Sunday is Coming! “Focus beyond that fox…” Luke 13:31-35, Lent 2C

“Herod wants to kill you” (Luke 13:31b)

Jesus has already “set his face toward Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51) but he won’t get there until Luke 19. He is clear in his mission on the way. “I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow and on the third day I finish my work.” (Luke 13:32). On this long road, Jesus is clear on what he is doing, and what the implications will be. The powers of this world are threatened by him. Soon, those powers will crash around Jesus – but not yet.

While Herod is referred to as “a fox” who threatens to kill him (Luke 13:31-32), it is Pilate, not Herod, who will condemn Jesus to the cross to die (Luke 23:13-35). Jesus’ death looms on the way to Jerusalem as its logical conclusion, of which Jesus seems painfully aware: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills prophets...” (Luke 13:34). Herod’s power is meaningless. Only the mission matters.

How often do we shy away from doing or saying what we know is right, not realizing those who threaten us are often powerless?

Jesus does not back down. While the opposition against him is growing, his focus is narrowing. He looks to Jerusalem and his rejection as the climax of where is life is headed, not as the threat of others. He laments the city’s faithlessness. He hopes to gather God’s people like a hen gathers its chicks for protection, but they would rather scatter by their own devices. In the weeks that come they will gather with shouts of, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38) only to scatter and turn on him with shouts to crucify (Luke 23:21).  We often abandon the mission and scatter without focus too.

Jerusalem and the cross are coming. So is the third day. Keep focused.

We are those Jesus hopes to shelter us by his very presence. We are not immune from the dangers of this world but are covered by his enduring faithfulness and grace to face anything that comes at us. This is a time for courage and boldness. Jesus calls us to join him in casting out the demonic and bringing healing to those around us. There is still road to travel ahead. Jerusalem awaits. With Jesus we are on the way.

With Jesus beside you, why should you care what foxes want to do?


Sunday is coming! “Confronting comfort/power/security in the wilderness” Luke 4:1-13, Lent 1C

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:1-2)

The temptation in the wilderness is a showdown between Jesus and these temptations personified in the devil.

Comfort: “Turn these stones to bread, and you’ll never have to want for anything again.”

Power: “Worship me and I’ll give you the kingdoms of this world who will bow down to you.””

Security: “Throw yourself down from the Temple to reveal your power and God will protect you and keep you safe.”

Three questions emerge from these three areas of life.

  1. How do we typically respond to these temptations?
  2. How does Jesus respond to these temptations?
  3. What can we learn from Jesus?

How do we typically respond to these temptations?

Comfort, power and security form the basis of much of our our competitive/consumer economy, how we often treat our relationships and the world of human politics. Using our agency in economics/relationships/politics for self-interest over the interest of others or for the benefit of the whole we easily pushes us into acting out of greed, exploitation and violence. We respond to one another out of perceived scarcity, fear and dehumanization. We objectify our desires and opponents and seek to insulate ourselves from the world. We turn inward to glorify ourselves, hide from God and negatively judge our neighbors. How we live can be damaging to ourselves, to others and the world in which we live.

How does Jesus respond to these temptations?

Jesus addresses each of these key areas with biblical responses. All three verses he quotes point to God rather than to comfort/power/security:

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

Power: The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear.” (Deuteronomy 6:13)

Security: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Deuteronomy 6:16)

Depending on God’s promises is of greater value than feeling comfortable. Faith often deepens when our circumstances become the most challenging. True power comes in serving God not by lording what we can do over others. The wilderness teaches humility and respect for things that are out of our control to better focus on our mission. Jesus’ mission is teaching and showing compassion to others, healing the broken, forgiving the sinner, including the outsider and bringing good news to the poor. Placing himself outside of human constraints and definitions of power, reveals Jesus’ heavenly/divine power; as he confronts worldly/human power. The cross will be the place where undeserved mercy and self-giving love will be made known.

What can we learn from Jesus?

The lure of comfort/power/security can draw us away from God and one another. On the flip-side – entering the wilderness can point us to confront within us our temptation to think only of ourselves. In the wilderness we can to learn to trust God no matter what situation we face, and reorient our lives to see the wilderness others are struggling. Remember the wilderness story, helps Jesus find his voice and focus to re-engage the world through the lens of being focused on his mission of mercy and compassion among people.

