Posts Tagged ‘Luke’

Advent 3: Ladies’ Night

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior… (Luke 1:46-47)

Well, it’s Saturday night, and it’s ladies’ night! Sort of. I’m sitting here letting the kitchen floor dry, and I realized that I haven’t written anything about the Magnificat (the song of Mary), which was the Gospel reading on Sunday. And I’m laughing at how much life changes … A Saturday night with a new mop is big excitement around here.

Sometimes I’m shocked that so much real estate in Scripture is given to Mary, a humble, otherwise unremarkable woman. We don’t know much about her, except that she was a young unwed mother, and that later on was devoted to her son.

The grumpy side of me asks, why would a woman living two thousand years ago, in circumstances like hers, sing such a song of praise? She was taking a huge risk with the out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and even bigger risks with pregnancy itself. Childbirth was scary in those days!

How did she gain such a sense of complete trust? I know many faithful people who would have trouble doing what Mary did.

I wonder if the main energy behind her faith came from the promise made to her as a woman. In those days a woman was nothing without a son. God gave her the gift of being legitimate and recognized. Those are gifts you can’t understand until you have been without them. Indeed, God looked upon her with favor.

May God grant his favor to all who are place-less, faceless, or nameless.

“give it to God” remix

This weekend, on a retreat with our campus ministry group, I thought some more about the spiritual practice of “giving everything to God.”

Revs. Paul Lang and Jane Rose presented all kinds of great stuff for the students to take home and use in their own walk with Christ, in particular the practice of giving the day to God in your evening prayer.

In my last post on this idea, I wrestled with the question of what exactly we give when we “give it to God,” and whether we still have any role to play in the worries and situations that we give.

When we give our day (with all its successes, failures, surprises and worries) to God in the evening, I wonder if we are just handing it over for safe-keeping and re-processing.

Perhaps God will work within our dreams during the night to give us a fresh perspective in the morning.

Perhaps God will just give us rest, so that we have renewed energy to work on our projects and challenges.

Perhaps God even holds some things for a long time until the moment is right for bringing them back.  I think about Mary “treasuring all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51) and whether those things were present in her heart as she stood by her dying son.

I think our spiritual goal is to embody what Paul writes about in Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”)  Yet the goal is unreachable unless we allow all those “things” to spend some time in the workshop of the Creator.

Sunday after Christmas: Time for a Change

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered….

Thus begins the Christmas story so many of us are accustomed to hearing.  The story sounds regal and beautiful, and that’s no accident!  It begins with reminding us of the power of the Roman emperors to move people around at will.  It continues along a pattern we see whenever there is a royal wedding or birth.  I remember during the eighties, when I was a kid, seeing the photo spreads in grocery store magazines about the royal weddings and births in Great Britain.  Everything was documented in minute detail–down to the number of hand-embroidered diapers given by visiting diplomats–and made public to remind everyone what a monumental event just happened.

Luke details the birth, the first visitors, the announcement … but it all happened in a rough stable with poor people.  Each detail reminds us of two things:  how important the birth of Christ is, and how much God intends to change things.  (For a great article on this, see this from the Presbyterian Outlook in 2005.)

So as a spiritual practice to close out Advent and Christmas, practice paying attention to details.  Pay attention to where God is at work in every situation, especially the situations that seem the most hopeless.  Think about details, even the most minute, that God may want to change.  Where are you in the details?

Advent Day 25: Leaping for Joy

Advent Day 25

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?  For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”  (Luke 1:39-45)

The high school I attended offered plenty of advanced classes:  college-level math, foreign languages no other high school offered, and so on.  I think the best class in the entire school was the one taught on the Vietnam War.   In that class, a veteran-turned-teacher took us out to interview parents whose children had died in that conflict.  I had the privilege of interviewing a couple who had never received their son’s body.  All they had was a photo of medics helping a wounded man whom they believed to be their son.

A few weeks afterwards, I interviewed my uncle, who served in Vietnam, and talked to other family members with military experience.  This subject had never come up before.  Previously, we had only seen one another at family gatherings, where we made small talk.  That uncle attended my graduation from seminary, and I’ll always treasure the interview he granted me.

