Christmas Trail

The characters from the Christmas story have got lost on the Woodlands shopfronts, and we need help to find them before Christmas Eve.  Have a look at the list of shops on the sheet and see if you can find which character is in which shop.  Bring the completed sheet to any of the Christmas services or events and one of the correct answer sheets will be drawn at the Crib Service on Christmas Eve to win a special prize.

Click here to download the answer sheet

 

Luke 17 – Who?

Jesus is heading for Jerusalem.  The heady days of Galilee are behind.

Has the mood changed?  Jesus’ language certainly has.  His words are darker in this chapter.  He speaks of judgment and destruction.

Who will be found worthy on the day of judgement?

But right in the middle is this encounter with 10 men with “Leprosy”.

I use the inverted commas because the word used in Greek can mean many different skins diseases.  Some were benign, some contagious, most treatable with modern antibiotics, but a death sentence in Jesus day.  

Infection and isolation were what faced those with Leprosy.

They were banished from their communities and forced to live a life of begging and isolation.

Ten of them hear about Jesus and shout from a distance

“Jesus, Master, Have pity on us”

And Jesus heals them, and they go to the priests – who would proclaim them clean and allow them to return to their homes.

But one does not go. Realising he has been healed he returns and give thanks to Jesus.

And he was a Samaritan

Once again the Samaritan’s – the hated ones – the impure – the outsiders – find themselves blessed by God and seemingly closer to him.

Who will be saved from the coming darknesss?

Jesus seems to be clear – those who have faith in Him. 

Even if they are outsiders!

Luke 16 – The Great Gulf

If you didn’t like the word HATE in chapter 14 look away now.

The concept of hell is very unpleasant – it doesn’t sit well with our modern world view of tolerance and respect.  In one sense it doesn’t fit at all with Jesus message of hope for the lost.

But Jesus talks of the reality of Hell.  Of a place of punishment.  We have to take this seriously.

Many bible teachers hold a view that those who die without accepting Jesus simply remain dead – they are gone.  Others preach of a place of conscious separation from God, whether a place of increasing isolation (in CS Lewis excellent book The Great Divorce) or a more literal place of fire and torment.

This is uncomfortable reading and it would be wonderful to see this parable simply as allegory – a story to help us make good decisions.

Except Jesus doesn’t always speak of Hell in stories.

Uncomfortable yet?  Me too!

But what does this parable say?

I heard it read by Stuart Matthews, then the Rector of Sprotbrough .

I was stood holding the Gospel book (I was an altar server) and as he read this parable it came to vivid life in my head.  And the last words ring in my mind again as I write this.  The truth of this parable made clear to me simply by hearing it read well – no sermon – no exposition.  simply hearing it read, I am sure, as Jesus would have told it.

Luke 16:31 NIV

He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ 

Even if someone rises from the dead.

If our hearts are dead set against what God says, then even a resurrection will not convince us.

Those who demand proof have already decided that the proof they already have is not enough.

What will it take to convince them?

Luke 15 – Lost


I don’t know where it fits in the word count, but this chapter feels like it sits at the very heart of Luke’s Gospel.

Three parables – Boom – Boom – Boom – each hot on the heels of the previous one.

Luke has been softening us up for this – All that has gone before identifies Jesus as the one who has come to seek and save the lost, and now for those of us who are a bit slow here is the sucker punch.

Jesus is the one who seeks the lost.  

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who will risk all for the lost Sheep

God is the Father who runs (Middle Eastern Men NEVER ran) to a son stinking of pig muck (making him spiritually unclean as well as physically) and offers not a telling off but a party – Grace – getting what we don’t deserve.

Read these stories again – and again.  If you remember one chapter of Luke’s Gospel, remember this one.  

Luke 15

Lost!

Lost is FOUND!

Luke 14 – Who would YOU invite?

Jesus is invited to the home of a “prominent” pharisee.  I wonder why?

Is this man a genuine seeker after truth like Nicodemus, the teacher who John’s gospel records meeting Jesus by night?

Or is he there to be observed or even tested?  Why is there a very ill man in front of Jesus.  I may be wrong but the image of this man being used like some sort of grotesque centerpiece at a dinner party will not leave my mind.

And so Jesus again uses what is around Him to teach others about the Kingdom.

Read the two banquet parables carefully and ask yourself

  1. Who is Jesus for?
  2. Who does Jesus oppose?

The easy answer to question 1 is “Everyone” but is that what is being said here?

