Luke 13 - A new perspective

ladyWhy do bad things happen to good people? In verse 4 Jesus was asked about a local tragedy that had taken place. Why do natural disasters happen? Tragic accidents? Jesus asks us to turn our thinking around – to change our questioning.  The view that Jesus asks us to take, is to make sure that we are right with God. To repent and be forgiven.  Do you know that peace that transcends all understanding? Philippians 4:7

Looking at the account of the crippled woman in verse 12, I wonder how long it took for the lady to get to Jesus, and how difficult that journey must have been. In Jewish temples the ladies sit upstairs in a balcony, so this lady would have needed to get up from her seat, get past others and travel down the stairs and to the front of the temple to meet with Jesus. This lady was bent over and wouldn’t have been able to move very quickly – and she could only see the floor. How wonderful it must have been when Jesus healed her – not only taking the pain away, but also giving her a completely new perspective. We read that she’d been bound for eighteen LONG years. She is healed in a moment. Her life is changed forever. Her view lifted.

How many of us long for a new view, for healing and restoration? For freedom from that which binds us. Jesus offers this freedom and a new viewpoint.  Romans 10:9 says ‘If you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’  Vicky Johnston

Luke 12 - hoarding? or giving?

moneyLuke 12 begins with Jesus teaching his disciples in the presence of “a crowd of many thousands”.  It's not hard to imagine the crowd “eavesdropping” on what was being said:  the hidden things will be seen; don’t fear people, fear God; you are valuable to God; stand up for your faith… But one man in the crowd had more pressing matters on his mind.  

Luke 12:13 tells us, “Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me’.”  This man didn’t want to learn from Jesus, he wanted him to tell his brother off!  Jesus response is instead to warn of greed and the danger of being more concerned with earthly wealth than with your eternal soul.  He tells a parable about a rich fool who hoards away his abundant crops, even having to build bigger barns to contain it all, with the plan of having an easy life, kicking back, putting his feet up, but will in fact die that night having to leave it all behind.  Jesus points out in verse 21 that foolish is the person who “stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God”.  

There is nothing wrong with being successful, or with planning and saving for the future.  John Wesley said, “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”  The problem comes when we do the make and save part, but not the give!  Rather than build bigger barns why not give away the excess?  Whilst doing so we also need to remember that this life is not all there is.  We have life insurance to care for our families and to be prepared for what might happen to us here on earth, but do we take the same care over what will definitely happen after death?  Have you got your eternal life insurance sorted?  Melanie Shields

Luke 11 - prayer

man prayingIn Chapter 11 we once again find Jesus praying. When he had finished one of his disciples asked him to ‘teach us to pray.’ (11:1) Those men Jesus himself had chosen needed help in learning how to pray but Jesus did not force this learning upon them, he waited until they were ready to ask. Through the following verses Jesus focuses on content of prayer, the importance of persistence and God’s faithfulness.

The order Jesus tells us is important – we must start with praising God. Our prayers can become one long shopping list but if we start by praising our amazing Lord we are put in the right frame of mind to tell him of our needs. Prayer can become a conversation not a list of requirements to be fulfilled. ‘Give us today our daily bread,’ shows that we need God’s provision daily – we cannot store it up and cut communication with God. We cannot be self-sufficient. We must recognise our needs and ask God for help. Are you feeling weakened? When did you last ask for your daily bread?

‘And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.’ (11:4) Jesus teaches the disciples (and so us) that forgiveness is key in prayer as it is central to our relationship with God. God has forgiven our sins and we must forgive those who have wronged us. By forgiving others we show that we have understood our own need to be forgiven. Have you been wronged by someone? Have you forgiven them?

Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that persistence is important. ‘And so, I tell you, keep on asking and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.’ (11:9) The friend at midnight got the bread when he kept knocking. The boy will get what he asks for from his earthly father. And yet if an earthly father can give his son what he asks for, ‘how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.’ (11:13). The one who keeps knocking, keeps asking, keeps seeking, will receive.  Sarah Barrett

Luke 10 - keeping focussed on the mission

ladyatwindow1Jesus’ mission to extend the Kingdom of God was gaining ground and he commissioned a large group of followers to go ahead of him to prepare the towns and villages to receive Jesus.  He sent out 72 followers in pairs and urged them to keep focussed on their mission, not to be distracted by people they met on the way, and not to be overburdened by the everyday worries of life.   After all the harvest was plentiful but the workers were few, so Jesus’ followers needed to keep their eyes on the ball and follow Jesus’ commands with urgency.  As his modern-day followers, we are called to do the same. 

