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Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom


Last Sunday after Trinity

Text:
Luke 18.9-14: "Recognising Worth-ship"

Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Sharing Together:

Recall a time when someone offered you a new responsibility, or a valuable gift, or lavished praise on you, that you felt quite unworthy to receive.

How did you feel, and what effect did it have on you - at the time, and afterwards?
A Window on the Text

We can visualise the situation Jesus tells about here, of two people going into church to pray. As with many parables, he shows extreme examples of personal behaviour.

So we have the Pharisee, a member of a religious group trying to live life by the rules, God’s rules given to Moses and interpreted and extended to cover every aspect of life. Over time, these became more and more restrictive until the Pharisees alone could live by them. This set them ever further apart from a wide spectrum of other Jewish people who were excluded and made to feel unworthy before God by the nature of the lives they were forced to lead.

One such group of the excluded class were tax collectors. In occupied Palestine, they worked for the hated occupiers, the Roman Government. So, in effect, they were seen as collaborators with the invaders and participants in a process which was draining wealth from Palestine to Rome. Taxes were levied on the movement of goods and so fishermen like Peter, James and John would have had to pay every time they took their fish to market; likewise with the movement of wine and wheat from the farms (not dissimilar to our VAT).

The behaviour of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector as they pray is entirely different: one self-assured and expecting God’s blessing on the good life that he believes he is leading; the other recognising his unworthiness to ask anything of God except for mercy. It is tempting to think that the humility of the Tax Collector probably comes from a natural human response to being excluded and marginalised by the powerful in society. We should not rule out the possibility that the Tax Collector was a humble, God-fearing man by intuition, and not just because the ‘church’ had made him feel that way.

(Note: Next week’s reading will lead on to the way in which a sense of unworthiness in another tax collector can lead to transformation.)
Responding as a community
  1. Who, in your neighbourhood, is marginalized by the nature of the work they do or the way they have to lead their lives?

  2. Are these people represented in your church community? If not, can you identify ways in which the church might be making them feel unworthy and thereby excluding them?

  3. What might you do to turn such unworthiness into acceptance and welcome?
Praying Together

This hymn, said or sung, might be used as a framework for prayer for the Christian community of which you are a part. Use extended pauses in between the verses to reflect and pray for aspects of the life of your church.

Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where prophets speak, and words are strong and true,
where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anew.
Here the cross shall stand as witness and as symbol of God’s grace;
here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where love is found in water, wine, and wheat:
a banquet hall on holy ground where peace and justice meet.
Here the love of God, through Jesus, is revealed in time and space;
as we share in Christ the feast that frees us:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where hands will reach beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach, and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where all are named, their songs and visions heard
and loved and treasured, taught and claimed as words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter, prayers of faith and songs of grace,
let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Words: Marty Haugen Tune: Two Oaks
Published in Common Ground, by Wild Goose Publications

End by saying the Lord’s Prayer and the Grace together.
 

 

 


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