Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

Category: Jesus Questions (Page 2 of 2)

April 22, 2020 — What should I do, since my master is taking my position away from me?

Today’s Bible reading

Jesus also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who was informed of accusations that his manager was wasting his assets. So he called the manager in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Turn in the account of your administration, because you can no longer be my manager.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What should I do, since my master is taking my position away from me? I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m too ashamed to beg. I know what to do so that when I am put out of management, people will welcome me into their homes.’ So he contacted his master’s debtors one by one. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ The man replied, ‘100 measures of olive oil.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ The second man replied, ‘100 measures of wheat.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write 80.’ The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their contemporaries than the people of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by how you use worldly wealth, so that when it runs out you will be welcomed into the eternal homes. — Luke 16:1-9

More thoughts for meditation

There are many things people pursue for healing and wholeness — not least is wealth. To acquire wealth is not only practically helpful, as in, it lets us off the hook for creative problem solving, it also is also viewed highly by our peers and society at large. It is tempting for many in our rich country to think, “If we are rich we won’t have problems.” When, in fact, as Biggie Smalls said it best, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” But way before reaching the Christopher Wallace’s level of wealth, it can be tempting to think that having wealth will heal us. Ultimately, wealth, and any healing power it possesses is elusive. Chasing wealth is kind of like chasing the wind, the author of Ecclesiastes points out. The person in the Lord’s story above is forced to see, whatever benefit wealth has is easily taken away.

Jesus is comparing what could be a real life example to the invitation he is making for us to follow him. This person who is connected to great wealth discovers how fickle it actually is. He turns to does whatever it takes with the resources at hand to help others and make space for himself in the community. If this person, who is not described as a person seeking after God (and is actually painted as the opposite) can, in the end, make a clever decision—those who are seeking should definitely get it, right? 

Suggestions for action         

When this manager suddenly faces the loss of his wealth he decides to invest in the relationships around him because, he believes, that is the best chance for him to be taken care of. For us listening, we don’t have to wait until we lose everything to examine where our faith is and what kinds of things we put our trust in. Take a few minutes and reflect silently. 

Pray using our breath prayer for this week: Breathe in saying, “Holy Spirit” and breathe out saying, “open my heart to your love.” 

April 21, 2020 — Who would not look for who is lost?

99-sheep: magic 2 by Lily Kostrzewa

Today’s Bible reading

“‘…The one who has ears to hear had better listen!’ Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming to [listen to] him. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 

So Jesus told them this parable: “Which one of you, if he has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, would not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go look for the one that is lost until he finds it? Then when he has found it, he places it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Returning home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, telling them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost.’ I tell you, in the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent.” —Luke 14:35b-15:7

More thoughts for meditation

In yesterday’s prayer we considered how Jesus is rebuking social, political, and religious priorities by revealing the priorities of God’s society. The Pharisees and Torah professors, who upheld the priorities Jesus was rebuking, resisted Jesus’ invitation to participate with God in putting the world back to rights. Consequently, they continued to distance themselves from Jesus and the true life he represents. 

Jesus tells today’s parable after a string of teachings on humility in the society of God. The 99 who are left in the open pasture are fine to be left while the shepherd goes and finds the one that is lost. Similar to working on the Sabbath, Jesus uses hyperbole to emphasize how passionately God is looking for those yet to receive the love and life found through communion with him. 

Let’s read this parable as an encouragement. We are sought by God. We experience found-ness in Jesus. At the same time we are honored with an invitation to join Jesus outside of the pasture, and participate with God in searching for others and welcoming them into the fold. We are simultaneously the sheep who was lost and the sheep who is found — and also the shepherd who finds the lost. 

Suggestions for action

Take a few minutes and reflect silently on being found by the Good Shepherd and the goodness that comes with being safe in the fold of God. Do you feel found? What does that feel like? When you are prompted, consider also how just as quickly as Jesus returned to bring you back to the fold he has left the pasture again to find other lost sheep. 

Consider your new identity as a found sheep and your desire for others to be found, too. How are you being called to participate in the life of God, our good shepherd?

Pray: Holy Spirit help me with these questions and pray using our breath prayer for this week: Breathe in saying, “holy spirit” and breathe out saying, “open my heart to your love.” Jot down some responses and read over them before bed.

Today is Anselm of Canterbury Day! Theologians are still talking about his scholarly work! Celebrate his genius at Celebrating Our Transhistorical Body.

April 20, 2020 — Is it lawful?

The Works of Mercy by Jen Norton

Today’s Bible reading

Now one Sabbath when Jesus went to dine at the house of a leader of the Pharisees, they were watching him closely. There right in front of him was a man whose body was swollen with fluid. So Jesus asked the experts in religious law and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So Jesus took hold of the man, healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, “Which of you, if you have a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” But they could not reply to this. — Luke 14:1-6

More thoughts for meditation

The Pharisees and law professors were speechless. Jesus often left people puzzling over what to say (see Luke 20:1-8). People were often speechless because their obvious response would be and admission of guilt. This approach is exemplary of how God works with us (Romans 8:28). Jesus is working to bring the most good to every situation, prodding resistant people to join him in his cause. He is extending an invitation for his detractors to humbly engage with him in truth rather than oppressing people, hiding behind their façade of status while people have fallen into “the well.” He is inviting them into God’s heart and into their own.

Unfortunately, Jesus’ invitation lands on deaf ears. The Pharisees and professors of Torah have been participating and propagating the cultural current of marginalizing the vulnerable. Not only is this easy to do because they hold influence in political and religious sectors of society, it is easy because people like this crippled man are coerced into playing along. The Professors and Pharisees prioritized maintaining their own power over what should be a natural, compassionate response.

Jesus’s question is intended to penetrate the barriers erected before our hearts: “If your child or livelihood were endangered, even on the sabbath, wouldn’t you act? That’s what I am doing, despite your doubts about me.” Notice how his  rhetorical question implies an obvious answer. In a single question Jesus rebukes the upside down social priorities of the powerful and offers them an opportunity to confess and repent. In doing so, he shows us the priorities of God and of God’s society. In healing the crippled man, even on the sabbath, he claims the man, along with all of us, as God’s child. Relationship and mercy has a higher value than following normative interpretations of the law.

Suggestions for action

Sometimes, we feel tempted to give a non-answer when Jesus asks a question which is a little too spot on. It may be in times like this that Jesus is calling us to confess and repent, like he called the powerful in the story above, so we can participate in the reparations coming from God to those currently oppressed. 

It may also be that Jesus asked the question to the crippled man as much as he was asking the socially powerful in the room. How have you felt marginalized by society or religion? Jesus’ question is directed to you asking if you’ll participate in the new life God is cultivating on Earth as in Heaven or you will remain defined by your oppressors.

Take a few minutes and reflect silently on where you are in this story. Maybe read it again and imagine yourself in the room. If you put yourself in the shoes of the Pharisee and of the cripple, what is Jesus asking you?

Pray: Holy Spirit, open my heart and my imagination to be with Jesus. What do you want me to hear?

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