We could all use a wilderness refresher course this Lent. Don’t forget, you are not alone. Jesus is sent by the Holy Spirit, and so are we!

-What comforts/powers/securities tempt you from the wilderness?


Sunday is Coming! “Jesus shines so bright they don’t see or hear him” Luke 9:28-45, Transfiguration C

“The appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white.” (Luke 9:29)

I have always found the Transfiguration puzzling.

In Matthew, Mark and Luke the Transfiguration is a pivotal moment in the gospel story as Jesus shines brightly on the mountain (Luke 9:29-30). Standing in glory with both the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) the voice of heaven proclaims, “This is my son, my chosen, listen to him” (Luke 9:35). It should be easy enough for them (and for us) to see and hear. Jesus is the very embodiment of good news; and the gospel writers point us to where their stories are going – to his message, rejection, suffering, death and resurrection.

The Transfiguration is a clarion call for the church to both see Jesus in all things and hear the promise of his death and resurrection meeting us in all things. OK, maybe it isn’t as hard to see or hear as I think it is. But it is still difficult to know how to react to a radiant Jesus.

It seems equally as difficult for the disciples.

Looking at the story that follows it, Jesus comes across as a bit annoyed that the disciples have no idea what is going on when they encounter a boy possessed by a demon (not that we would fare any better). After snapping at them, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you?” (Luke 9:41a) Jesus heals the boy. They miss the kingdom of God unfolding right before them and the opportunity to participate. Instead they are astounded while the people are amazed (Luke 9:43-44).

It remains difficult for them to see and hear him. (Maybe that is true for us too.)

It is not that they did not have opportunities.

They had after all seen Jesus heal many people and do other signs. Jesus gave them power and authority to cast our demons and go heal diseases (Luke 9:1-11). The had participated in the feeding of the 5000 (Luke 9:12-17). When Jesus asked what people were saying about him, Peter proclaimed him to be the Messiah (Luke 9:18-20). Jesus told them that he would suffer, be rejected, be killed and be raised (Luke 9:21-22). He called them to pick up their crosses and follow him (Luke 9:23-27). That Jesus was then transformed on the mountain so we can see his glory is a great use of foreshadowing as the good news unfolds.

The disciples just didn’t see it.

Neither do we.

Maybe that is the point.

Jesus tells them again that he is going to suffer, die and be raised, but they didn’t understand. Their confusion and fear were too much for them to see what was happening and really listen to what he was telling them (Luke 9:44-45). That happens to us too. We get overwhelmed by the baggage we carry with us. We might follow Jesus for some time and the power of God’s overwhelming love and undeserved mercy may not truly hit us as the liberating word and amazing grace that it is.  We may still be afraid, bewildered, disoriented and unsettled by the pain and suffering we see around us in the world, or the hurt and shame we feel ourselves.   

When we look in on ourselves, it becomes almost impossible for us to believe that God is making all things new, restoring all things, and reconciling all creation to himself. We keep looking for limitations. So Jesus keeps shining brightly until we see him.

Where do you see Jesus shining?

Keep looking.


Sunday is coming! “You want me to do WHAT?!!??! with my enemy?” -Luke 6:27-36, Epiphany 7C

“Love your enemies” (Luke 6:27)

We live by very prudent wisdom:

Destroy your enemy.

Dismiss your enemy.

Ignore your enemy.

Tolerate your enemy.

Understand your enemy.

…in order to defeat your enemy.

These strategies make sense for our survival.

They make sense to protect the things we value and the people to whom we belong.

They make sense to ensure our success in a world of competition and limits.

We believe that enemies are obstacles to overcome.

We hold enemies responsible for interfering with our goals. To succeed we need to move beyond them; whether it be by removal, decimation, work-arounds, forgetting they are there, acknowledging their presence or learning from them. Enemies must be defeated, or we will lose.

We believe enemies are our opposite.