The parable of the great banquet is another of the set piece parables in Luke’s account.  It is so very powerful as a foretelling of the way God’s kingdom will not come to the powerful and rich, but to the undeserving poor!

And then, to his disciples and to the crowds flocking around him Jesus says 

Luke 14:26-27 NIV

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. [27] And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Hate?!

HATE!!!

Recently a friend who no longer believes in Jesus challenged me about this very phrase.  Hate is such a strong and challenging word.  Surely God is LOVE?

And yet the word appears 127 times in our English translation and quite a few of those are spoken of God.

What does God hate?

Injustice. Sin. Hypocrisy. Evil.

How does it make you feel when the Bible says HATE.

But Jesus says the word of family!  

My interpretation of this is that our devotion to Jesus and His Kingdom has to be first and far above any other.  Family, work or leisure must not be allowed to replace that first devotion.  They are not wrong – indeed on the cross Jesus uses precious breath to commend his mother to another son, but our first and primary love and devotion has to be to Jesus.  By comparison all else is as hatred, just as a candle is bright in a dark room, but invisible in the full light of the Sun.

H u Normal Service will be resumed shortly

Very sorry that there has been a hiatus in the #LukeInAMonth blog.  The plan is to post two chapters a day until we catch up.  Feel free not to catch up so quickly if you’ve been waiting.

SORRY!

Luke 13 – Getting Sharper!

Luke 13 – Listen here to David Suchet read this passage

Jesus seems to have changed gear.

These encounters and parables are increasingly confrontational – his message is getting sharper every moment.

He is challenging the pharisees and the teachers of the law at every opportunity – there is no subetly to Jesus’ approach in these encounters.  Even Luke records

“His opponents were humiliated!”

And at the end of the chapter we can see why Jesus is accelerating – why his message is getting sharper.

He knows what is coming!

He knows that time is short!

He knows that the forces of darkness are converging upon Jerusalem and will ultimately destroy it, because it will ultimately reject Him!

Time is getting short – he is moving towards Jerusalem and the great finale of his Father’s mission.

Luke – Halfway

Oh Oh We’re half way there – Oh Oh Living on a prayer

I’m not a Bon Jovi fan but odd music pops into my head at a moment’s notice.

We finished Chapter 12 – we’re half way through Luke.

How does it feel?  What has struck you so far?

Is there something that you’ve seen that you’ve never noticed before?

Is there something big that you think I’ve missed?

Which is your favourite part so far?

Which was the most challenging?

Luke 12 – Warning: Contains disturbing images

Luke 12 – Click here for a version you can listen to

Following on from the warnings and rebukes of the previous chapter Jesus continues in the same theme.

Luke 12 is a dark chapter – full of ominous warnings and mysterious portents!

This is not a recruiting talk – this is not a call to a life of ease and comfort.

This is a dark warning that our time is running out.

Division – conflict – fire – judgement – dismay

And yet – almost as if he can’t help himself we get this beautiful line in the middle

 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.’

It is so easy to quote that verse out of context, but it gives me real comfort.

In a dark and difficult age, when war and hatred are all around, when the world feels like it is quite literally ccoming apart at the seams, THIS is what Jesus says.

 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

Luke 11 – Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild

Luke 11 – Click here for the audio version from Bible Gateway

There is a huge benefit to reading the Bible in larger sections as we are doing this month with Luke.  You can’t leave out the bits you don’t like.

My guess is you know the prayer at the start of this chapter – its VERY familiar and even those who don’t go to Church know it!

But what about the rest of the Chapter?

Do you know it?

Have you read it?

Do we EVER read it aloud in Church??

Because it doesn’t really go with the picture here.

We like pictures of Gentle Jesus Meek and Mild – they are lovely – they make us feel warm – AND THEY SHOULD because Jesus REALLY loves us and REALLY cares.  But if this picture is the only one we have – if the first eleven verses of Luke 11 are all we read, then we won’t know who Jesus REALLY is.

Luke doesn’t gloss over the questions “who is this Jesus?”  We get the whole picture – we see him praying, caring, healing, challenging and rebuking!

Just read again from verse 29 onwards!

This is not a happy Jesus.  This is not a smiley Jesus!  This is (to use a phrase that our IF young peoples group coined out of surprise) Smitey Jesus.

This is a Jesus who is cross.  This is a Jesus who is willing to take on the self righteous religious leaders.  This is a Jesus who has come to challenge the status quo.  This is a Jesus not to cross!

Meek – Mild – NOPE!