When the 72 returned to Jesus they were excited and overjoyed.  They had seen the spiritual powers of evil overcome in Jesus’ name because they had remained true to Jesus’ call on their lives, they had obeyed his instructions and they had focussed on their mission.  Jesus responded, full of the Holy Spirit, praising God that ‘these little children’ – these ordinary people who followed him – had understood the nature of his mission whilst the supposedly wise, such as many of the religious leaders, had missed the point. 

The chapter ends with the account of Jesus’ visit to his dear friends Martha and Mary in Bethany.  Martha was busy out in the kitchen preparing the meal and was resentful towards her sister Mary who was sitting at Jesus’ feet. 

I’m sure many of us empathize with Martha – over busy and bustling around trying to prepare a meal for Jesus while her sister sat in the public area of the house listening intently to what Jesus had to say.  There might well have been resentment in Martha’s heart over the unfair workload, but she could also have been shocked at Mary because she was behaving like a man – sitting at the teacher’s feet instead of being hidden away in the kitchen.  Jesus was breaking down the barriers of convention, culture and religion.  All were to be welcome to gather at his feet – men and women, the elderly and the young, people of all nations. 

Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen ‘what is better’.  Of course, Jesus would have appreciated Martha’s hospitality.  There needed to be a balance in the home between activity and quiet.  But Mary, Martha, and we, are called to what is better.  We are called to sit at Jesus’ feet listening to him and focussing our attention on him in the same way the ‘the 72’ had done.  By doing so we are equipped to serve him and to serve other people with the strength and gifting he gives us through the Holy Spirit. 

In between sending out the 72 and visiting Martha and Mary, Jesus told one of his best- known parables (stories which have a meaning) - the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  In this parable the Samaritan, a sworn enemy of the Jewish people, had gone out of his way to help a Jewish man who’d been mugged on the road.  Two other Jewish people – and religious leaders at that – had failed to help one of their own.  In fact, they’d passed by on the other side of the road – maybe too busy, too distracted, too full of their own self-importance?  Jesus challenged his followers to show the same kind of mercy as the Samaritan by being a neighbour to all.  To whom could we be a neighbour today? Pam Rolls


Luke 9 - Is it really worth it?

girlIs it really worth it?
There is a famous experiment in which children are given a marshmallow and given the choice of eating it straightaway, or sitting alone with it for fifteen minutes (which is a very long time for a young child!), but then being given two.
The experiment – with variations – has been repeated many times, and a number of entertaining YouTube videos are available documenting how different children approach the challenge – some working hard to distract themselves, some giving in eventually, and others simply eating the marshmallow as soon as the researchers leave the room!
Many of the decisions of this life are about delaying gratification; choosing a more difficult option in the short-term, for a greater benefit in the long-term. It is this mind-set that makes it possible for athletes to train for their events, students to study for exams, and individuals the world over to make gruelling journeys for the promise of a longed-for holiday, or even of a new life.
The would-be followers of Jesus are challenged to make this sort of choice.
This term as a church we are reading through Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, and we have now reached chapter 9, with a focus on the cost of discipleship. Here Jesus sends out his hand-picked team of 12 on mission, proclaiming the kingdom of God and healing the sick. And he sends them with instructions to travel light, to accept hospitality where it is offered, and to be prepared for rejection. He later speaks of his own forthcoming rejection, betrayal and crucifixion, and how his followers are called to walk in his footsteps.
But Jesus assures them that it will be worth it; that giving up earthly privileges – and even their very lives – is as nothing compared to gaining the unimaginable riches of heaven and eternal life.
But to live this way is hard! During an amazing experience with Jesus on a mountain, three of his disciples get swept up in the occasion and seem desperate to cling on to and prolong it for as long as possible. They want to delay their descent back down the mountain to where they know they will face the challenges and harsh realities of daily life. Many today do the same – seeking to escape into lives of fantasy or be hypnotised by the distractions of materialism.
But the followers of Jesus need to be like those children who have the maturity to wait for the greater reward. As God provided for his pilgrim people who spent a generation in the wilderness, so Jesus will provide for his followers in this life, as demonstrated in the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. And he will give us far better nutrition then marshmallows; he gives us himself, the very ‘bread of heaven’. It really is worth it! Jonathan Mobey

“Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” Luke 9:24-25


Luke 8 - where is our faith?

