UNIQUE TO LUKE: STORIES AND PARABLES OF THE THIRD …

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In the Footsteps of Luke: Learning from the Third Evangelist

St. Luke United Methodist Church

Lenten Bible Study

February 10-March 31, 2013

Cynthia Cox Garrard

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to examine and learn what it means to be a servant from the stories and parables which are unique to the gospel of Luke, the evangelist for whom our congregation is named. In church art, Luke is depicted by a winged ox[1]. The ox, a beast of burden, represents service. As a source of food, the ox also represents sacrifice. Both themes are strongly represented both in the Ggospel of Luke and in the cover painting of “Saint Luke”, which was commissioned for our congregation and painted by renowned American artist and Columbus native Bo Bartlett. Our study of service and sacrifice in the Gospel of Luke will be paired with opportunities for service and sacrifice in our common worship and life of faith at St. Luke.

Though our congregation dates all the way back to 1828, the example of Saint Luke goes back much further, some two millennia. There is no other evangelist who tells the story of Jesus with such a special regard for women, children, outcasts, and the poor. In Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus tells his followers that those who are “poor in spirit” are blessed.[2] The teaching in Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” is blunt: “Blessed are you who are poor.”[3]

Our congregation’s connection to Saint Luke is more than in its name. We haveWe have a history of involvement with service and sacrifice that stretches around the world. St. Luke helped establish not only congregations across the district but also an innovative “urban” ministry, Open Door Community House. Itself the product of a missionary effort[4] from the South Carolina conference, St. Luke has supported missionaries to Indians[5], slaves[6], and in far-off countries in Africa and South America. Here at home, St. Luke’s commitment to mission is manifested every day of the week in ways that are too numerous to list here but which demonstrate our commitment to walk in the footsteps of Luke and care for the poor and outcast.

Our study covers seven weeks, beginning the week of Ash Wednesday, February 13, and concluding with the week of Easter, March 30. The study book can be used individually or in small groups.

Resources

Get a good Bible and a small notebook or journal. What is a “good Bible?” One you will read! It doesn’t have to be scholarly, and it won’t matter if it’s an old or new translation. What is important is that you read it. This is not a university-level study; this is a study intended to transform our relationship with Jesus through service and sacrifice!

The second resource is your intellect, which God equipped you with so that you could respond intelligently to the world in which God has placed you. Your brain, your questions, your thoughts: all of these are tools for encountering Scripture.

Another resource is your small group, Sunday School class, and worship in the Church itself. Although one can and should read and study Scripture on one’s own, the study of Scripture within a group is a totally different ballgame! The individual’s encounter with God needs to meet the encounter experienced by other believers; we are really Christian as we are part of the Body of Christ, which is the Church. It’s hard to do it by ourselves.

Method

As you read each section, begin with prayer. Begin by praising God! There are many prayers of praise and thanksgiving in Luke’s gospel which can be guides for praise.

❖ 1.45-55 The Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise[7]

❖ 1.68-79 The Benedictus, Zechariah’s song of praise

❖ 2.29-32 The Nunc Dimittis, Simeon’s song of praise

❖ 3.4-6 John the Baptizer’s proclamation

Another excellent guide, of course, is “the Lord’s prayer,” Jesus’ own response to his disciples when they came to him asking him to teach them to pray “as John taught his disciples.”[8]

Include in your prayer those in your Sunday School class or small group. Other resources are the email prayer chain and the prayer room. The email prayer chain sends out the requests for prayer that have been made by the congregation. If you’re interested in being a part of that ministry or if you have a prayer request, contact Carolyn Cartledge at carolyncartledge@. To volunteer for the prayer room, please contact Ruthanne Edge at scubazoo@.

Secondly, read insofar as you can with an open mind. Try not to recall what you’ve been taught or heard or read about this passage before. If you’ve studied the passage before and have marked in your Bible, you may want to find a new Bible or a different translation which is different from the one you normally use. Using fresh words will help you hear God’s Word afresh!

Thirdly, read the passage again, this time making a note of any questions which arise as you read. Don’t worry about whether these questions are “appropriate” or not; just jot them down as they arise in your mind. Also make a note of people or circumstances that the passage reminds you of. As you read about a little girl who is sick[9], you may think of a child or friend’s child who is suffering: write this person’s name down. The fact that the child’s name occurred to you as you were reading Scripture is God’s Holy Spirit tapping you on the shoulder and encouraging you to pray for this child and, further, to make some kind of contact, personal or by letter, with the child or his or her parents. The more you pay attention to God’s Spirit in this way, the more God’s Spirit will be tapping you on the shoulder!

Finally, discuss questions with your small group, your pastor, or consult commentaries, of which we have an excellent assortment in our Church Library. Don’t start with the commentaries or with the notes in your Bible or you may short-circuit what happens above! You may have some questions for which there are not any good or satisfactory answers…right now. Make notes of these, too. The reasons for there “not being any answer” are several, including:

1. We’re not ready to hear what God has to say. We may need to mature a bit spiritually, or perhaps our life experiences haven’t included what is covered in the passage (i.e., we’re too young to understand!).

2. What God has to say is too much for the earthly mind to understand. Some answers are too big for the human brain. God will answer it, just not on this mortal coil.

3. We are too impatient about when we want the answer to our question. Sometimes, God’s answer includes what we learn in the process of prayerful expectation.

Background to the Gospel of Luke

Luke’s gospel is, as are all the gospels, anonymous in that we don’t know much about the author. The author is held by tradition to have been “Luke,” a man who traveled with John Mark, who may have been a disciple of Peter. Luke is named in the letter to the Colossians[10] as a “physician,” a term which was applied to healers who employed the use of herbs, oils, and salves of various sorts as well as to surgeons. The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible notes that brass lancets were employed in ancient times for delicate surgeries including, in an idea that is sure to give the modern reader pause, the removal of cataracts.[11]

When we say that something is known to us “by tradition,” that sounds to the modern ear very much like hearsay. That is not the case. There are numerous and very early connections between this person named Luke and the authorship of the third gospel; however, there is nothing in the Bible itself that connects the two. What we have to connect the two is ancient Church Tradition, dating to the Second Century.[12] So, using John Wesley’s four standards of measuring the validity of an idea,[13] the idea that Luke wrote the third gospel and the book of Acts fails the “Scripture” test but passes the “Tradition” test with flying colors!

Remember that the authenticity of this gospel as God’s living Word for us does not rest in the identity of the author but in the identity of the One about whom these words are written. If you ask someone for directions and she points to a location down the street, the integrity of the directions is not found in the identity of the owner of the pointing finger! What matters is whether or not we get where we need to go; whether the finger has pointed in the right direction. When we read with God’s Spirit enlivening our spirits, the words we read become God’s living Word for us. Luke truly points us to the nature of Christ.

Whoever this the author of Lukeman was, his facility with Greek, his ability to tell a story in a way that involves the reader, his awareness of the larger political and social world—all of these things reveal him to be a sophisticated man of learning. The author of the gospel of Luke is also the author of the Acts of the Apostles, the book of Acts, which is sometimes called the “fifth gospel” because it tells the next chapter in the story of Jesus, which is the story of the Body of Christ, the Church.

Luke is one of the three Synoptic gospels, so called because they have more or less the “same view” (Greek “together” syn + “seen” optic) of Jesus. John’s gospel is so different in both purpose and in style that it falls outside these comparisons. Most scholars believe that the gospel of Mark was written first, probably before the disastrous uprising by the Zealots that culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The gospels of Matthew and Luke, which most scholars believe was written after and is probably based on Mark’s gospel, reflect the influence that the fall of Jerusalem had on the writers and believers in the first century Church. Matthew and Luke also incorporate material from another source which is unknown to use, which scholars call “Q.”[14] Of course, the primary difference that we see as we begin to compare the three gospels is that Mark has no birth narrative. The reason for that properly belongs in a study of that gospel.

Matthew, which was placed first in the canon of the New Testament because the early Church fathers believed it was the first gospel written, tells us about God’s appearance to Joseph (1.18-23), the earthly father of Jesus, his obedient response (1.24-25), the visit of the magi (2.1-12), and the flight to and return from Egypt (3.13-23). Luke tells us about God’s appearance to Mary (1.26-38), her obedient response (1.39-56), the birth of Jesus and visit from the shepherds (2.1-20), and two incidents from Jesus’ childhood, both related to his rightful place in and authority over the temple in Jerusalem (2.21-52).

Whereas Matthew assumes his readers have knowledge of Judaism and an interest in the finer points of Jewish theology and history,[15] Luke’s gospel assumes his readers have no knowledge of Judaism. Any reference to the Law or Prophets is couched in such a way that the Gentile (non-Jew) reader can understand the context and meaning of the passage.

For example, instead of explaining to us how Jesus fulfills the expectations of the prophets[16], Luke tells us how Jesus fulfills the expectations of specific Jews, using the words of the prophets. When Mary goes to tell her kinswoman Elizabeth of her pregnancy, Elizabeth responds in joyful faith, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”[17] Mary responds to Elizabeth not by saying, “Yes, this reminds me of how Hannah responded to God in the book of Samuel!” Instead, Mary appropriates Hannah’s song for her own, singing of how God has “scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts” and “brought down the powerful from their thrones.”[18]

This is a great technique for helping us, the modern Gentile readers, to understand the context and meaning of Luke’s story of good news![19] We may or may not be familiar with the Law and the Prophets but that doesn’t matter, because Luke is so familiar with them that he is able to weave them seamlessly into his text. The Evangelist Luke may not have the energy of Mark’s gospel or the detail of Matthew’s, but nobody in the New Testament tells a better story. It’s a story that still draws us in and helps us to see the living Christ and the life of service and sacrifice to which he calls us.

Reflection

You may think that you don’t “know” the Bible very well, but you may know it better than you think. Try this exercise: fill in the blanks following in Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus (2.1-12). Don’t worry, you won’t be graded! The purpose is to illustrate how Luke’s particular turns of phrase, particularly as they have been made familiar to us in the King James Version of the Bible, have gotten stuck in our heads. That “rememberability” is one mark of an effective communicator!

And it came to ______ in those days, that there went out a ______ from ______ ______ that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of ______.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own ______. 4And ______ also went up from Galilee, out of the city of ______, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called ______; (because he was of the house and ______ of David:) 5To be taxed with ______ his espoused ______, being ______ with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be ______. 7And she brought forth her ______ ______, and wrapped him in ______ ______, and laid him in a ______; because there was no ______ for them in the ______. 8And there were in the same country ______ abiding in the ______, keeping watch over their ______ by ______. 9And, lo, the ______ of the Lord came upon them, and the ______ of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore ______. 10And the angel said unto them, ______ ______: for, behold, I bring you good ______ of great ______, which shall be to all ______. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of ______ a Saviour, which is Christ the . 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the ______ wrapped in ______ ______, lying in a ______.

Service Opportunity

The period of Lent, the seven weeks before Easter, is traditionally a time of sacrifice.[20] It begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on the Day of Resurrection. Someone might ask you “what are you giving up for Lent?” The point of “giving something up” is to better understand the sacrifice of Jesus. Any sacrifice we make is so small compared to his, but if we deny ourselves something that is very much a part of our lives, when we “miss” participating in that event or consuming that food or beverage, it offers us an opportunity to reflect and to pray. Some things that people give up are:

Chocolate Eating meat Caffeine Sodas or sweet tea Desserts Fried foods

Alcohol Facebook Television

Of course, all of these things are things that we could do without anyway! The Rev. Dr. Frank Parr, former Older Adult Minister at St. Luke, has suggested that instead of giving something up, we might consider adding something on. Since our study of Luke is a study of both sacrifice and service, we can also do both.

Each week, you will have an opportunity to investigate a service or ministry at St. Luke. You may already be involved in some form of ministry within St. Luke or outside the walls of the church. Propagate or multiply that ministry by asking someone to share it with you! Or take the opportunity to investigate a new way to be in service. For more information about any of these ministries, please talk with one of the pastors or call the church office, 706-327-4343.

Section #1: Week of February 10-16 Luke 9.51-10.37

Service: Valley Interfaith Promise

Luke 9.51-56 On the way to Jerusalem. This section begins with Jesus “set[ting] his face to go to Jerusalem.” This particular turn of phrase indicates unwavering intent.[21] Given that we already know that Luke wants us to hear the voice of the prophets even though we may be unfamiliar with them from our own reading, it is likely that here the Evangelist is echoing the “third Servant Song” in Isaiah 50.4-11.

