Perhaps you've heard people say that it's not just the notes that make a piece of music; it's also the spaces between the notes. Something the same happens when we tell stories. It's not just the story. It's how we tell the story, and where we place the story, that can make all the difference.
Luke emphasises that hospitality across social barriers somehow enables the kingdom of God to come near to us. "Do this and you will live," Jesus said to the lawyer, last week. (Luke 10:28) There is a sense in which God comes to us through and in the person to whom we show hospitality, and God perhaps especially comes to us in the stranger to whom we show hospitality; the stranger is the person outside our normal social networks. Martha shows hospitality, but the telling and the placement of the story about her hospitality asks us some deep questions about what kind of church we will be.
In ancient thinking, to show hospitality, was to welcome a person into the protection of your house. It was a sacred obligation. In Sodom, rather than leave two men to camp in the town square, where, as strangers, they were open game, Lot took them into the protection of his house…. Read on >>>>
The ministers who berate Martha's busyness have often forgotten who made their breakfast. And many of us would be far better preachers if we stopped marthaing around in our busy parish and chose the better part, spending a day or two in the few verses of the lectionary, letting it unsettle our being. There is a certain singlemindedness in Mary's determination to be sitting at the Lord's feet and listening— suddenly he is not being called Jesus; this is serious teaching— and it is this determination which will affect how she reads the law, which, as Alison1 says, implies with whose eyes she reads it. If I am busy, I will read with the eyes of the busyness around me. I will not have the headspace to listen, or to determine what at this time is the one necessary thing.
The reading is as important for what it exposes about our prejudices as it is for what it might say to us! My memory of the text as a child is that it criticised Martha for her lack of spiritual submission to Jesus, whilst it was still expected that the Martha's of the church would have spotless houses and be the spiritual fount for the home, so the men could get on with whatever they deemed to be important... Read on >>>>
Why is there a priest and a Levite in this story? I've heard moralising sermons reproving the priest who was on the way to temple service and couldn't risk becoming unclean. This is a thinly disguised antisemitism for it ignores the fact that, in this story, everyone is going down to Jericho; that is, any religious service in the temple was already completed.
The priest and the Levite stand for us. They are supposed to be people— us— at our best. The fact of their Jewishness is simply incidental. They are meant to be exemplars of the way of being of their people; we would tell such a story using exemplars of our religion or our way of being. The priest and the Levite knew what was law, and they knew who was neighbour. Nothing which the lawyer said and which Jesus affirmed would have been news to either the priest or the Levite. Indeed, they were a bit like the students in the "Samaritan experiment." Surely seminary students would understand what God wants and will act accordingly!!
Just as the lawyer sets out to test Jesus, the parable, and the setting for the parable, test us.... Read on >>>>
The heart of Luke 10 might be that in the imagination of Job Chapter One, the accuser sits in heaven, and has God's ear. He can bring about our downfall, with God's connivance. But in Jesus' imagination of reality, which he calls The Kingdom of God, satan has fallen from heaven like lightning. The accuser has been removed. It is without power, for we live now in the time of the sons of peace. (ᾖ υἱὸς εἰρήνης in Luke 10:6 is translated by NRSV as anyone, not just males ... who shares in peace.)
But in my current heart-ache, I wonder if satan has crash-landed in my backyard!... Read on >>>>
Father, may we be full of mercy.
May we be a people of love.
May our love not be diverted
into the ways of hatred, fed by fear,
and fueled by those who demand security
at the cost of other lives.
Let us not be afraid.
May we not be taught to fear
the innocent victims of war and terror.
May our love not be diverted
by those who wish us to fear the innocent
so that we will fail to see injustice
and fail to speak the truth of love.
Let us learn from you
what it is to be merciful.
Let us learn from the Christ
what it is to love.
Fill us with the Spirit of love. Amen.
You can listen here
Why is this man sick? Sometimes we get sick because there is a physical or a genetic problem. If you are coeliac, for example, then anything with gluten in it will make you really ill.
But a lot of what makes us sick is the society in which we live. Folk who end up in our mental health wards report a horrifying level of abuse in their life. Folk who crash out, and come in desperation to a minister, almost always have a huge level of stress in their lives, which can be traced back to the way society works. Perhaps most of the time... it is us— the city we live in— that makes us sick.
The story in Luke is written to indicate that the man is made sick by the city. He is called a man of the city.
And that means... that when Jesus arrives on the other side of the lake, he is not met by a sick man at all. He is met by a representative of the city... it is the city which is sick.
And that... means.. that it is the city which needs healing, as much as the man does. In fact, heal the city, and we will probably heal the man... Read on >>>>
For a wider reading of the text this week, I recommend my post from last Lectionary cycle: Setting our Face Towards Paradox.
Closer to home this cycle, you can listen here, or read on below the text from Luke 9:51-62
51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, ‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’[as Elijah did.] 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then [Other ancient authorities read rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what spirit you are of, 56for the Son of Man has not come to destroy the lives of human beings but to save them.’ Then] they went on to another village.
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ 58And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ 59To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ 60But he said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ 61Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ 62Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’
For the cousins who enrich my life...
My great-grandfather was sent back to England to train as a Methodist minister, although he never completed those studies. "Rarely settled for long," he must have been one of the richer men in Victoria, for a time: He bought a city mansion for his daughter's wedding because it had a suitably large ballroom. But before that, when great-grandma Seenie died, my grandfather was sent 'home' to South Australia, because his step-mother "did not want anything to do with him." Dad said that "he in many ways felt that his father had deserted him." As a small child, I knew nothing of that story, but it was obvious that Grandpop, although kind and generous, was full of pain even though I couldn't quite articulate that... Read on >>>>
You can listen here...
Let me attempt a reading of this story. Jesus has just calmed a storm; we might pun that he has shown his power over the elements, those elemental spirits (Col 2:8,20) that lurk in untamed depths of water. Water remains dangerous to us (and in the imagination of the New Testament) because although God has said Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear, (Genesis 1:9) which brought the Chaos under control, creation is not yet complete. That will not happen until the sea [is] no more. (Rev 21:1) The lake and the sea are always threat. And now Jesus steps out onto the land, which proves to be another place of elemental spirits. As he stepped out on land; this the challenge is immediate. Perhaps the land is no more safe than the sea. Perhaps the sea is really only a symbol of the violence of the country in which we live. The Gerasenes are us.
The challenge at this moment comes from a man of the city. Where did the city come from? There is no mention of a city before this; they were going to the country of the Gerasenes, which signifies the place— the whole cultural environment— which the Gerasenes inhabit. Suddenly the place they live is diagnosed as the city.
The city is always an ambiguous place in Scripture. It is certainly not green pastures beside still waters in the presence of God despite the presence of enemy and death. (Psalm 23) It is the place of gathering, which it is not called ecclesia. Unhealed city always has the smell of "The Naked City," John Sylvester's crime column from The Age. His title reflects the underbelly of our gathering as people. Under the brick-veneer of our civility there is something visceral and naked about us; something driven. We are owned by our appetites... Read on >>>>
This site is about celebrating life. My own life is too busy; my work is almost designed to keep me from reflection and enjoyment. In the busyness and competition of life, it is hard, especially for men, to be honest about fears and feelings. All this works against celebrating and enjoying life except in a most shallow fashion. So here, I seek to be unbusy.
One Man's Web has grown haphazardly, reflecting the interests of friends and myself. You will find abandoned blind alleys, ideas we no longer adhere to, things we never believed but "hung out there" to see what would happen. There are areas where I am remain passionate, but can't keep up; the area on Australia's refugees is one.
If you find some enjoyment or challenge here, I am glad. Celebrate life!
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