lightWe are reminded at the start of this chapter of how God loves each one of us – as unique individuals.  We matter to Him – no matter what our circumstances, or what we’ve done. He knows us by name, he knows our past, and our future. He sees our deeds, even when no-one else does. There is mention of the women supporting his work financially.  Matthew 6: 3-4 says ‘But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’
Does our faith shine out of us brightly for all to see?
Are we strong in our faith, courageous and bold in sharing our faith? Do we fear what our friends and family will think of us if we talk about our faith, or how the bible’s teachings affect the way that we make decisions?  Do we hide our faith, or forget to mention it for fear of persecution? Jesus knows us better than anyone else – and yet He loves us more than anyone else can, and promises us eternal life in heaven with Him. ‘Any present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us’ Romans 8:18
What do we put our faith in?
Do we really believe and trust the words of Jesus recorded for us in the bible? Verse 21 is quite startling – ‘He (Jesus) replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”’ We become children of God when we choose to accept and trust in Jesus’ words.
Do we really believe that He is in control of ALL things?
The wind, the waves, personal circumstances, our future, world leaders, death, evil?
Do we really see Jesus and who He is?
Some of us have been reading the bible for a very long time. It is easy to feel that we know who Jesus is and yet, when we ask God to reveal Himself to us, how often are we surprised by what He shows us of Himself? Do we prepare our hearts to be the good soil Jesus talks about in this chapter – or do we allow the words of Jesus be taken away from us? Have we fallen away from Jesus when times of testing came? Are we so overcome by life’s worries, riches or pleasures that we haven’t matured in our faith? Maybe you haven’t met with Jesus in a personal way before. Luke 11 tells us that when we ask, it will be given to us.  Ask Jesus to reveal himself to you. You might be surprised by what you receive! Mrs Vicky Johnston
I saw a new vision of Jesus,
A view I’d not seen here before,
Beholding in glory so wondrous
With beauty I had to adore.
I stood on the shores of my weakness,
And gazed at the brink of such fear;
‘Twas then that I saw Him in newness,
Regarding Him fair and so dear.

William Vernon Higham, 1926-

Luke 7 - healing & offence

x-rayIn verses 1-17 we find the healing of the Centurion’s servant and the raising back to life of the widow’s son.  In both these stories the person who needed healing wasn’t the one who asked.  The Centurion’s servant was about to die, and it was the Centurion who asked for Jesus’ help, through some elders.  In the case of the widow’s son no one asked Jesus for help, but he healed the son anyway, raising him to life and “gave him back to his mother” (verses 14-15).
Sometimes we might feel unable to pray (or not even think of it!), but these verses can encourage us that others can go to Jesus on our behalf, or that God moves in his mercy in our situation because he “knows what you need before you ask him” Matthew 6:8.
In verses 18-35 we read about John the Baptist in prison.  John sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (verse 19).  As this is John who said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29), it seems a strange for John to ask!  But maybe Jesus’ response in verse 23 gives some insight, “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me,” or as some translations put it “is not offended”.  Was John offended that after serving God faithfully he was left to languish in prison?   
The chapter finishes with Jesus anointed by a sinful woman (verses 36-50).  Here we find Simon, a Pharisee, offended by Jesus’ interaction with the woman. This passage is challenging as we too can be offended by the actions, and interactions, of others.  We see someone who lives their life very differently to how we do; has a different worldview or values; who worships God in a way we can’t comprehend, and we make a judgement just as Simon does about the woman.  This passage reminds us that only Jesus knows every person’s heart, past and the experiences that have brought us to the place we are.  Only Jesus truly knows what we’ve been through, the life we’ve lived, and loves us anyway. Let us remember that none of us always get it right, and sometimes we get things very wrong, but if we come to Jesus truly sorry and with a repentant heart, as the sinful woman did, he is always ready to forgive us and send us on our way in peace.  Mrs Melanie Shields


Luke 6 - firm foundations

foundationsIn this chapter we see Jesus challenging the Pharisees’ traditions and regulations; praying; choosing his apostles and teaching his disciples (us!) how to live.
Before important events in Jesus’ life he takes time by himself, away from others to go and pray. He does this in Luke 6:12 where we are told he ‘prayed to God all night,’ and then called together his disciples and from them chose his twelve apostles. Do we ground our important decisions in life in prayer, as Jesus showed us?
The apostles he chose were ‘ordinary ‘ men. These men started the Christian church. Our churches today are filled with ‘ordinary’ people with a mix of backgrounds and personalities, skills and talents, just as the first twelve were.  At home group this week we were talking about the number of people with different roles in our church. Some of these people and roles are visual and upfront but others are quietly completing tasks behind the scenes, perhaps unthought of or unnoticed. But together this group of ordinary people are serving others and spreading the word of God in our churches.
When Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, questioning ‘ Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil’ (Luke 6:9), the enemies of Jesus were ‘wild with rage’ (6:11). They were more concerned with protecting their laws than helping someone. They focussed on what should not be done rather than what should be done. In the second part of the chapter Jesus explicitly teaches us what should be done. We should love our enemies, not judge others, ‘do to others as you would like them to do to you’ (6:31). We should give our enemies the same respect and rights as we desire ourselves. He tells us that ‘What you say flows from what is in your heart,’(6:45). He reminds us that our speech and actions reveal our true underlying beliefs and motivations. And when we come to Jesus, and trust and follow his teachings, we can build our lives on foundations that will hold firm. Mrs Sarah Barrett