Examine the passage followinglooking (or listening) for ways that Luke echoes the words of the prophet(s?) so that the character aspect of Jesus as messiah is revealed to the reader. Circle the words or phrases that seem to you to describe the Jesus that you know from your study and personal experience. 4The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. 5The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. 6I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.7The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; 8he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.9It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up. 10Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant, who walks in darkness and has no light, yet trusts in the name of the Lord and relies upon his God? 

The gospel writers deliberately create a sort of resonance with the Hebrew Bible that deepens the understanding of the reader; the more we study, the more profound is our experience of God. This phenomenon can be testified to in our own lives; all of us have verses or passages that meant one thing to us as children and quite another thing now! However, this experience of Scripture growing is only possible because the Bible reveals the living Word of God. Through the action of God’s Holy Spirit on our spirits, our reading of the Bible comes alive; the Bible is, in the words of the late scholar Dr. Albert Outler, “God’s self-chosen means of self-expression.”

The last verse from Isaiah’s third Servant Song illustrates this resonance in a particularly helpful way. Luke tells us that the disciples want to call down God’s judgment on some Samaritans who refuse to receive Jesus because he was headed to Jerusalem; Samaritans and Jews despised one another.. That Jesus rebuked them should not have surprised them nor does it surprise us; they seem to misunderstand him a lot of the time. Why, though, does Jesus rebuke them? Look at Isaiah’s conclusion to the Servant Song: 11But all of you are kindlers of fire, lighters of firebrands. Walk in the flame of your fire, and among the brands that you have kindled! This is what you shall have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment. Who are the “kindlers of fire”? Isaiah seems to be saying to the people who reject the servant that they will reap the reward of their violent ways. How might this message apply to Jesus’ disciples? What is Jesus trying to teach them here? _____________________________________________________________

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What might he be trying to teach us? _________________________________________

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Luke 9.57-62 Warnings to followers: sacrifice is part of faith. This is not the “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” of Charles Wesley’s children’s hymn.[22] Jesus’ sternness is almost terrifying in its candor: if we think we are fit to follow him, we are, in all likelihood, not. 57As 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 Jesus 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 plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke to this dangerous tendency in The Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer, who would be martyred by the Nazis just before the end of WWII, said that the Church has cheapened the concept of grace, which Jesus very clearly points out in this passage as being very costly. If there is no following of Jesus, no lordship of him in our lives, simply confessing him as Savior is irrelevant to our Christian faith and practice.

What is the implication of this passage for us as individual Christians; how would this passage affect our life of faith if we took it seriously? ____________________________

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For us as members of St. Luke? ______________________________________________

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For the Church Universal? __________________________________________________

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Luke 10.1-11 The sending of the seventy. For those unfamiliar with Luke, the idea that Jesus has a very large number of followers[23] over whom the twelve were to have charge is surprising. Jesus’ instructions to these lieutenants depends on the prevailing doctrine of hospitality, remnants of which remain today in the Middle East. We would say, then, that the instructions are somewhat contextual in that parts of them would not apply to the modern world. However, other parts of the instructions are eternal, that is, they transcend the cultural limitations of Jesus’ day and speak to us today just as clearly. In the following passage, mark or highlight the passages that still apply to believers today, then discuss them with your small group.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

Luke 10.12-16 Judgment. The third Evangelist will “interrupt” his narrative on occasion (compare the healing of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood, Luke 8.40-56). This is not accidental. The interruption always serves a purpose for Luke. In the stories of Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood, Luke contrasts the status of the two women and showing that Jesus’ compassion is not bound by society’s expectations. In this section, Jesus pronounces judgment on two Galilean towns and even on Capernaum, the home of Peter,[24] echoing words from Isaiah 14.13-15.

When we read words of judgment, it is important to differentiate them from a curse. Words of judgment often sound like curses (the Semitic curse, not modern swear words!) in that they describe an unfortunate consequence of bad behavior. However, curses can be said to be predictive and prescriptive: they tell what will come and what must come.[25] Judgment is only descriptive. It describes what will happen if certain behaviors are unchanged. Jonah pronounced God’s judgment on Nineveh; the Ninevites changed their ways and the bad result was avoided.

But God’s judgment and mercy coexist within the same person. How is this possible? If we say that we believe in a loving Heavenly Father, does that mean that we think that God is going to be nice to us all the time? Of course not. A loving earthly parent tries to teach his or her child discipline. Sometimes discipline involves punishment; sometimes it involves forgiveness. How much more is God able to do this than an earthly parent!

The “nearness” of the kingdom of God will be a blessing for some and damnation for others. It is the same kingdom, the same God, but will be and is experienced differently by people, not because of who God is but because of individual human choice.[26]

Luke 17-23 The return of the seventy. The disciples return with joy, overwhelmed at the displays of power that they have witnessed. Jesus reminds them that displays of power are not even the point. Quite pointedly, Luke follows this rebuke with Jesus’ prayer: “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” We are no more mature than these disciples! We also have our heads turned by displays of power. Jesus reminds us to focus on what really matters: living as part of God’s kingdom and winning others to the kingdom.

Luke 10.25-37 The Good Samaritan. The story is so familiar to us that it is difficult to imagine how offensive it must have been to its first hearers. The Samaritans were held to be the vilest of religious offenders, perverting Judaism and twisting the true faith. Some of Jesus’ most memorable encounters occur between him and Samaritans. The point to these stories is not just what is said but that it was said by a Jew to a Samaritan.

Clarence Jordan, the Southern Baptist preacher and farmer who founded Koinonia Farms in Americus as an interracial community in the 1950’s, translated the gospels into “Southern.” In doing so, he changed the geography to be more familiar and updated the prejudices as well.

One day a teacher of an adult Bible class got up and tested him with this question: “Doctor, what does one do to be saved?”

Jesus replied, “What does the Bible say? How do you interpret it?”

The teacher answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your physical strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“That is correct,” answered Jesus. “Make a habit of this and you’ll be saved.”

But the Sunday school teacher, trying to save face, asked, “But … er … but … just who is my neighbor?”

Then Jesus laid into him and said, “A man was going from Atlanta to Albany and some gangsters held him up. When they had robbed him of his wallet and brand-new suit, they beat him up and drove off in his car, leaving him unconscious on the shoulder of the highway.

“Now it just so happened that a white preacher was going down that same highway. ‘When he saw the fellow, he stepped on the gas and went scooting by.

“Shortly afterwards a white Gospel song leader came down the road, and when he saw what had happened, he too stepped on the gas.

“Then a black man traveling that way came upon the fellow, and what he saw moved him to tears. He stopped and bound up his wounds as best he could, drew some water from his water-jug to wipe away the blood and then laid him on the back seat. He drove on into Albany and took him to the hospital and said to the nurse, ‘You all take good care of this white man I found on the highway. Here’s the only two dollars I got, but you all keep account of what he owes, and if he can’t pay it, I’ll settle up with you when I make a pay-day.’

“Now if you had been the man held up by the gangsters, which of these three-the white preacher, the white song leader, or the black man – would you consider to have been your neighbor?”

The teacher of the adult Bible class said, “Why, of course, the nig – I mean, er … well, er … the one who treated me kindly.”

Jesus said, “Well, then, you get going and start living like that!”

We might say this story is not offensive because we don’t have any racial prejudice. As unlikely as that might be, there are very few people who have no prejudice whatsoever. If you are fortunate enough not to be racially prejudiced, substitute for “Samaritan” whatever caste of person you find least likable: it may be “homosexual” or “undocumented alien” or “Muslim extremist” or “liberal Democrat” or “conservative Republican”—whatever person you would be least likely in the world to want to be touched by.

That is who the Samaritan was to this Jew. Jesus’ point, then, is that we are to love…who?____________________________________________________________

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Service Area: Valley Interfaith Promise. Valley Interfaith Promise is part of a national ministry which works to assist families who are homeless and trying to get back on their feet. Two families who benefited from this ministry were housed in St. Luke right before Christmas and found housing the week they were here. The story aired here: www2.news/2012/dec/30/homeless-families-get-apartments-time-christmas-ar-5267061/?referer=None&shorturl=http%3A%2F%2Fbit.ly%2FVdUJAS

VIP relies on the involvement of local congregations who host the families within their church’s buildings a week at the time. Although it is somewhat inconvenient for the congregation, imagine how it must be to a family to move from place to place each week!

Yet most of these families regard this ministry as an absolute blessing. They have a safe place to sleep at night, good food to eat, and people who stay with them (members of the congregation) who are kind to them. During the day, children go to school and adults look for jobs and receive guidance at the VIP office. In 2012, VIP successfully graduated 80% of their families to permanent housing!

St. Luke’s responsibility is to host 1-4 families 3-4 times a year. Although initially we thought about hosting VIP in a separate building, it has worked out to be best for families to stay in Adult Sunday School rooms. What a great use of this space, which is comfortable and secure, but entirely unused during the week!

How can you be involved? There are many levels of connection, from hosts who spend the night to families to volunteers who bring meals. Persons who have contact with the VIP guests must be trained; this training is offered regularly at St. Luke free of charge. For information, contact kaybiker61@. Another way to support this ministry is to be involved as a sponsor or runner in the VIP “Bed Race,” which is a major fund-raiser for this ministry (as well as lots of fun to watch). For information or to register a team, go to documentlibrary/104_2013%20Bed%20Race%20Trifold%20(Final)%20(3).pdf

or google VIP Bed Race Columbus GA.

Prayer Requests

During your small group’s study, please pray for one another and the requests or celebrations that are shared within your group. If you wish to share one of those requests with the church prayer chain, please secure the permission of the individual before you share his or her request. ____________________________________________________

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Section #2 : Week of February 17-23 Luke 10.38-11.28

Service: Pray for Confirmands

Luke 10.38-42 Mary and Martha. In 1988, the United Methodist Women at St. Luke began making an annual award to a “Quiet Disciple,” a woman who works behind the scenes to incarnate or make real the spirit of both Mary and Martha. Across the United Methodist Church, this award is made to both men and to women who exhibit the characteristics of Mary (contemplation) and Martha (service). Beginning with the first recipient, Lucy Shepherd, the women who have won the award at St. Luke certainly illustrate a beautiful history of service and prayer to the Church.[27]

Mary and Martha, along with their brother Lazarus, were known at least by Luke and the writer of the gospel of John[28] as friends of Jesus. Here, the two women depict two different ways of being a follower: the passive listener and the active doer. Notice that Jesus does not rebuke Martha until she complains about Mary not helping her, then he says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” That has been understood as and in fact may be an endorsement of the virtues of a life of quiet contemplation.[29]

However, it should also be noted that Jesus does not ever respond positively to efforts by others to “triangulate” him or involve him in third-party disputes. He adamantly insists that when people have disputes or problems, they solve them themselves—or at least attempt to do so. When his disciples come to him with the concern that there are 5,000 hungry men (plus women and children) grumbling on the hillside, Jesus tells them, “You give them something to eat.”[30] When people grumble about the inclusion of children or sinners, when they assume that a certain person is not worth the Master’s time, Jesus is quick to short-circuit their machinations and goes directly to the one who was being excluded.[31] When people are uncomfortable, instead of easing their discomfort by removing the irritant, Jesus seems to want them to “man up” or mature in faith enough to deal with it themselves.

An example of this is found in the story of the Gerasene[32] demoniac, Luke 8.26-49. After the man is healed, the townsfolk are very anxious about Jesus’ presence among; he upsets the applecart (and drowns pigs). The man himself wants to come with Jesus, but Jesus gives him the very hard task of returning to the people of his town, the people who had let him (or made him) live naked among the tombs. Part of his healing seems to be living within the community where he got ill.

The wise parent or teacher takes a cue from Jesus here. Rather than solving the problems for the child, the parent encourages the child to solve his or her problems himself. Children, who are past masters at triangulation,[33] invariably try to pull the other parent (or grandparent, or sibling, or teacher) into power struggles, but experienced teachers or adults let children sort out these problems themselves. Likewise, in the church, pastors and church leaders may be tempted to get involved in discussions or issues which are not really their business! “Pastor, you need to see about So-and-so,” is a request which should be handled very carefully!

