Luke's Gospel

Luke’s Gospel in 32 Weeks

Read through the gospel in 32 very-manageable sections, one per week.

And… watch and read weekly reflections from your brothers and sisters in faith. Spend some time with Luke – historian, gifted writer and missionary – and get to know Jesus better! Open God’s word. Grow your faith.

Read/watch the Reflections

Week 32: Not forgotten or alone

Read Luke 24:50-53

Reflection by Katie Thormodsgard

Luke 24:50-53 is a brief account of a significant event.  This is the point in the Apostle’s Creed that states “He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the father.” While this is common knowledge in our beliefs, I can say I take the significance of this occurrence for granted. The Ascension, however, is a key connection between our Earthly existence and God in Heaven.

As I read, prayed, and researched how The Ascension related to my life and faith, I realized it literally affects my life on Earth every day.  Jesus was here, and he experienced trials more difficult than many of us will ever face.  There is comfort in knowing that God directly understands the Earthly joys and the pain we experience.  In fact, I pray often for a stronger connection with Jesus, as I strive, but often fall short of “thy will being done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”  I feel separated from God at times, when I sin, when I go through a difficult situation, or when my mental health is suffering.  Through Jesus, I can trust that the gap between myself and God is abundantly filled.  We are not forgotten or alone, but are understood and loved.

Week 31: On the Road to Emmaus

Read Luke 24:13-49

Reflection by Mark Anderson

Luke chapter 24 verses 13 – 49 was a familiar story to me but one I hadn’t critically analyzed before.  After studying this reading, I pulled away three story lines I thought worthy to share.  Here are the story lines:

… So we pick up this Luke reading after news of Jesus’ resurrection began to spread. Two men were walking outside Jerusalem talking about everything that has happened the last few days … Jesus being crucified, dying and being buried.  If that wasn’t enough to talk about and ponder, there was also news spreading that Jesus’ tomb was empty and several women saw an angel at the tomb. 

… About this time, another man began walking alongside them but they didn’t know who he was (Luke states they were kept from recognizing him).  He asked them what they were discussing as they walked along?  One of the men promptly asked the Stranger if he was “… the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

… I keep having this vision of what this would’ve looked like. Jesus walking alongside these two men without them knowing who He was.  Jesus had just performed the miracle of miracles with his resurrection.  He was the most talked about person in and around Jerusalem.  And here he was walking alongside these two men asking about the news that he had just created!  “What things?”, he said.

… Truth be told, my mind is like the dog from the movie “Up” that is doing one thing then sees a squirrel and gets totally sidetracked.  Well, at this moment I couldn’t help but try to compare this storyline to the present day … hence Jesus staring in the first ever episode of “Undercover Boss”!  Go back to October 8, 2011, three days after the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, dies.  Two Apple “disciples” are walking along talking about the news of the latest iPhone being released and what Apple will do without their leader.  Here comes another man to join them and it is Steve Jobs … but they don’t know it!  Yes, this is a FAAAR stretch from Jesus, but remember that many people’s priorities are really messed up these days.  After this flickering thought, my mind went back to the Luke reading …

After Jesus asked “What things?”, the men stood still with their faces downcast.  One of the men then told the story of Jesus of Nazareth being “… a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people and how the chief priests and rulers handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him”.  The men said they had hoped that Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel, but it had been three days since his death.  The man then told the stranger, who remember is Jesus, that there were some women who told an amazing story about going to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. The women then came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said Jesus was alive. 

I love the next part of the story where Jesus, who is still not recognized by these men, calls out their foolishness for not believing in the prophecy that the Messiah had to suffer these things and then enter his glory.  As they continued walking, Jesus began telling the men what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself beginning with Moses and all the Prophets.  I find that so fascinating; Jesus basically telling his life story and purpose for living and these men still don’t know it is Him, The Messiah!  This is easy for me to judge from the cheap seats, but would I have known it is Jesus if He hid himself from me?  What would I have needed to know it is Him?

Well, after they approached their village, the men strongly urged Jesus to stay with them since it was nearly dark.  Jesus stayed and had dinner with them.  It was here that they first recognized the man who they had been walking side-by-side for so long was indeed Jesus, the Messiah!  I love how Luke depicted the big reveal … “When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.  This description was so meaningful to me.  As I’ve grown older, I’m become closer to God and become much more introspective.  Communion means more to me now than when I was a kid.  But I can honestly say that it holds an even deeper meaning now as I reflect on message of this one verse from Luke … To summarize … open your heart to God and your eyes will be open to see His glory!  That is so fantastic!

… However, this is not enough for some people.  Proof is needed for them to believe.  This is what Luke highlights with the next few verses. Jesus later appeared to the Disciples startling and frightening them; they thought they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet. It is I Myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”  When Jesus said this, He showed them his hands and feet, but the disciples still did not believe.  So Jesus opened their minds so they could understand what was written in the Scriptures about the Messiah dying then rising from the dead on the third day and how His forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 

Going through these verses from Luke makes me think about the fortunate people who have visited the holy land and stood at the very places Jesus opened the minds and hearts of so many Christians.  I imagine it is an overwhelming feeling of closeness to Jesus.  Even though I have never been to Jerusalem, I still have a close relationship with Jesus.  I thank my mom and the church I grew up in along with the connection to Christ I’ve experienced as a member of Immanuel for my strong faith and Christian values!

