A man drops off his husband at his workplace. The man heads home and a few hours later sees a breaking news report of a mass shooting at his husband’s place of work. He calls his spouse over and over, and no one ever picks up the phone. After a frantic day and night of trying going to hospitals to find his partner, he gets a phone call. What he feared has come true; his husband was dead by shooter.
Why do these things happen? Why did this person die and not this other one?
These are some of the questions people have as they hear about a tragedy that took place in Galilee. Pilate, the governor of the area, killed Galileans as they were making sacrifices. It was a sacrilege.
This shocking event made people wonder: did these people do something, did they sin, in order for this to happen.
This was the prevailing belief among many in Jesus’ time. If you did something wrong, then bad things will happen to you.
But Jesus doesn’t agree. He asks if the Galileans who perished at Pilate’s hand were more sinful than others. What about those who died when a building collapse killing 18 people? Were they more sinful than others?
Jesus never answers that question but instead tells them to change their hearts and minds while there is time.
Jesus isn’t interested in asking why bad things happen. Jesus is interested in repentance, turning around, devoting our lives to Jesus. We only have so much time. How will we be present to God and others?
There is an old Simpson’s episode called “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish.” In this episode the family goes to a local Japanese restuarant in Springfield. Homer eats a fish that was possibly poisonous and could kill him in a day. When he realizes that he only has one day left to live, he creates a list of things he needed to do before the day ends. He has a man-to-man talk with Bart. He listens to Lisa play her sax. He borrows a camera and tapes a message to baby Maggie. He reconciles with his father and spends one last time together with his wife Marge.
During the night, he gets up and decides to sit a chair in the living room rather than die next to Marge. He listens to the tape and falls asleep. The next morning, Marge comes into the living room seeing Homer slumped in his chair. Fearing the worst, she walks towards him and realizes that he is alive. Homer and Marge rejoice that he has been spared from death.
We only have so much time. How will we live? Will we live lives of gratitude, knowing we are forgiven and express that gratitude in love towards others?
Dennis Sanders is the Pastor at First Christian Church of St. Paul in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. He’s written for various outlets including Christian Century and the Federalist.