Christian Religion: Devotions for Luke 4:14-30
January 9-15, 2017
Monday, January 9, 2017
“Then Jesus filled with the power of the Spirit returned to Galilee” (Luke 4:14).
Pastor Michaels wanted to highlight the personal relationship aspect of the Christian religion. She struggled with her sermon. She didn’t feel that it was coming together and she wasn’t able to make the point she wanted to communicate. Pastor Michaels still wasn’t satisfied with her sermon when she stepped into the pulpit to preach. Later, she was surprised when an older member of the congregation approached her, patted her on her back and told her how her sermon had touched him and spoken to his situation in life.
A similar thing happened to Miguel Lopez. Miguel volunteered to work at a Habitat for Humanity building site. He spent the day nailing shingles on the roof with a couple of men from another congregation. While they nailed shingles, the men talked about everything from soup to nuts. At the end of the day, the men approached Miguel and thanked him. By working with him for a day, the men had been able to understand more about Latinos and how they were God’s children, too. Miguel was amazed, because he had done nothing out of the ordinary.
As followers of Jesus, we know that we have been called to share God’s love and grace with the people around us. We do not do this alone, however. Whether as individuals or as groups, the Holy Spirit works in us and through us. Often the Spirit touches lives at times and in ways that surprise us. Together with the Spirit, we carry out our calling and spread God’s kingdom.
Oh Holy Spirit, flow through us as channels of your love and grace. Touch the lives of those around us that they may hear the good news. Amen.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18).
David Callahan opened his Christmas present and stared at the contents. “What is it?” he asked. “Oh, Pops!” his oldest son replied. “You’ve been grousing about how you need to trim up your abs, so I bought you an exerciser.” David pulled a rat’s nest of pulleys and cables out of the box and inspected it. “How does it work?” he queried. “Do what you always are telling me to do, Pops. Read the instruction manual.”
Like David, we sometimes receive gifts but don’t know what they are for or how to use them. At times the Holy Spirit is such a gift. We are tempted to keep the Spirit to ourselves even after being refreshed in the Spirit’s reminders of God’s love, presence and strength in our lives. Some people enjoy displaying the gifts of the Spirit and the notoriety that it sometimes brings with it. Like all gifts, however, the Holy Spirit is not to be kept to ourselves. Instead, the Spirit has come upon us so that we can be a part of the mission to preach good news to the poor. The Spirit is a gift to be shared.
Gracious Lord, you shower us with gifts, one of which is your Spirit. Enable us to use all of your gifts as you intend them to be used, and give us opportunities to share them with others. Amen.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
“All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (Luke 4:21).
Jay was well liked in his high school. He was a good student and a member of the basketball and cross-country teams. By no means was he athletic scholarship material. Jay hung around with a group of five boys who had been friends since grade school. Everything for Jay was going smoothly until he had to take an unpopular stand.
The group was walking down the hall when a sophomore boy bumped into them. He knocked one of the guy’s books on to the floor. Though very apologetic, a couple of the guys started to make derogatory comments about the boy’s possible sexual orientation. At first, Jay couldn’t believe what he heard. He quickly stood up for the boy and told his friends to stop harassing him. Active in his church, Jay didn’t believe that homophobia had anything to do with the Christian religion. Two members of his group didn’t like what Jay did. They started putting Jay down saying that he was, “soft on fags.”
We like to be well thought of by our friends and the people around us. Often times, this means that we talk and act like them. There are times, however, when popularity must yield to principle. As followers of Jesus we are called to, “seek justice and love mercy” (Micah 6:8). This may mean that we go against the crowd and stand with those who are weak, neglected and different. This is a way that we proclaim the good news and share God’s love and grace.
Mighty God, give us the courage to stand up to injustice and minister to the people who suffer from it. Amen.
Thursday, January 12, 2017
“Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum” (Luke 4:23).
Mr. and Mrs. Tanaka had always tried to treat their three children fairly. They supported their children in their athletic or artistic pursuits. Tuition at a state university was paid for each of them. After several years of working at a company, their son lost his job. During the time he searched for another job, the Tanaka’s helped their son and his family financially. Their other two children were indignant. They criticized their parents because they had never helped them like that.