Week 30: The Resurrection

Read Luke 24:1-12

Reflection by Ela Hansen

This passage talks about the women’s discovery of Jesus’ resurrection and when I read this, I kind of imagine what they’re thinking as they are encountering this. So, they’re walking to the tomb and they’re expecting to find Jesus’ body. They’ve got their spices; they’ve got their cloths and they are going to prepare him for a proper burial. Then they get there and he’s gone!  Which is kind of a Whoa! moment because you expect to see something and you don’t see what you expect to see and that can be confusing and bewildering. There is also a kind of loss of closure there, too, because where is Jesus’ body?  They’re expecting to see him there and he’s not where he’s supposed to be. It’s kind of that thing where you’re supposed to meet with someone and you say we’re to meet exactly at this spot at 3:00 and they’re not there. So, it’s kind of like where did they go? Why aren’t they here?

So, Mary, Jesus’ mother, is with the three women who go to the tomb, and the angels appear to them, and they’re really scared, understandably because angels just don’t casually appear to people. But Mary has already had an angel appear to her so that I think having gone through this before, she’d be more calm and she’d be like, “Okay, it’s fine. It’s just another angel. I’ve been through this before; I can handle this.” And instead, she’s just as scared as the rest of the women, which I think is kind of funny because she’s already had this happen and she knows about angels.

It strikes me as kind of weird that the disciples and the women don’t believe at first that Jesus has risen from the dead because he tells them he is going to. He says, “I’m going to die and on the third day I will rise again.” And they go to the tomb, his body is missing, and the angels tell them that he rose from the dead and they are like are you sure, though, because that doesn’t like really happen. But they have watched Jesus raise, I think, three people from the dead at this point. They’ve watched him turn fish and bread into enough to feed 5, 000 people. They’ve watched him perform countless miracles and they still don’t believe that he would be raised from the dead which, I think, is kind of weird. As Christians throughout our entire faith journey this is what we believe, that Christ was raised from the dead on the third day and that he died for our sins. So, I think it is kind of interesting that his disciples didn’t believe. And then I also thought it was interesting that Peter had to go and physically check the tomb because he didn’t believe it. And that is just so Peter because like Jesus said that when he died Peter would deny him three times and of course he still doesn’t believe and he has to go and check the tomb.

So, in all I just think this is kind of a good reminder that things do happen that we don’t expect to happen and in ways we don’t expect and I also think that the best thing we can do is just to believe and trust in God.

Week 29: Jesus’ Crucifixion

Read Luke 23:26-49

Reflection by Chapin Hall

We see humanity at its worst when the ugly mob and the cowardly holy men and the feckless politicians murder Jesus. The clamor, the smell of fear and hate in the air, the blood and gore. We surely embrace a spectacle, don’t we—and especially when the mighty fall.

Hey “King”—you big phony—you can’t even carry your own cross.

It’s pathetic, sickening and heart-wrenching.

Here’s what’s amazing—when Jesus stretches out His arms on the cross, He gathers all our past sins and He gathers all our future sins and He takes them as His own. I think that time stood still on Good Friday.

All these sins—our sins—come crashing in on Jesus from across the ages—from the past and future—in a transformational excruciating way. Jesus certainly suffers physical torture, and He suffers spiritual torture as well. Jesus is the pivot point in all history and when He dies, time can move forward again.

Week 28: Jesus on trial

Read Luke 22:66 - 23:25

Reflection by Jane Ann Nicholls

Who put Jesus on trial?  According to scripture, it certainly wasn’t the rulers of the land.  Pilot, the Roman governor, or Herod, the tetrarch of Galilee, could find no reason to put him on trial.  They passed him back and forth to each other’s jurisdiction for they saw nothing that Jesus had done that required a trial.  It was established then, he was an innocent man.  When Jesus was back in Pilot’s jurisdiction, Pilot stated to the people, “I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him.”  Reluctantly, however, Pilot succumbed to the pressures of the crowd.  He punished and humiliated Jesus, but that wasn’t enough, the religious leaders and the crowd wanted him put to death.

It was Jesus’s own people, the religious leaders, the chief priests, teachers of the law, and ordinary people in the crowd who tried Jesus and demanded his death.  Jesus posed a threat to the religious leaders. When they confronted Jesus asking “Are you then the Son of God?’ Jesus replied, “You are right in saying I am.’  Jesus understood all of what was happening to him.  He realized that his suffering, his death, though undeserved, would indeed be necessary for sin, yours and mine, to be forgiven so we might be free to live in God’s grace.  He was indeed the sacrificial lamb.

When we think about it, the very act of the crowd wanting the criminal, Barabbas, freed in place of Jesus demonstrated Christ’s sacrifice.  When Jesus was sentenced to die, Barabbas would be set free.  Christ died for us so we could be set free.

It was important that Christ was not accused or found guilty of any crime by the legal authorities of the day.  In fact, as scripture documents he was declared innocent by the people in power who interrogated him.  Instead, what has always moved me, is that Jesus was condemned by the religious authorities and the elders of the community, who of all people with their knowledge of the scriptures should have embraced him.  When asked, “If you are the Christ, tell us.”  Jesus responded, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer.”  Jesus knew their hearts were hardened against him, but it did not deter him from acknowledging that he was indeed the Son of God.

In truth, it was our sins that put Jesus on trial. He was indeed the sacrificial, innocent lamb given so we may have life everlasting; life with God who dearly loves us.  As in the words of a familiar hymn, “This is amazing grace, this is unfailing love, that you should take my place, that you would bear my cross.  You laid down Your life that I would be set free.  Oh, Jesus, I sing for all that You’ve done for me.”  Let us indeed sing this message to all those who do not know Jesus; who do not know what his sacrifice, in response to God’s unfailing love, has done for them. Let us continue to rejoice that his sacrifice has brought us new life in Him. 

