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The Peace Pulpit

Jesus teaches us how to die, not how to kill

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Certainly with the reading of the Passion of our Lord as we've just done in this Gospel of St. Luke, there are very, very many things for us to reflect upon. I think that we really ought to do what is proclaimed to us by the prophet in our first lesson, where the prophet says, "God has taught me so I speak as God's disciple. Morning after morning, God wakes me up to hear, to listen like a disciple. God has opened my ears."

In Jesus, there is no barrier

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To delve deeply into the scripture lessons today, to hear them deep within our hearts, I think it's very important and really the key to understanding these lessons, to listen very carefully to that very first sentence that St. Paul proclaims in our second lesson: "Brothers and sisters, whoever is in Christ is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, new things have come."

A turning point in our lives

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If we listen carefully to the scriptures today, especially the gospel, we are enabled to do something really quite extraordinary, to really enter into the very thinking of Jesus. Into his prayer life. Into his struggle. To understand this, how this happens if we listen, we should remind ourselves of last Sunday's gospel, which was as it always is on the first Sunday of Lent, an account of the temptations of Jesus, where the devil is trying to get Jesus to turn away from what God has asked him to do. At the end of those three temptations, Luke in the Gospel says, "And the devil left him for a time." This implies that Jesus was going to continue to be tempted, just as we are. He was fully human, so temptations would possibly come back into his life.

Have no fear when the heat comes

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Most of us are very familiar with the beatitudes as they are proclaimed in Matthew's gospel. The first beatitude especially seems to be an easier way of hearing what Jesus is saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit. Theirs is the reign of God." But Luke simply says, "Blessed are the poor," the poor -- those who are without, "theirs is the reign of God." Matthew also does not give the four woes as Luke does, "Woe to those who are rich." When we hear those words proclaimed by Jesus, I think it makes all of us a bit uncomfortable because we know that we have so many blessings.

So we really wonder, I think, well, for many reasons about these words of Jesus, but especially about "Blessed are the poor." How could Jesus say that in a world where we confront, if we have any awareness at all, an extreme degree of absolute poverty for over a billion people on our planet? Absolute poverty means they have nothing. They're living in misery, desolation. What word can you use to describe that situation for those who are absolutely poor? How can Jesus say they are blessed?

Jesus' call is to all

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A couple of weeks ago, you may recall the gospel lesson told us about what happened after Jesus had spent the six weeks of prayer and solitude in the desert. He came back into Nazareth where he had grown up. He went into the synagogue. Remember, he was given the book to read and he unrolled the scroll to the book of the Prophet Isaiah, where it is written those powerful words that Jesus read, "The spirit of God is upon me. God will send me to proclaim good news to the poor, to give the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, and to proclaim God's year of jubilee."

The work Jesus gives to us

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As we listen to the first lesson this morning, I think perhaps we might not have really perceived the genius and the wisdom of Nehemiah and Ezra the priest. They were situated at a time when the chosen people had been dispersed, scattered, the unity of the nation was destroyed. They had been taken into a very difficult kind of exile. Many had betrayed their commitment to God that had been made, that covenant that had been made by God whereby God became their God and they were God's people. Now they had come back, found everything destroyed and over a period of years, they were trying to come together again, to rebuild their city, rebuild their temple, but most of all to rebuild themselves as a people.

God will rebuild

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Probably our first inclination as we hear today's gospel is to think of it in terms of a wedding and a joyful occasion, and how it certainly must have been a great blessing for that couple to have Jesus present at their wedding, and that's one of the reasons, I'm sure, why many people choose this particular episode from the gospel for their weddings -- a way of having Jesus show his blessing upon what they're doing.

What is God asking of me?

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As we were singing the response after our first lesson this morning, "God blesses God's people with peace," I thought how that could be true if we really listen to God's word. This morning, this is especially the case. This word that we hear today is a word that does show us the way to peace if we listen deeply and follow it. But to get the full meaning of the lessons today, I think it's important to remind ourselves of how this lesson today and this event in the life of Jesus fits in with what we have been celebrating over the past couple of months.

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October 10-23, 2014

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