Luke 11.1-13 Prayer and Persistence. We’ll begin by focusing on the latter part of the request of the disciples. John the Baptist[34] had hundreds, maybe thousands of disciples who followed him for a least one generation after the death of Jesus.[35] The gospels record John’s disciples approaching Jesus on more than one occasion: Matthew 9.14 and Luke 7.18, for example. John 1.35-40 indicates that Andrew, the brother of Simon (Peter), was originally a disciple of John. These disciples were fairly widespread; Paul found some and baptized them in Ephesus.[36] John the Baptist is mentioned very often in all four gospels. So we know that the influence of John the Baptist was deeply rooted and widely felt throughout Palestine and around the eastern Mediterranean.

In the stained glass windows at St. Luke, the picture of John the Baptist is found on the south side of the sanctuary, in the same window with Hebrew prophets. That is very appropriate because he is, in a very real sense, the last of the old-timey prophets. He preaches, “The kingdom of Heaven is coming; get right with God!,” very much like the old road signs we used to see on the sides of the highway. He prepares the way for messiah by encouraging people to repent of their sins and be baptized to show that they are cleansed.[37] It has been observed that the main difference between the baptisms of John and Jesus is syntactical: John says, “The Kingdom of heaven is coming; get ready!” and Jesus says, “The Kingdom of heaven has come so that you can be made ready.” Jesus recognizes that we are (and forever will be) unworthy; he chooses to make us worthy through his love, and, ultimately, through his death on the cross.

Jesus chose for his disciples not the brightest and best of that Palestinian generation, but regular folks like you and me. This is a great comfort, for they make the same mistakes we would have made! In correcting them, Jesus is also teaching us. Almost every one of us has wondered how to pray.[38] Here the disciples are overheard asking the question for us: “Lord, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples.”

The most casual art observer is familiar with the work of Pablo Picasso, whose later work was unique at the time and notable even today in its departure from realism. It has been said by more than one skeptic that Picasso couldn’t really paint or draw: “my kid could draw better than that!” His early work, as in “The Old Fisherman” below, painted when Picasso was fifteen (!) years old, indicates otherwise. Picasso’s art teachers forced him to learn to draw and paint the human form accurately before deviating into the style with which we associate him.

In the same way, we believers need to learn to pray in the way that Jesus teaches before following our own paths or the formulas taught by others. Jesus’ instructions are simple. Paraphrase the prayer, writing it in your own words.

Father, hallowed be your name. ____________________

__________________ Your kingdom come. __________

__________________________Give us each day our

daily bread. ____________________________________

And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. ____________

________________________________________________________________________

And do not bring us to the time of trial.[39] ______________________________________

Jesus was observed praying; his disciples caught him at it. Yet he clearly teaches in Matthew 6.1 that we are to “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” If Jesus was not praying for show, why is he praying? __________________________________

Noted Bible teacher and author Dr. Ellsworth Kalas says that if prayer can be taught, it follows that prayer can be learned. Knowing what we know about these disciples, we can infer that, if they can learn to pray, we also can learn to pray! Kalas also says that not only is prayer taught, it is also caught. Toddlers, before they can speak, mimic all conversation they hear (and some of us need to remember that!). If part of what children and see is their parents praying, you will see toddlers fold their little hands and babble incoherently, praying in a language only God can understand.

And just as no child has ever made a “bad” drawing for the parent to put on the refrigerator, no prayer of ours has ever been heard by our heavenly Father as “bad.” Surely, we say things to God that no one else needs to hear. Surely, we have said things to God that were vile, perhaps even evil. But how is God to help us unless we are willing to turn to him in prayer? We may start in the wrong place, praying “Make so-and-so different…” but if we stay in a prayerful relationship with God, God will move us to a better place. To think that we have to make our prayers right or proper or good is not only arrogant, it borders on blasphemy. Do we indeed have the power or authority to “clean up” our prayer so that God can look upon it without being offended? Did we think that God did not already know what was in our heart?

Richard Foster’s wonderful Prayer reminds us to “pray as we can, not as we can’t.” Start where you are; trust God to do his transforming miracle within you. Contemporary Christian writer Anne Lamott’s latest book, Help! Thanks! Wow!, talks about three forms of prayer defined in her title in words that are familiar to believers and nonbelievers alike. “Oops!”, or the familiar one-word prayer for forgiveness, may be a part of the prayer for God’s help!

Jesus’ further instruction on prayer is also important: “Don’t stop praying. Be persistent.” Jesus illustrates his point humorously; the woman makes a pest of herself and harangues the judge into hearing her! We may be very like her, but God is nothing like the judge.! Jesus continues, 9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

It is critical that we keep both parts of this passage together. When we read that “everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened,” we quite understandably revert to the childish belief that Jesus is a kind of genie-in-a-bottle, granting our wish. However, Luke carefully points out that God exceeds our human expectations, giving us good gifts—gifts that we need. So, we can assume that God is not going to accede to our every demand even if we are quite sure it’s the best thing for us and everybody else.[40]

Luke 11.14-26 The province of demons.

Demon-possession is a complicated issue in the gospels. In Luke’s gospel, we can know these things about demon-possession:

1. Demon-possession is the reason given or the cause for a variety of mental and physical illnesses, not all of which translate to illnesses or conditions that make sense to the modern reader.

2. A person who is possessed by a demon is neither more nor less sinful than any other person. In other words, while we speak of Satan as being the author or instigator of evil, that is not the kind of demon that is involved in demon-possession (it’s not like the movie The Exorcist).

3. Demons were real manifestations of the perversion of the natural world that resulted from humankind’s original (and repeated) choice to sin.

Jesus’ authority over demons is a reflection of his desire that people be saved entirely. Salvation was not something that began when the person died or was related only to being saved from sin. The word salvation is related to the ideas of wholeness and healing (the word “salve” comes from the same Latin root). Jesus’ ability to save us is about more than saving us from sin; he also wants to make us whole in body, mind and spirit.

But where did he get this ability? Luke has already told us that Jesus is God’s Son, but not everybody knows the “back story,” the story of Jesus’ birth. Some people take on face value that if good things are being done, a good person must be doing them. But we all know the person who assumes that there is an ulterior motive for someone to do something good! “But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” It’s easy to imagine Jesus rolling his eyes at this point: “Really, guys? Because you think that is a good strategy? Here, let me show you how that would play out.” “Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 

The commonsense recommendation that Jesus offers in verse 20 will be paralleled in Luke’s “Part II”, the book of Acts, when the wise rabbi Gamaliel[41] reminds the Jews to let the message of the disciples to be judged by its fruit: “… if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!”[42] The other good advice Jesus offers here is to fill the place which has been vacated by the demon with something good, because, as Aristotle observed, “nature abhors a vacuum.”

A parishioner went to her pastor with a complaint against another parishioner. “It’s not your problem,” the wise pastor said. “It’s between that person and God.” “But you don’t understand,” said the complainant, “He’ll never change.” “Now you underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t think about it any more. It’s not your business. And by ‘don’t think about it,’ I mean ‘find something better to think about’.”

That wise pastor took seriously Jesus’ advice in this passage. If we are troubled and have turned something over to God in prayer, we must fill the space once occupied by that concern with other things, or the thing about which we are anxious will flood back in, filling us with even more worries, and our “last state…is worse than the first.” We must actively look for things to occupy our minds, tasks to occupy our hands, words to occupy our mouths—otherwise our brains will occupy our nights with thoughts and worries and anxieties that should have already been cast out!

Service Area: Confirmands

Our sixth grade Sunday School class is currently involved in the process of confirmation. Confirmation within the Church[43] is a time of study of the Christian faith, the United Methodist tradition, and the history of St. Luke. It is offered annually to sixth-graders at St. Luke as the time when they are formally presented with an opportunity to claim the name of Christian for themselves, to “confirm” the name that was given to them at their baptisms as belonging to Christ. For those who were not baptized as infants, this is a time when they may choose to be baptized.

Of course, not everyone is ready to publicly profess faith in Christ as a sixth-grader—some are ready earlier and some later. This time of education and preparation makes sure that those who choose Christ come into that opportunity as prepared as they can be. Each young person has an adult mentor—not his or her parent—who is a sort of spiritual guide during the process. The idea here is that a time is coming (or may already have arrived!) when not every young person confides every detail of his or her life with a parent—and St. Luke wants there to be another trusted adult Christian to be there for the young person. If you are interested in being a mentor to a future confirmand (a young person going through this process), let the Rev. Loretta Dunbar know of your interest. You do not “choose” a child to mentor; this decision is made by the pastoral staff.

Each week, the confirmands meet for Sunday School and are taught by members of the staff. Parents and mentors are also part of this experience. There are two retreat opportunities during the confirmation period, a weekend retreat at the United Methodist Retreat Center at Epworth-by-the-Sea and a day retreat at St. Luke. We would like for all of our confirmands to receive letters from the congregation while they are on the weekend retreat. The names of the confirmands are listed below. If you would like to write letters to the confirmands, please seal each letter in its own envelope with the name of the confirmand printed on the outside of the envelope. Take the letters to the Rev. Dunbar before Thursday, February 28. They will be given to the confirmands during the weekend retreat.

The service of confirmation will be celebrated during the 10:55 a.m. worship on Sunday, March 17. This is a high and holy service in which the young people will publicly claim the name of Christian for themselves. Although they may later make decisions about college, military service, marriage, career, and having children that will affect the rest of their lives, this is the first “adult” decision of their lives—the first that will entail responsibilities for the rest of their lives. Those who are confirmed in the church become full members in the Body of Christ.

We, the Body of Christ, also have a responsibility. We will vow to uphold them in prayer and surround them in love as they continue to grow in the faith that they are claiming. We encourage you to mark the date of Confirmation on your calendar and to begin praying for these young people today!

2013 Confirmation Candidates

Mr. Hayes Allison

Mr. Ty Bondurant

Miss Lauren Booth

Miss Elizabeth Brown

Miss Lindsey Brown

Mr. Charlie Douglass

Miss Ansleigh Dudley

Mr. Davis Hardin

Miss Hannah Jackson

Miss Lucy Laughbaum

Miss Hollings Manderson

Miss Madison Mize

Mr. Will Mullins

Mr. William Oliver

Mr. Caleb Pattillo

Miss Lillie Patton

Miss Laurel Peebles

Mr. Raymond Peebles

Mr. Jacob Sayers

Mr. Grayson Stamm

Mr. Noah Stenslie

Prayer Requests

During your small group’s study, please pray for one another and the requests or celebrations that are shared within your group. If you wish to share one of those requests with the church prayer chain, please secure the permission of the individual before you share his or her request.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________

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Section #3: Week of February 24-March 2 Luke 11.29-12.59

Service: First Saturday

Luke 11.29-32 The testimony of Nineveh. The book of Jonah relates the story of how God called a prophet, Jonah, to preach to the pagan city of Nineveh. To Jonah’s consternation and horror, the king of Nineveh and the entire city repent immediately! Jesus draws a sharp contrast between the receptiveness of these pagans to God’s message and the resistance of God’s chosen people to the message Jesus is bringing. There will be no sign other than their own resistance, and that will be sufficient to convict them.

Luke 11.32-36 Shine, y’all! The illustration of the lampstand is often read independently of the preceding passage, but if we assume that Luke knows what he’s doing when he sets these two passages next to each other,[44] then we should look for clues to the lampstand passage in the Nineveh passage. Perhaps some of God’s chosen people put their lamps in the cellar rather than on a lampstand, or perhaps they are shielding their own eyes from the light of God’s message, so that their body is full of darkness.

And if the words that are written in the Bible are not just contextual—words for their time—but contemporary—words for all time, let’s assume that Jesus’ words are not just directed to his own people but to us as well:  Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.

One way to figure out whether the light in us is in fact darkness is to see whether we are fulfilling the vows we made when we became members of St. Luke. The traditional and time-honored pledge of membership is the promise to support this Church through my prayers, my presence, my gifts, and my service.