Week 27: Betrayal in the garden

Read Luke 22:39-53

Reflection by Brady Gust

In verses 39-53, we find Jesus praying with his disciples. One of the first things Jesus tells his disciples to do is to pray that they would not fall into temptation because He knew that He would soon be leaving them and that they would need extra strength to face the temptations ahead of them.
Jesus was praying in the garden and his disciples fall asleep. We read that Jesus was in so much anguish while he was praying that he began to sweat profusely. Jesus knew that he would soon have to endure horrible agony in order to die for our sins, but still, He prayed; “yet not my will, but yours, God, be done.”

Meanwhile, Judas is leading an army of people to come arrest Jesus. Judas ultimately knew that he would betray The Son of God with a kiss on his cheek.

Jesus gets up from his prayer and says, “guys it’s time to go,” but while still speaking, Judas and his crowd came up to them. Peter, the impulsive one, jumps up and says, “Lord shall we fight? We’ve brought the swords.” And Peter takes the sword and strikes the ear of the servant of the High Priest and cuts off his ear. Peter, trying to stop this all from happening, is ignoring that Jesus has already told him that this HAS to happen and it cannot be stopped.
So Jesus interjects, answering, “no more of this” and He performs his last miracle reaching down and putting the ear back on the bloody man’s head and He restores his ear.

This miracle is such a great example of why Jesus is here and why he came to earth. He is the only one to ever perfectly resist temptation to sin, yet He died for our inability to resist it. He gave grace to the very end of His life to the people who didn’t deserve it. It shows that God gives grace to those who are broken and He restores them when they believe in Him. It is a picture of what Jesus’ death ultimately is going to signify on the cross in the readings and the weeks to come. It is what we mourn on Good Friday and celebrate on Easter and it was all for us, to save us from our sins.

I think there are a couple things in particular in this passage that stick out to me.

Week 26: The restart do-over dinner

Read Luke 22:14-23

Reflection by Tamara Gambino

The Lord’s Supper, or is it the Last Supper? What do you call it? I guess it’s both, but personally I seldom think of it as the Last Supper though it was Jesus’ last supper. I lean towards thinking of it as the First Communion.

When we celebrate communion at Immanuel and one of the pastors recites the words, ‘‘In the night he was betrayed, Jesus took bread and when he had given thanks broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, ‘Take Eat, this is my body, which is given for you do this in remembrance of me.’”  What images come to your mind?

For some reason I think of a semi-dark room lit by candles…all the disciples sitting around the table…I assume there was a lot of tension in the air…they are feeling scared, confused, nervous and grateful. They probably were hanging on to every word that Jesus said.

As always, the disciples followed Jesus’ lead. But tonight, it’s different. Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks and breaks it into pieces for them and begins passing it around to each of the disciples. But as Jesus is doing this he tells them to not only eat, but he tells them it’s his body given for them, and they’re to do this in remembrance of him. What can he possibly mean when he says the bread is his body? Given for them? Who, us? In remembrance of Jesus?

But that’s not all. Jesus also takes a cup of wine and when he had given thanks he gives it to them saying, “Drink of it, all of you. This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you, for the remission of sins; Do this in remembrance of me.”

Wow!  The disciples must have really been wondering what was going on!  Jesus not only tells him the bread is his body, but now he now says the wine is his blood. Which words are the most troubling?I picture the disciples looking at each other with expressions of confusion and wonder. What do you think they were saying to each other?

But that’s not all; Jesus also tells them he won’t be drinking the fruit of the vine (wine) until the kingdom of God comes. What is he saying? He’s never going to drink wine again?  The disciples must have been shifting in their seats, looking at each other, and whispering to the person sitting on each side of them.  And then the crazy talk continues…

Jesus has been talking about his pending death, so they were scared for his life, and they were not trusting the crowds who gathered around them. But Jesus is now saying that someone sitting at this table, eating and drinking with them, will betray him. One of them.  Really?  One of his followers?

The image that comes to my mind as I read these words in Luke is of the men leaning towards each other, and a buzz as eleven of the twelve are anxious, still nervous, wondering who and how does Jesus know? How can that be? The conversation at this meal is unlike any other they’ve had with Jesus. They’ve seen Jesus heal the sick, raise the dead, walk on water; all marvelous things and now one of them is going to bring harm to him?  What were the disciples thinking? Were their hearts heavy with fear of what was to come?  How would I have reacted? I’d probably haven been shifting uneasily in my seat with extreme feelings of discomfort.

When we practice communion we don’t recite the words about Jesus calling out the betrayer. We hang on to the words, “do this in remembrance of me” - the good stuff - the easy stuff, the forgiveness of sins. We don’t come to the altar confused or nervous.  Rather, we usually come to the altar with a sense of confidence as we know what is going to happen, but I wonder if we shouldn’t have some sense of discomfort or uneasiness. Aren’t we also the betrayer at the table? The sinner?

Whether we sin against God/Jesus or against each other, we are sinning and betraying the one who loves us. But wait, what else did Jesus say? There’s a new covenant when we eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of him! There’s that new start we get every time we repent and believe in his words! Our sins (betrayals) are forgiven! How joyful I can be - me a sinner, getting a new start!

So, let me take you back to the question in the beginning: is it the Last Supper,  the Lord’s Supper, First Communion, or is it, the Restart Do-Over Dinner?