We consider ourselves to be relatively good people with good intentions. Enemies prevent and curb our ‘goodness‘ by their implicit ‘badness.’ In a culture that craves redemptive violence, our counter-strike against our enemies gives our lives value and defines us by what we are not. Defeating enemies may require us to stoop to their level or to compromise our values and ethics – but we believe the ends justify the means. Enemies are enemies after-all, not real people or anyone of value. Enemies are not ‘us’ but ‘them.’  Enemies are the ‘bad guys.’ Enemies are ‘evil.’

We believe that we need the threat of enemies.

Threats provide motivation, purpose and meaning. Threats bring innovation and creativity. Threats help us rise to the occasion with courage. We can achieve our greatest accomplishments by overcoming opposition. Complacency is the greatest threat of all. If we defeat one enemy, we inevitably will seek another.

Jesus says, ‘love your enemy.’

‘Do good to those who hate you.’

‘Bless those who curse you.’

‘Pray for those who abuse you.’

‘If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.’

‘Give to everyone who begs from you.’

‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ (Luke 6:27-31)

This is as radical a teaching to us as it would have been to Jesus’ first listeners.

It is a different paradigm for our world:

where the highest value is mercy (Luke 6:36); not winning;

where our common humanity is more important that our differences or division;

where the needs of ‘others’ are as important or perhaps even more important than ourselves;

where fear and hostility take a backseat to forgiveness and collaboration;

where those who hurt us and humiliate are worth redeeming;

where the greatest threat to our humanity us is ourselves;

where enemies are loved;

just as Jesus loves us.

It sounds impossible, improbable and impractical. It makes no logical or emotional sense.

Yet loving our enemies is Christ’s vision for our humanity.

So what might “loving our enemies” mean?

Loving enemies does not mean negating justice, overlooking violence, submitting to abuse, not following through on the consequences of people’s actions (including our own) or forgoing the responsibility of keeping one another safe.

  • It means working toward restorative justice, peacemaking and non-violence.
  • It means continually dismantling systems of hate, discrimination and exploitation.
  • It means not demonizing people (especially when we think they deserve it).
  • It means creating systems that support mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health and well-being.
  • It means working to protect and listen to survivors of abuse, violence and other crime, following-through and taking responsibility for the consequences of actions (and inaction) while valuing the humanity of everyone involved.
  • It means striving for reconciliation over retaliation.
  • It means putting others before ourselves.
  • It means self-sacrificial Christ-like love; not because it is easy but because it is difficult (if not impossible).
  • It means striving for God’s kingdom and righteousness as we learn, grow into and become the blessing Christ calls us to be.
  • It means not relying upon ourselves but on the mercy and grace of a loving God.

Jesus pushes us to see that we have no enemies; there are just other people God also loves.

Who would you say are your enemies?

How could we love, what we have been taught too often to hate?

Where does this seem impossible?

Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37)


Sunday is coming! “Restorative Blessing and Woe” Luke 6:17-26, Epiphany 6C

“They had come to hear him and be healed of their diseases.” (Luke 6:18a)

Special focus on this passage highlights the blessings and woes in Luke’s version of what is often called “The Sermon on the Plain,” by comparing what Jesus says in these verses with Matthew’s version in “The Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5:1-12. Reading these two passages side by side can be a helpful exercise.

These words bring to life the mission Jesus had been embodying all along, “to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and the day of the Lord” arriving, today, right there, in their hearing (Luke 4:18).

His words continue to speak to us: on the level place, on a mountaintop, or wherever we encounter them still…

For those who have been kicked to the curb, thrown away with the trash, trampled on by the powerful, exploited by the greedy and run down by life, Jesus speaks of God’s blessing by announcing a great reversal of abandonment, cruelty, injustice, judgment and mortality experienced by the hurting, estranged and forgotten.

Yet, unlike Matthew’s version of this sermon, in Luke’s version Jesus also speaks directly to those who throw away others, trample on the powerless, exploit others by greed, ignore the problems of this world and prop up their own comfort. When Jesus says “woe” (the equivalent of saying ‘God’s warning, judgment and wrath are upon you’) he not only gives a stern word of rebuke, he calls for repentance to turn around to see our fellow human beings in a new restorative way.

The kingdom opens when healing comes.

