Category: luke

Preparing for Sunday: May 1, 2022

Preparing for Sunday: May 1, 2022

Third Sunday of Easter

Preparing for Sunday is a weekly time to prepare for Sunday worship. Based on the Revised Common Lectionary, Preparing for Sunday is a time to step away from the busyness of the world and reflect on what God is saying to us.

This week’s text is from Acts 9:1-20.

Do you have questions or answers to the questions? Leave them in the comments.






Here are some questions to think about the text:

  1. Was Saul’s experience one of conversion or a call to ministry?
  2. Why do you think the other people with Saul never heard the voice Saul heard?
  3. Ananias had his concerns about healing Saul. Was Ananias right to ask these questions to God?
  4. In his discussion with Ananias God calls Saul an instrument to the Gentiles. God was using Saul to bring the good news to Gentiles.  What does it mean to be an instrument of God?
  5. Does it matter that Ananias said he was sent to heal Saul? How is this an example of discipleship?
  6. What does it mean after his healing that Saul went to proclaim in the synagogue?

 

What are your answers? What are your questions? Feel free to share them by responding to this post in the comments section or sending an email to info@fccsaintpaul.org.

Preparing for Sunday: March 27, 2022

Preparing for Sunday: March 27, 2022

Preparing for Sunday is a weekly time to prepare for Sunday worship. Based on the Revised Common Lectionary, Preparing for Sunday is a time to step away from the busyness of the world and reflect on what God is saying to us.

This week’s text is from Luke 15:1-3 and 11-32.

Do you have questions or answers to the questions? Leave them in the comments.






Here are some questions to think about the text:

1. Of the three characters in this story, which one do you identify with more, the younger son, the older son or the father?

2. Who is the “prodigal” in this story; the younger son or the father?

3. Are grace and forgiveness fair? Why or why not?

4. Was the older son mad at his brother or his father?

5. Did the father extend grace to both sons? If so, in what ways did he show that grace?

6. Has there been a time when you were forgiven for something? How did that feel?

What are your answers? What are your questions? Feel free to share them by responding to this post in the comments section or sending an email to info@fccsaintpaul.org.

Preparing for Sunday: March 6, 2022

Preparing for Sunday: March 6, 2022

Preparing for Sunday is a resource for clergy and the laity to get ready for the upcoming Sunday using a text from the Revised Common Lectionary. This week’s text is from Luke 4:1-13.

Do you have questions or answers to the questions? Leave them in the comments.






Here are some questions to think about the text:

  1. The temptation of Jesus is found in the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 4:1-11 and Mark 1:12-13). Read the other versions. What is similar in all three stories? What’s different?
  2. The passage tells us that it is the Spirit that leads Jesus into the desert. Theologian Justo Gonzalez says that “Even while the devil is tempting Jesus, it is God who is ultimately in control, and it is God who not only allows but causes Jesus to be tempted.” Do you agree that God is allowing Jesus to be tempted? Why or why not?
  3. What is the significance of Jesus being tempted? Does that make him any less the Son of God?
  4. Theologian Fred Craddock says that good can be found within temptation. He says the devil doesn’t say, “Do you wish to be as the devil?” but, “Do you wish to be as God?”  Do you agree or not?  How do you see temptation?
  5. Think of a time when you were tempted? How was it similar to Jesus in the desert? How was it different?  How did it change your faith? 

What are your answers? What are your questions? Feel free to share them by responding to this post in the comments section or sending an email to info@fccsaintpaul.org.

Preparing for Sunday: February 27, 2022

Preparing for Sunday: February 27, 2022

Preparing for Sunday is a resource for clergy and the laity to get ready for the upcoming Sunday using a text from the Revised Common Lectionary. This week’s text is from Luke 9:28-36.

Do you have questions or answers to the questions? Leave them in the comments.






Here are some questions to think about the text:

  1. After reading the passage for this week, read the following: Luke 9:23-27. In what ways do these two passages connect?
  2. Read Exodus 24:12-18. How are these two stories similar? How are they different? How do they ultimately connect?
  3. Jesus talks to Moses and Elijah about what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem. The word used to describe his death is the world “exodus.”  This is the same word that describes the Israelites leaving Egypt.  How is Jesus’ upcoming death like the Jews fleeing the Pharaoh?
  4. Luke is the only gospel that connects the story to prayer. Why is that important?
  5. What was the reason behind Peter’s talk about building three monuments for the occasion?
  6. What is the significance of the voice?

What are your answers? What are your questions? Feel free to share them by responding to this post in the comments section or sending an email to info@fccsaintpaul.org.