Though this event happened 2000 years ago in a dimly lit room sitting around a table the words never get old. It’s redeeming, it’s alive, it’s God’s grace. I never did anything to earn it. It’s the grace of God coming to us at the table!

Week 25: Ride on, Jesus!

Read Luke 19:28-40

Reflection by Tom Getchius

So this is my fourth and final video in the series and I have some music to share! After reading this passage several times, there are a number of songs that come to mind, but most notably, the gospel song “Ride on King Jesus” by Moses Hogan. For those of you that don’t know, Moses Hogan was an African-American composer and arranger of choral music. I encourage you to look him up on Wikipedia and learn more about his incredible history including his childhood, education, and achievements. He was truly remarkable and sadly passed away in 2002.

So back to the gospel song “Ride on King Jesus”. As I remember the words of the song and some of the phrases from my choral years I remember “ride on, the conquering king.”  Think about the play on words. In the verses for this weeks’ reading, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, slowly, calmly. He didn’t barrel into the streets soliciting praise and riling up the townspeople, he came in gently, just as he did when he was a baby.

And other words in the gospel song are sung “No man can a-hinder me”. Another beautiful play on words as I read verses 39 and 40. Verse 39 reads, “Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, ‘Teacher, get your disciples under control!’ But he (Jesus) said, ‘If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise.’”

I encourage you to watch these videos on Youtube. One is from May 2011 sung by the University of Louisville Collegiate Chorale - Click to watch. They are dressed uniformly with their folders up, spacing and windows so everyone can see the conductor, and extremely formal in their annunciation of the words. Gary Thrasher would be proud! And the second video is one that I found with a slightly different arrangement. This video is from 2009 and recorded by The Family Church, Serving the Family of God - click to watch. This African American gospel choir will get you moving. I love watching the Holy Spirit move through them as they embrace these words. You can feel the love, passion, energy, excitement, and enthusiasm for their praise of our Creator. And their director can hardly contain himself as he busts out in dance on the podium. Please, go watch them! I dare you to try and sit still and not groove along to the beat!

I think about this short passage of Luke, the words of Moses Hogan, and the interpretation of those words through song, and how it applies to my life and here’s what I’ve come up with. Be like Jesus! Spread the good news, but not in a way that is boastful, showy, or over the top. Share calmly, kindly, respectfully, and consider the needs, wants, and feelings for others. But don’t be so distant in sharing the Gospel or the rocks will do it for you!

Week 24: Loving the broken

Read Luke 19:1-10

Reflection by Katie Thormodsgard

The story of Zaccheus is one I remember well from Sunday School.  The images of a short, hated man stuck in my mind.  I have also thought that a wealthy person in a position of authority must have looked ridiculous climbing a tree.  I also picture the crowds watching Jesus engaging this man that gained great wealth at their expense.  A sinner that had wealth and power, and was in need of nothing.  Jesus, however, sees beyond the exterior, and saw great need in Zaccheus.

We are bombarded with information and images of success, wealth, beauty, and happiness every day.  Whether we look at social media, the news, reality shows, or magazines, we see people living near perfect lives.  We see people that have everything life can offer, including those that are dishonest, greedy, and treat others poorly.  While people may look with disdain at these individuals, Jesus sees great need for healing of their hearts.  It is difficult to be inspired to show God’s love to those individuals, but they may be most in need of it.  I challenge you to pray for those that don’t seem to need prayers this week, that they may experience Jesus’ love, as Zaccheus did..

Week 23: Jesus heals ten men with leprosy

Read Luke 17:11-19

Reflection by Mark Anderson

Please and Thank you!  These are two simple phrases that we hopefully learned as children.  As a child, I remember my mom coaching me to say thank you to Grandma for a present ... even if I didn’t like.  My mom would also teach me it is important to say thank you when leaving a store after buying something.  Now as a parent, I am passing along those same manners to my boys.  I remind my sons every time they go to a friend’s house to remember their “pleases” and “thank yous”.  As a teacher, I try to reinforce the importance of saying “please” and especially “thank you”.  This is not only about having good manners but also about being a professional.  When students say thank you to me, whether it is for something big like writing a letter of recommendation or for something small like giving them a handout, I always try to compliment them so they get the reinforcement of how important saying “thank you” is.

We teach our children to be thankful for the little things and to show their appreciation when someone, whether that person is family or a stranger, does something nice for them ... So when reflecting on Luke chapter 17: verses 11-19, I was struck by two things: (1) how ungrateful most of the Samaritans were to Jesus and (2) how showing appreciation can help your Faith and overall well-being.

To summarize the reading, Jesus healed nine Samaritans and only one came back to him to say “thank you” ... ONE!  Jesus was obviously surprised and disappointed by this.  So he then told the one Samaritan that did say “thank you” that “his Faith had made him well”.

Now let’s go back to what I was talking about at the beginning of this reflection.  Most of us believe it is very important to say “thank you” for big and for little things.  So I can’t comprehend receiving a miracle from Jesus and not showing any appreciation for what He had done.  Did these foreigners, as they were called in Luke’s reading, believe they were entitled to be healed?  How could they not drop to their knees and kiss Jesus’ feet?  For goodness sake, I hand out a worksheet to my students and most of them say “thank you”.  I’m giving them work and they are showing their appreciation.  Jesus cured these men of leprosy and they said nothing.