His sermon continues by calling all his hearers to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who hate you and pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28 – part of next week’s passage). Jesus calls us not to crush our enemies but to bring them back into the fold. Community is made by bringing people together, not by eliminating parts of it. Our individual thoughts and actions matter. So do the systems we participate in both active and passive ways. Jesus’ sermon comes as a wake-up call to all of us.

Restorative justice (not punitive justice) is the true healing all of us need. Jesus calls us into that healing together.

When we begin to see our common humanity in an age of dehumanizing the other, blame and deep divisions, it begins to look a bit like the Kingdom of God.

That would be a true blessing.


-Where are you calling out to God for healing and hope in your life?

-Where can you share healing and hope with others?

-What systems do you participate in that hurt others? What will you do about it?

“Sunday is coming! “Seeking Partnership.” Luke 5:1-11, Epiphany 5C

So they signaled their partners in the other boat to help them.” (Luke 5:7)

I wonder where we came up with the idea that we must be self-sufficient in order to survive and be successful. We live in a ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ culture that is supportive of a ‘make it or break it’; ‘sink or swim’; and ‘I can do it on my own’ mentality. We are taught to view help, support, partnership and collaboration as inferior to a ‘Lone Ranger’ approach to life. We view other people as commodities we can get something from or as potential customers we can sell something to – often not valuing people’s humanity beyond our self-interested transactions.

The result is that most of us end up feeling like failures when we need help, or that we are suckers because others only want things from us. We live in the greatest technological age recorded in human history; rooted in high speed communication, networking and information overload, and yet we are lonely, isolated and anxious. We live on social media behind the mask of our apparent success and happiness while we fear being left-behind and forgotten without anyone noticing.

The truth is: even the Lone Ranger had Tonto!

We need other people and others need us. Humans have a high capacity for independence, but also a deep need for relationship, belonging, and shared experiences that give us meaning. We long for community, and we benefit greatly from collaboration. From friends, family, schools, places of business, sports, clubs, communities of faith, service organizations and many other groupings we participate in, we come together around common causes, actions and beliefs. Humans are social beings.

Jesus went to Lake Gennesaret (a.k.a. the Sea of Galilee, Luke 5:1) and there were two fishing boats on the shore where he was teaching the crowd. He got into Simon’s boat and went out on the water. When they approached the deep water, he told them to drop the nets. Simon protested, saying, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing” (Luke 5:5a). On their own nothing happened. But when the other boat came to help, the catch was so large both boats nearly sank.

It was by listening to Jesus and in calling to others that abundance nearly overwhelmed Simon. He pushed back against Jesus with his own unworthiness, but instead Jesus offered him (along with James and John) a new calling – to fish for people. They left behind the boats and followed Jesus (Luke 5:7-11).

Imagine the partnership Jesus calls for as a contrast to our ‘boot straps’ culture…

  • What if we stopped pining for what we don’t have or what we thought we have lost and started realizing and living into the abundance right in front of us, because no matter how hard we have tried in the past or how tired we think we are, we listened to Jesus and when we did, we dropped the nets in the deep water?
  • What would it look like if we relied on each other more, utilized our unique and individual set of gifts in our church-communities more, networked our churches and other organizations in our specific locations more, thought about how to connect actual resources to needs more productively, brought together multiple generations, ethnic heritages, faith backgrounds, economic status levels, etc. to work on the challenges we all face because being together and getting to know real people with real stories benefits everyone?
  • What if we invited the neighbors around us we don’t know to service and community events, considered hosting forums on relevant topics from multiple perspectives, intentionally befriended the people we have been taught to be afraid of, sought humane ways to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit the imprisoned knowing we are not the answer, we have often failed, but we are open to keep pursuing our calling by seeking partners, collaborators and allies wherever we can find them?

We might need another boat.