I wonder what Mary’s cousin Elizabeth was thinking as Mary approached the house.  What we get in Scripture is the happy ending to the story.  Did Elizabeth have doubts about Mary’s mysterious pregnancy?  Did she ever doubt her own?  What was the relationship between the two women like before Mary showed up for this long visit?  Whatever Elizabeth was thinking, she was joyfully interrupted by her own unborn child jumping and dancing in her womb.  Then she knew something spectacular was happening.

Will you attend a family gathering this year, or host one?  What will your reaction be as the guests assemble?  Are you looking forward to getting together with everyone?

If you’re a young adult reading this blog, try this:   get to know another family member better during your holiday gathering.  Chances are you have been sitting at the children’s table for years (literally or symbolically), never involved in adult conversation.  So claim your place!  Be the young Mary who visits her older cousin Elizabeth.  There may be undiscovered joy in this family connection. 

Today’s daily Scripture reading from the PC(USA):

Advent Day 17: Generosity

Advent Day 17

Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you.  (2 Corinthians 9:13-14)

The LORD watches over the strangers … (Psalm 146:9)

Once a man proudly announced to me, “I take care of my own!”  He meant that he took care of his family, and he was proud of that.  Part of me could understand what he meant.  He came from a rural area where people struggled to earn a living, and some had given up trying. 

Yet a little voice in my head said, “So?  Why should you go around announcing that you did your duty?  Do you expect a gold star?”  (I think I said the same thing out loud, but with a little more good Southern manners.)

Jesus wasn’t too pleased with the so-called faithful people he encountered whose concern for others never left the front door.  (see Luke 6)  Giving something away, and trusting that God will do the right thing with it, is an act of faith.  God has enough faith in us, after all, to entrust the care of others to us!

So, today’s spiritual practice is a combination of genrerosity and trust.  Set out a jar or dish for loose change and “lost” money, like bills that end up in the washing machine.  Don’t touch it until it reaches $5 or $10, and then give it away.  As the change accumulates, pray for whoever will receive the money.  If you feel weird about giving away a ton of change, look for places that purposefully collect loose change.  Our church collects “Pennies for Hunger” in addition to our regular offerings– part of the fun is listening to the change clang around in the bucket.  This offering raises so much money, you’d be surprised. 

To be sure, what I’m proposing does not top the charts in terms of generosity.  I’m simply offering this to you as a starting point.  Try praying every day for whoever will receive this gift.  Try giving without hiding behind excuses, such as “What if the recipient wastes my money?”  Read more of Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, in which he reminds the givers that the recipients are praying for them.  Who might be praying for you to be generous?

Today’s daily Scripture reading from the PC(USA):

Advent Day 11: the Word

Advent Day 11

… one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Today’s spiritual practice is a certain way of reading Scripture.  In this method, you read a story and imagine yourself in it.  Take as much time as you need, and if you like, go back and imagine yourself as a second or even third person in the story.

Here’s a short outline, and you can find more in Prayer and Temperament (see “Resources“)

  • Read the story once and choose a person.   A good story for this is Luke 17:11-19.  (Here’s a Bible website:
  • Dwell with this person a while (let’s say you chose to be the leper who came back, if you’re reading the Luke passage.)  Read one or two verses at a time, pausing to consider what the leper might have been seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and tasting.  What if he’s so sick with leprosy that he experiences very little with his five senses? 
  • Consider what your chosen person is thinking and feeling.  Imagine yourself in his situation as he turns around to return to Jesus.  What is going on in his mind?

What I love about this method of reading is that it forces us to read slowly, and let the words sink in.  In our college group we’ve talked about not skipping to the moral of the story when you read Scripture, and not looking for immediate inspiration.  The Bible is so much more than pretty sayings you can post on your status update — but you have to take time with it, and give it time to speak.

This season of Advent is about getting ready for the Word Incarnate, as we sometimes refer to Jesus Christ.  We say he is the Word of God dwelling with human beings, and that he was the Word God spoke at creation (see John 1.)  But you can’t rush this Word.  You have to give it time to create, imagine, and work within you.

Happy reading!

today’s daily Scripture reading from the PC(USA):