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Luke 16: Citizenship in the Kingdom

Good Friday, April 19, 2019

This a chapter in the story of Christ as told by Luke where we hear and see Jesus explaining mysteries; we also hear and see his followers trying to understand and to follow his instruction.  The chapter is book-ended by two parables: the Dishonest Servant – followed by an explication – and the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus – which is so clear it needs no further comment.  It only must be believed.

Sandwiched between these stories, Jesus speaks to the sneering Pharisees who are ardent followers of the Mosaic Law and the Prophets yet do not understand the concept of Jesus’ New Kingdom which the Prophet Isaiah has so clearly predicted.  In the heart of the chapter is are brief verses regarding marriage and divorce which are often held against those who must – for one reason or another – seek civil and church sanction to annul a bond thought to have been made in reverence.  We read these two simple verses in the context of Paul’s instruction on marriage in his letter to the Ephesians 5:21-32.  These words follow Paul’s thinking on our duty to live in the light in God’s kingdom.  They speak of mutual respect, mutual holiness, and mutual love.  They give us a view on reciprocated union as read differently in Colossians 3:18-25 where Paul writes about The Christian Family and Slaves and Masters.Here he speaks about the significance of obedience to one’s vocation; and they reflect the thinking found in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-17 where he writes about holiness in sexual conduct, mutual charity, and hope for the Christian dead.  To the people of Colossae and of Thessalonica he speaks of the reciprocal character of all holy relationships, and the honor we bring to others, ourselves and our creator when we consider all relationships with the gravity they are due.  Jesus reiterates this idea.

When Moses gave permission for husbands to divorce their wives, he did so in order to prevent the murders which happened regularly when men grew tired of the women they had taken into homes and beds.  This sort of casual disregard for life and the lack of a mutually nurturing relationship is what Jesus addresses here in Luke and again in Matthew 5 and 19, and Mark 10.  He warns that flitting across the surface of our relationships will not prepare us properly for the life we are to live in this New Kingdom of which he speaks.

As we read this chapter, we might consider two thoughts here that will bring us to something new: perhaps the divorce which ends an abusive relationship is a saving moment of blessed grace, and perhaps each relationship into which we enter is as holy as a marriage in that it is meant to be nurtured in order to glorify God when the two parties strive to imitate God’s love rather than a superficial, self-serving demand on one another.

The lessons brought to us in this chapter of Luke remind us that kingdom work is constant; and it is present in every breath we take, every gesture we offer to one another.

During this time of introspection we might want to consider the times we have been called to be stewards of not only money but of our emotional and spiritual resources.  Have we allowed our physical, spiritual and psychological assets to drain dangerously low?

During this time of examination we might also want to consider the many divorces we have entered into in our lives.  Have we walked away from organizations, communities, families and friends without following every avenue open to us at the time for remediation in ourselves and others?

During this time of Lent, we might want to spend time reflecting on the Laws we obey, the Kingdoms for which we seek citizenship.  What do our gestures tell us about what we hold important?  What air do we long to breath?  What prophets do we read?  What master do we follow?

Are we people who are trustworthy in small things so that we might enter into great ones?  We will find the answers to these questions by examining the fruit we bear back to the one who created us.


A re-post from March 5, 2012.

Image from: http://www.lifemessenger.org/html/Ministries/

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Adultery


Thursday, March 8, 2012 – Proverbs 5 – Adultery

On Monday we reflected on the many kinds of divorce we experience in life: divorce from workplaces, divorce from communities, divorce from causes, family and friends.  Today’s chapter in Proverbs cautions us that there are also many ways to commit adultery. 

Unfaithfulness to ourselves can lure us into thinking that we do not need to care for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves.  We begin to believe that we do not need to attend to regular healthy exercise or diet, regular prayer and worship, regular play time balanced by regular play time.  This unfaithfulness to the care of what is holy in us lures us into believing the words of Satan in Paradise . . . that we can be our own gods.

Infidelity to a vow separates us from our principles and our integrity.  It shatters the authentic self.  Betrayal of an intimate relationship can happen physically or in our minds . . . and in either case it is the same because it causes damage to our relationship with God in both overt and subtle ways.  It separates us from all that is sacred.  Even when we think we “have all the bases covered”, when we tell ourselves and others that “it is for the best”, this unilateral removal of ourselves from something we know to be holy and true begins an almost imperceptible erosion of our relationship with God into relativism. 

How do we know we have stepped into adultery to self and others and God?

When we consider a familiar habit or our own comfort before all else.  When we relax into avoiding difficult tasks because there is no immediate self-benefit.  When we commiserate with those who support our own and others’ poor choices.  When we become slave to anything but God.  When we become numb to both suffering . . . and to true joy.  When we put aside praying for those who harm us.  When we become smug knowing that we have avoided the cross we are meant to bear.

Sooner or later we must come to an accounting of our actions – or lack of them – in this life.  These are the threads that are woven into our heavenly garment.  What will we be wearing in the next life?  Scanty rags or capacious robes?  We do not have far to look to find the answer.

Sensual adultery is the most obvious brand of betrayal to pinpoint and describe; and most of us have likely escaped this obvious indiscretion.  The more elusive forms of infidelity are harder to see and name; yet they are still the calling card of The Evil One.  The initial succumbing to the honeyed tongue is the entrée into a life where no one trusts anything, where self-sufficiency is worshiped, and value is measured in how safe we have kept ourselves from feeling the wounds we have inflicted on self and others. 

Oh, why did I hate instruction, and my heart spurn reproof!  And why did I not listen to the voice of my teachers, nor to my instruction incline my ear! 

No sin is private, no straying goes unnoticed by the one who matters in all of this. 

For each man’s ways are plain to the Lord’s sight; all their paths he surveys; by his own iniquities the wicked man will be caught, in the meshes of his own self he will be held fast;  he will die from lack of discipline, through the greatness of his folly he will be lost.

Lent brings us all into a time when we are offered a clear choice as in the parable we read Monday of Lazarus the Beggar and the Rich Man.  Now is the time to continue our examination of the sincerity of our words, the purity of our actions.  Now is the time to be attentive to Wisdom and her instruction.  Now is the time to make reparations, to bind wounds and heal ruptures.  Now is the time to return in fidelity to our vocation of living The Word as best we are able.

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