Other ideas for this story…

  1. Jesus calls us into the deep waters. It can be scary, but he is not looking for shallow disciples or easy quick fixes. Jesus calls us out where the waters are often unknown, beyond the crowd we are used to, where the water is choppier than we think we can handle and the future is unknown. Jesus want us to take a risk. Remember: Just as Jesus called, “a sinful man” like Simon (at least Simon thought he was, Luke 5:8); he also calls you. Where do we hold back by our sense of guilt or reluctance or because we do not think we are up to the task? We are called to faith not certainty. So are you ready to go?
  2. When Jesus shows up, so does the abundant catch. They had worked all night without any fish. Once Jesus was there (or for us, once we realize Jesus is here) scarcity disappears, isolation vanishes, our self-imposed sense of failure dissipates, and it is possible for us to see something we may have missed before. So why do we try to live and work without seeing Jesus at work in our lives? In receiving the abundance of those gifts he asks us to share and invite others into his mission.
  3. Jesus seeks to make us his partners! Jesus only goes out on the water by borrowing Simon’s boat. This story could be told without a another boat. But as Luke describes, it is only when the second boat is called in, are the nets abundantly full. Think about this the next time you do something independent of other people. Consider how the things you do can impact others (both positively and negatively; intentionally and unintentionally). How might collaboration look at home, at work, at a place of learning or service, on a team or as part of a group, club or project? How might organizations you participate in benefit from working intentionally together? What is potentially lost when we don’t?

Sunday is coming! Luke 4:21-30 “Then what about me?” -Epiphany 4C

When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so they might hurl him off the cliff.” (Luke 4:28-29)

When is the last time your love of other people was so offensive that a crowd wanted to throw you off a cliff?

Think about that for a while.

Jesus had just preached (a once sentence sermon) of liberation – the poor would receive good news, the blind would see, the prisoners released and the captives would be set free – TODAY in their hearing. Imagine the excitement that kind of message could generate among a people oppressed by empire and trampled on by life.

But when they questioned him, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22), Jesus pushed back with three examples of what he was talking about being fulfilled in their hearing:

-Do for us what you did in Capernaum…no prophet is accepted in his hometown (Luke 4:23-24).

-During the famine in Israel, Elijah helped the woman from Zarephath in Sidon (Luke 4:25-26).

-When there were many lepers in the time of Elisha, the only one Elisha cured was Naaman the Syrian (Luke 4:27).

Our problem with God’s love, mercy and grace, is we believe it is in scarce supply and belongs only to us. Our problem with Jesus as a system breaker and life-changer is we are often too comfortable with the status-quo. Our problem with others is we don’t think they deserve what we rightfully don’t deserve either (but we think and behave like we do).

Why cure people in Capernaum? We are here in Nazareth- where is our healing Jesus?

Sidon? Syria? Foreigners? Who cares about them? We are here in Israel. We are God’s chosen people; not them.

The poor? The captive? The oppressed? The hungry? The immigrant? The person without insurance? The under-employed or unemployed? The people struggling in our community? The people kicked to margins? The forgotten ones? The blamed and scapegoated?

If you help them Jesus, what about us?

What about this country? What about this community? What about this church? What about my family and loved ones? What about me Jesus?

If you help all these others….and if you are asking me to help them too… then what about me?

We are always afraid of scarcity.

Sometimes it is easier to throw Jesus off the cliff than it is to see that there is an abundance of life, liberty, justice, mercy, care, love, peace, grace and humanity for everyone…TODAY, because Jesus is here among us all and the jubilee is about to begin.

Are you ready to help Jesus set the captives free (and in doing so find a new freedom yourself), or are you more ready to throw Jesus off the cliff and anyone else who you think is taking something from you that was never yours in the first place?

Think about it.


Sunday is Coming! “The issue: Today…in your hearing” Luke 4:14-21, Epiphany 3C

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)

The issue is not Jesus’ hometown. The issue is not that his faith-community knew him since he was a child.  The issue is not the passage Jesus chose to read from the scriptures (the image of restoration was a hope the people had held close for centuries). Those are all good things. It can often feel good to come home.

The issue was his preaching.

Jesus had just emerged from forty days in the wilderness where he had been tempted by comfort, power and security (Luke 4:1-13).  He started preaching throughout out Galilee (Luke 4:14-15). As Jesus regained his strength and stamina as entered the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth; he knew the purpose and center for his ministry. He had been honing in his message. It was time to go public.