Luke 5 – Welcome and Healing for Outcasts

fishermenLuke was a Greek-speaking doctor who was determined to write a well-researched, orderly and truthful account of the life of Jesus. Having not met Jesus personally in life, Luke interviewed many eye witnesses to Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection, including some of Jesus’ disciples and his mother, Mary.
Considering that Luke was a doctor, it’s not surprising that his gospel includes many accounts of miraculous healings at Jesus’ hands and some of these appear in chapter 5.  Firstly, Jesus healed a man with leprosy – a disease which would have made him an outcast from society as well causing him to live with pain and infection. 
Later in the chapter Jesus healed a paralysed man carried by four friends who were so determined to bring their friend to Jesus that they lowered him through the roof of the room where Jesus was teaching and laid him at Jesus’ feet.  Jesus not only healed the paralysed man but he also forgave him.  The religious onlookers were outraged at Jesus forgiving the man – they thought only God could forgive sins.  But they hadn’t grasped, or didn’t want to grasp, who Jesus really was.  The Son of God.  He still is.
And it’s that same Son of God who called people to serve alongside him as apprentices, learning how to spread God’s word and grow his Kingdom.  These followers weren’t smooth-talking educated types but rough fishermen, despised tax collectors and people regarded as of no consequence.  Here again Jesus showed compassion for the outcast.  They were the people who needed to come to faith and have their lives changed.   And those followers went on to turn the world upside down, taking the good news of Jesus across the globe and beginning the early church.
There are great challenges facing us in Luke chapter 5.   We are confronted with Jesus’ model of healing and caring for the sick and the outcast.  Do we look at others through the eyes of Jesus?  Are we passionate to see people healed and made whole as Jesus was?  Are we praying for and supporting the sick or people who are outcasts in our society? 
Are we willing to answer Jesus call to ‘follow me’ and willing for Jesus to change us as he did his early followers?  Will we, like them, turn the world upside down for the Kingdom of God?  We can do all this through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us as individuals and as churches.  May we see the Kingdom grow in 2019 and beyond. Revd Pam Rolls

Luke 4

fireworks“Good news for the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind…”
Moving from Christmas to New Year is a bit of a gear change. The focus for many changes from celebration and consumption, to commitment and control - of the waistline and finances! We often approach the New Year with a sense of resolve and mission. This is similar to the ‘gear change’ in Luke’s gospel as we move from chapter 3 to 4. Chapters 1 and 2 are all about the events surrounding the births of Jesus and John the Baptist, and Jesus’ early years, and the focus of our Advent and Christmas celebrations. Chapter 3 is a bridging chapter covering John’s ministry of preparation, and the fascinating genealogy of Jesus. Chapter 4 is an account of Jesus’ resolve and the beginning of his mission, as he faces 40 days of wilderness testing, and delivers his ‘manifesto speech’ in his hometown. Jesus initially receives a warm welcome in Nazareth, but the mood soon turns sour. By the end of chapter 4, with energy and commitment, Jesus has launched into his itinerant ministry of exorcism, healing and preaching – doing what he said he was going to do, fulfilling a resolution he makes to do his Father’s will. Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey

Luke 2

lady praisingLuke 1:46-55 (NTE)
46 Mary said,
 ‘My soul declares that the Lord is great,
47 my spirit exults in my saviour, my God.
48 He saw his servant-girl in her humility;
from now, I’ll be blessed by all peoples to come.
49 The Powerful One, whose name is Holy,
has done great things for me, for me.
50 His mercy extends from father to son,
from mother to daughter for those who fear him.
51 Powerful things he has done with his arm:
he routed the arrogant through their own cunning.
52 Down from their thrones he hurled the rulers,
up from the earth he raised the humble.
53 The hungry he filled with the fat of the land,
but the rich he sent off with nothing to eat.
54 He has rescued his servant, Israel his child,
because he remembered his mercy of old,
55 just as he said to our long-ago ancestors –
Abraham and his descendants for ever.’