Reading Luke 13:31-35

A reading for the second Sunday in Lent: Luke 13:31-35

This is one of those texts that makes following the the Revised Common Lectionary a challenge. Often we people speak of the discipline of the lectionary, they talk about the way it forces you to deal with “hard” texts like divorce and carrying your cross and hating your mother. But it is texts like this one that I find the most challenging.

When I preach, I try to find a way past lecturing about a passage. I don’t want to educate people about the Bible, I want to preach a message that comes out of the Bible but gets as close to the gut and as far from the head as possible.

With texts like this one, I have a hard time doing that. I have a hard time opening up questions that speak to the spiritual state of the congregation. The closest I come feels like missing the heart of the text: Jesus did today’s work today and did not let what was coming down the road intimidate him.

I think of the hymn “Work for the Night is Coming.”

There is a sermon in there somewhere, but this week I think I’ll end up preaching on Philippians.

Wesley’s explanatory notes on Luke 23:33-43

From John Wesley’s notes on the Bible – which was once a source of doctrinal guidance to Methodists.

For the gospel lection, Luke 23:33-43

Verse 34: Then said Jesus – Our Lord passed most of the time on the cross in silence: yet seven sentences which he spoke thereon are recorded by the four evangelists, though no one evangelist has recorded them all. Hence it appears that the four Gospels are, as it were, four parts, which, joined together, make one symphony. Sometimes one of these only, sometimes two or three, sometimes all sound together. Father – So he speaks both in the beginning and at the end of his sufferings on the cross: Forgive them – How striking is this passage! While they are actually nailing him to the cross, he seems to feel the injury they did to their own souls more than the wounds they gave him; and as it were to forget his own anguish out of a concern for their own salvation. And how eminently was his prayer heard! It procured forgivenessfor all that were penitent, and a suspension of vengeance even for the impenitent.

Verses 35 & 37: If thou be the Christ; If thou be the king – The priests deride the name of Messiah: the soldiers the name of king.

Verse 38: Matthew 27:37 ; Mr 15:26; Joh 19:19.

Verse 39: And one of the malefactors reviled him – St. Matthew says, the robbers: St. Mark, they that were crucified with him, reviled him.Either therefore St. Matthew and Mark put the plural for the singular (as the best authors sometimes do) or both reviled him at the first, till one of them felt “the overwhelming power of saving grace.”

Verse 40: The other rebuked him – What a surprising degree was here of repentance, faith, and other graces! And what abundance of good works, in his public confession of his sin, reproof of his fellow criminal, his honourable testimony to Christ, and profession of faith in him, while he was in so disgraceful circumstances as were stumbling even to his disciples! This shows the power of Divine grace. But it encourages none to put off their repentance to the last hour; since, as far as appears, this was the first time this criminal had an opportunity of knowing any thing of Christ, and his conversion was designed to put a peculiar glory on our Saviour in his lowest state, while his enemies derided him, and his own disciples either denied or forsook him.

Verse 42: Remember me when thou comest – From heaven, in thy kingdom – He acknowledges him a king, and such a king, as after he is dead, can profit the dead. The apostles themselves had not then so clear conceptions of the kingdom of Christ.

Verse 43: In paradise – The place where the souls of the righteous remain from death till the resurrection. As if he had said, I will not only remember thee then, but this very day.

Late in the week for “aha” moment on sermon

I’m preaching from the Revised Common Lectionary selection from Luke this week (Luke 15:1-10).

I’ve been bouncing about a bit on the way to go and how to structure the thing. And then, driving to my office to do some work for my full-time (non-clergy) job, I had this realization. The celebration in the parables is all out of proportion to the events.

Don’t get me wrong, finding one sheep is a big deal, I suppose. Finding a 1/10th of your saved up wealth is a bigger deal. But – and maybe this is just me – my reaction to this would not be to “gather all my friends and neighbors” and throw a big celebration because I found a sheep that strayed from the flock or a coin that I misplaced somewhere in the house.

Imagine if you did that when you lost your car keys.

“Hey! Bill, Roger, Nancy, Joe … come over to my house. I’ve got food and wine and music. We’re going to celebrate! I lost my car keys, but I found them behind the sofa! Woo hoo!”

The celebration is way too much for the moment.

That is God.