Having entitlement and not showing appreciation for random acts of kindness is an unhealthy way to live.  Jesus told the Samaritan who thanked him that his Faith had made him well.  In my opinion, if a person has Faith and shares that Faith with others, they both will have a healthier life.  The question you may ask is how does having Faith lead to a healthier life?  Well, the way I look at is if you have Faith you are leading a Christian life.  I see a Christian as someone who is caring, compassionate, generous, and thankful.  If I shared these traits with all those around me, not only would I “feel” better but so would all those people with whom I interact with.  Along with feeling healthier, my spirit would be healthier and my Faith stronger.

This is why I believe it is so important to share my Faith.  I was able to attend this past Ash Wednesday Lenten service after having conferences at the high school.  I was so blessed to arrive in time for Communion and to receive the sign of the cross on my forehead.  As I’ve grown older and closer to God, this has become very meaningful to me.  I like to keep the ash on my forehead the rest of the evening.  Well, after the service, I had to go back to the high school for a band concert and someone pointed out that I still had the sign of the cross on my forehead.  The tone of this statement was a little questioning, like “WHY didn’t you wash that off?”  I simply replied with a very confident “yes, I know”!  I am proud of my Faith and I was proud to be able to walk around and show it off!

So, my friends in Christ, in conclusion, if you are so fortunate to be on the receiving end of kindness from someone ... say “Thank You”!  Better yet, if you are so fortunate to receive a miracle from Jesus, for God’s sake say “thank you” and be appreciative for the sacrifices He has made for you ... or at the very least buy Him a Caribou as a small token of your appreciation! J Fist Bump #FaithHeals.

Week 22: The rich man and Lazarus

Read Luke 16:19-31

Reflection by Ela Hansen

This passage was really difficult for me to understand. I read it probably about fifteen times, and I struggled coming up with something to say. I guess the premise of this story is kind of like karma. The rich man had everything he wanted in life, and so had nothing in the afterlife. Lazarus had nothing in life, and so had everything he wanted in the afterlife. And part of what went into this was that the rich man didn’t feel the need to share what he had with Lazarus and others. And because he doesn’t do this, he suffers in the afterlife.

The rich man mentions his five brothers, who live in the same way he did. He wants Abraham to send someone to warn them so they don’t end up like the rich man. Abraham replies, “They have Moses and the prophets, they should listen to them”. Abraham is telling the rich man that he was already given instructions on how to live as a man of God and how to share his wealth, he just didn’t bother to listen. Or maybe he didn’t think it really applied to him. I feel like a lot of us do this. We think, “Oh, well I volunteered at Feed My Starving Children last month, I’m doing something”. But the truth is we can always do more. And how many times do we say, “I’m kind of busy right now, I’ll get to it later”, or “I just don’t feel like it right now”. I know personally I’m guilty of this, especially the latter. There are days that I avoid doing things because I don’t feel up for it, and that extends to Confirmation. I know I should go every week and be there with a smile on my face and a positive attitude, but sometimes I just don’t feel like it.

But God calls us to push past those feelings. We are called to care for one another. God doesn’t say “oh it’s chill, just do it when you feel like it”, God says now. The rich man didn’t feel like he owed Lazarus anything, it’s not like it was his fault Lazarus was sick and poor and hungry. But the rich man did have the power to do something about it. God has given us all wonderful gifts with the expectation that we’ll share those gifts with others. And it’s not about what we owe the less fortunate people around us, it’s about how God wants us to be as people and as followers of Christ.

Week 21: Lost and Found - Grace and Mercy

Read Luke 15:1-2, 11-32

Reflection by Chapin Hall

Have you ever been lost? I mean really REALLY lost—like lost in the woods lost.

Panic sets in. Your hands begin to shake. Your vision gets blurred. And you can’t think straight. I think that is exactly how the prodigal son felt. He was so lost, he didn’t even know who he was—all he knew was that he was not his father’s son anymore.

I’ve heard people say that the prodigal son throws himself upon the mercy of his father. I think he throws himself upon the grace of his father. You see, grace and mercy are two sides of the same coin. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve, while mercy is not getting what you do deserve. There’s plenty of each in this parable.

The wonderful thing is that the father runs to his prodigal son. He loves him so much—despite everything—that he runs and kisses him. It’s as if he’s been on the lookout every day. Now that’s unconditional love.

One thing I’ve always wondered is: what happens next? I would like to think that the prodigal son throws himself at the grace of his brother and apologizes to him as well. I would like to think the older brother forgives his prodigal brother.

Week 20: Trusting God and free from worry

Read Luke 12:22-34

Reflection by Jane Ann Nichols

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  These words from Luke 12:34 are found at the end of the passage I’m reflecting on today but are truly the essence of the entire passage.  In a world that often defines treasures in a superficial way, these words of wisdom from Christ really teaches us about joyful, abundant living.  Sometimes, when faced with the practical, everyday reality of life’s demands, we lose sight of the power and wisdom of these words that challenges us to examine what is really treasured in our hearts.  When I have truly embraced these words, this gift of wisdom from our Lord, it is a huge WOW!  I am free from worry; I am embraced in a trusting relationship with God who loves me deeply.  Let’s look further at this passage.

Worry can plague us all, and Christ being human knows this happens to us.  He raises the question, “How is worry helping you?  He reminds us how well God cares for his creation and even more so cares and loves us beyond measure, if we let him.  In other words, he is saying let me take this burden from you. This passage is almost poetic in its reading and hence beautifully speaks to all of us personally.  These words are not in parable form but come straight from Christ’s heart to comfort and shield us.  He spoke them to the disciples he loves.  He gives them to us as a gift, the gift of abundant living. 

