“By your endurance you will gain your souls”

Luke 21:5-19 (Psalm 98, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13)

Four Roman emperors in a single year (69AD). An earthquake in Philippi (Acts 16:26). A severe and wide-spread famine (Acts 11:28). And a description – by the Jewish historian Josephus – of a comet resembling a flaming sword streaking through the sky at the time of the destruction of the Temple (War 6.289).


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Who’s In?

John 13:1-9, 12-15

Betrayed by a close friend; facing imminent torture and eventual death; surrounded by friends who have no clue what’s going on, and little apparent interest in trying to figure it out. That’s the context in which Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.


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A God-Oriented Radical Existence

Luke 6:20-31(Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18, Psalm 149, Ephesians 1:11-23)

“Blessed are the poor.” Really? Are you sure? Tevye, in Fiddler of the Roof, asks God a great question:

It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. After all, with Your help, I’m starving to death. Oh, dear Lord. You made many, many poor people. I realize, of course, it’s no shame to be poor… but it’s no great honor either. So what would be so terrible… if I had a small fortune?


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“continue in my word”

John 8:31-36 (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Psalm 46, Romans 3:19-28)

“Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason,” argued the great American writer Mark Twain. I have to confess that I have some sympathy with his argument – as would many folks who watch television, read newspapers, or dare to go to the new Wild West that is the internet! Perhaps it is the disingenuous way in which politicians tend to promise their followers… well… everything. (Grandiose promises are the hallmark of a politician.) And then comes bitter disappointment.


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The Eyes of Faith

Luke 17:11-19 (2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c; Psalm 111)

The healing comes from God to a foreigner who is on the wrong political side, who doesn’t even believe in God, and who storms off in a huff rather than bathe in the River Jordan – because it’s inferior to the mighty rivers of his homeland. Naaman is not a very sympathetic figure. Yet God heals him of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15).
 
Luke 17:11-19 tells of the healing of the ten lepers – an account found only in Luke. Jesus is still on his way to Jerusalem – described in Luke 9:51-19:27 – during which time Jesus does a lot of teaching (mainly about the cost of discipleship). This account is about the eyes of faith.

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Mom, Mulberries & Mustard

 
I hate to say it, but my mom was right! There, I’ve said it. It took me over fifty years to admit it, but she was right – about many, many things. The thing she was right about, for the purpose of this devotional, is her frequent use of the phrase, “Goodness is its own reward.” My mom had lots of well-worn phrases – some learned from her own mom. (When she was wee, my mom would ask my granny for money to go to the cinema. This was often met with, “It’s too nice a day to sit in a dark theatre!” It took my mom years to discover that what her mom really meant was that she had no money to give her.)

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…this is our sword

Revelation 12:7-12 (Daniel 10:10-14; 12:1-3, Psalm 103:1-5, 20-22, Luke 10:17-20)

The Isenheim Altarpiece portrays Jesu in complete agony, covered in the most horrendous sores and wounds, and nailed to the cross. It is grotesque; especially when compared with romanticized depictions of the crucifixion with which most of us are accustomed. And yet, when Matthias Grünewald painted the altarpiece (1512–1516), it was intended – and indeed served as – a great source of comfort to those who saw it.


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What is God’s justice?

Luke 16:1-13 (Amos 8:4-7, Psalm 113)

This is the most despised text in all the New Testament – at least in the minds of biblical scholars. It’s just a very difficult text to interpret. Okay, despised may be overstating it a wee bit. Let’s just say, as one scholar puts it, “It is one of the great exegetical mountains of scripture.” The full text, and even an outline of all the potential interpretations, is impossible to share in this brief devotion. So, go read the passage; and here I’ll share my interpretation.


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It’s an M&M question

Luke 15:1-10 (Psalm 51:1-10, 1 Timothy 1:12-17)

This devotional is my way of confessing to Amy that I ate all the mint M&Ms that she bought just the other day. They’re all gone now – but it’s not my fault – it’s because of this Gospel text – I swear!


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What’s Your Answer?

Luke 14:25-33 (Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Psalm 1)

Jesus tells us that we should hate our families – those most dear to us! Is this for real, or is this fake news?
 
“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” (Luke 14:26)
 
Surely there is a less harsh way of making this point.

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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner…

Luke 14:1, 7-14 (Psalm 112, Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16)

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate (Proverbs 8:13).

All those who are arrogant are an abomination to the Lord; be assured, they will not go unpunished (Proverbs 16:5).

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit among the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud (Proverbs 16:18-19).


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So, Who’s the Undercover Boss?

Luke 13:10-17 (Isaiah 58:9b-14, Psalm 103:1-8)
 
Imagine Jesus as Undercover Boss; you know, like on the TV show. In the show the boss of a large – and usually well-known – company puts on a disguise and tries his or her hand at the mundane day-to-day tasks performed by the ordinary employees. Every week, each boss encounters the backstories – often heart-breaking or inspiring – of these ordinary folks. And, at the end of the show, the boss, now better aware of what their employees are going through, does something to make their lives better (a generous vacation, money for college, a promotion, etc.) It’s all very nice. Except of course, the boss is blissfully ignorant of the lives of the other 99.9999% of the employees: only two or three have been heard and had their challenges addressed or alleviated.

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The Cost of Love

Luke 12:49-56 (Psalm 82, Hebrews 11:29–12:2)
 
Last Sunday’s children’s sermon was a complete train wreck! Even now, days later, I’m not at all sure what I said, what the kids heard and learned, and what the purpose of it all was. But this I do know; the kids thoroughly enjoyed talking with me; and the congregation laughed long and heartily. When I returned to my seat I was confused and a little shell-shocked, but the congregation were still chuckling, and almost every face had a large smile on it.

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“Do not be afraid, little flock”

Luke 12:32-40 (Psalm 33:12-22, Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16)
 
“Have no fear, little flock.” What a wonderful old hymn that is! (ELW #764) And, quite a theme for Luke. In his gospel that admonition is given to:
 
Zechariah (1:13) Mary (1:30) Shepherds (2:10)
Peter (5:10) Jarius (8:50) Disciples (12:4,7)
 
It seems that Jesus is very concerned about our fear. Now, this may be because fear is an uncomfortable emotion and Jesus doesn’t want us to be uncomfortable. Fair enough, I suppose. But a deeper reading suggests that the problem with fear is that it gets in the way of recognizing God’s will and presence in our life and community.

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Utility, or Dignity?

Luke 12:13-21 (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23, Psalm 49:1-12)

Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Everything is empty and meaningless, not intrinsically (because of themselves) but in the light of their own mortality. (At some point they will crumble to dust – unless they are plastic bottles in which case, they’re immortal! – or they shall die.) True, the worth of something can be roughly estimated when it is bright, shiny and new. The value of something can be guessed at when it works as advertised or specified. (This applies to things and to people!) But in the face of death, its true worth is revealed. Love is worth everything (“love never ends, says St. Paul; one’s life-savings are worthless (vanity).

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