The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Is Jesus enough? (readings for Sep. 30, 2007)

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Rich man and LazarusIf you’ve been reading my sermons for a while (may a thousand blessings fall upon you), you know that I started following the lectionary’s Scripture sequence a few years ago. I did it in the hope of more accurately reflecting the priorities of Jesus. The theory went like this: If he spoke about something a lot (as recorded in the gospels), I’d end up speaking about it a lot. If he rarely spoke of a certain theme, it wouldn’t show up much in my preaching, either.

I am astonished— truly—at where this has led. For I found chapter after chapter (thus, for me, week after week) of repetition of a very few themes, especially in Luke’s gospel. Two seemed to tower over everything else: I see him on page after page befriending and serving despised, rejected people; and I hear him talking again and again about standing with the poor and powerless against the wealthy and powerful.

The congregation I serve absorbs this with great seriousness. I would be tempted to say, were I in their shoes, “Our pastor has gone radical.” Years ago, I might have said, “This is the ‘social gospel.’ When’s he going to get back to getting people saved?”

Which reminds me of a question a friend asked once: Is Jesus enough?

Is it OK to focus on the things Jesus focuses on? Do his topics need theological-izing in order to guarantee their orthodoxy? Would we be wise to mix things up a bit when Jesus leans on an issue over and over?

Or is Jesus good enough? I’m finding, it seems, that the my unfamiliarity with what matters most to him has left me rather comfortably unchallenged about what matters most to me. And that seems like a rather hopeful discovery.

I mention all that for this reason: Here he goes again. You’ll see what I mean:

Proper 21 (26) September 30, 2007
Luke 16:19-31;1 Timothy 6:6-19;Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15;Psalm 91:1-6,14-16
To read these passages in another language (not a machine translation) or another English version,
click: Bible Gateway and select your choice from the drop-down menu.

Luke 16:19-31
The Rich Man and Lazarus
19-21″There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption. A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, had been dumped on his doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man’s table. His best friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.

22-24″Then he died, this poor man, and was taken up by the angels to the lap of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell and in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham in the distance and Lazarus in his lap. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, mercy! Have mercy! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue. I’m in agony in this fire.’

25-26″But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that in your lifetime you got the good things and Lazarus the bad things. It’s not like that here. Here he’s consoled and you’re tormented. Besides, in all these matters there is a huge chasm set between us so that no one can go from us to you even if he wanted to, nor can anyone cross over from you to us.’

27-28″The rich man said, ‘Then let me ask you, Father: Send him to the house of my father where I have five brothers, so he can tell them the score and warn them so they won’t end up here in this place of torment.’

29″Abraham answered, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets to tell them the score. Let them listen to them.’

30″‘I know, Father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but they’re not listening. If someone came back to them from the dead, they would change their ways.’

31″Abraham replied, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, they’re not going to be convinced by someone who rises from the dead.'”

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

1 Timothy 6:6-19
6-8A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.

9-10But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.

Running Hard
11-12But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.

13-16I’m charging you before the life-giving God and before Christ, who took his stand before Pontius Pilate and didn’t give an inch: Keep this command to the letter, and don’t slack off. Our Master, Jesus Christ, is on his way. He’ll show up right on time, his arrival guaranteed by the Blessed and Undisputed Ruler, High King, High God. He’s the only one death can’t touch, his light so bright no one can get close. He’s never been seen by human eyes—human eyes can’t take him in! Honor to him, and eternal rule! Oh, yes.

17-19Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


Jeremiah 32

Killing and Disease Are on Our Doorstep
1-5 The Message Jeremiah received from God in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah. It was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was holding Jerusalem under siege. Jeremiah was shut up in jail in the royal palace. Zedekiah, king of Judah, had locked him up, complaining, “How dare you preach, saying, ‘God says, I’m warning you: I will hand this city over to the king of Babylon and he will take it over. Zedekiah king of Judah will be handed over to the Chaldeans right along with the city. He will be handed over to the king of Babylon and forced to face the music. He’ll be hauled off to Babylon where he’ll stay until I deal with him. God’s Decree. Fight against the Babylonians all you want—it won’t get you anywhere.'” …
6-7Jeremiah said, “God’s Message came to me like this: Prepare yourself! Hanamel, your uncle Shallum’s son, is on his way to see you. He is going to say, ‘Buy my field in Anathoth. You have the legal right to buy it.’

8″And sure enough, just as God had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me while I was in jail and said, ‘Buy my field in Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin, for you have the legal right to keep it in the family. Buy it. Take it over.’ “That did it. I knew it was God’s Message.

9-12″So I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel. I paid him seventeen silver shekels. I followed all the proper procedures: In the presence of witnesses I wrote out the bill of sale, sealed it, and weighed out the money on the scales. Then I took the deed of purchase—the sealed copy that contained the contract and its conditions and also the open copy—and gave them to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah. All this took place in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and the witnesses who had signed the deed, as the Jews who were at the jail that day looked on.

13-15″Then, in front of all of them, I told Baruch, ‘These are orders from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: Take these documents—both the sealed and the open deeds—and put them for safekeeping in a pottery jar. For God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says, “Life is going to return to normal. Homes and fields and vineyards are again going to be bought in this country.”‘

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Psalm 91
You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow,
Say this: “God, you’re my refuge.
I trust in you and I’m safe!”
That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps,
shields you from deadly hazards.
His huge outstretched arms protect you—
under them you’re perfectly safe;
his arms fend off all harm.
Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
not disaster that erupts at high noon….

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!”

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Yeah, I think it’s plenty!

 


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One Response

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  1. Is Jesus enough? Yes. Does that mean that only the Gospel of Luke matters? No. From creation in Genesis (John 3:3) through the old testament as the “I AM” (John 8:58) to Revelation (Revelation 22:13) we can learn about Jesus in all the Bible (John 5:39 The Message): “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me!”

    Monte Says: Well said! We are Christ-ians, not Bible-ians. The Bible points to Jesus, not Jesus to the Bible. Jesus is master of it, not vice versa. Jesus is definer of it, not it of Jesus. One we believe to be God; the other, a holy tool. Only one is the goal. I hope my desire to be “Biblical” is ever outweighed by my desire to be “Christlike.” And that is really close to the conflict Jesus has with the Pharisees, who prefer something like the opposite. Thanks!

    nest

    October 28, 2007 at 8:09 pm


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