There is something about our human nature that causes us to be self-centered and occasionally selfish. We are aware of what others have and what we don’t have. Frequently we allow our envy to rob us of contentment and gratitude. Certainly that was the situation in Nazareth when Jesus spoke in the synagogue. They wanted Jesus to be loyal to his hometown and to give them as much or more than he did others.
Jesus did not yield to the demands of his hometown. Jesus doesn’t yield to our selfish desires, either. Instead, Jesus invites us to look beyond ourselves. We can be more concerned about the needs of others than we are about our own needs. Such a perspective may not give us more affluence, but it will provide us with an abundant life.
God of abundance, forgive our cries of, “More, more, more!” Help us to rejoice over our abundance and seek the prosperity of all. Amen.
Friday, January 13, 2017
“Yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zerephath in Sidon” (4:26).
Imagine the uproar if congress passed a bill granting citizenship to all of the twelve million undocumented immigrants. Or, the tumult if free healthcare was granted to all, but $100 would be added to everyone’s taxes. Think of the anger if a law was passed limiting a person’s net worth to $100 million. The excess would be taken away to end hunger and provide for the poor and needy. The picture of Elijah ministering to the widow of Zerephath was equally upsetting to the people of Nazareth.
We often think that Christian religion, supports the status quo or advocates for minor change. This is not backed up by the teachings of Jesus, however. The kingdom of God that Jesus ushered in was not a moderate improvement, but rather a radical upheaval of life. Such a drastic change begins with us. As disciples of Jesus, the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is not to polish us up. Instead, the Spirit is commissioned to tear us apart and rebuild us—into God’s image.
Lord, we are yours. Change us into the people who bring you honor, who do your will, and who love those around us. Amen.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
“When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage” (Luke 4:28).
Somethings make us angry. We don’t like being cut off in traffic. Waiting in line at the supermarket is not one of our fun things to do, either. We hate it when the pastor’s sermon gets too long and when our favorite team loses. Our lists of things that upset us can get to be quite long. Have you noticed, though, that our anger is directed mostly at things that affect us?
This was certainly the case with the people in Nazareth. They were outraged that Jesus would put non-Jews above them. The people couldn’t comprehend that God’s grace would be extended to the unrighteous and the undeserving.
Anger can be justified. It is not justified, though, if we don’t get our own way. Jesus was not angry because he was unjustly crucified. He was angry at how the religious establishment had become self-serving and had misled the people. We can be angry when Christian religion is seen as supporting racism, homophobia, or prejudice against people of other faith traditions. We can be angry when society ignores the hungry and allows the rich to steal from the poor. There are times when we can be angry and allow our anger to spur us to action.
Loving God, help us to be angry at the things that make you angry and to allow that anger to inspire us to service. Amen.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
“But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way” (Luke 4:30).
The escape scene was a nail biter. The movie portrayed the hero and his family fleeing certain annihilation in one country for the freedom of another. It wasn’t an easy escape. Skillfully crafted travel documents, sheer determination and a smattering of luck were needed. Their pursuers were armed and hot on their trail. Capture was narrowly evaded, but eventually the family was safe on the other side.
Jesus’ escape from the people of Nazareth was not as dramatic. The people brought him to the brow of the hill. Their intention was to kill him. Jesus, though, calmly walked through the crowd and continued on his ministry. His escape was not due to skill or determination. Instead, it was a demonstration of God’s involvement and power. It was not yet time for Jesus to die.
We cannot predict the reaction of people when we take stands for justice and equality. We know that many will oppose us. Even those who say that they are of the same Christian religion as we are may fight against us. We might pay a price for siding with the weak, the ignored or the shunned. Though the outcome is beyond our knowledge, we do know that somehow God is with us. We are in God’s hands. That’s all we need to know.
God of love, we thank you that you will never leave us nor forsake us and that you hold us in your hands. Amen.