Prayers

1. Do I pray every day?

2. Do I have a regular time of prayer?

3. Do I keep a prayer journal or am I involved with a prayer group or accountability group?

4. What do I need to do to better fulfill my pledge of supporting my church through my prayers?

Presence

1. How often do I worship at St. Luke every month?

2. When I am present, am I a “welcoming spirit” to those around me?

3. Do I invite others to worship with me and attend my Sunday School class?

4. What do I need to do to be a more lively presence in worship, to be more “present” when I’m present?

Gifts

1. Do I tithe 10% of my income to my church?

2. If not, am I willing to work toward tithing my income?

3. Am I willing to make a covenant with God and with St. Luke to increase my support of my church?

4. What do I need to do to better support my church through my treasure—my gifts?

Service

1. Am I involved in some kind of hands-on service through St. Luke, either to persons within the congregation or to persons outside our walls? Here is a partial list of missions needs as supplied by St. Luke staff:

❖ Acolyte ministry- adult helpers on Sunday mornings hayers@

❖ Adult Choir dregister@

❖ Bereavement Committee: assists grieving families. Contact kaybiker61@

❖ Caregiver Support Group: assists families of caregivers. cboers@

❖ Children’s church adult volunteer, loretta@

❖ Children’s Choir-hayers@

❖ Children's Sunday School teachers loretta@

❖ Church Nursery redecoration loretta@

❖ College House: Ministering to students of CSU, esp. uptown campus bmaddocks@

❖ Communion Stewards: help prepare communion once a month gking1104@

❖ Drama ministry (teens and adults)- hayers@

❖ Drive Spring Harbor Pick up / return van 2 Sundays a year mitch@

❖ Easter Egg Hunt Committee loretta@

❖ First Saturday: Casual worship and a hot meal for the down & out jmhouse6@

❖ Food Pantry: needs stockers, stackers, greeters. wcartledge@

❖ Hand bells dregister@

❖ Harvest Party Committee loretta@

❖ Hispanic Ministry: After school program, transportation for after school program; English as a Second language; Spanish as a second language. Contact Ivelisse Quinones, iquinones@

❖ Library ministry- loretta@

❖ Meals on Wheels: regular monthly volunteers and subs. jwidener@

❖ Nursery Volunteer loretta@

❖ Prayer Ministry (prayer room, email prayer chain): contact carolyncartledge@ or scubazoo@

❖ Prayer Shawl ministry. DEllis2727@

❖ Puppets- hayers@

❖ Respite Care: aids families of care-givers for adults cboers@

❖ Samaritan Fund: the emergency financial assistance ministry. Call Gaston Pollock, 706-562-9686

❖ St. Luke Summer Camp Adult Counselors loretta@

❖ St. Luke Summer Camp Senior Counselors (9th grade - up) loretta@

❖ Sunday School hallway greeter loretta@

❖ Telephone volunteer kym@

❖ Vacation Bible School teachers and helpers loretta@

2. Am I constantly looking for ways St. Luke can be more involved in mission, and am I willing to be a part of that solution?

3. Do I pray for our missionaries?

4. Do I support missions through my giving?

Luke 11.37-53 Unmarked Graves

When you drive through a cemetery, you see a variety of ways that people honor their loved ones, from bronze plaques to fresh flowers to statues of cherubs to pinwheels spinning in the breeze. Spread out on the hills facing the eastern and southern sides of the Temple Mount are ancient burial places for the faithful of Jerusalem and those Israel wishes to honor and remember, such as Oskar Schindler. Maintaining the graves is a point of pride for families, just as it was in Jesus’ day. When family members or respectful strangers visit a grave, a stone will be laid on the slab “for remembrance.”[45]

Even in a day when people are less outwardly religious, most people have a measure of respect for the resting place of the mortal remains of others, known or unknown. When Jesus compares the Pharisees to “unmarked graves” in this passage, it is a huge insult, not only to them but to the religious lawyers as well. What is Jesus trying to say to the Pharisees?________________________

The Pharisees were the lay leaders of the day—the “pillars of the church synagogue” who sought to live ever closer to God by observing all 613 laws and ordinances in the Hebrew canon.[46] But there was a problem with their obedience—it was external. We should be careful in our judgment of them, for we too have cleansed “the outside of the cup…but inside…are full of greed and wickedness.”

Jesus harkens back to the prophets of old in his call for justice as he uses a formulaic “Woe” cry—one of the forms of speaking familiar both to the prophets and to Jesus’ listeners. “Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others.” Note that Jesus in no way disrespects the observance of religion. He does not break the law, but says that the practice of justice and love must be added to the tithe.

A recent Pew survey finds that increasing numbers of young people identify with no religious beliefs whatsoever.[47] One of the reasons given is that religions, especially American Protestantism, have closely identified itself with certain political views. Jesus’ next indictment is therefore searing: Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.

Rather than trying to win people to Christ, we may

have fallen into the trap of legalism ourselves. That doesn’t mean that Christ is not appealing or interesting to these people; it just means that sometimes we have to join Christian writer Philip Yancey in saying, “What kind of God don’t you believe in? I may not believe in him either.” And then we have to listen.

Luke 12.1-12 What is justice? Jesus’ popularity is growing among the masses; there are now thousands who are following him, sometimes trampling on each other. This is important because it is an indicator of how Jesus might be seen as a possible threat in the eyes of the Roman authorities as well as in the eyes of the Jewish leadership, who would be very concerned that nothing happen that would bring down Rome on their heads. Jesus’ words don’t calm anyone’s anxieties on this score: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more.”

If there’s one thing we can learn from Jesus—and teach our children and youth—it is to be live fearlessly in this world, for God cares for us profoundly: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Before teaching his followers how they are to testify, Jesus utters a warning that has troubled believers for centuries: “whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.” This is what Matthew’s gospel terms the “unforgivable” sin:[48] “The unforgivable sin is the utter rebellion against God that denies him as the doer of his own acts.”[49] This verse falls into the category of verses which trouble believers a great deal and non-believers not at all. That doesn’t mean that the latter are condemned, it just means they are ignorant of the character and nature of God (see previous comment by Philip Yancey). We who call ourselves believers need to spend more time trusting in the God we know and less time worrying about how God is going to take care of his business.

And part of God’s business is spiritual defense of those who stand up for him, those who are doing God’s business: loving our enemies, blessing those who curse us, praying for those who abuse us, turning the other cheek, giving generously to those who have nothing, not judging, forgiving, being generous, etc.[50] Some have offered this verse as a reason not to write prayers or sermons ahead of time, saying that the Holy Spirit will inspire them when the time comes. That is quite possible, but it also puts constraints on the action of the Holy Spirit—saying that it may appear only when called on at the last minute.

Luke 12.16-21 The Rich Fool The congregation of St. Luke is fortunate to have several original oil paintings by the American neo-classical artist Richard Serrin. A lifelong friend of our former member, the late Allen Kerr, Richard has visited St. Luke several times during the time the Kerrs lived in Columbus. Allen died this past year while visiting Richard and his wife at their home in Florence, Italy. When you see some of these paintings, thank God for the generosity of the Kerrs and other donors who made these works available to us as a congregation, and remember in your prayers our good friend Char Kerr, Allen’s widow, who lives with her family in Minnetonka, MN. The picture on the previous page is in the Church parlor and has been the subject of many questions by St. Luke children over the years.

Luke 12.22-34 Do not worry. Jesus’ great care and kindness to his disciples is so evident in the tender passage following. Read it slowly, circling or underlining the passage which speaks to you the most clearly. 22He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 26If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? 27Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 28But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. 30For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

Within your small group, share some of the things you worry about as well as your strategies for handling that worry.

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

Decide one thing that you are going to stop worrying about and how you are going to handle it in the week ahead. Write it down! _________________________________

Luke 12.35-48 Be ready! Christ wants his followers to be ready at any moment for his return. Peter’s response is appallingly obtuse: “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” I.e., is this a special secret only we are privy to, or does everyone get to know? Here’s the thing, the secret to the Kingdom of God is that it’s for everyone. Not just the righteous and worthy (whew!), but also the sinner and the unfit (thank you, Jesus!).

This is a parable about being ready like those who are waiting for their master to return. Peter’s question prompts Jesus to say that those who have been given responsibility over others have even more expected to them. The image of cutting the unfaithful slave in pieces is horrific, and implies that there is a sure and certain justice which applies to those who misuse their earthly authority. Notably, this is not applied to the sinners—but to those who are in charge of the faithful! (*gulp!*) The message for us is: ____________________________________________________________________

Luke 12.49-53 Jesus’ stress. We don’t always think about how difficult it must have been to be the messiah. Jesus was under terrible stress, he says. What were some of the stresses on him?

1. ___________________________

2. ___________________________

3. ___________________________

4. ___________________________

5. ___________________________

6. ___________________________

7. ___________________________

8. ___________________________

9. ___________________________

10. ___________________________

We know from Luke’s own words that he was not a first-hand witness to what Jesus’ life and teachings,[51] but he did an incredible job of assembling testimonies from earlier witnesses. The descriptions of the divisions of households (12.52-53) may or may not be prescriptive (describing what must happen) but they are certainly descriptive, describing what did happen after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

12.54-59 Signs and judgment. We talked earlier about the mobs of people following Jesus and how this means that both Roman and Jewish authorities are watching him closely. He himself is not unaware of what is going on politically, and he uses a well-known meteorological observation to remind folks to pay attention to the signs on the ground as well as the signs in the air! We are to pay attention and judge for [ourselves] what is right, then do what is right. No excuses.

[pic]

Service Area: First Saturday

On the first Saturday of every month, a diverse group of St. Luke members and a few non-St. Luke servants gather for a unique ministry. Some meet in the kitchen of Stockwell Hall (the dining hall in the main building, where the sanctuary is) to heat up a simple meal of fried chicken, green beans, rolls, mashed potatoes, and peach cobbler. Other friends are welcoming guests into the Shaw Classroom, one of the large adult classrooms on the ground floor of the main building.[52] The guests receive a nametag, a cup of coffee or juice (or both), and sometimes a small cross or fish necklace. Most of the guests are men, some have obviously been drinking, many have backpacks with them. They know one another and most of the volunteers on a first-name basis. There is a warmth to their greeting and obvious gratitude for a comfortable, safe place to be for a little while.

Around 10:30 a.m., Doyle Register begins to play his electric keyboard. Although we are very familiar with Doyle’s skill as a soloist and choir director, many of us don’t know that he grew up on gospel music and can tear up a piano! Volunteers and guests alike join in singing familiar hymns, including “Standing on the Promises,” “Blessed Assurance,” and (everyone’s favorite) “Amazing Grace.” Sometimes a volunteer from the guests plays the piano or even offers a vocal solo. Then one of the pastors “preaches” for 10 or 15 minutes. The guests are always delighted to offer suggestions and support to the preacher, sometimes asking for copies or notes from the sermon or Bible lesson. The food is blessed and shared.

There is no identification required; the service is designed to be open to any and all who will come. This ministry was begun under the direction of our former senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. Hal Brady, has been going on for more than 15 years and serves 65-100 every month, with a few more when we grill out on the first Saturday in July! One of the benefits of volunteering with this ministry is developing a first-name basis with the folks who live very close to the bone in the uptown area, the down-and-out, those who struggle to make ends meet. It is truly a humbling and uplifting opportunity, and it is one in which volunteers of all ages may volunteer. For information on how you and your family can be involved, contact John House at jmhouse6@.

Prayer Requests

During your small group’s study, please pray for one another and the requests or celebrations that are shared within your group. If you wish to share one of those requests with the church prayer chain, please secure the permission of the individual before you share his or her request.

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Section #4 : Week of March 3-9 Luke 13.1-14.34

Service: Open Door Community House

Luke 13.1-5 The question of suffering. One of the most difficult questions believers face is “where is God in the face of suffering?” Sometimes these questions are posed as a criticism of faith; sometimes they are the questions of the faithful. When this question is posed by non-believers it is specious—these are people who already don’t believe and will not be convinced by anything we say. After the 9/11 attacks, those who made this accusation found support for God’s “absence” in the hateful response of some toward those of Arab “appearance”, in some cases attacking folks who are not Muslim or even Arab, but Indians of the Sikh faith. But the question is very real and soul-shaking for believers, and it is not one that can be answered in a few quick sentences.

Jesus is very clear here that suffering is not a result of unrighteousness: “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?” His follow-up comment is not a threat, it’s a statement about the futility of living without faith or outside of community with God. He is saying, in essence, that the death of the Galileans was a tragic waste of life, and unless we enter into a relationship with God, our lives will be just as wasted.

Luke 13.6-9 Why does it have to be figs? While most of the time the context of a certain passage helps with interpretation, such is not the case with these few verses. They stand separate from the preceding and following passages and are clear in their meaning: bear fruit or be cut down.[53] The application to the Jews is clearly implied by the Evangelist; what may be overlooked is the application to modern believers.