Preparing for Sunday: February 20, 2022

Preparing for Sunday: February 20, 2022

Preparing for Sunday is a resource for clergy and the laity to get ready for the upcoming Sunday using a text from the Revised Common Lectionary. This week’s text is from Luke 6:27-38.

Do you have questions or answers to the questions? Leave them in the comments.

Here are some questions to think about the text:
1.  Is love just a feeling, or is it also action? 
2. In verse 31 Jesus says the following: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  This is commonly known as the Golden Rule.  What do you think this means to you? 
3.  Who is an enemy as found in verse 29?  What does it mean to love an enemy? How did Christ love his enemies? Is it possible for us to love our enemies?
4.  What does it mean to show mercy to people?  Can you think of a time mercy was shown to you?
5.  What does loving our enemies or giving with no expectations have to do with God’s generosity? 

What are your answers? What are your questions? Feel free to share them by responding to this post in the comments section or sending an email to info@fccsaintpaul.org.

Preparing for Sunday: February 13, 2022

Preparing for Sunday is a resource for clergy and the laity to get ready for the upcoming Sunday using a text from the Revised Common Lectionary. This week’s text is from Luke 6:17-26.

Do you have questions or answers to the questions? Leave them in the comments.

Zacchaeus and the Multiverse – Lent 5

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Narrative Lectionary Reflection

April 2, 2017

Luke 18:31-19:10

If you read or watch enough science fiction or comic books, you will run into the multiverse.  It’s the belief or theory that there isn’t one universe, but hundreds or thousands of different universes all taking place at the same time.  There is the famous thought experiment by Erwin Schrodinger where he talks about a cat being placed in a box with a small amount of a radioactive substance, a hammer and cyanide.  Without going into the whole theory, as long as the box is closed, we don’t know if the cat is alive or was killed by the poison.  In theory, the cat could be both alive and dead at the same time. This experiment has been used to explain multiverses because you can be a famous singer in one universe or a serial killer in another one all at the same time. There is that famous episode in Star Trek where Kirk is transported to mirror universe where the peaceful Federation is now the Terran Empire.  Characters who were good in the main universe were sadistic in this new one.  And of course, there is Spock who in the mirror universe is sort of evil and you can tell because he now has a goatee.

I’ve thought about multiverses in thinking about a tension in today’s text.  There are two different understandings when it comes to the tax collector named Zacchaeus.

For years, Zacchaeus was the short guy who had dinner with Jesus and gave money to the poor.  It’s a classic story of redemption, of a “bad guy” who became good.  But in recent years, it has been revealed that there is some tension when it comes to the verb tense in verse 8.  Verse 8 reads:“Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone, I repay them four times as much.”

This passage in the original Greek is in a present tense.  It could mean that Zacchaeus was already giving his money to the poor.  But the present tense could also be indicating a future action meaning he will do this.  This is how pastor Dan Clendenin explains it:

Even though the verbs are in the present tense, the typical way of reading of this story follows scholars like Robert Stein and translations like the NRSV and NIV. They render the present tense verbs as a “futuristic present.” That is, Zacchaeus the sinner repents and vows that henceforth he’ll make restitution.

           The second option follows commentators like Joseph Fitzmyer and translations like the KJV and RSV. They render the verbs as a “progressive present tense.” In this reading, Zacchaeus is a hidden saint about whom people have made all sorts of false assumptions about his corruption. And so he defends himself: “Lord, I always give half of my wealth to the poor, and whenever I discover any fraud or discrepancy I always make a fourfold restitution.”

So which one is it?  Is it the story of corrupt rich man that pledges to do right?  Or is it a story of affirmation, of Jesus blessing Zacchaeus for the work that he is doing?

I’m beginning to wonder if it is both; that like Schrodinger’s cat, Zacchaeus is in a superpositions state: both sinner and saint.

Having gone to a Lutheran seminary, I remember learning how Martin Luther believed that Christians are both sinner and saint.  In Luther’s mind a saint was a forgiven sinner, and we were always both forgiven and still imperfect on this side of heaven.

I don’t know if Zaccheus had already been making amends or would promise to do it.  What I do know if that he was both sinner and saint, one that was part of a corrupt system and trying to atone.  Jesus called this flawed man a “son of Abraham” one that belong in God’s kingdom.

The good news is that we aren’t that different from ol’ Zach.  We are sinners and we can’t hide that fact.  But in Christ we are forgiven, we are redeemed by Christ and sent to act with justice and grace toward others.

And you don’t need the multiverse to understand that.

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.

