Introduction to Faith Practices:
An essential part of living our faith is incorporating faith practices into our daily lives. Faith practices give us time and space to listen for God. They allow us to examine our lives recognizing that God is in them. Each week we invite you to spend time reading the scriptures assigned for the upcoming Sunday and pondering the reflections. If you ever have feedback or insights to share please send an email to Pastor Joanna at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks!
We invite you to read through the Gospel of Luke with us in 2017.
An Introduction: The Gospel of Luke is written by a physician who is believed to be a companion of Paul. It is a slower Gospel than that of Mark (where Jesus is always rushing from place to place). Jesus has time in Luke: time to talk, time to eat, time to make friends. Luke often will write about Jesus and the church in the context of world history. We hear about Caesar Augustus and other important leaders and what God is up to in the midst of the politics of the day.
Geographical locations are important in Luke. One of the major places in Luke is Jerusalem. Jesus is presented in Jerusalem as a baby, he goes back there as a young boy and in chapter 9 Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem and spends the rest of the Gospel on his journey to Jerusalem and to the cross.
Women play a vital role in Luke’s Gospel, being called as disciples and of course the first ones to whom Jesus appears after the resurrection. We have important women like Elizabeth and Mary, and then Mary and Martha who have a major role in Luke and are faithful followers of Jesus.
Reversals are another prominent theme in Luke. In Luke often times people who are at the bottom are told that they will be lifted up. We see this from the very beginning when the angels appear to shepherds after Jesus’ birth, and Mary’s song to Elizabeth. Almost all of the parables in Luke are reversal stories.
I hope that you will follow along and read through the Gospel of Luke with us this year. All of our readings are listed in our lectionary site.
January 29th, 2017
Read Luke 6:1-16
Reflections for today were written by Brian Henning
Many of my colleagues have declared themselves as “self-care aficionados” and will criticize others if they do not believe they are “doing self-care” properly. They often believe that taking some personal time to recharge looks a certain way which usually involves reading, journaling, sleeping, or anything else that involves quiet, reflective, alone time. While this does work for some people it may not work for all. For example, I feel the most recharged when I am singing in a choir, leading worship, volunteering, and many other ways that have been classified as “unacceptable” means of self-care.
When I listen to some of these conversations around taking time for rest, I am often reminded of this week’s story. Jesus and his disciples are walking through a field picking wheat on the Sabbath. Then, on another Sabbath, Jesus heals a man’s hand in the Temple. The religious leaders saw what was happening and were furious because they believed he was doing work on the Sabbath day and, therefore, not keeping it holy as the Commandment declares.
However, Jesus challenges the religious leaders and says that “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” What could this mean? I think Jesus is saying that when people seek refuge in him, they receive the rest they need – Jesus is the source of rest, strength, and recharge. It doesn’t matter if people receive the rest they need in ways that look strange to others. It only matters that we rest so that we may be our best God-given selves we can be to spread the Gospel of love, grace, and forgiveness to all. This rest comes from God who gives us what we need in ways that are best for us.
In our society, rest is not something that is looked highly upon. Our culture says that we are supposed to be tired, overworked, and stressed out; this is how we know we are doing things right. However, God says no to this. God says you need to take time to rest and recharge.
What do you do when you feel overworked, tired, or stressed out? Does this help restore you completely or is it a temporary fix? Finally, is there anything you can do better to ensure that you receive the rest God wants you to have?
When Jesus says, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath,” I believe he means that we find our rest in Jesus.
What does finding rest in Jesus mean to you? What does this mean for how you live your daily life?
Finally, in this week’s text we witness Jesus calling out twelve individuals who would become his apostles. In our Baptism, we are told that we are called and claimed by God to live and serve in God’s Kingdom. In our Baptism, we are given the Fruit of the Spirit so we may best use the gifts and talents God has given us.
What does it mean to you to be called (by name) to serve in God’s kingdom? How do you live out this calling in your life – at work, with friends and family, etc.?