This scene serves like a mission statement for the ministry we are about to witness over the course of the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles – Jesus brings good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, and he lets the oppressed go free (Luke 4:18-19).  As we will see in both Luke and Acts – these themes are both literal and figurative in the encounters Jesus has with people and the community that the Spirit draws around him. Jesus proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor – the longed for jubilee that would overturn political and economic inequity, forgive all debt, reconcile wrongdoing and restore the whole people. It was a promise of the past when the people lived freely in the land, it was remembered when they had returned from exile, and in Jesus’ day it lived in a Messianic hope that Rome would be toppled, and the fortunes of Israel would be restored.

Jesus’ message was controversial because he preached, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Jesus was calling for revolution, but a revolution that was already won and was now being realized. It was preposterous. Rome still dominated everything. The people were still oppressed. Hunger and poverty were everywhere. Sickness and death pervaded everyday life. Scarcity and fear held a tight grip on everything known and experienced. The world was a mess.

It still is.

Many in our time are hopeless and cynical that our lives could be any different than the injustice, pain, death and powerlessness we see and know. Either Jesus was a liar, deluded by his own sense of calling and purpose, or by his very presence – changed everything.  The people listening to Jesus that day couldn’t see it. Their ears were not open to receive that message.

Are ours?

People we care about struggle with their health and the financial burden that goes with it (we do too). Injustice, abuse and exploitation are everywhere. We keep overlooking the systemic ways people are devalued and mistreated, pretending suffering isn’t there, that it never happened, or could never happen to us. Our debt owns us. Our economy consumes us. Our prisons overflow. How would the people in your life react if Jesus told us “today” we would all be free?

How do we?

The people in the synagogue smiled at Jesus’ words at first, but they questioned his background, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22). They were quick to argue and dismiss him. As the scene escalated, they threatened his life (Luke 4:23-30). How many interactions like this have you had or know of with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers that quickly get out of hand when talking about the real challenges we face as individuals, families, churches, communities, nation and world?

When we fail to listen to Jesus or act in the hope that God’s promises are realized in real time – we continue to reject him. Yet the witnesses of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection in this and every age continue claim that his very presence among us does in fact change our perspective, reality and the trajectory of our lives.

Listen to the promise: Whatever hardship we face, Jesus’ kingdom comes “Today in your hearing.” Be free of what burdens you and join the jubilee.

If the kingdom of God really comes “today in our hearing“…

…How would we see the world differently?

…What could we live differently?

…How should we do differently?


“Sunday is coming! “Running out of wine and the abundant best yet to come.” John 2:1-11, Epiphany 2C

They have no wine” (John 2:3).

As churches, we spend a lot of time talking about, worrying about and complaining about perceived scarcity: the energy we think we have run out of; the time we think we don’t have; the people we wish were part of our congregations (or were still part of our congregations) but are not; the money we wish we had, the things we used to do, etc.

As people of faith, we constantly wonder if we can ever be enough, can be good enough, or can do enough. We give lip service to God’s unconditional love and mercy for us and for the world, but we have a difficult time truly believing that grace is true, real and palpable. So we try to (to no avail) to live by our works and self-righteousness.

As those who live in the real world, we clamor for protectionism – we are suspicious of others and distance ourselves from the things we don’t know or understand. We cower from the world’s problems. We believe that people are out to get us or take things from us. We try to hide from real suffering around us or that we ourselves face. We distance ourselves from the challenges that seem to big or too difficult to change and believe maybe if we ignore them, they will go away. Deep down we know how fragile and feeble we are.

This story in John (2:1-11) offers an alternative.

Jesus is always one to show abundance. He says later in this gospel: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10)  Whether it is changing water into wine in this story, multiplying the loaves and fishes in others, or his constant expression of compassion and mercy with people who do not deserve it throughout the gospel narratives; just when we think there is nothing left – Jesus surprises us with abundance.

It is fitting that this story takes place at a wedding. It is already a lavish feast. Since it takes place “on the third day” (John 2:1) this party serves as a sign of the heavenly feast that is to yet to come. As the story opens, the wine runs out, but there is neither blame nor shame directed at the hosts. There is no despair or lament over what once was or what could be. There is no retreat or a turning on each other.

What happens is remarkable.

There is a turning to Jesus for hope. There is a call to discipleship. His mother directs the servants to listen and, “do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). There is a movement to action.

How many of us are willing to do to turn to Jesus, listen, follow and act when things get tough – rather than look inward on ourselves or turn on each other?