The Good One- Lent 3

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Narrative Lectionary Reflection

March 19, 2017

Luke 15:1-32

 

 

 

 

JESUS MAFA. Prodigal Son, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54662 [retrieved March 15, 2017].
Being an only child, it’s not easy to understand the sibling dynamics taking place in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  That said, I do have sympathy for the older brother.  He was the good one.  He followed the rules. He stayed at his father’s side.  He did everything right.

I understand this because I’ve always been the Good One.  I was always the kid that people would say is so well-behaved and mature. I was the kid that didn’t rebel.

So, I can understand why the older brother is livid at how his father is treating his younger brother who humiliated his father by taking his inheritance early and then going off to spend it all.  Why should he be welcomed with open arms after what he did to the father?

In the wake of the 2008 housing crisis, there was debate on whether or not to bail out homeowners who were in danger of losing their home.  Some believed that they should and others were dead set against.  They brought houses with questionable loans and bought more house than they had money.  Because of this, some said that it was the homeowner’s fault for being foolish with their money. Let them suffer the consequences.

I tended to side with the later argument. Why?  Because I was the Good One. Fools should suffer their fate.

This all explains why this story is so necessary.  Jesus told this story to a crowd including a number of Pharisees that Jesus heard grumbling because he shared meals with sinners and tax collectors.  Jesus hits these leaders, who were the Good Ones, right where it hurts in this parable.  We see the older son seething in anger.  The father comes out to meet his “faithful” son, in the same way that he came to greet his youngest son.  In each case we see a father full of love for his sons, even though they don’t really deserve it.

This story is a study in grace, and what we learn from it is how “scandalous” grace is.  The father receives the younger son with open arms and has a party.  He did this because his son that he feared would never come back has arrived.  This sort of lavish joy is almost embarrassing and certainly not deserved.  But that’s how God is when a sinner comes home.  God meets them with open arms.

But God also greets the older sons, the Good Ones who in the end aren’t so good.  He reminds them that they are loved with this same grace.  The older son probably did the hard work to please his father.  But the father didn’t care about that.  He loved this son, even when he was acting like a jerk.

Did the older son ever “get it?”  We will never know.  I would like to think he did, that he was willing to stop trying to please his father and just enjoy life knowing he is loved by his father all the time.

And maybe he will understand that being a Good One isn’t about doing the right things, but knowing you are loved with an endless love.

 

 

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.

One Last Time – Lent 2

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Narrative Lectionary Reflection

March 12, 2017

Luke 13:1-9, 31-35

 

 

 

Interstate 35W Bridge Collapse, Minneapolis, MN, August 2007.

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.

Thanks. I Needed That. – Epiphany 7

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Narrative Lectionary Reflection

February 19, 2017

Luke 7:36-50

 

 

In the early 1970s, there was a brand of aftershave that made a commercial that had a hand slap a man.  He would feel his face and then say, “Thanks. I need that.”

It was an interesting commercial, mostly because I don’t think anything like it could be made today at all.  It’s seem a little weird that the basis of this TV ad is having a hand slap an actor rather hard.  That actor had to have one sore cheek after a day of filming.

The ad had an affect- on me.  I was only about three or four at the time.  I remember that my mother punished me for something and my response to her was, “Thanks. I needed that.”

photo credit: http://wayneforte.com/picture/anointing-his-feet-2/
photo credit: http://wayneforte.com/picture/anointing-his-feet-2/

That phrase is in my mind when I think about this unnamed woman who crashes Simon’s dinner party.  Her need was different from mine and she expressed it in a way that showed she really needed this and was willing to do what it took to get what she needed.

This woman was deemed a “sinner.” We don’t know what made her a sinner, but whatever it was, the people in town knew.  She came into the room probably feeling the hot stares of the dinner guests and Simon.  But she makes a beeline to Jesus and begins washing his feet with her hair and tears. She then opens a jar of oil and begins annointing Jesus’ feet.  It is a passionate scene.

What this woman wanted is forgiveness.  She had lived with shame for a long time and she sees Jesus, the one that parties with tax collectors and sinners, as one that would forgive her.  She could even feel that she was forgiven already.  So she shows her love, her gratitude in this embarassing and “shameful” way.

 

It would be easy to place myself in the role of the woman, but too often I am like Simon, probably a well-meaning man, but someone who is so well-versed in the faith that I can tend to not be hungry for forgiveness and have a joy that bursts out in thankfulness to the Messiah.  I’ve been in the faith long enough to think that I’m not in need of anything. We don’t want to admit our own sin and the need to be forgiven.

But I need Jesus and so do you.  We all are sinners and we are in need of forgiveness.  We need to know that Jesus has forgiven us.  We need to feel that sense of gratitude that propels us to serve God and our sisters and brothers.

“Thanks, I needed that.”  Because I do need it and so do you.  And so do we all.

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.