(Note: again, the personal pronouns in today’s prayer are plural. We are not praying and reading in isolation; we are joining our prayers and thoughts with others in our community.)
Take a deep breath, then be still for a moment; then pray, perhaps,
O God our Father and our Mother, renew our spirits and draw our hearts to yourself, that our work may not be a burden to us but a delight; and give us such love to you that all our obedience is sweet. Help us that we may serve you with the cheerfulness and gladness of children, delighting ourselves in you and rejoicing in all that is to the honor of your name. (1) Meet us now, we pray. Guide our thoughts and our hearts. Let the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to you and lifegiving to us and to our community. In Jesus name: Amen. 2) Read Luke 9 (below)
It’s a fairly long chapter. Skim over it, notice that there are distinct ‘subsections’ in the passage, notice what the ; pause and notice what stands out to you.
Read verses 51-56 slowly; again, pause and notice what stands out to you.
Read verses 51-56 again, slowly, out loud. If your attention drifts, or if you are particularly struck by a particular section of the chapter, read it again, still slowly and out loud.
After sitting with your internal reactions/thoughts about verses 51-56 for a moment, quickly skim the chapter again to remind yourself of the overall shape of the passage.
Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. 4Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. 5Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” 6They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. 7Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen.9Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.
10On their return the apostles told Jesus all they had done. He took them with him and withdrew privately to a city called Bethsaida. 11When the crowds found out about it, they followed him; and he welcomed them, and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured. 12The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” 13But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15They did so and made them all sit down. 16And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17And all ate and were filled. What was left over was gathered up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.
18Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” 20He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” 21He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, 22saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 23Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. 25What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? 26Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
37On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.
43And all were astounded at the greatness of God. While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, 44“Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.”45But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying. 46An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. 47But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side, 48and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.” 49John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”
51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; 53but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56Then they went on to another village.
57As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”60But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” 3) For Reflection
He set his face to go to Jerusalem (v. 51)
When I look at Luke 9 as a whole, I am struck by how much happens. It is one thing after another, one significant thing after another: the Transfiguration; Jesus answers the, “Who do you say that I am?” question; the 70 are sent out to announce and enact the presence of the kingdom of God; the loaves and the fishes; exorcism; harsh, troubling words about the cost of discipleship and the certainty of Jesus’ suffering and death. From Luke 4 through Luke 9, Jesus is busy, and the disciples are busy. From Luke 10 through Luke 19, Jesus and the disciples are still busy. Palm Sunday is recounted in Luke 19, and from then on things get really busy.
There’s activity, good work, profound words, history shaping moments. The busyness and the deep, disturbing words of Jesus are all mixed together. How did Jesus keep everything straight? How was it to be the disciples, who, let’s face it, did not keep anything straight?
What are you doing with your days these days? Are you busy (internally and/or externally)?
To what extent are your reactions to ‘sheltering in place’ (frustration and/or fear and/or contentment, etc.) coloring what you are doing? To what extent are your daily activities being altered or shaped by the current crisis? (i.e., how are these weeks concretely different from “life as usual”?
How has the order to remain home affected your awareness that it is Lent? Have you been distracted from the significance of the Lenten season? Have all the reactions to the Coronavirus crisis in some ways deepened your experience of Lent/your anticipation of Easter?
for insight and wisdom about how to remain engaged with God, engaged in the themes of Lent, especially as your life is garbled by current events, by busyness and distractibility
for similar spiritual insight and wisdom for your friends and community
more broadly, for yourself and your loved ones
for our church, our community, and our world, particularly in light of the pandemic
Thank God for meeting you, for the opportunity to sit, read, and pray, and pray for an awareness of God's presence through the day
(1) from The Book of Worship, in, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, Job, R.P. Shawchuck, N. 1983. Upper Room
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