If one rises from the dead #LukeActs2014

Abraham said, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, then neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead. (Luke 16:31, NIV)

Before I started this year-long practice of reading Luke-Acts in 2014, I had always known Luke’s gospel spoke a lot about the poor and the rich. But it is one thing to know it, and another to sit down week after week with the gospel and read it.

Luke is about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

The verse at the top of this post comes at the end of a chapter that is relentlessly about wealth and how to use it. It starts with a parable that is often puzzling to people — the dishonest manager. The man who got his way into heaven by reducing the debts people owed his master. I’m not arguing I fully understand the parable, but in light of the whole chapter, the message appears to be that we are in the position of the dishonest manager. We are about to be called to account for the way we’ve managed our master’s — that is God’s — wealth that has been put in our hands. If we want to end up on the good side, it is time to start using that wealth to remove burdens from those who are in our debt or who could be blessed by it.

This certainly is the point of the rest of the chapter and the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man saw the poor Lazarus every day and walked by him. Now tormented, he pleads for word to be given. It is a version of A Christmas Carol without the happy ending.

And the zinger for us right at the end. If the witness of the Old Testament is not enough to get us to be generous, then even a man rising from the dead would not be enough to convince us.

We who are fresh from Easter worship are confronted by that assertion. Does the risen Lord persuade us of what we did not believe without Jesus?

I cannot say what the specific application of this chapter — or this theme in Luke — is. John Wesley taught that every penny we have is a gift from God. After we have used our money to care for the needs of our family and to provide for necessities for our work and education, we should give every penny beyond that to doing good for others — good for their bodies, minds, and souls. Others teach that after we offer one tenth to God, the balance of our money can be with clear conscience used in any ways that are not manifestly evil or sinful. Others teach about money in other ways.

I am not certain what the proper biblical stance is, not down to the fine points. But you can’t spend as much time as I have with Luke so far this year without being hounded by the question: Will you serve God or money?

Are we ready for Sean?

David Watson presses the church to consider the implications of widening pre-natal genetic testing for Down syndrome.

[T]here’s a word for this kind of thing: eugenics. What we’re talking about here is the elimination of a people group. Many of us are uncomfortable talking about this matter because it relates to topic of abortion. Yet regardless of how we may feel about abortion, can we not say that the selective termination of pregnancies based upon genetic characteristics is unethical and unacceptable? If we think, moreover, that we can limit this kind of thing to Down Syndrome, we’re fooling ourselves. As genetic testing becomes more sophisticated, will we act in the same way toward children with other forms of cognitive impairment? Children with autism? Children who are blind, deaf, or missing limbs? We can imagine a host of other traits that could be considered “undesirable.”

It is the logic of our world that says children such as Watson’s son, Sean, should never have been born. It is that logic that likely would extend to my son, Luc, if people had the ability to test for autism.

I know that if there were a cure of autism, I would want Luc to have it. Some advocates for neuro-diversity would resist that. But I would not. Luc works hard enough to cope with the world the rest of us have created. If I could make his life less of a struggle, I would. That said, I would never suggest that the “cure” includes denying him life.

We in the church talk about life. We talk about hospitality. We talk about the last being first. We talk about serving selflessly.

Sean Watson and our brothers and sisters like him are giving us a chance to mean what we say. Are we ready, church, for that? Will we let him teach us how to be who we say we are?

‘Control your own body’

Paul in 1 Thessalonians calls on the church to live in a manner that will please God.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, NIV)

This is not by any means a unique passage in the New Testament.

So, how do we interpret Paul’s words here? What does it mean to control our bodies in holy and honorable ways?

Praying for all of us

Thank you, Sky McCracken for this story. May those with ears, hear.

McCracken tells a story about some Methodists from Mexico visiting his district’s office, which is in a church that closed after a church split led to dwindling membership and finances.

When our Mexican friends arrived at our district office, we met to talk about the Hispanic population in our area, which is almost all Mexican. Some work at nearby poultry processing plants, others work on large farms. After some conversation (with a translator), I took them on a tour of our facilities, which includes a church/sanctuary that is currently not being used (pictured). As we went in, their eyes got wide. They asked if they could pray. One man brought in a guitar and they sang praise songs. And then some went into extemporaneous prayer. One woman, Sandra (in the foreground), was praying and weeping. My Spanish is close to nonexistent, but I was told she was asking God to forgive us for our not being faithful with this building, for whatever disagreement that led to its closing. She didn’t pray “them.” Or “others.” She prayed, “us.” As if they shared in the sin of this particular church of being more driven by disagreement and pride than being driven by the Christ who was God Among Us.

Read the full post here.

Paul on Easter

Some words from Paul on the significance of the resurrection.

Romans 1:1-4

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart fro the gospel of God — the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David and was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:3-5

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Romans 6:8-10

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

Romans 8:34

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died — more than that , who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Romans 10:9

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

1 Corinthians 15:12-14

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

1 Corinthians 15:20-21

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

Ephesians 2:4-6

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 3:10-11

I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

1 Thessalonians 4:14

For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep.