Luke's Gospel, Weeks 1 - 10

Week 1 - Mary and the Angel

Read Luke 1:26-38
Reflection by Tom Getchius

This reading from Luke 1: 26-38 will be familiar to many people raised in the church. This passage tells of the angel, Gabriel, visiting Mary prior to her conceiving Jesus, saying that she has been favored by God. And Mary’s response can catch you off guard, or even be regarded as startling, where she wonders what type of greeting this is. I have trouble imagining how I would react if an Angel visited me and conveyed that I’m viewed favorably in the sight of the Lord. I might be skeptical and think, why me, or what does this mean, how does it impact me? Why would God choose me?

I also imagine that I might have a hard time giving up control on some aspects of parenting, such as the naming of my son or what his purpose in life will be. There are so many things that I want for him, and so many things that I want him to experience in this world. But the Angel tells Mary that he will be the Son of the Most High, that he will have a throne, and that he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever, and that his kingdom will never end. It takes some convincing from Gabriel that this is the truth from God, and that through God, anything is possible. The passage mentions that even Mary’s relative Elizabeth, who is older than Mary, can still conceive in “old age”. The closing verse, verse 38, reads with Mary’s response, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

I’m humbled by Mary’s bravery, her courage, her willingness to comply with Gabriel’s message, and her trust in the Lord when receiving this news. I’m in awe of the power of the Word of God and the faith of the people that were written about in the Bible that supported Jesus throughout his life. I continually pray for courage and strength to step forward in my life, trusting that God has a plan for me and that I can be like Mary and be the Lord’s servant, trusting and fulfilling his word. To God be the Glory!

Week 2 - Baby Jesus Came for ALL (even stinky shepherds)

Read Luke 2:1-20
Reflection by Tamara Gambino

We are all very familiar with Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth.  It is the go to gospel every Christmas; however, it is the story that never gets old. During Christmas season, I often ask others what is their favorite part of the Christmas story.  Is it the manger scene? Is it the shepherds? Or is it the angels? Or is the little baby wrapped in bands of cloth?  What is yours?  Mine is the lack of magnificence around Jesus’ arrival, but yet how wonderful it is. As I contemplate on the second chapter of Luke, I wonder how I would have reacted if I had been living in Bethlehem at that time. What would have been the conversations the next morning at the well with the other women?

I can imagine the women returned to their homes spreading the news. I’m guessing the story contained as many questions about the shepherds and the angels as it did about the answers about the baby being born in a barn.

How does that speak to me over 2,000 years later? Today in 2016 when we have a question, someone is quick to pull out their smart phone and Google or ask Siri and the answer is returned quickly and the conversation moves on. I believe God has a reason for everything, and the reason he came to earth in a manger and the reason angels told the story first to shepherds is to make a point.

Jesus didn’t just come for kings and religious leaders, but for everyone—for all of us. God wanted to show the world that he is the Lord of all people—there’s no discrimination. You can be wealthy, poor, educated, or uneducated, clean, dirty. Whether you sleep in a mansion or you sleep under a bridge, Jesus is here for all of us. He loves us all and accepts us all.

The angels said to the shepherds, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people. God is inclusive. We are all worthy of his love and of all being saved.  Shepherds weren’t highly regarded in society. They weren’t thought of as religious, clean or pure, but yet God chose them to hear the story first. How humbling and comforting the story is year after year, the go to chapter, the second chapter of Luke of how Jesus came to all people. If only the women at the well knew then what we know now—-the baby in the barn, the angels singing to the shepherds was God’s son, our savior. Good news to all—everybody—everywhere. So go tell the story to all.  Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.

Week 3 - Prepare the way of the Lord!

Read Luke 3:1-14
Reflection by Jane Ann Nicholls

In this passage, Luke, ever the historian, sets the stage for us in time for the beginning of John’s ministry by referencing the current rulers (listing five) plus the current high priests Annas and Caiaphas. We the readers, now know exactly what time in history John’s ministry begins.  John is in the wilderness -or desert depending upon translations-  when the word of God comes to him concerning his mission.  I was struck by the fact that John was alone away from any distractions really isolated when God revealed his Word, his mission, his plan for John.  It reinforced in me the importance for striving to have a daily quiet time with God in my life to hear his voice, to feel his presence, and gain direction.

In this passage, Luke continues to describe John’s mission, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” by quoting a passage from Isaiah foreshadowing John’s work.  Luke wanted to establish, particularly for the Jewish people, the linkage to the Old Testament that John’s work was prophesized.  John went into all the regions surrounding the Jordan River baptizing and preaching repentance. In other words, he went where he would find the people who lived near the river that provided them so much for daily life.  His message was simple and direct.  I have to believe he knew his time was short to accomplish his mission.  He knew without question what he needed to do and why he needed to accomplish it.  God was leading him. He challenged the people to repent.  He told them don’t make excuses.  He also said “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.”  These are the same challenges God gives to us today.

The passage said the crowds were puzzled.  John set them straight by giving them examples.  If you have two coats, share to those in need.  If you have food do the same.  Don’t collect more taxes than required.  Don’t extort money from anyone by threats.  In other words, as Jesus would state, “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  Not earth shattering requests by any means but how difficult, how challenging for them as well as for us.  These were the fruits of repentance that John held most high.  He was indeed preparing the way for the Lord.

Week 4 - Feeling tempted?

Read Luke 4:1-13
Reflection by Brady Gust

This is the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness and before I get started on that chapter itself, I’d like to look at the book of James 1:2-4. It says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” I think it is important to quickly touch on this verse because as we look at Jesus in the wilderness, we realize he is tempted and that the testing of his faith does produce perseverance and shows us that Jesus is truly the only one who does overcome temptation all the time.

So we start in chapter 4 verse 1 where Jesus is led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit and I think it is important to realize that Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit not by the devil, and he is tempted by the devil, not the Holy Spirit, and he faces temptations right away. When I first read this verse I realized and remembered being part of the 30-hour Famine in high school where we didn’t eat for 30 hours, and the next day I felt like I was starving.  I felt physically very tired and weak, and when we finally got that meal, we just devoured it when we had the opportunity for it. It was 30 hours and when Jesus was led into the wilderness and for 40 days does not eat anything. And the devil comes to him knowing his power, knowing that Jesus has the power over the stones to turn them into bread and he says, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” And Jesus, instead, knowing that he has the ability to and I can’t imagine how tempted he was to do that after not eating, He answers, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”

Then the devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world and he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, it has been given to me, which it was for a brief amount of time, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me it will be all yours.  I think in my life this connects to me and the things that I want:  more money, a nicer car, a bigger house.  We want all these things that will make us “happier.” The devil had told Jesus “All of these things are yours; all of these kingdoms are yours.” And instead Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord, your God and serve him only.’”

Then the devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “Throw yourself down from here for it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus then said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” When the devil had finished all his testing, he left him until an opportune time.  I think of this in my life, again, as the times that we test God, the times that we do fall to temptation.  And I think that another important thing is that to see that the devil didn’t leave Jesus forever.  He left him until an opportune time to test him.  He did test him again and as Christians we are going to fall to temptation. We will sin. But that’s why Jesus came and that’s why he had to do this, was to be human, and as God was not tempted but as human was tempted as we are. He overcame temptation and although we will not always be perfect in that, we know that we have a Savior that has been.

Week 5 - Fickle crowd and fickle hearts

Read Luke 4:14-30
Reflection by Chapin Hall

What is it like to return home after a time away? College perhaps. Mission trip. Study abroad. A sabbatical. You take dedicated time away from home including time alone with God and now you return home, wondering how much to share and how you will be received. Who do you think you are? Maybe it’s best to stay safe and quiet.

In this scripture, Jesus models bold behavior. He goes to his hometown synagogue. He unrolls the scroll, reads from Isaiah, and all are amazed. Inexplicably, Jesus then deliberately provokes the hometown crowd. Jesus might well have said, “It’s nice to be home, but no miracles for you!” I think it would have been wiser to consolidate his base at home, and then onto the bigger stage at Capernaum.

Jesus knows the fickle nature of the hometown crowd. He knows the fickle nature of my heart—but I don’t expect him to provoke me into rejecting him. I think Jesus is bluntly challenging me to examine the sinful nature of my heart. Thanks a lot. Why can’t I just enjoy the scripture?

Week 6 - Confident Faith

Read Luke 5:1-11
Reflection by Ela Hansen

In Luke 5:1-11, Jesus is teaching from a boat and encounters Simon Peter. Jesus tells Simon to row out in the boat and cast his nets over the side. Simon is skeptical because he has done this so many times already that day and caught nothing. But instead of telling Jesus “no, it won’t work,” Simon says, “nevertheless at your word, I will let down the net.” Simon doesn’t talk back to Jesus, he doesn’t complain that it won’t work, he just does as he is told. He puts his trust in the Lord and is greatly rewarded for it.

Sometimes God asks us to do things that don’t really make sense at the time. Maybe we just can’t see how it will help, or we’ve done it a thousand times already, or it’s hard, or it just seems counterproductive. What we often fail to realize is that God has a plan for us. He doesn’t ask us to do things just for kicks. Everything he asks has an outcome that he knows will be good for us. It’s like your parents telling you to brush your teeth again if you didn’t do it long enough the first time. These things we are asked to do are for our own good. God will never ask us to do something that would harm us in any way.

And Simon responds to this request with faith. Blind faith, even. He doesn’t question God, he puts his trust in him. This is how God wants us to respond to him. Too many times we question where we were put in the world and what is happening in our lives and the lives of those around us. “Why me?” we ask. You, because God has a plan for you. Just like Simon, put your faith and trust in the Lord and he will provide everything you could possibly need. When we put our trust in the Lord, we are rewarded. Not always with fish, but with love, comfort, and the joy of helping others. If Simon hadn’t listened to Jesus, his nets wouldn’t have been overfilled with fish.

After this happens, and Simon throws himself at Jesus’ feet out of reverence and fear, Jesus says “do not be afraid.” I heard somewhere that “do not be afraid” is written in the bible 365 times, once for every day of the year. I love that. It reinforces the image of New Testament God. He’s still all powerful and can move mountains and overflow a boat with fish, but the line “do not be afraid” emphasizes his desire to help us as people, as lost and broken souls. As sinners. “Do not be afraid.” He is with us. He will provide for us. Not just physically, with food and water, but spiritually. He causes us to overflow with love, with joy, with compassion, with hope. These are all things Jesus stands for.

All that he asks in return for us being overflowed with love is that we share it with those around us. God sends us out into the world armed not with nets, but with love and compassion and the courage to share that love with others.

Week 7 - Forgiving without judgment

Read Luke 5:17-26
Reflection by Mark Anderson

Luke 5 verses 17 – 26 is the story of Jesus “seeing the faith” in some men and forgiving the sins of a paralyzed man.  He was then judged by the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who thought this was blasphemy and questioned “Who but God can forgive sins?”.  Jesus replied that he was the Messiah and then he used a common phrase today by saying “talk is cheap … so I’ll prove it”.  He proceeded to heal the paralyzed man and everyone was left in awe and fear and began praising God.  After reading these passages, I was overcome with many different thoughts and emotions.  On one hand, I felt joy and peace when Jesus “saw the Faith” of the men and forgave the paralyzed man’s sins.  On the other hand, I felt troubled that there was so much doubt that Jesus was the Messiah and He had to prove Himself as having God’s healing power on earth. 

Knowing that Jesus can “see my Faith” and will forgive all my sins calms and comforts me.  It isn’t about what I have “done” to earn his forgiveness; it is simply having Faith!  Jesus was a teacher to us all.  He was loving, forgiving and not judgmental.  I struggle with this in my everyday life and as a high school teacher.  I end each day by asking God for the strength and wisdom to be the best teacher I can be.  I haven’t known specifically what I was praying for until reading Luke 5: 17-26.  My hope is to teach, like Jesus, without judging my students by the clothes they wear, the color of their skin, or by their grades?  I pray for the strength and wisdom to see the faith in my students as Jesus did and not be judgmental.  There is a lot of judging of others going on right now in this country and it is dividing us.  I believe that if we all could forgive without judgement it would go a long way to bringing this country closer together.

The Pharisees and other teachers in this reading doubted Jesus until they saw Him prove He was the Messiah.  This troubles me since it isn’t enough to simply have Faith in one another.  We live in a very quantifiable culture.  We often have to “show” our work to provide proof.  This makes sense in many parts of our culture, like our professions, but I wonder if this “prove it” culture is bleeding into our Faith in Jesus.  Fewer and fewer people seem to be going to church.  Is it because they aren’t “seeing” miracles or is it just because their Faith isn’t as strong.  I am troubled by this trend and also because I am a very quantifiable person.  However, my Faith stays strong because of the values I grew up with and the faith community I surround myself with.  My hope is that we all can live with more “Faith”, as Jesus did, and have less of a need to see proof in order to believe.

Forgiving without judgement.  Believing without proof.  These are my hopes for me as a teacher and also for this country.  Being forgiving and faithful would go a long way in bringing us closer together as children of God.  God Bless.

Week 8 - God of second chances

Read Luke 6:27-45
Reflection by Katie Thormodsgard

Luke 6:27-45 contains familiar, yet somewhat uncomfortable ideas.  This section begins with Jesus telling us to love our enemies, pray for our persecutors, and if someone slaps one cheek, to turn the other to them. If they take my coat, give them my shirt as well.  I have to say loving our enemies and praying for them really doesn’t seem too bad compared to allowing someone to hurt us and take from us repeatedly.  I feel a sense of injustice and unfairness when taking this in, and it doesn’t make sense to me.

Fortunately, the next part reminds me to take the plank out of my eye before removing the speck in the eye of another, and I realize all of the times I was the cheek slapper and coat taker in my life, repeatedly.  My teenage years come to mind, and how I repeatedly hurt my mom, dad, and sister with angry words and actions.  Yes, this is cliche teenage girl behavior, but it went much deeper than that, when later I learned I suffered from depression and anxiety.  Even without understanding this, they still loved me and cared for me.  I was also fortunate to find a husband that loved me, and supported me, even if it would have been easier to express anger and disappointment, or to simply leave me. 

A friend of mine is a director for Launch Ministries in Chaska, and we were discussing the individuals helped by this ministry.  Many of the individuals they help depend on second, third, fourth chances and more.  They deal with addiction, both sides of abusive behavior, and other circumstances.  She shared with us accounts of individuals that would come in for help with housing and other services, but relapse into problem behaviors over and over again.  She saw that there is value and hope in giving people as many chances as they need to overcome their struggles, and be bearers of good fruit. 

While it may be easier to point out the faults of others, we need to focus on our hearts, and the fruit we bear.  I am able to bear good fruit because of the love offered to me by others, and the constant difficulty I gave them.  My friend is able to continue helping those who cause difficulty because she is able to show unlimited love and patience, and they in turn become bearers of good fruit. We can’t control others, but we can take charge of our hearts, and make choices about how we will handle situations.

Thank you God, for showing us limitless love, joy, forbearance, peace, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness, so that we may show the same to others.

Week 9 - Real grief, followed by action!

Read Luke 7:11-17
Reflection by Tom Getchius

This reading from Luke’s Gospel comes from the 7th chapter, verses 11-17 where the passage describes Jesus raising a widow’s son.

