Hello and welcome to Friday’s Foundations podcast. It has been great to be sharing some reflections on Luke this week. Next week, the Rev Dr. Alan Ward takes on the podcast.
Let me remind us of some context of what is going on in the bigger story of Luke’s gospel… We are just going to pan out for a moment – like a drone hovering high in the sky – so we can see the big picture again – then we will zoom in on today’s reading. Way back in chapter 9 Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem,” (Luke 9:51). That was 9 chapters and 3 weeks ago. Since then we have heard some amazing reflections from Casey, Liam and Helen as we discussed the things Jesus said and did – all of it has been reshaping our vision of God and what it means to live a God honouring life. Jesus will arriving in Jerusalem next week… and the story goes on…
In our Bible reading today – as the journey to Jerusalem comes to an end – Jesus tells three stories.
One about a persistent widow. One about a Pharisee and a Tax Collector and one about little children. All three stories are brilliant in their own right. They may be really familiar to people listening today. However, I’m going to pull out one simple thing for us to consider today… citizenship.
It is a hot topic in the news at the moment and has been for the past two years… through the Brexit conversation and the desperate scramble to see if we have any Irish heritage to sneakily apply for duel citizenship before they change the rules. Or even more recently with the once east London school girl who travelled to Syria to join ISIS… we’ve been reading in the news that she had her citizenship revoked. As complicated and varied as the conversation is about some of these things happening in our time, it does call into question about identity and common values. The Bible has so much to add to these very modern situations. Very simply we will be reminded today of 3 simple truths around the one ideas of citizenship.
Firstly, we are children of God. As it says in the book of Romans “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons and daughters of God.” You may remember the words from your own baptism or from a friend’s; we often declare our faith by saying “we are children of the same heavenly father.” This is our heavenly identity… because of this identity we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. Jesus says this about children and the Kingdom in today’s Bible passage… v15 & 16: People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” There is something about embracing our identity as children of the Father that gives access to the ways of God and the things of heaven.
Secondly, we are sinners saved by grace. Again from the book of Romans “[This is how God demonstrated his] love for us…: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In the second parable today, of the Tax Collector and Pharisee, one person stands before God in prayer and begins to give thanks… while the other stands at a distance… The pious man prays… ’God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” “ I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’” Amen. Confident in his righteousness, he leaves the place of prayer.
The other man – unable to look up to heaven – says… (v13) ’God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ It goes on to explain that in the upside-down and inside-out Kingdom of God, it is those who humble themselves that are exalted…
I read online a quote by Timothy Keller this week that makes this point clearer than I ever could…
To assume that being “saved by faith” means that God will love us because of the depth of our repentance and faith is to subtly make ourselves our own Saviour rather than Jesus. It is not the amount of our faith but the object of our faith that saves us. – Timothy Keller.
We are sinners caught up in the person of Jesus. In faith, by grace we are saved. And to our surprise we are brought into the family home and pronounced children of God. Our family inheritance is the Kingdom of Heaven, that will one day come in full but we can see in part today.
These are all ideas we have been exploring this week, but I hope today’s Bible reading and podcast has taken a new perspective to bring these truths alive again in our lives. They are simple and transformative.
How might this change the way I walk with Jesus today? For me, I hope I walk a little taller knowing that I am a child of God; that my identity is secure.
But also I hope, paradoxically, to grow in humility. It is not my good deeds or faith that has saved me but the person of Jesus. I hope this truth keeps my ego in check today.
Take some time to ask the question: what is God saying to you today?… in a moment we’ll pray together to grow in confidence and in humility.
God thank you for this broad story that Luke gives us of Jesus. Would it continue to reshape our vision of God and what it means to live a God honouring life. Grow in us confidence and humility today. Amen.
READING: Luke 18:1-17
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.”
‘For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”’
And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”
‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’