In saying that this refers to the Jews, we let ourselves off the hook. But thishat that also means that what Jesus said applies only to those who lived 2,000 years ago, and we believe that what Jesus said has eternal merit. So, how does this short passage apply to us? Think about your spiritual life. Is there something that you do regularly that is not “bearing fruit?” Is there something in your life that is just not working any more? Make a list of fruitful practices and compare them with your list of things that just aren’t working any more. Make sure they are things over which you have control! Complaining about your spouse leaving the cap off the toothpaste is not your practice, it’s your spouse’s.

Fruitful practices Unfruitful practices

1. ___________________________ 1. ___________________________

2. ___________________________ 2. ___________________________

3. ___________________________ 3. ___________________________

4. ___________________________ 4. ___________________________

5. ___________________________ 5. ___________________________

The hard part, of course, is the “cutting down” and burning. But folks don’t have to wait until January 1 for new resolutions or the beginning of Lent to give something up. Rather than giving up the unfruitful practice, give it to God—every day, every hour if you need to, until it’s not longer your practice any more.

Luke 13.10-17 The bent-over woman. Apparently, two rights can make a wrong. As happens so often, Jesus and his accusers both use Scripture to justify their behavior. But one of these is shamed as a consequence of the action. When we have to judge the “godliness” of our actions, is our measure “rightness” or “goodness”? A popular posting on facebook these days is “It’s better to be kind than to be right.” Is that true? Why or why not?

Luke 13.18-22 Two short kingdom parables.

The kingdom of God[54] has an effect on the world around that grows in an organic fashion, as a plant or as yeast. How has being a part of God’s kingdom affected your life? _________

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What changes have you seen on the world because of the Church? __________________

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Luke 13.23-30 First? Our concern with salvation is not always just with for ourselves. Sometimes we are as concerned with who else is (or is not) going to be a part of that kingdom. Jesus is not limiting his kingdom to those who are friends of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, his kingdom will gather in those from east and west, from north and south. Our tendency is to assume that we are within the doors when they are closed! But it is not enough to know Jesus, one must also be known by him. How will we make sure we are known by Jesus? ___________________________________________________

Luke 13.31-35 The lament over Jerusalem. Of note here is that there were some Pharisees who were on “Jesus’ side”—who were his allies—as well as Jesus’ love for Jerusalem and his intense grief over its rejection of him. Jesus very clearly sees that his own death is ahead, and his grief is mixed with a measure of anger.

Luke 14.1-6 What it means to be faithful: sabbath and sacrifice. Observance of the sabbath is one of the most ancient parts of the Jewish tradition. The writer of Genesis traces its observance to God’s “resting” on the “seventh day.”[55] The fact that we sometimes see the injunction in Exodus 20.8-11 as a burden rather than a gift from God is an indication of just how poorly we understand the value of rest. We say, “I didn’t get anything done today,” when all we did was walk the dog, play with the children, and read a book, when in fact we had several opportunities there to separate from the cares of the world and be re-created by God’s presence. Rather than seeing sabbath as a day of not-doing, let us find ways to set ourselves apart in God’s name and for God’s purpose.

We identify sabbath with Sunday; that practice began during the very earliest days of the church because Jesus rose “on the first day of the week.” Marking the resurrection of Jesus was one way the earliest Christians could differentiate themselves from the Jews, whose worship extended from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Of course, there were no secular laws setting the day aside as a day of rest, either for Christians or for Jews!

In Israel and in areas around the world where there are large Jewish populations, you may see evidence of sabbath restrictions. The eruvim are posted as a limit on how far the faithful may walk on a Sabbath. Below is the eruv map for Silver Spring, MD, with synagogues marked. Elevators and electric lights have sabbath settings which enable to faithful to use them without actually touching them, thus following the letter, if perhaps not the spirit, of Torah.

Many people remember when “blue laws”[56] were in effect, banning most business from operating on Sundays. Exempted from these laws were those necessary for health and safety: hospitals and public safety officers (fire and police) and maybe a drug store or two. Some gas stations might be open, and those that were stretched the law by offering some food stuffs. Now that the laws are changing, we are moving from an “external locus of control” (where we have to do something because it’s the law or someone says so) to an internal locus of control, where we choose how we behave. We can have our own internal “blue law”, avoiding making extra work for other people by shopping ahead of time so that we don’t have to do our grocery shopping on Sundays. If we avoid shopping or working on Sundays because it’s secular law, what credit is that to us? But if we organize our lives so that we can truly take a day of rest, there is infinite benefit to us as individuals and to our families.

Within our own communities and families of origin, we had traditions for Sundays. Some people could not play cards or go to the movies, others couldn’t do laundry (hooray!) or wash the car. What were some of the ways that your family observed a day of rest when you were growing up?

What do you need to do differently to better observe a day of rest in your own life or the life of your family?

Pastors obviously work on Sundays.[57] What does it mean for pastors and others who work on Sundays to have a sabbath?

Luke 14.7-24 What it means to be faithful: humility and hospitality. The wedding banquet is one of the images for the great feast we will one day share with Christ in his heavenly kingdom. When we take communion, there are two images we should have in our mind. One is the sacrificial altar on which the Lamb of God, our Savior Jesus, offered himself: “On the night that he was betrayed, he took bread, and broke it, saying, ‘take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you…” The other image we should have in our mind is the wedding banquet celebrated between the Bridegroom and the Bride, Christ and his Church. One of these images is somber, the other is celebratory, and they are equally and simultaneously valid. What is not valid is the idea that this is a private feast or a sacrament for the deserving. This passage makes clear that the feast is open to all, even to some we might think are less worthy than we!

The practical application of this parable is not obvious; few of us are invited to banquets where we are seated by rank or importance. Instead, we have to look for ways to make this parable live in our own lives.

❖ Do we always sit with the same people at the business lunch or Wednesday supper?

❖ How do we welcome visitors to our our row in worship?

❖ How can we break open old patterns of behavior and open the door to hospitality in our own lives?

❖ How can we see how our old ways of behavior might be seen as welcoming or inhospitable by a stranger?

Luke 14.25-35 What it means to be faithful: the cost of discipleship. As we read this passage, it’s important to note what is a figure of speech and what is not. The reference to carrying one’s cross in verse. 27 is not a figure of speech. Jesus was not talking about some misfortune—mild or major (acne, a big nose, some chronic disease or disorder) that afflicts a person. He is talking about an instrument of torture and death, saying that death and suffering will certainly be a part of the life of every single person who chooses to follow him.

To point out how difficult that choice may be, he gives the example of tower-building. Here, he does not refer to the Government Center or another “skyscraper,” but to much smaller towers built on the corners of vineyards to watch over and protect them from marauders and thieves. Building a tower was an economic necessity for any farmer, and any farmer who started a tower but only had enough money for the foundation would surely be the object of ridicule.

Verses 31-32 illustrate what always should and never does occur to any ruler before he or she wages war. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.[58] “That is a hard saying; who can accept it?” we might be tempted to ask Jesus.[59] Indeed, this is a dilemma that the author of Luke (and its companion piece, Acts) will pose again and again—the tension between giving up everything and following Christ and being faithful stewards of what we have.

What is the best advice you ever received about being a steward?

How does the tithe figure in to your reconciling of the demands of this passage?

Do you think Jesus really means what he is saying here?

Luke 14.34-35 What it means to be faithful: salt. Talk in your small group about the many uses of salt, both in ancient and modern times.

What, then, does it mean to be “good salt”?

“Let those who have ears, listen!” This is a familiar adage for anyone who has ever worked with young children: “put on your listening ears!” Just because you have them doesn’t mean you’re using them. Of course, some grownups don’t listen, either. Jesus is talking to them and about them!

Service Area: Open Door Community House, Inc.



History The group of programs that became the “Open Door Community Center” began in 1924 with some Methodist laypeople and a Methodist deaconess[60] whose name is now lost to us. There was a great need for ministries in the “mill area” of Columbus—at that time, it was still very common for children to work in the textile mills. Soon, the need for the ministry became more vital.

The Great Depression was a time of horrific financial and social crisis all over the United States, and in the mill section of Columbus, times were especially hard. Mrs. Martha King Cunningham, daughter of Mrs. Martha Brooks King, one of the founders of ODCH, remembers: “I grew up resenting Open Door and my grandmother because they both took up my mother’s time. My father was in the grocery business during the Depression, and we would be called all day long to try to get food for children who were hungry. At that time, we didn’t know anything about abuse, but I heard terrible things from my Mama about children who were abused and neglected.”[61]

In 1935, Mrs. Weeta Watts Mathews, Mrs. King, Mr. Jess Scrimpshire, and Mrs. Addie Greely raised $10,000 to find a place to house programs for children. Mrs. Mathews spotted an old Methodist Episcopal Church that had been closed and in it, a picture of Christ knocking on a door. Mrs. Greely said, “That’s it, we’ll call it the Open Door.”

Volunteers from Hamp Stevens and other Methodist churches, including St. Luke, worked to renovate the old church. The first building called Open Door was opened on January 31, 1937. Mrs. King was responsible for the finances, “of which there were none,” she said later. Saturday morning used clothing sales[62] helped pay utility bills; it was a source of pride to the Open Door Board that the power was never cut off!

Programs begun at Open Door have a history of outgrowing their home,[63] and the ministry itself has moved three times over the years. The first purpose-built building cost around $80,000 to build. It was almost completed when someone noticed that the facility did not include a gymnasium—a major oversight for any building intended to house ministries to children and youth! Funds were hastily raised to build a bare-bones gym, which was tacked on to the back of the facility. Mrs. Cunningham recalled: “Mama collected the checks to build the…building, opening them on the kitchen table. Somehow, the checks got thrown away. My Mama just refused to call all those men back and ask them for another check. I’ll never forget how we had to go to the dump to wait for the truck that had gotten our garbage. And we got those checks! Dirty as they were, they were still good!”

About 100 “seniors” are part of the Golden Agers Club, which provides a gathering place and activities for the many retired persons in the ODCH area. Our “Women on a Mission” group entertained this group at Christmas—what a privilege to celebrate with them! The Transition Home for Women in Crisis provides a secure, loving, and accountable home and support services for women who are transitioning out of crisis situations and who are working to become self-sufficient. This facility provides longer-term housing and requires that residents work or be in job-training programs and picks up where the work of temporary shelters ends. Here, women make the final steps to independent living in a loving but challenging environment.

Today, Open Door provides a variety of ministries to assist people living in the area. A large population of the homeless avail themselves of the “Showering Ministry” which helps men and women retain a measure of dignity by giving them towels and hygiene items a few days a week, as well as a safe place to bathe. You support that ministry with your donations of un-opened travel size shampoos, soaps, razors, toothbrushes, and towels and washcloths.

Open Door’s “Sharing Christmas” benefits needy families who go through a screening process with a dignified response to family Christmas needs. In 2012, Sharing Christmas assisted 195 families, totaling 502 people!

The newest ministry at Open Door is the most ambitious yet: Circles in Columbus, part of a national movement to end poverty. The National Circles Campaign is a high-impact community strategy to end poverty one family at a time through intentional relationships built across economic class lines. Details are below, or go to .

A Circle is an individual family working to get out of poverty and two to four Allies in middle or wealthy economic class who support them in their ongoing efforts to develop emotional, intellectual, financial, and spiritual resources necessary for economic self-sufficiency and stability.

Who is a Circle Leader?

A Circle Leader is an individual or family of low income who is interested in becoming economically self-sufficient. The Circle Leader is responsible for leading, receiving, and giving support within the Circle. The Circle Leader works with Allies to build his or her plan discussed in Getting Ahead training, which is required of each Circle Leader before being placed in a Circle. Getting Ahead prepares Circle Leaders to take a leadership role in their Circle and to use their knowledge and skills as problem-solvers to work on poverty issues in the community.

Who are Allies?

Allies are volunteers engage in an intentional, befriending relationship with an individual or family working to become economically self-sufficient. Allies work with their Circle Leader to figure out how to accomplish his or her plan for self-sufficiency. Within the guidelines set by the Community Guiding Coalition, Allies do what makes sense and what brings joy to the relationship. Allies receive a three-part training to equip them in supporting Circle Leaders in their path out of poverty.