Christ urges us to seek the kingdom of God, and this kingdom dwells in our hearts.  When our hearts are filled with worry, or seek after superficial things, or centers life around our own needs and wants, or blinds our eyes to the needs and wants of others then God’s kingdom is crowded out of our hearts, and we lose the promise of living life joyfully and abundantly.  Have you ever been with someone who by the world’s standards doesn’t have much, and yet lives joyfully, thankfully, and generously beyond what you would expect?  What a testimony to the treasures their hearts value. 

Christ urges us “To not be afraid”.  He urges us to have faith and let the kingdom of God enter our hearts.  He says, “The Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”  He urges us to grasp this gift of life and look to serve the needs of others.  Doing so provides us, as the Lord states, with treasures that will never wear out, will not be exhausted, where no thief can take it, or moth destroy it.  Treasures that in the words of an old advertisement are “priceless”.  Treasures that will let the kingdom of God empower us to live joyfully, abundantly, and generously and let the light of God shine through us. 

Week 18: The Lord’s Prayer

Read Luke 11:1-13

Reflection by Tamara Gambino

The 11th chapter of Luke begins with telling us that Jesus is praying. When Jesus returns to his disciples, he is asked to teach them how to pray. The disciples weren’t religious leaders, so I’m guessing they weren’t very confident with their prayer practice. I can relate. I, at times, struggle with my prayer practice wondering if I’m praying correctly and if it is finding favor with God.

The timing was perfect for the disciples. They saw him praying but what was he saying? What was he praying? As I studied these verses I began to wonder why did Jesus select Father as the way he wanted us to address God? Why didn’t he say, “O Almighty God, O Holy One?” I think it is because Jesus wants us to be comfortable speaking to God just like we are comfortable speaking to our fathers.

The remaining petitions direct us how to praise God, his name is hallowed; repent, forgive us our sins; and ask, give us this day our daily bread and save us from evil. In our conversations with our fathers we show respect, we ask for things, we ask for advice and we thank them. If I think of it like this, it’s easy to pray to God. The one thing that I really appreciate about the Lord’s Prayer is that it is the prayer that brings all Christians together. Almost every church service that I’ve ever been at whether it’s Lutheran, Catholic, Baptist or Presbyterian, at one point during the service the congregation says in unison the Lord’s Prayer. Sure, different denominations may change a word here or there, but the core prayer is the same and unites us as Christians. The prayer, the only prayer that Jesus taught us.

The second half of this Bible passage encourages us to ask and the passage continues showing us that God is our Father and loves us like our earthly fathers love us. Jesus reminds us that if a child asks for an egg, no father who loves his children will give the child a scorpion. If we as God for something, he loves us even more than our earthly father and he isn’t going to bestow on us evil just like our earthly fathers aren’t malicious toward us. Ask and you’ll receive.

Please bow your heads and pray with me:


Week 17: The Push and Pull of Mary and Martha

Read Luke 10:38-42

Reflection by Tom Getchius

The passage for today is short but the message can have great impact. I’m going to read from the black pew bible and then from the Spark Children’s bible; listen for the differences and similarities in both texts. (The NRSV version is only printed here.  For the Spark Story Bible version please watch the video).

Mary and JesusThe creators of the spark story bible are to be commended for their illustrations and their ability to bring the text to life. It’s fun for adults and kids to read and reflect on the illustrations and the words in the stories. Look at the picture—do you see the look on Martha’s face? She looks frantic, frazzled, and distressed while Mary is cool as a cucumber listening to Jesus’ words not paying attention to all of Martha’s hustle and bustle.

Reflecting on these four verses, I can draw three easy parallels in this story to my current modern day life at work, at home, and at church.

It can be easy to be distracted at work in the office. Time can get sucked up by chats with co-workers in the lunch room, too much time spent on answering and triaging email, and focusing on the work that we enjoy doing and that might be easy as opposed to sitting down, rolling up your sleeves and digging in. As best you can, be more international about doing work that matters, that makes a difference, and provides value.

At home, I can feel like Martha seeing all the things that need to get done and sometimes overlooking the fact that Gavin wants to play cars or trucks, build legos, or play hide and seek. “Just let me finish [fill in the blank] and then I can come over.” While I would love to ignore all my responsibilities of dishes, cleaning, etc… and know that I can’t, I can and should be like Mary to breathe in and feel connected to my family and do my best to compartmentalize the distractions of the never ending to do list.

At church I strive to be like Mary, reconnecting with friends and loved ones and seeing new faces before, during and after the service. But the Martha comes out when I peruse the bulletin and see the announcements. And then maybe six minutes of the sermon is over and I’m left struggling to try and catch myself up. I will strive to be more like Mary, patient, contemplative, and focusing on what is important and what matters most. I can exercise my Martha by reading the announcements later that day or evening.

In closing, I hope that you’ll take some time to be like Mary and listen for God in the world around us, reflect in your own life and find those moments when you truly need to be present and reflect on God’s goodness, and reduce your temptation to be like Martha, outwardly projecting our own busyness and self-importance for actions and deeds.

Week 16 - Good Samaritan living

Read Luke 10:25-37

Reflection by Katie Thormodsgard

The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke is one of my favorite parables in the Bible.  It is a simple account on the surface, but deeper understanding of the individuals about whom Jesus is talking makes this parable a much more meaningful and useful message.