Verse 11: Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

I’m at a point in my life where I’m still young, younger than you might think, as I approach my mid-30’s and have enjoyed the blessing of many family members having long and wonderful lifespans. But I know that this certainly won’t last forever and that I’ll need to prepare my heart, soul, and mind, for the time when my aunts and uncles, parents, and maybe even my family members that are younger than I, will be laid to rest on Earth. And while it saddens me to think about these times in the future when I’ll be saying goodbye on Earth, I believe that I will see them again in Heaven on the streets of gold and in all the glory that the Bible describes Heaven.

It may seem silly to some as I reflect on this passage that the two words that keep playing over in my mind are from Jesus, “don’t cry.” I don’t have a good sense of the surrounding context of this reading to know what else was going on and what the woman was thinking? Maybe she was miffed, taken aback, hurt, put off, or unsure of how to react to Jesus’ words. Maybe she found comfort and solace in the fact that out of the entire crowd, we don’t know if they were crying or mourning his loss, a single man came up to console her and grieve with her for her loss. Or maybe in that moment she was feeling that a miracle could occur and that he would raise up her son and bring him back from the dead.

The most recent and the most prominent loss that I experienced earlier this year was the loss of my grandmother, Marion Helen Getchius. She passed away at the age of 89 in her sleep and went home to be with our Lord after struggling with dementias, Alzheimer’s disease, and with heart failure. And as I write and deliver this reflection I think to myself, “Don’t cry.”

Don’t cry and be sad but think of the happy and wonderful memories from my time on Earth with her.

Don’t cry, the Bible tells us that Jesus will return and that we will be united with him in heaven and will be reunited with all those who have gone before us.

Not that I want to go on record as being a Christian that will directly contradict Jesus’ words and teachings, but I believe that it’s ok to cry. It’s ok to feel grief when we lose a family member, a close friend, or someone else we love. It’s ok to cry as we comfort each other and mourn our losses. And of course, we cry for those that we have never met or known, but are oppressed, rejected outright, or unfairly singled out because of their looks, their beliefs, their ideologies, or simply because they are “different”.

But we must also “get up” as Jesus commands to the son that the widow mourned. Get up and show love, kindness, respect, and tolerance to our neighbor. Get up and show compassion to someone who is hurting or suffering in mind, body, or spirit. Get up, carry the cross, and be a bright light in the world when we seem to be surrounded by so much darkness.

Week 10 - Jesus Forgives: One simple phrase - one powerful statement.

Read LUKE 7:36 – 50
Reflection by Tamara Gambino

This story about a woman— or should I say – a SINNER —- washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, drying his feet with her hair and then kissing his feet and anointing them with ointment always has confused me.  What is this all about??

Think about how confusing this had to be for the Pharisee.  A woman known around the city as a sinner…or in other words, the known town prostitute, not only is touching Jesus, but actually washing his feet with her tears, using her hair as a towel to dry his feet and then kissing them and anointing them with ointment.  Wow, that’s powerful imagery.

If that puzzles me, how taken back the Pharisee had to be?  These verses in Luke suggest the Pharisee believed Jesus was possibly a prophet. If that’s the case how can he allow this woman to do this to him….surely a prophet would know better?

Jesus, he’s so quick – he questions the Pharisee, “who should be more grateful for the forgiveness of debt the one who owes little or the one who owes much?” The Pharisee was trapped “well, the one with the most debt is the one who should be most grateful.”  That’s a little, “Gotcha” for the Pharisee, for,if that’s the case then it’s very logical that this woman who had a lot of sins to be forgiven should show the greatest love to the one who forgives. 

Jesus states in verse 47, ”…her sins, which were many, have been forgiven: hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”  The Pharisee was probably feeling a little guilty when he heard this.  Jesus’ words,  “Your sins are forgiven,”  and, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace,” are very powerful statements, words that rocked the Pharisee’s world and words that even today should rock our world as we partake in communion and have our sins forgiven.

Thanks be to God – for forgiving us our sins over and over and over!

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