|Guest Post by Pastor Don Carlson:Jeremiah 33:14-16 – I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
Psalm 25:1-10 – Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 – And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.
Luke 21:25-36 – There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
FOR THIS LITURGICAL YEAR
The year of Luke is here. As I said in previous posts, I read the Gospels as intra-Jewish arguments about what it means to believe that Jesus is Messiah/King/Christ. And, I think the main question (although not the only question) Luke is after is, “If Jesus is Messiah/King/Christ, then what about the gentiles?” Two brief overviews of Luke-Acts:
1) “According to Dr. Edgar Krentz, Luke 4:16-30 – Jesus’ inaugural sermon at Nazareth – anticipates many of the motifs in Luke-Acts, and emphasizes that any use of Luke-Acts should stress Luke’s missionary interest. This missionary interest is, in Luke’s perspective, inextricably bound to a corresponding interest in the marginalized. Luke-Acts stresses the mission to the Roman world [the “outsiders”].
Krentz observes that Peter and Paul, the protagonists of Acts, were both taken out of their normal environment and traveled to places that challenged their culture and mores. That is an insight worth pondering as the church and its leaders read and proclaim Luke with an eye and a heart toward mission.”
2) “Dr. Ray Pickett reads the Gospel of Luke as a counter narrative that sets the divine generosity and healing of Jesus in contrast to the harsh reality of imperial society. He emphasizes Jesus as a prophet who challenges the way Greco-Roman society works and who teaches and exemplifies an alternative way of doing life together. The key themes of “salvation” and the restoration of Israel and the nations introduced in the first two chapters of Luke are developed in terms of an ongoing process of transformation that involves characters in the story as well as auditors in new patterns of living and relating.
Jesus challenges the reciprocity ethic (benefactors) that kept people beholden and submissive. In its place, Jesus teaches his followers to release one another from debt and obligation and so embody the generosity and mercy of God in their dealings with one another. Many of the scenes in the Gospel of Luke serve to depict the generous economy of the kingdom of God.”
Sometime during the coming week I hope to have the PowerPoint that I used at the fall leadership events, “Luke: Lectionary to Liturgy,” and related materials up on the synod website for download and use in your congregation. I think that it’s very important to give our congregations some insight into Luke’s 1st century world that will better enable them to hear Luke’s message with ears somewhat in tune with the original auditors.
This year the entire Advent/Christmas cycle occurs during the month of December. Epiphany, January 6th, is the first Sunday in January. So, this would be a great year to NOT conflate the nativity stories from Matthew and Luke (which should never be done in ANY year IMHO (even in Sunday School programs) and to preach on each birth narrative from its own theological perspective. Just a thought.
An overview of this year’s Advent/Christmas cycle is as follows:
I think this one month package well lends itself to a sermon series that could lay the foundation for the year of Luke. The series would could be entitled something like: “The Welcome Kingdom?” You could then juxtapose how we welcome the kingdom with how welcoming we make the kingdom for others. Initial thoughts:
Advent 1: The nearing of the kingdom of God threatens the very fabric of the world’s established order.
Advent 2: With all the world’s great powers, God’s word goes to John in the wilderness; a sign of things to come. Isaiah 52:10 is added. “All flesh (all people) shall see the salvation of God.”
Advent 3: Even the people that sustain and enforce the established kingdom of Caesar – the tax collectors and soldiers – are being changed by the nearing of God’s kingdom.
Advent 4: I would go with the Magnificat. The nearing kingdom turns the world upside down.
Christmas Eve: Luke’s nativity story is about the Savior for whom there is no room; no welcome. The gospel news first goes to the outsiders of no count; the shepherds.
Christmas Day: OK, come up with something to make John fit into Luke’s story.
Christmas 1: Jesus in the temple “listening and asking questions.” What if we spent this coming year listening to Luke and asking missional kingdom questions about welcoming others?
The end of the church year, the “little apocalypse” from Mark, and the beginning of the church year, “the apocalypse from Luke,” always wind up holding hands. The “now” holds the hand of the “not yet.”
Frederick Buechner wrote in A Journey Towards Wholeness:
“All his life long, wherever Jesus looked he saw the world not in terms simply of its brokenness – a patchwork of light and dark calling forth in us now our light, now our dark [OK. There’s the link to John!] – but in terms of the ultimate mystery of God’s presence buried in it like a treasure buried in a field. It is not just that the Kingdom is like a pearl of great price, a mustard seed, leaven. It is indeed like them in ways that Jesus suggests in his parables, but it is also within them, as it is also within us. Pearls, seeds, fields, leaven, the human heart, all of them carry within them something of the holiness of their origin. It is the wholest and realest part of their reality and of ours. To be whole, I believe, is to see the world like that. To see the world like that, as Jesus saw it, is to be whole. And sometimes I believe that even people like you and me see it like that. Sometimes even in the midst of our confused and broken relationships with ourselves, with each other, with God, we catch glimpses of that holiness and wholeness that is not ours by a long shot and yet is part of who we are.
There is treasure buried in the field of every one of our days, even the bleakest or dullest, and it is our business, as we journey, to keep our eyes peeled for it.
It is our business, as we journey, to keep our hearts open to that, to the bright-winged presence of the Holy Ghost within us and the Kingdom of God among us, until, little by little, compassionate love begins to change from a moral exercise, from a matter of gritting our teeth and doing our good deed for the day, into a joyous, spontaneous, self-forgetting response to the most real aspect of all reality, which is that the world is holy because God made it and so is every one of us as well. To deny that reality is to exist as a stranger in a world of strangers. To live out of and toward that reality is, little by little, to become whole.”
There’s the scary irony of the kingdom of God. In its nearing wholeness it will tear apart – rend asunder – the brokenness of the whole world. “…the present form (schema) of this world is passing away.” And that, paradoxically, is both our hope and our fear.
Our Tri-Synod Theological Conference is January 28-30 in New Braunfels, TX. This year we are blessed with Diana Butler Bass and Kenda Creasy Dean; both of whom are fitting for the year of Luke in that they raise questions about hospitality and integrity.
Please note that registration cost increases after December 2nd. Register ASAP by clicking here.