As a child, I saw the Samaritan as someone who was a good person wanting to help another in need, and the priest and Levite as people who thought they were too important and busy to help a bloodied man on the side of the street.  While these things may or may not be true, the most striking part of this story to me now is that Samaritans were regarded with disdain and disgust by the Jewish people.  The man in need is most likely Jewish, yet the Samaritan man went beyond simply helping a person that could be considered his enemy.  He invested time, money, and love in this man who may not give him a second thought if their situations were reversed. 

Jesus again expresses the importance of not only loving, but going above and beyond for your enemy through the Good Samaritan parable. How often do we negatively judge others because they have too much or too little money, too much or too little education, speak differently, wear different clothes, have differing religious or political beliefs and ideas, or live in a particular geographic area?  Are we afraid that we are validating beliefs and ideas with which we disagree by showing kindness and providing help to strangers and those at odds with us?  How did the Samaritan’s friends and family respond to him giving so much effort to help an enemy? What I take from this narrative is that it doesn’t matter what a person believes, or what their status or situation may be.  It is our responsibility to be the Good Samaritan, and to also recognize that a Good Samaritan can be anyone.  Although it is not as striking an effort as the Samaritan’s, I do make more of an effort to simply smile or engage in conversation with people that are different from me.  I may not be saving their lives, but I believe Jesus values the investment of time, money or resources, and love in others.  Those we look at as an enemy of some kind may be our good Samaritan one day, as well. 

Week 15 - Take up your cross

Read Luke 9:23-27

Reflection by Mark Anderson

In reflecting on Luke chapter 9:23-27, I believe that this reading includes one of the most personally challenging Scripture texts in the bible.  It has been the topic of many Faith conversations throughout my life.  Beyond just reading the verses though, I did some additional research in order to see different perspectives and interpretations.  I believe this helped me have a deeper understanding of Jesus’ words. 

Here is Luke’s reading … “Anyone who wants to follow me must put aside his own desires and conveniences and carry his cross with him every day and keep close to me.  Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it, but whoever insists on keeping his life will lose it.  What profit is there in gaining the whole world when it means forfeiting one’s self?  When I, the Messiah, come in my glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels, I will be ashamed then of all who are ashamed of me and of my words now.  But this is the simple truth – some of you who are standing here right now will not die until you have seen the Kingdom of God.”

This a call for the followers of Christ to love Him and His people more than we love ourselves.  It’s a call to examine ourselves and our treasures to see just how we line up.  This is a passage that leaves little ground for self-deception.  Jesus is pretty clear with His terms to be a disciple … This is where I have struggled so often understanding what Jesus was saying.  Am I simply adding Jesus to my life but not really putting aside my own desires and conveniences?  I listen to Christian radio, go to church, pray, and hang out with Christian friends but is this what Jesus had in mind for His followers?  Is this enough according to Luke’s reading?  Is my life all about Christ or all about me?  Wow!  Those are hard questions to answer.  I am a very literal person so does this mean I have to give up everything in order to be a Christian in Jesus’ eyes?  What is “everything”?  This is where the slippery slope is for me. 

So … this is when I did some additional reflecting with resources other than the bible.  I came across a different interpretation of Luke 9: chapter 23.  It talked about forsaking anything that would stand in the way of embracing Christ.  This made sense to me.  I don’t see owning a house or a car or having money in savings as things that get in the way of me embracing Christ.  But would Jesus agree?  Jesus is very clear here.  Those who live for themselves never get what they desire and in fact end up with nothing.  Those who deny themselves and live for Christ rather than live for themselves do find what they desire.  Jesus wants us to be good investors.  Loosing oneself for Christ’s sake will result in an infinitely better return than if we were to hoard our present material goods.  I see this as finding a balance in one’s life.  I must find a way to live in a material world but keep Jesus close to me.

I also must never be ashamed of my Christian beliefs.  I read some place that the human heart is never ashamed of what it treasures.  Jesus tells us that He is the real treasure.
We must choose and choose wisely.  I recently saw the Indiana Jones movie again where they were searching for the holy grail.  Towards the end of the movie, Jones was in a room full of golden cups and he had to choose.  Like him, we too must make choices.  As Christ’s disciples we must choose to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and not be ashamed of bearing the name Christian. 

Week 14 - Nothing is too big or too small for Jesus!

Read Luke 9:10-17

Reflection by Ela Hansen

As this passage begins, Jesus is meeting with his disciples after their travels and they’ve withdrawn privately. However, crowds of dedicated people follow him to where he’s gathered with his disciples. And generally, when people withdraw privately, they want to be alone. They don’t want people to follow them and Jesus was ready to be alone with his friends. They were going to talk about the things that had been going on and then all these people follow him and he welcomed these people who came to seek him out. He teaches them and he heals them even though it would have been much easier to send them away.

Jesus never turns his people away, especially those who seek him out. Instead, he continuously draws us closer. And then again that night when his disciples encouraged him to send the crowds home, he refuses. He instructs his disciples to find food to feed the thousands of people who have gathered to hear him speak. And even though his disciples only bring him two fish and five loaves of bread, Jesus puts his trust in God.

Jesus trusts and loves God unconditionally and knows God will always provide. We should think of God in the same way: as a powerful, loving entity who will always provide for us. God will never turn us away and God never has something more important to do than love us and care for us.

So one thing that I think is really important to remember is just that God is always there and there is nothing too big or too small that he can do for you.

Week 13 - Broken beggars, we cry out to Jesus

Read Luke 8:40-56

Reflection by Chapin Hall

When was the last time you begged for anything? We’re Americans. We have stuff. We live in the greatest, most powerful country in the world. We don’t need to beg. We look down our noses at beggars. We pity them. We think, “how sad!” We wonder what they did wrong—how they sinned—to become a beggar. Are they self-destructive? What is wrong with them? Are they addicted to something? How very sad indeed.