The Coach and Coordinator

The Circles in Columbus Coach supports the Circle Leaders in fine-tuning his or her Getting Ahead plan and in navigating the social services system. The Circles Coach can assist the entire Circle by providing information or mediating difficult situations. The Circles in Columbus Coordinator supports The Guiding Coalition in their work to implement Circles.

The Guiding Coalition

The Circles in Columbus Guiding Coalition includes people form various economic classes and races who are committed to ending poverty. This Coalition designs the local community-based initiative and is responsible for Circles implementation, assuring it is a high-impact strategy that changes the mindset of the community. The lead organization convening the Coalition is Open Door Community House, a 76-year old non-profit organization working to empower low-income individuals to recognize their full potential.

Weekly Community Meetings

Weekly community meetings are held each Thursday evening at Open Door Community House. Allies and Circle Leaders come together to provide support and network with one another. Meetings include a community meal, childcare and programming for the children and youth, community building, leadership development opportunities, and programming and activities to support the efforts of Circle Leaders moving out of poverty.

The first Thursday weekly meeting offers Circle Leaders and Allies a chance to meet in their individual matched Circles. The second Thursday of the month weekly meeting presents a topic or issue related to building the three "R's:" Resources, Relationships, and Reason to live and thrive. The third Thursday's weekly meeting focuses on "Big View." Big View meetings take the work that is done on an individual level to the systemic and community level to change the mindset of the community and provide a place for Circle Leaders and Allies to work together to overcome barriers that keep people in poverty in Columbus. The fourth Thursday of the month is when the Guiding Coalition meets.

St. Luke Support

We support Circles through some volunteers who are Allies and by providing a meal for the Circle meeting once a month. For more information or to volunteer, go to .

Prayer Requests

During your small group’s study, please pray for one another and the requests or celebrations that are shared within your group. If you wish to share one of those requests with the church prayer chain, please secure the permission of the individual before you share his or her request.

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Section #5 : Week of March 10-16 Luke 15.1-16.18

Service: Naomi’s Village Orphanage, Kijabe, Kenya

Luke 15.1-7 The audience is listening. The key to this very familiar series of stories is in who the audience is. Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3So he told them this parable…

The parable was told, not for the tax collectors and sinners, but for the __________ and the __________. Remember that the Pharisees are lay reformers in the Jewish tradition. They have seen the officers of the temple fall under the spell of political power and are seeking to re-install adherence to the true faith, God’s way as revealed in the Law and the Prophets. Some of the Pharisees were followers of Jesus, so they are not uniformly Jesus’ enemies. In fact, these familiar signs, one of which could have been erected by the lost lamb who was found, could have easily been posted by modern Pharisees, who can just as easily be Christians as Jews.

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The wonderful magic of a well-told parable is that the listener is nodding along knowingly, thinking she knows the point, when all of a sudden she looks down and her soul is pierced: “it was about me all along.” Instead of explaining how the strictures of the Pharisees exclude those who most need God’s care from God’s kingdom, Jesus tells this parable. Knowing that the parable of the lost sheep is directed at the most religious, how do you think they felt on hearing Jesus’ tell this story? How do you think they responded to him?

Luke 15.8-10 “My precious!” The point of this brief story is not the value of coin or whether this was the woman’s dowry. The point is her careful searching for that which is lost, then her joy in sharing the good news. Remembering that this is directed to the super-religious Pharisees, what is Jesus trying to get them to see about their attitudes towards the lost?

Luke 15.11-32 If I knew what it was, I’d do it. A friend tells the story of her husband sending their daughter to her room: “Don’t come out until you can apologize to your mother!” She was in the room a lo-o-o-ong time. The father thought, “That is one rebellious child!” He checked on her, and she was standing in the door with a pitiful expression on her face. “Daddy, what does ‘apologize’ mean?”

You may notice the absence of women in the story of the prodigal—with one significant exception, which we’ll talk about shortly. Where is the mother of these two boys? One colleague says that if there had been a mother, “She would have gone after that sorry so-and-so and dragged him home!” Our imaginations might add that her absence might explain the bad behavior of both of the sons. Our intellect reminds us that bad behavior on the part of children (and parents) occurs in every family, even those who give every appearance of being perfect. That we want to find a reason for the bad behavior has less to do with our wanting to prevent it than our wanting to say that we are different from that, therefore we will not suffer in the same way.

That kind of rationalization is sinful and is characteristic of the older brother. Instead of feeling compassion for the friends who are divorcing, the family member with an incurable disease, the loved one who is estranged from his family, we look for ways to inoculate ourselves from that bad consequence. Nowhere in the Bible does God teach this rationalization. We are called to be compassionate, which means to “suffer with” the friend or loved one or relative, not to point fingers or seek reasons for their suffering. The older brother introduces the story line of prostitutes,[64] which may have been a part of the younger brother’s dissolute living, or may just be a perverted projection of the older brother’s psyche.

As we read this story, do not look for explanations for the bad behavior, for that is not what the Teacher is trying to teach us. If you are in a small group, have your group divide up into three smaller groups, with each smaller group taking the role of one of the key actors in this story. Have a volunteer read the story, then let the small group respond in the “voice” of the younger son, the father, and the older son. Talk about the feelings of each person in the story and how they might reconcile.

If you are doing this study on your own, try reading the passage below aloud, then responding as one of the different actors each time you read it. The translation below is from the Common English Bible, a new translation.

11 Jesus said, “A certain man had two sons. 12 The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ Then the father divided his estate between them. 13 Soon afterward, the younger son gathered everything together and took a trip to a land far away. There, he wasted his wealth through extravagant living. 14 “When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need. 15 He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, “ Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands. ” ’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him. 21 Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! 23 Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting 24because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. 25 “ Now his older son was in the field. Coming in from the field, he approached the house and heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the servants and asked what was going on. 27 The servant replied, ‘Your brother has arrived, and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he received his son back safe and sound.’ 28 Then the older son was furious and didn’t want to enter in, but his father came out and begged him. 29 He answered his father, ‘Look, I’ve served you all these years, and I never disobeyed your instruction. Yet you’ve never given me as much as a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours returned, after gobbling up your estate on prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ 31 Then his father said, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.’ ”

Again, if we believe that the stories that are in our Bibles have eternal significance, then there is something eternal in this story for us. We are the faithful of the church, the ones on whom the working of the church depends. Like the Pharisees, we are concerned with doing the right thing for the right reason. So what is Jesus trying to teach us about “life, the universe, and everything”?[65] What does he want us to “get?”

Luke 16.1-18 Gone to meddlin’. The HarperCollins Study edition of the NRSV opines that this is an “enigmatic parable” which “is given many applications.” That means that people disagree about the best way to interpret this parable!

We know that the author of Luke is very concerned with issues of the poor and outcast, the oppressed and marginalized. So they are much on his mind as he shares this parable, in which it seems that Jesus is endorsing making friends for [ourselves] by means of dishonest wealth. Those indeed are the words of Jesus say, but the meaning is so antithetical to the Jesus we know that it doesn’t make sense to us. Perhaps Jesus is being ironic in verses 1-9.

Verses 10-13 are much clearer. Verse 10 is so obvious that it may be an aphorism. It is certainly very good advice: liars lie. It’s what they do. They lie about big things just as easily as little things. That’s why parents should and do take seriously their children’s “little white lies.” Yet the urge to lie is one of our earliest promptings![66]

The key seems to be in verse. 13: we must be devoted to God; that purifies our will, our actions, our thoughts, our feelings, our whole selves. In this passage, the opposite of God, curiously enough, is not the Devil, but money. That makes it a bigger problem for most of us! We refute the Devil, we scorn his power, but it is very difficult to live in this world without money. Jesus gives more instruction about money, in fact, than about almost any other single topic,[67] and we would do well to devote some time and attention to the way we use God’s gifts because it clearly matters very much to him!

Luke 16.14-18 Say what? There is often a certain logic to the way the gospel stories are laid out for us; the context makes sense; we can see how the stories and verses are related. Or not. Here, we have three very short sayings which were said by Jesus but which do not relate to each other. We can surmise that Jesus did not say these three sayings one after another, but rather that they are grouped together by Luke as a sort of transition between the previous (rather obscure) teaching on money and the very powerful teaching about the rich man and Lazarus which follows in 16.19. In summary, we are reminded that God knows what is in our hearts, regardless of what we say; that the law will not pass away until the end of time; and that marriage is valued very highly by Jesus.[68]

Service Area: Naomi’s Village Orphanage, Maai Mahiu, Kenya.

In the summer of 2012, a group of about 20 St. Lukers made the 18-hour flight to Nairobi, Kenya, then took a long bus ride into the magnificent and ancient Rift Valley region. They lived for almost two weeks in one of the dormitories of Naomi’s Village, an orphanage that was founded in January, 2011 by Bob and Julie Mendonza. Bob is an orthopedic surgeon who became involved in working in Kenya under the auspices of Samaritan’s Purse, but he and Julie felt God calling them and their two children to make their home in Africa, to be part of transforming Kenya into a country made in God’s image. The home that they have built will one day house 100 orphans, children who are being given the spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical foundations to become the leaders of Kenya in another generation.

The St. Luke team, under the leadership of Lee and Suzanne McCluskey, carried some items to be shared with the people of Naomi’s Village, but the primary purpose was to establish relationships from which future missions could grow. The team worked alongside the “baby mamas” who help care for the children, the housekeeping and groundskeeping staff, and shared in kitchen and laundry duties (see below right). They also visited the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp which was established to house political refugees from the 2008 civil unrest in Kenya, an AIDS ministry in Maai Mahiu, a “slum church” in Nairobi, the hospital in nearby Kijabe, and Joytown, a home and boarding school for children who are mentally and/or physically disabled (pictured immediately below).

The needs are overwhelming to American eyes, yet the Kenyans are quite proud of their accomplishments. The puppet show for a school of 900 children (bottom left) was eye-opening: packed like sardines onto a hillside, the uniformed children were rapt with attention, even though they couldn’t understand all the words. Our goal as mission partners with Naomi’s Village is to support them with our prayers, our gifts, and by visiting there at least once a year.

A second team goes to Naomi’s Village this summer. This time, they will not be able to stay in the dormitories! They are filling with children, which is a sort of sad blessing—it’s wonderful that Naomi’s Village has the space to house these children; it’s terrible that events are causing these children to be orphaned or cast off. A new guest house for visiting teams is being built. St. Luke’s obligation in this comes to $50,000, of which we have raised about half. One way to serve is to make a donation to St. Luke and mark it “for Naomi’s Village.” Another way to support NV is to go to their website, and find out more about sponsoring a child.

Our team will also be carrying supplies with them and collecting items for the children. We are collecting new unopened bags (not boxes, please!) of disposable diapers, new (unopened) baby wipes, new “crocs” or big box brand equivalent in children’s sizes, and new, unopened containers of children’s chewable multivitamins. Information will be posted on the church website, .

The most important way to support NV is through prayer. Many of the children have been abused physically or sexually. Some have seen parents murdered or lost their mothers to the AIDS virus that is decimating African families. Some are the children of incest or rape. And they are the precious hope for Kenya. Some of the children here at Naomi’s Village will go on to be the political, social, and religious leaders of that great nation. Please go to the web page and pray for all the faces you see there.

Prayer Requests _________________________________________________________

Section #6: Week of March 17-23 Luke 16.19-17.19

Service: Outreach Ministries (Samaritan Fund & Food Pantry)

Luke 16.19-31 The Rich Man and Lazarus. This memorable story is sometimes called “the story of Dives and Lazarus.” Dives is Latin for “rich man.” Those who are familiar with this story should remember that the name “Lazarus” can be a source of confusion for new Christians: this is not the same Lazarus as the one who lived in Bethany, the brother of Mary and Martha.[69] Whether this story refers to actual historical events has been debated for centuries. That is has modern application is not debatable!

The imagery is so vivid that it has inspired artists of all media across the centuries, yet the story itself is quite simple. A favorite of children, who are both intrigued and appalled at the idea of the dogs licking boo-boos, there are two immediate lessons which can be drawn for our lives. One relates to how we care for the poor, the other relates to how we pay attention to God.

What is Jesus trying to teach us about caring for the poor?

What do you need to change in your life to better follow the Master’s teaching?

How are you ignoring Jesus’ teachings in your day-to-day life?

How can better hear or pay attention to him?

