Re:Verse passage – Luke 15:1-10 (day three)

“What woman…does  not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?

Everybody understands that some things command attention and some things simply don’t. So ingrained is the giving or withholding of attention that people adjust their level of attentiveness without giving much thought to it. It’s common to find a penny on the ground; pennies receive little attention. It’s rarer to find a hundred-dollar bill on the ground; that currency receives considerably higher attentive care. And when someone finds a briefcase containing 2.3 million dollars, that’s…only in the movies. At any rate, you don’t care about the penny, and you care much more about the hundred. And it really hurts when it goes missing. You will search hard. This is what heaven’s going through right this moment.


Re:Verse passage – Luke 14:12-24 (day three)

Go out into the highways and along the hedges…”

There’s a party happening somewhere to which you’re not invited, an A-list somewhere on which your name does not appear. Conversely, you’ve never planned an open house that’s completely open. There are always parameters. Whether it’s finances or social standing or affinity drawing the lines, everybody knows that invitations have limits. The story Jesus tells here upends that convention. It’s unimaginable, really, because nobody’s that rich. And if the host is that rich, the company kept by that host tends toward exclusivity in the extreme. But here we have in this parable a host who’s unfathomably wealthy and, by the end of the story, tearing down the gates to the mansion lest anyone be hindered from partaking in the feast. Will you still insist the host needs you as a bouncer?


Re:Verse passage – Luke 13:1-9 (day three)

“Let it alone, sir, for this year too.”

As “the end is near” stories go, this one stands out for its reassurance of God’s compassion. Clearly, Jesus aims to do more than just issue a sword-of-Damocles warning to those who tell themselves that God’s going to have mercy on them because they’re not as bad as some people. The story takes a turn with the introduction of the vineyard-keeper, who seeks a delay in the tree’s destruction. Both you and the worst person you know have remained alive because of the mercy of God. You’ve received no more of that graciousness than anyone else. In the meantime, when will you let others in on the truth of why they’re still around – that Christ loves them too much to leave them without an opportunity to turn to him?


Re:Verse passage – Luke 12:13-21 (day three)

“Man, who appointed me a judge or arbitrator over you?”

Question: How do you navigate an inheritance dispute with a family member?

Response: What’s at stake in an inheritance dispute?

Let every reader note that Jesus does not engage in conflict shaming here. He certainly knew firsthand about family conflict; his public actions and life’s work placed him at odds with his own family. Indeed, Jesus’s response to the man in the crowd communicated the importance of doing the hard work required by conflict, engaging family members instead of looking for someone to take that hard work off one’s hands. That hard work, Jesus says, always involves the inner inventory of the heart: What am I willing to burn to gain wealth? Such fires have a way of becoming uncontrollable, endangering even your own ability to seek the Lord.


Re:Verse passage – Luke 10:25-37 (day three)

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.’”

If Jesus points to the socially unacceptable person as exemplary, then the world really has turned upside down. Jesus even concludes the parable by enjoining his questioner to aspire to the character of the reprehensible individual. Two millennia of cultural distance have diluted and dulled the immediacy of the truly ridiculous nature of Jesus’s story structure. To learn from someone you do not like is hard. But to be urged to learn from someone who is spiritually, morally, or theologically offensive to you is a bridge too far. Does God really view the world in such a radically different perspective? Can you actually be that wide of the mark? Perhaps it’s fair to say that if Jesus isn’t shocking you, you aren’t listening.


Re:Verse passage – Luke 8:1-15 (day three)

“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.”

What happens when heaven and earth meet? Well, the Bible’s whole content is the exact answer to that question. Journey and suffering and joy and sorrow and redemption and damnation and pain and blood and rescue and loss and wonder. In the course of the Bible’s narrative, priceless treasure is cast aside while empty promises enthrall hearts and minds. The parable of the sower and the seed captures that whole story in a few lines. Don’t be surprised, the Bible instructs us, when people reject God. The witness of scripture is clear: weeds grow; darkness misunderstands; people hide. Seeds fall on stony ground. It happens, and it will happen. But some seeds will germinate. Be ready to respond. Lift up your eyes to the fields ready for harvest.


Re:Verse passage – Luke 6:46-49 (day three)

“The torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”

How does one become a good person? That question has a long pedigree. The Greeks, who knew nothing of Moses, asked it before Christ walked the earth. The addressing of that question, as those same Greeks knew and Jesus repeatedly asserted, requires nothing less than a devotion to the re-ordering of one’s whole life. But that is hard (see Jesus’s words on the narrow way), and the temptation is strong to condense that transformative quest into a multiple-choice exam to which one must give the right answer in order to obtain eternal life. A right answer is what the Pharisees sought, and still their house fell. Right living, on the other hand, is possible only by apprenticing oneself to the Lord Jesus, the sure foundation.


Re:Verse passage – Luke 5:33-39 (day three)

“No one puts new wine into old wineskins.”

Much has (rightly) been made of this parable – or more correctly, collection of parables. Is the gospel “new wine?” Is Jesus’s way of practicing faith a “new wineskin?” Is the old wineskin the establishment Pharisees? Maybe. Varying interpretations abound. So what’s one more? Here it is: What if Jesus is simply saying that life with him is a life of learning to pay attention to what fits the moment you’ve been given? Jesus says in essence, “Just as everybody has learned that new wine requires new wineskins, so my disciples are learning what is required by the circumstances in which they find themselves.” Feeling overwhelmed by the moment is a point of great pain for you. Jesus can teach you to understand what is most needed in that moment. What a joy.


Re:Verse passage – James 5:19-20 (day three)

“He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”

Policing or shepherding – this is the choice facing all disciples of Jesus Christ regarding life together. Does Christ mean for the church to consist of good citizens, or people of promise? If it is the former, then we have no choice but to police one another in attitude, in behavior, and finally, in thought. If it is the latter, then we must submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, because the brother or sister in whose presence we stand will one day reign in glory. Jesus looked at Simon and saw the end from the beginning: You are Peter, a rock. Every interaction with him from that point took its cue from what Simon could become.


Re:Verse passage – James 5:12-18 (day three)

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.”

Where in James’s vision of humanity could one find people in all their many circumstances welcoming not just everybody, but every part of everybody – their brokenheartedness, their joys, their pain, their hope, their despair, their griefs, their glories, their sicknesses, their strengths, their weaknesses? That would be the church, James says. When one lives with others in the fellowship of Christ, there’s room for those who feel bad and for those who have just discovered good, for those who need someone to weep with them and those who need someone to laugh with them. James knew the church’s word to the world is not to be “We’ll be nicer to you than the world is,” but rather “We’ll never forsake you because Jesus didn’t forsake us.”