A Prayer Prompted by Luke 10

Father in Heaven,

Thank you for revealing yourself to us even though we are not the great, mighty or wise of this world. If the last will be first, and so on, then we are happy to take the lower place now if it means that we get to know you.

As Jesus tells us, the harvest is large and the laborers are few. We pray earnestly that you would send laborers into your harvest.

Like the seventy-two, we can see that all of us can play a part in the task of mission. Help us to receive you sincerely knowing that we also need to be ready to be sent.

And then help us to be ready to serve our neighbor in need, no matter who that neighbor is.

Finally, make us the kind of people who will listen to and learn from Jesus. Even as we serve, we never want our work to somehow stand in the way of our relationship with him.

In Christ,

Amen.

And who is my neighbor? – Luke 10:25-37

The story begins with a lawyer asking about eternal life.  When Jesus asks him what is written in the law, he responds with the answer Jesus himself has given in Matthew 22 and Mark 12.  My personal opinion is that this was a little bit of a setup.  The lawyer wanted to give Jesus an answer he knew he would like, so that he could ask his next question.  So in 10:29 he, “desiring to justify himself,” now asks, “And who is my neighbor?”  A narrow definition of neighbor can make “Love your neighbor” an easy command to obey, but Jesus was not about to limit his definition.  

He now tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  A man is attacked by robbers.  A priest and a Levite both pass by “on the other side.”  A Samaritan comes along and helps.  To digest the parable’s full meaning we have to remind ourselves that Samaritans and Jews typically hated each other.  They were both ethnic and religious rivals, and the mixed-race Samaritans only appeared in the land after the norther tribes of Israel were dragged off into exile.

If Jesus told the story today in Israel today, he might say “Along came a Palestinian Arab …” When Christ asks his final question (10:36), “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” the lawyer gets it right. “The one who showed him mercy.”  Then Jesus delivers his punchline (10:37), “You go, and do likewise.”

To find a proper application for “Go and do likewise,” it might help to think of someone we dislike or someone we believe dislikes us.  Who really irritates you?  Who do you feel most uncomfortable around?  Who do you suspect feels uncomfortable around you?  Who is to you an ethnic and/or religious rival?  What about the atheist next door?  Now go and do likewise.  According to Jesus, the “neighbor” we need to love most may come to us dressed as our enemy in need.

Luke 6 – Verse by Verse

Photo for LukeIf we had to pick one chapter in the New Testament that we could read to get the quickest summary of the Christian faith and life, it might be Luke 6.

Luke 06.pdf

Luke 06.mp3

A Prayer Prompted by Luke 6

Dear heavenly Father,

Help us to truly follow Jesus by renouncing all condemning, unloving and unforgiving attitudes that might still linger in us, even if we have held them for years.  And let us turn all of that into positive action, learning to love our enemies, doing good to those who treat us badly.  Teach us to pray for all those who oppose us, so that they might come to know your mercy even as we have.

Teach us to truly treat others just as we ourselves would wish to be treated.

May our lives be full of good works, all consistent with the teaching of Christ, and may the foundation of our spiritual house be built on the rock, so that it will stand when the inevitable storms of life pound against it.

In Christ,

Amen.

 

That golden rule – Luke 6:31

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Jesus mentioned this principle in the same breath with “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you,” and so on.  The evidence indicates he meant what he said.  This is extreme stuff.  

It isn’t easy to love enemies.  No matter how hard we try, or what action we take, they can possess the uncanny ability to treat us badly somehow once again.  That is just how it is with enemies, right?  

Yet, love in the truest sense needs to stay focused on others and their needs.  That’s why Jesus made this command a positive one – a “Thou shalt” rather than a “Thou shalt not.”  He didn’t want to give us an easy way out.

There is a story in the Talmud, in Shabbat 31a, that tells of a Gentile who came to a rabbi and said, “Convert me on condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one foot.” That rabbi had no good answer.

The same Gentile came to the sage Hillel the Elder, who was grandfather of Gamaliel, the teacher of Paul the Apostle.  Hillel said, “That which is hateful to you do not do to another; that is the entire Torah, and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.” The man was converted.

It’s a great story and it is probably true, but with all due respect to the incomparable Hillel, we might say it is incomplete, based on this teaching of Jesus.  If we don’t do that which is hateful to people and stop there, we might possibly not do much at all – even nothing!  That’s the nature of the “Thou shalt not” in a command.  It is a prohibition rather than a positive task.  

Surely Hillel, if he had more time than the Gentile balancing on one foot was willing to give him at that moment, would choose to elaborate.  Jesus was still young when the aged Hillel finally died and, perhaps while not under time constraints, may have even thought of his improved version of the golden rule based upon the rabbi’s words.  

Again, he has us imagine what we might wish for ourselves in Luke 6:31.  And again our text, 

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Let’s leave that just as it is, without further elaboration.

A Prayer about Loving Enemies Prompted by Matthew 5:43-48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Heavenly Father,

Help us to love not only those who love us first, but also those who treat us badly.  Jesus expressed his love by dying for us precisely at a time when we were rebelling against his authority.  Help us to do the same sort of thing whenever we are presented with the chance.  Then help us to make opportunities to love where none exist.

When we are disrespected, help us to respond with respect.  When we are ignored precisely as we think we need someone’s attention, help us to think of the needs of others and pay attention to them.  When we are hurt, help us to respond with healing love and in so doing, become more like Jesus our Lord.

In saying all of this, we know that this love does not come naturally to us, but we know that it can arise as the result of you working supernaturally within our hearts.  We need your Holy Spirit to work within us to produce this spiritual fruit.

Father, may self-giving love be a mark of who we are as your children and as followers of Jesus Christ.  It is in his name that we pray.

Amen.

39 Books: Obadiah – Message to Edom

39 Bks Torah Scroll WhiteObadiah – Message to Edom

Jacob and Esau were twins but they were rivals.  That sibling rivalry turned into ethnic tensions that lasted for centuries after that.

31 Obadiah.pdf           31 Obadiah.mp3