Luke 17.1-10 Quick lessons. Even as and us a great a writer as Luke will face challenges in putting disparate but important sayings of Jesus into a meaningful order. In this section, we have four or five important teachings, depending on how you divide the verses; the division below is simply for the sake of clarity.

← 17.1-2: If you’re a stumbling block, you may get a millstone! Surely there are events in our lives that cause us to stumble in faith; Jesus doesn’t want his followers to be the cause of that for others. Especially, he doesn’t want those who are his disciples to cause “little ones,” children or those who are new to the faith, to stumble just as they are beginning the life of Jesus-followers.[70] What in our Christian faith and practice might be hard to understand for a non-believer? Is this practice a stumbling block for belief? Is it something that we should consider ceasing? Is there anything that do at St. Luke that might be difficult for a visitor or non-believer to understand?[71] How can we remove this as a stumbling block?

← 17.3-4 Opportunities for forgiveness are legion! Jesus did not think that this movement he was starting was perfect. He knew that there would be sin among his followers. What is he warning the disciples to “guard” against in v. 3? Forgiveness is a requirement for living in the Body of Christ, from its smallest unit (husband and wife or parent and child) to its greatest. We depend on it as we depend on air to breathe. Without it, we will wither and die. The idea of rebuking is anathema to most, however. Rebuking involves that unpleasant person-to-person encounter, that accountability and maturity of spirit which is terrifying to some believers. We would rather nurse our resentments, brood over offenses, and justify ourselves in our own righteousness. That kills faith and poisons the Body of Christ. We must forgive, Jesus says, even if the other person habitually and repeatedly offends us. We must forgive, not for the other’s sake, but for our own! Against whom do you bear a grudge? How are you violating Jesus’ injunction? What must you do differently to be in accord with Jesus’ will for your life?

← 17.5-6 There is no small amount of faith. Jesus uses the familiar image[72] of the mustard seed, which is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence, to try to teach his followers that faith cannot be measured in human terms. Faith is measured in the same way as pregnancy and uniqueness, a woman either is or is not pregnant, a thing either is or is not unique. There is no “very pregnant” or “very unique.” There is only a difference in the appearance of pregnancy or uniqueness! Jesus wants his disciples to rejoice in their faith, not to doubt it, and not to use their “lack” of faith as an excuse not to exercise what they have. Jesus is recorded as speaking of “little faith” six times in the gospels[73], and each time, it refers to the failure to exercise the faith the disciples have rather than the absence of faith entirely. In what way am I failing to step out in the faith I have? How do I need to change to more fully “exercise” my faith?

← 17.7-10 Gratitude is for sacrifice. Remember that Jesus is talking here to his disciples, those who have already given up their worldly occupations to follow him. They don’t get brownie points or jewels in their crown for becoming disciples. The gratitude of the master in this somewhat unpleasant parable is not for the slave being a slave, but for the slave going above and beyond what he or she ought to have done. Have I been patting myself on the back just for being a follower of Jesus? How can I move into a life of greater service? What is Jesus calling me to do?

Luke 17.11-19 The sweetest thank-you. The story of the ten lepers is another “good Samaritan” story, intended to remind believers that righteousness is not about an external name like “Jew” or “Christian” but about inward adherence to God’s word. Hansen’s disease, what we call “leprosy,” may or may not be what Luke is talking about here; the word was used to describe a variety of skin disorders, all of which could relegate the sufferer to isolation and banishment from his or her family.[74] There is a wonderful scene in the 1959 epic Ben Hur, based on Lew Wallace’s book by the same name, where the title character visits a leper colony and sees his mother and sister, from whom he had been separated for years. Luke tells us that the lepers keep “their distance,” but call out to Jesus, recognizing his authority and imploring his mercy.

As we have already noticed in our reading, there is no one Biblical formula for healing. It does not always involve faith or presence or touch. Here, it is interesting that Jesus does not touch the lepers, but commands them to “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” It was in their obedient response to Jesus’ command that they were healed: And as they went, they were made clean. We can’t draw from this a unilateral rule that, if we are obedient, we will be healed. However, we certainly can learn from these suffering men, all of whom were obedient to Jesus, that there is a certain blessing to be derived from doing what Jesus tells us to do!

It has been noted by thousands of preachers that only one acted on the gratitude that all felt. The point is not the gratitude, but the ethnic and religious character of the one who showed it: he was a Samaritan. Although Samaria was a geographic region, what Luke means here is that this person was a spiritual descendant of the Jews who syncretized the beliefs of their ancestors, combining them, against the explicit warnings of the prophets, with the pagan beliefs of those who lived in the hills of northern Israel. Jews despised Samaritans, who fully returned the feelings.[75]

Jesus asserts that it was the Samaritan’s faith which made him well. The point for Jesus’ followers is that this most unlikely man had more faith than the so-called religious. The Samaritan alone understood what it meant to worship God, to show thanksgiving for what had been done for him. How in awe of this man’s faith Jesus was! And how surprised must the disciples have been! Jesus’ rhetorical questions “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” are said in the man’s presence. We can imagine the man clasping Jesus’ feet or kneeling before him and Jesus’ looking over his head at the disciples, forcing the issue of what it means to be in right relationship to God.

This man was thankful for what most of us take for granted, to be able to enjoy life with our families, to be able to work and live among others, to be able just to walk down the street with his head held high. This week’s service area brings us into contact with people for whom those things are not a given, for whom meeting the basic needs of their families are not always possible, who don’t have jobs, who don’t have hope.

Service Area: St. Luke Outreach Ministries: Samaritan Fund and the Food Pantry

Both of these ministries are housed in the Outreach Center, a building which is owned by St. Luke and which is located at 1022 Second Avenue. Also located in this building is the BRIDGE ministry, which is administered by Mr. Willie Coleman. Building Responsible Individuals through Discipline, Guidance, and Education is a GED education and jobs-readiness ministry that is also supported by Trinity Episcopal and which targets at-risk young people between the ages of 18 and 25 years old.

The Samaritan Fund, which is administered by the Rev. Gaston Pollock, addresses emergency financial needs for persons who are not members of St. Luke.[76] It provides limited assistance with utility bills, pharmacy bills, and transportation. Those who seek assistance from the Samaritan Fund are interviewed by Rev. Pollock or one of the volunteers who work with him. The Samaritan Fund is entirely dependent on gifts and memorials or honoraria. If its funds are depleted, the office is closed until funds are amassed to continue the ministry. Some of the gifts are donated on Wednesday evenings at Fellowship dinner, other gifts are given when we have Holy Communion by leaving donations in the designated offering plates or at the chancel rail. You may make a financial donation to the Samaritan Fund by writing a check to St. Luke and designating it for “Samaritan Fund”.

The Uptown Food Pantry is operated entirely by volunteers and receives financial support from St. Luke and First Presbyterian Church. Because it also receives some Federal support, it is governed by Federal laws which limit food distribution to residents of Muscogee County. Food that is given out comes from four sources, federal surplus (“government cheese” is a lot more than cheese!), purchases from local grocery stores, purchases from the Feeding the Valley Food Bank (), and donations from St. Luke members and St. Luke schoolchildren. The Food Pantry encourages financial gifts, because they can be used to purchase food from the Valley Food Bank at $.18/pound!

The Food Pantry always needs new volunteers. The St. Luke members who volunteer there enjoy getting to know friends from within the congregation whom they might not normally encounter because they are in different Sunday School classes or attend different services. They also enjoy getting to know the volunteers from our neighbors at First Presbyterian. Volunteers help pick up donations of foodstuffs from the church, make runs to the Feeding the Valley Food Bank and to grocery stores, stock shelves, bag groceries, and interview potential recipients. If you would like to donate to the Food Pantry, mark your check to St. Luke “Food Pantry”. Of course, all donations may be made in honor or memory of someone. Please supply an address and full name of the person to be remembered or honored. If you would like to volunteer at either the Samaritan Fund or the Food Pantry, please contact the church office at 706-327-4343.

Prayer Requests

During your small group’s study, please pray for one another and the requests or celebrations that are shared within your group. If you wish to share one of those requests with the church prayer chain, please secure the permission of the individual before you share his or her request.

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Section #7 : Week of March 24-30 Luke 17.20-18.14

Service: Meals on Wheels

Luke 17.20-37 Teachings about God’s Kingdom. Christians believe that when the Christ returns and brings God’s kingdom on earth, the prophecies about peace on earth will be realized, the wolf really will “live with the lamb,”[77] and all peoples will acknowledge God’s authority. Curiously, this is also what Jews believe about the coming of messiah. A Jerusalem wag quipped, “When messiah comes, we will ask him the same question we ask all tourists, ‘so, is this your first visit to the Holy City?’”

Concern about the earthly manifestation of God’s kingdom is not new, nor is it news. Jesus’ response to the Pharisees has been interpreted as being either “the kingdom of God is among you” or “the kingdom of God is within you.” The Greek word which can be translated as “among” or “within” is ambiguous, so the phrase can be interpreted as meaning either that God’s kingdom is realized only within the community of believers or that God’s kingdom is internal and private and does not have an external manifestation.

The master story-teller Luke was probably aware that the word was ambiguous. It could mean that he chose it to mean both: God’s kingdom is both within and among you. Certainly this is the way we experience it, and this is what it means to acknowledge Jesus as both Savior and Lord. Jesus saves us individually; we have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ as our Savior.” To acknowledge him as Lord has a communal implication; we live out our beliefs that he is Lord by our everyday actions and words.

As to our concern about “when” God’s kingdom will be inaugurated, Jesus makes several points we should remember:

1. Don’t go running after it. It will come to you; you don’t have to look it.

2. When it comes, it will be as unmistakable as lightning. When the Son of Man returns, we won’t think it’s anything but the return of the Christ. It will not be confusing at all.

3. The kingdom is not secured by our grasping at it. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. This verse appears several times in different contexts, but always with the meaning that Christ honors sacrifice.

4. Don’t worry about where or when, just who. The enigmatic reference to one being taken and another left provokes the question from the disciples, “where will they be taken?” Jesus’ response is an aphorism that would have been familiar to his hearers and makes sense to anyone who’s traveled across a stretch of country: if you see a bunch of buzzards circling, you know there’s something dead on the ground somewhere nearby. In other words, you don’t have to wonder about where or when, just worry about whether you yourself are following Christ, then you’ll be okay.

Luke 18.1-14 Two stories about prayer. If we are not sure about the point of a parable, sometimes we can check to see how Jesus introduces it. 18.1-8 is not a parable about the nature of God, but about our need to pray always and not to lose heart. If the unjust judge accedes to the widow’s request because he was sick and tired of listening to her whine, how much more so will God listen to us when we pray—God, who does not become impatient and who is the epitome of justice?

It is troubling when people impute to God characteristics that are less humane than humans, making God to be vengeful or spiteful or uncaring or mean-spirited. Nope, that is we critters! We are the ones who have these limitations. A sorrowing woman wondered whether God had consigned her brother to hell after he committed suicide, a teaching which some promulgate in the mistaken belief that it is Scriptural. It is not, and maligns the character of God. What! If God did that, he would love this man, his own creation, less than the sister did.

God loves us more, not less, than human fathers or mothers or sisters or brothers. God loves us perfectly, not in the flawed, demanding, quid pro quo way that we humans love one another. The story about the unjust judge is not a story about God’s character but about our willingness to give up in praying.

What causes us to give up? Why do people stop praying?

What have you given up on in prayer?

What do you need to do to be more like the annoying widow?[78]

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The little old man was wearing blue jeans, sneakers, and a very ancient t-shirt, too tight for him and certainly too full of holes to be worn in public. He needed a haircut. He wandered into the chapel service on the Emory Campus with a rather vacant, beatific look on his face and took a seat off to the side. No one spoke to him. I thought, “How nice. Emory lets homeless people come to chapel.”

Later in the day, Spencer and I were excited to attend a luncheon at which a Nobel Laureate who was on the Emory faculty would speak. We managed to find a seat within sight of the dais, and when the speaker came to the lectern, I was horrified. The “homeless man” was Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who looked a little different in his bishop’s purple and pectoral cross. To make matters worse, he chose as his text this passage, introducing it with this joke: “Two archbishops were praying in the front of the cathedral, beating their breasts and crying aloud, ‘Lord, I am not worthy! Have mercy on me, a sinner! O Lord, I am not worthy!’