Jesus tells them to fill the large stone jars used for purification. These jars hold 20-30 gallons of water. That is 120-180 gallons. If a modern-day bottle of wine is .750 ml. (There are 3.79 Liters in a gallon), there was now between 600-900 additional bottles of wine for this wedding. That is a lot of wine! It is a ridiculous abundance we may find unbelievable to comprehend. John is telling us that ridiculous abundance is the sign that Jesus is among us.

Considering this party was well underway, the steward is also surprised by the quality of this new wine, “Everyone serves the good wine first…But you have kept the best wine until now” (John 2:10). Jesus not only brings abundance. He brings out the best.

-Do we believe Jesus to bring out abundance and the best in our own time and circumstances or do we believe the best days are behind us?

-What is keeps us from seeing him, and leaning into the abundance of love, mercy and grace Jesus gives us to us?

-Where do you need to look to Jesus, listen, follow and act?

-How might you encourage others to lean into Jesus’ ridiculous abundance and best?


Sunday is coming, “Jesus alongside us in the water” Luke 3:15-22, Baptism of our Lord C

“Now when all the people were baptized and when Jesus had also been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘this is my son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)

All the people. All of them who came. They were all baptized. The soldiers. The tax collectors. The crowd. All the people who did not belong under the political structure or the religious culture. Who were they? The unclean. The brood of vipers. The unworthy. This is who was baptized with Jesus at the river Jordan: all the undesirables.

There were no VIPs. There were no political officials of note. There were no religious leaders of good standing. Nobody credentialed. There was only John, who by his self-declaration was “unworthy” to be there too. He was not the Messiah. He knew it. His job was to point the way and “prepare the way of the Lord.” He practiced ‘a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 3:3). He preached sharing and taking care of people with our food and clothing, of acting fairly and honestly in our work, of protecting people without abusing them violently or taking advantage of them (Luke 3:10-14). John called out injustice and the distortion of relationships (Luke 3:18-19). It was the kind of good news that eventually tossed John in jail and it cost him his life (Luke 3:20).

But not yet.

Jesus came to the wilderness. He didn’t begin his ministry in the Temple, or in a palace among the important people run by the powers of this world. He stood at the river Jordan, the crossing point into the Holy Land with outsiders and misfits and everyone else who did not belong. And he was baptized along with them. It almost sounds like an afterthought. They were all baptized. Jesus was too. Unlike the Gospel of Matthew and Mark where the voice of heaven seems to be directed solely at Jesus, as Luke describes this scene all who were baptized heard and could see it for themselves. The Spirit came. The voice called out the beloved. All the undesirables were part of it. You and I are too.

We often ask, ‘Why would Jesus seek baptism?’ After all, Christians tend to assert that Jesus was sinless. In that regard, ‘a baptism of repentance’ would be not only unnecessary but also problematic. Yet all four gospels claim Jesus’ baptism – and his ministry begins to take shape after this event. Perhaps what Luke is trying to reveal is not so much that Jesus is God’s beloved (which in the text he clearly is), but that God is up to something far greater in baptism than self-revelation. Jesus is with them in the water; crossing all who join him in baptism them over from left out to the included, from the unworthy to the beloved, from forgotten about to the remembered, from the unclean to the clean.

Repentance separates the fruitless branches. Jesus does clear the chaff from the wheat. The fire of the Spirit continues to purify us just as the water continues to clean us up and make us whole. We are not left as we were – forgotten on the outside or unworthy on the fringe but are made anew by the Jesus who joins us in the water – loved as we always were but that love is announced in public with the same blessing from the heavens for all to see and hear. The kingdoms of this world never like competition.

Like Jesus, as we emerge from those waters our ministry begins to take shape. Following this Jesus and living in his kingdom is dangerous to the powers that be, and we should expect nothing less than for them to reject us as we live a life of inclusion, generosity, care and integrity. It may make us outliers, push us to fringe, and leave us in the wilderness. Like John (and Jesus), it may even cost us our life.

Fear not. Jesus is alongside us in the water, waiting to lead us to cross over to the other side of the river and find our new community where we are welcomed and loved forever.

Take a look around for the other misfits and vagabonds who join you.

Who do you see there?