God of restoration and rest, you invite us to come to you when we are weary, and promise to help us carry our heavy loads. Free us from the burdens that we often place upon ourselves, our rules, and restrictions and help us to hold lightly onto all that you have given us. In Jesus’ name. Amen
January 22nd, 2017
Read Luke 5:1-11
Gratitude has a way of humbling us. I often visit people who are going through difficulties or times of crisis and when I do I will hear stories about ways that people have shown up and cared for them. People will often tell me about the casseroles that fill their freezer when they are sick, or the cards that keep coming to their house when a loved one has died, or the people who will call and ask how they are. Usually when I hear these stories people will have tears in their eyes. They didn’t expect it. They don’t feel worthy. They are overwhelmed by the generosity.
I think this is how Simon (Peter) felt when he was in the boat that day with Jesus. The fish kept pouring in and filling up the places that had been so empty before. Simon could have listed every failure he had achieved. But it doesn’t matter, Jesus keeps filling the boat with fish. He keeps giving love, blessing, grace.
This is true for you and me too. God loves you! It doesn’t matter if you have failed. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel worthy. It doesn’t matter if you feel like your broken and sinful. God loves you.
Think of a time when you have been overwhelmed by someone’s generosity. What did you do with that feeling?
Jesus commands Peter to hang up his fisherman’s net and to go now and fish for people. Peter probably had little idea of how to do this. Have you ever felt a need to do something different and experienced God’s presence with you?
When you drive around or look around today what are the things that are breaking your heart? How is God inviting you to respond?
Lord Jesus of fisher folk, You taught your disciples to cast a wide net- not for fish, but for people. Teach us the fishing craft. Make our fingers nimble so we may handle hearts and hands gently; make our minds quiet and patient while we wait for those who are not yet ready to receive you; and make our hearts hungry for your word, for the sake of the one who has captured our hearts already, Jesus Christ. Amen
January 15th, 2017:
Read Luke 4:14-30
My home church was a significant part of my life when I was in High School. It wasn’t unusual to find me at church after school talking with the pastors or with our youth director. I had an important leadership role as the youth deacon, a job that I took very seriously. I felt a tremendous loss when I went to college. Although I tried (not very hard) to go to church from time to time, my experience always felt disappointing. I wanted that same connection and purpose that I had in my home congregation, and yet I never found that.
I remember going home for Thanksgiving and attending worship was number 1
on my agenda. I wanted to go to church, see my pastors, and the other people I knew and loved. Walking into the sanctuary felt like coming home, really home. The sermon was meaningful, and I felt filled. I rejoiced in my church and was thankful for all that this community meant to me.
Throughout the years this changed though. St. Philip went from being my home church and a home coming for me, to my parents’ church. The staff changed, the congregation changed and there were far fewer familiar faces.
I still worship there from time to time, but things have changed. There is a powerful sense of history that I feel there, but no longer the same sense of belonging. In some ways this is hard and painful and in other ways I have been able to let it go and recognize the great impact this community of faith has had on my life.
In our Gospel lesson for this week, Jesus goes to his hometown to worship. He is both lifted up as a leader and criticized. Reflect for a moment on your home congregation and your experience of going home. How did that church shape you? How does it feel to go back? What’s good about going back and what is difficult?
Jesus makes a point after he is criticized by the people in his home congregation of pointing out how prophets are never welcomed in their hometowns. He points out how Elijah was fed by a foreign widow and Elisha cleansed a foreign leper. Jesus often makes a point of showing people that God cares deeply about people who are considered outsiders or foreigners and sometimes goes to them before God’s “chosen people,” the Israelites. Why do you think Jesus does this? How do you think God continues to push us today to look beyond ourselves?
At the end of our lesson for today, the people are so angry with Jesus that they bring him to the edge of town to throw him off a cliff. That’s pretty angry! Why do you think Jesus tries to stir up these emotions in the people? Is this good or bad?
Have you ever been angry with God? What did you do with that anger?