About this time, a janitor comes in the back of the cathedral, pushing his broom. Hearing the archbishops praying, he paused, propping up on the broom, listening to them, ‘Lord, I am not worthy! Have mercy on me, a sinner! O Lord, I am not worthy!’ So he put the broom down and walked up the long aisle to the front of the cathedral. He stood off to the side, would not even look up to heaven, but began to beat his breast, praying ‘Lord, I am not worthy! Have mercy on me, a sinner! O Lord, I am not worthy!’

After a minute, one of the archbishops pauses, looks at the janitor, then turns to the other archbishop and said, ‘Look who thinks he’s not worthy.’”

The conceit of the Pharisee is that he is “not like other people.” What an isolating and very prevalent sentiment! Congregations are full of people who each believe that he is the only one to have been betrayed or she is the only one to have a cancer diagnosis, or they are the only couple who haven’t spoken in days or the only parents who are despairing over their children. We each suffer uniquely, but we all suffer. Christ wants us to come before him and receive his grace, and he wants us to know that there are others within the Body of Christ who have walked the road we walk and are willing to walk with us now.

This is Holy Week, when we remember the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. Perhaps the difference between Peter and Judas, who both betrayed Jesus, is that the latter really believed that he was not like other people, and Peter knew that he was no better than other people. This is a week for us to look to our Master and Teacher, our Redeemer and Lord, for the power to extend grace to the other souls who cross our paths, who are no better or worse than we, and who very well may need the life-giving touch of Christ.

saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

“I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Service Opportunity: Meals on Wheels

Every day of the work week, our St. Luke kitchen prepares hot meals which are picked up around 11:00 a.m. by volunteers. Usually working in teams, these volunteers deliver these meals to the homebound and elderly along 4 routes around Columbus. In addition to the important nutritional aspect of this ministry, the simple human contact between the volunteers and grateful recipients is a blessing to both!

Volunteers usually take one day a month. Some Bible studies or small groups take this ministry on as their mission project. One men’s “e-team”[79] has been doing this for years. The picking up and delivery takes about two hours, one day per month.

Right now, this ministry is being administered out of the St. Luke Ministry Center, with Administrative Assistant Julie Widener (jwidener@) making sure the meals are picked up and delivered. The Rev. Gaston Pollock calls the volunteers the night before to remind them of their obligation the next day. There is a need for volunteers at several levels in Meals on Wheels:

← Delivery of meals once a month

← Coordination of “routes”—being a route captain, to help fill spaces when volunteers retire or are unavailable

← Summer volunteer to take vacation days which would normally be filled by regular volunteers

← Running and mapping a route when new recipients are added

← Overall coordination of this ministry, in association with Ms. Widener

To find out more about any of these levels of involvement, please contact Ms. Widener or the church office at 706-256-1017.

Prayer Requests

During your small group’s study, please pray for one another and the requests or celebrations that are shared within your group. If you wish to share one of those requests with the church prayer chain, please secure the permission of the individual before you share his or her request.

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Cynthia Cox Garrard © 2013

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[1] Depicted in the lower right in the relief, which is a detail of a portal of St. Trophime in Arles, France.

[2] Matthew 5.3, New Revised Standard Version. Direct quotes from Scripture will always be in bold face and will be from the NRSV unless otherwise noted.

[3] Luke 6.20.

[4] Line of Splendor, William W. Winn, p. 12.

[5] Splendor, p. 13.

[6] Splendor, p. 64.

[7] The names in italics come from the first word of the passage in Latin.

[8] Luke 11.1b. The Lord’s prayer is found at 11.2-4, and does not contain the familiar words, “…but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” Those words were added by Church tradition, more on which follows! Note Jesus’ form: he does not pray “in Jesus’ name” when he teaches his disciples how to pray (how awkward would that have been?!). He gives a very basic Jewish prayer which, for some readers, is a surprisingly Jewish prayer. If you think you don’t know how to pray with your spouse or children, Jesus is teaching you himself in these verses: start with these words.

[9] Luke 8.40-42, 49-56.

[10] Colossians 4.14, see also II Timothy 4.11 and Philemon 24.

[11]Westminster Dictionary of the Bible; Westminster Press, 1970, p. 603.

[12] Westminster, p. 570.

[13] Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience are “the Wesleyan Quadrilateral,” so named by the late Wesleyan scholar Dr. Albert Outler.

[14] Not a James Bond reference, Q stands for “Quelle”, German for “source.”

[15] Why else would you begin your story with a stylized genealogy? Some readers find genealogies fascinating; most are bored, confused, or so put off by the beginning they close the book.

[16] Which Matthew does: 1.22-23; 2.6-7, 18; 3.3b, etc.

[17] Luke 1.42-45.

[18] 1.51b, 52a.

[19] “Good news” is the translation of the Greek euangelion, or “evangel.”

[20] The celebration of “Mardi Gras” or Fat Tuesday began as a way to get all the things out of the house that one would forgo during the period of Lent, which begins the next day on Ash Wednesday.

[21] Cf. Gen. 3.21, Num. 24.1, II Kings 12.17.

[22] But compare this verse of that hymn, which is not so saccharine: “Thou didst live to God alone; Thou didst never seek Thine own; Thou Thyself didst never please: God was all Thy happiness.”

[23] The “seventy” resonates with a couple of concepts from the Hebrew Bible: the seventy of the house of Jacob in Egypt (Genesis 46.27, Exodus 1.5, Deuteronomy 10.22) and the leaders of the Hebrews appointed by Moses (Exodus 24.1, Numbers 11.24). In both cases, the seventy are subordinate to the leader but have authority over others.

[24] Luke 4.38.

[25] Balak wanted Balaam to curse the Hebrews (Numbers 22): “Come now, curse this people for me, since they are stronger than I; perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land; for I know that whomever you bless is blessed, and whomever you curse is cursed.”

[26] The very best explanation of this difficult concept can be found in C. S. Lewis’ children’s series The Chronicles of Narnia, available in our church library. In the last book of that series, The Last Battle, Lewis explains how it is that the same event which some experience as a feast is experienced by others as famine. There are those who, for whatever reason, choose misery and bitterness over joy and peace. You may know someone like this. God doesn’t love that person less than God loves you, but the love that God offers that person is experienced differently by him or her from the way you experience it.

[27] Line of Splendor, p. 506.

[28] John 11 tells the story of the illness, death, and resurrection of Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus and shows Martha in a much better light than does Luke!

[29] However, note Luke 11.27-28: 27…a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” 28But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” Jesus clearly does value righteous actions and obedience to God’s word.

[30] Luke 9.12-17.

[31] The little child, Luke 9.46-48, and the blind beggar, Luke 18.35-43.

[32] Called “Gadarene” in Matthew 8.28.

[33] Not because they are children, but because they are human! Another example of triangulation can be seen in Luke 12.32-33. Jesus turns the question right back on the questioner, revealing the true problem: greed, not sibling relationships!

[34] It may be self-evident to the more experienced Bible student, but it bears repeating here: there are several persons named John in the New Testament. Children, at least, get very confused between John the Baptist, who is beheaded early on in the story of Jesus, and John the disciple.

[35] Luke 7.24-34.

[36] Acts 19.1-7

[37] The baptism of John follows the Jewish tradition of cleansing following repentance. The penitent would be immersed in a mikveh, a ritual pool.

[38] Not coincidentally, about the only folks who don’t ask how to pray are little children. They assume that, knowing how to speak, they also know how to speak to God. Neither do they think that they cannot draw or sing or dance. They assume that these are all things they can do. Now, what was it Jesus said about being like little children? (Luke 18.15-17).

[39] The doxological ending that we are familiar with, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”, was actually added by Henry VIII before he left the Roman Church, which has never used the doxology as part of the Lord’s Prayer.

[40] The question of human suffering and prayers for healing will be discussed in depth in section #4, so will not be a part of this week’s study. If your small group has questions about prayers for healing or prayers of intercession, make notes of those questions in section #4, to be discussed then!

[41] Oddly enough, Gamaliel was one of Paul’s teachers, Acts 22.3. Paul must not have followed this advice when he was Saul, persecuting Christians.

[42] Acts 5.38b-39

[43] Compare to the process of confirming candidates for national office. The examiners want to know the credentials of the candidate, the capabilities of the candidate, and the calling of the candidate.

[44] Let’s assume that he does know what he’s doing, since he is a terrific writer!

[45] Exodus 28.12, but see also Genesis 31.46.

[46] See the very helpful 613.htm for a complete list--and for answers to lots of other questions as well!

[47] blogs/thetwo-way/2013/01/14/169164840/losing-our-religion-the-growth-of-the-nones

[48] Matthew 12.31-32.

[49] Quote from the New Oxford Annotated NRSV.

[50] Luke 6. Abuse here is not talking about spousal or child abuse, mistreatment of those who are entrusted to our care or mistreatment by those in relationship to us. The New Testament is quite clear that sort of abuse is not godly, and in fact breaks God’s heart: see Ephesians 5.21, 25 and 6.4. If you know of someone who is being abused or if you are being abused, please talk with one of your pastors immediately.

[51] Luke 1.1-2: Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word…

[52] The main building of St. Luke is the one where the Sanctuary is.

[53] Compare to Luke 3.9 and Matthew 3.10.

[54] Luke uses “kingdom of God” where Matthew’s gospel uses “kingdom of Heaven” out of his sensitivity to Jewish readers, who would not say or write the name of God.

[55] Genesis 2.1-3. Resting is the literal meaning of shabbat.

[56] There is no consensus on where the term “blue law” originated.

[57] And not on any other day. Heard that one before, we have.

[58] Compare Luke 12.33, 18.22 and Acts 5.1-11.

[59] John 6.60, paraphrased.

[60] A woman in the Methodist church who is consecrated to service. Our member Dr. Sandi Hortmann is a deaconess in the UMC.

[61] Private interview, 1994.

[62] Clothing sales continued at OPCH until 2012.

[63] Interfaith Food Bank—now Second Harvest, Columbus Alliance for Battered Women—now Hope Harbour, the Muscogee Area Literacy Association, and the Columbus Jobs Council—now BRIDGE.

[64] This is the only mention of women in the story.

[65] Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, the meaning of life.

[66] Genesis 3.9-10.

[67] “Money” is mentioned 24 times in the gospels, “riches” twice, “wealth” eight times. In contrast, “hell” is mentioned eleven times, and homosexuality or sodomy not at all (in the gospels). That is not to say that Jesus did not teach on these topics or that they do not matter. It is simply to point out that, statistically, money was a pretty important topic to Jesus; he teaches about it a LOT.

[68] Read the verse on adultery carefully: it is directed to men, who were the only ones under Jewish law who had the right to sue for divorce. Jesus is making a very powerful statement about men who divorce their wives, then marry again. In Jesus’ day, women could not seek divorce, they were divorced by their husbands.

[69] John 11.

[70] Paul treats this subject more extensively in I Corinthians 8.1-6. Luke himself mentions this teaching in Luke’s companion volume, The Acts of the Apostles, chapters 15 and 21.

[71] If the answer to this question is “yes,” please share your concern with one of the pastors!

[72] Luke 13.18-19, compare Matthew 13.31 and 17.20 and Mark 4.31.

[73] Only once in Luke, 12.28.

[74] The Hebrew Bible mandates isolation for the afflicted and treatment for the “infected” things that touch the afflicted, but also prescribes certain procedures for declaring a person acceptable or “clean” once the infection is cleared. See Leviticus 13-14.

[75] As chronicled by CNN and The National Geographic, there remain just under a thousand Samaritans living in isolated family groups in Israel today, clinging to their unique interpretation of Judaism, to the extent that they have their own Torah.

[76] There is another resource for persons within the congregation. Please contact one of the pastors if you have questions about this resource.

[77] Isaiah 11.1-9 does not speak of the “lion and the lamb,” as so often depicted in Christmas cards.

[78] In persistence, not in the being annoying part.

[79] Encouragement team.

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Take a minute and share in your small group about passages that have grown or changed in their meanings over the years.

Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

Credit: Matt Stiles/NPR

“"Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies…you've got to be kind."

A planned baptismal speech for the neighbor’s twins, from Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.”

The Rev. Tom Johnson, former Executive Director of ODCH, stated “the priorities of the National Division of the General Board of Global Ministries of the UMC in its institutions are: to work with women, children, and low-income people. From the very beginning, this has been the concern of Open Door.”

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