When was the last time you begged Jesus to help you? One time I begged Jesus, and it was a time of crisis. I was so desperate, and I tried everything else, that as a final resort, I begged Jesus to help me. I was literally down on the floor curled up in a ball with tears streaming down my face. I had no power to stop it. I was crying out to Jesus, “help me!”

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Darius’ only daughter is dying. The unnamed woman has been bleeding uncontrollably for 12 years. Darius begs to Jesus. The unnamed woman cannot even form the words.

This Scripture describes a typical day in our Savior’s life. It gives us a glimpse of a blueprint for our own spiritual journey. Jesus has just been away, time alone with God no doubt, and has returned to the crowd. He is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. And some of that power goes out of Him when the unnamed woman touches the hem of his clothes. That power transforms her life. She wants to remain hidden, but then trembling, she falls down before Jesus and declares the healing power of His love.

Later, Jesus takes the hand of Darius’ now-dead daughter and calls her back to life. Verse 55 says, “Her spirit returned.”

Just as God called Jesus to be alone with Him, God calls us to spend time alone with Him. Don’t wait for a crisis. Heed the call. Get down on your knees and beg—try it, really beg until you tremble—for God’s Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus Christ to power your life. And then be miraculous in our broken world.

Week 12 - Made whole by compassionate Jesus

Read Luke 8:26-39

Reflection by Jane Ann Nicholls

The setting for this story begins with Jesus, who after sailing across the Sea of Galilee with his disciples, stepped ashore in the gentile region of Gerasenes and was met by a demon-possessed man from the town.  Scripture tells us this man was possessed by demons for a long time and “wore no clothes and lived amongst the tombs.”  In other words, he could not live in society with other people.  The story implies that people around him at one point chained the man hand and foot and kept him under guard, no doubt for his safety and other’s protection.  Probably this was the only solution they could think of to deal with this possessed man.  However, his demon driven self, broke those chains, and he fled to solitary places to live.

I was struck in this story that Jesus did not ignore or pass by this violent and tormented man.  I believe he had compassion for him. Jesus immediately helped the man. He saw the man as separate from the demons within him; an example we all need to follow.  The power of Jesus was acknowledged when the demons referred to him as “Son of the Most High God” and shouted out “don’t torture me”. No earthly restraint or situation, had up to this point, the power to make any difference for this possessed man. However, what is striking clear, as seen in demon’s fear, is Jesus didn’t have just the ability to drive out and destroy the demons; Jesus had the absolute authority to do so.

It was meaningful for me when Jesus asked the man “What is your name?”  Jesus never forgets us.  He singles us out and calls us by name.  In this case, the answer from the man was “Legion” for the demons possessing him were many. They overruled the man’s own identity.  Jesus, aware of the timing and purpose of his mission on earth, aware he had the authority and power to send the spirits to the feared “abyss” chose, for the present, to accept the alternative put forth by the demons to allow them to possess the herd of pigs near-by.

When the demons entered the pigs, the animals could not deal with their power and stampeded over a cliff into the sea. The man immediately was made whole, and in gratitude asked to follow Jesus wherever he went.  Instead, Jesus told him to go and spread the knowledge of what God had done for him.  He did so without hesitation and spread his good news all over town.  The man became part of Jesus’s ministry.  It is a wonderful example for us about what the amazing power of God can do to change people, to change us, so we can also work for the glory of God.

Jesus’s words and acts produced fear in the town’s people who witnessed this event.  They rejected Jesus out of their own fear and asked him to leave the area.  Jesus did so.  I believe Jesus knew their hearts were hardened out of their own fear and insecurities.  They could not “see” the power of God at work.  Let us pray that we are not so blind when we are witness to God’s work here on earth.  Let us be like the man made whole as a result of Jesus’s compassion and go and tell the people around us of what a wonderful blessing it is to have Jesus in our lives. What abundance he brings to our lives. What peace he provides us both physically and spiritually beyond anything we can imagine.

Week 11 - I will drop my nets

Luke 8:22-25

Reflection by Brady Gust

Luke 8, verses 22-25, is a familiar story to many of us. It is the story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Much of Jesus’ ministry occurred on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. In fact, if we look back to Luke 5: 1-11 we see Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee where He met Simon Peter, James and John who were fishermen. After they caught nothing all night long, Jesus performed a miracle and after telling them to cast out their nets, they pull them in filled with enough fish to fill both fishing boats. After Jesus had done this, Simon Peter, James, and John were in awe of His power, dropped everything, and decided to follow Him. 

How many times in life do we find ourselves like these fishermen, fallen into a daily routine of simply performing our job, our duties, and not only are we not catching fish, we also lose the excitement in our life. Then Jesus comes to us through a powerful sermon at church, or maybe in some quiet reflection or prayer time, or simply through a situation, and asks us to recognize our own sinfulness, realize that we cant save ourselves, follow Him, pursue and trust Him, and in front of our eyes, like the fishermen, He performs a miracle and we are left in awe of his power, ready and willing to follow him…for a while.

In Luke 8 we are back on the Sea of Galilee right in the fishing boat with the disciples and Jesus who had decided to sail over to the other side of the Sea. Jesus had fallen asleep and during this time, a large storm came across the lake and the boat was being swamped. The disciples ran over to Jesus calling “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and raging waters. The storm subsided and

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