God place your Spirit upon us so that we might bring good news to people in all situations and places, especially the poor, especially the vulnerable. Give us eyes to see those who are in bondage and need to be freed and give us ears to hear your call to care for all people. Help us to follow your ways and let go of our own ideas of who you are and what you have called us to do.
We pray this in Jesus’ name.
January 8th, 2017:
Read Luke 3:1-22
John invites the crowds to repent and bear fruit worthy of repentance. The crowd responds by asking “what then should we do?” John the Baptist then goes on to speak about sharing your coats, sharing your food, being just in your work. What do you think God is calling you to do today? Who are the new people God is inviting you to serve?
What difference has baptism made in your own life? Do you recall a baptism that was more meaningful than others? What made it stand out to you?
The crowd’s question: “What then should we do?” is a good question to ask. Here is the good news: you have been claimed by God as God’s beloved. God has anointed you with the Holy Spirit and washed you from your sins. Now what? What then should we do? Knowing this incredible promise, what will you do now?
I sometimes wonder if we forget what an amazing promise this status is- “God’s child.” A few years ago, I read the book Tattoos on the Heart by Father Greg Boyle (I highly recommend this book). Father Greg writes about his work with kids in gangs in LA. They have rough, tough lives. Lives that are so remarkably different than mine, I have a hard time imagining them. But Father Greg lives with these kids and tell them this truth day after day- “You are God’s beloved.” One of the stories I recall from Father Greg’s book tells of a kid calling him in the middle of the night and saying to him, “do you love me like a son.” And Father Greg says “Yes of course.” The kid on the phone starts to weep. He hadn’t been loved like that before, at least not to his knowledge. This is the amazing love of God. It wakes us up in the middle of the night, it tears open the heavens for us, it gives the shirt off of someone’s back for us. This is what baptism promises and proclaims- “You are my child, always, forever, no matter what. Call me anytime and I will remind you!”
We’ve seen rain, and rivers, floods and flows, lochs and lakes, ponds and puddles. And in every drop there is life.
God, allow us to share that life, generously, live that life, fairly, and celebrate that life, fully.
Allow us to know you are in it all: every moment of story; every molecule of water, every morsel of life, which makes every drop sacred and special. Amen
Read Luke 2:21-38
In our reading for today, Joseph and Mary take Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for a dedication. They sacrificed two turtledoves or two young pigeons. While this fact may result in your singing the 12 days of Christmas to you, this detail tells us a little bit about Mary and Joseph. This was an alternative sacrifice designated for those who couldn’t afford to do more. They were poor. However, it is most likely that majority of the people in Galilee were also poor. While they are at the Temple they encounter Simeon and Anna, two very different individuals who bless them. Simeon, a man who is righteous and holy and who wanders into the temple in order to see Jesus with his own eyes, and Anna, a woman who works in the temple praying all day and night.
Simeon and Anna are strangers to Mary, Joseph and Jesus and yet bless him with their words and their prayers. Has a stranger ever blessed you? How?
Simeon and Anna represent in some ways the elders in the church. Think for a moment and recall a person from a faith community who has shared his/her wisdom and faith. What was it about that person that stood out to you? Say a prayer of thanksgiving for this person.
What are ways that we can better support young parents and their children in our church? What can we both give to them and learn from them? Please feel free to send your ideas to Pastor Joanna (email@example.com).
Take some time to reflect on your life, what you have done, maybe what you feel you did not do. Remember the faith of Simeon and Anna, who kept faith throughout their long lives; who believed in God’s promises and lived in hope that they would see those promises fulfilled. Reflect on the things for which you hope, for yourself, for your loved ones and in this New Year.
There is one simple things to do in this moment, where the year is freshest and thinnest, where all our dreams are bundled up at the beginning and time is a great expanse still to happen.
There is one simple things to do in tis moment.
And that is to hold close those things that will share us this year, to spark the light that will guide us, to break the bread that will nourish us, to share the wine that is promised to us, to pour the water that renews us, to open the word that will love us, and set the cross that will save us.
May we hold them, love them, and discern God’s call in them, for us and our community. In the name of Jesus Christ, never ancient, ever new. Amen