Welcome to the Good Book Club.
Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has invited Episcopalians (and anyone else, of course) to read the Gospel of Luke in Lent, and the Acts of the Apostles in Easter. It will be interesting to see what happens when we all engage with the same story. In this Monday message, in weeks ahead, I will share readings that have been assigned for each week, and reflect on something in that passage. If you want to know more about this effort led by Forward Movement: www.goodbookclub.org.
You can get an app which gives you the reading each day, and the readings in Forward Day by Day will guide you through these two important biblical books.
This week, you’re invited to start reading the Gospel of Luke, beginning at the beginning (smart) and reading through the end of Chapter 4. Next week, we’ll invite you to read Luke 5-8.
Today’s focus: Luke 4:1-13:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.'”
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Is my call a wrong number?
Truth be told, I’ve asked myself that question from time to time, for various reasons. Apparently I’m not alone. Again and again, in the Bible, people are called by God and those same people conclude that God has made a big old mistake. Maybe they were channeling the spirit of Groucho Marx who said that he wouldn’t want to be a member of a club that would have him as a member. People say things like “I’m too young” or “I’m too old” or “I’m not a good public speaker” or “I am a person of unclean lips.”
This week’s readings in the gospel of Luke begin with Jesus’ call to disciples. It happens seaside, as Jesus comes across soon-to-be disciples who had been fishing all night. They had caught nothing. The fish were safe. (Notice that these professional fishermen, never catch a fish without Jesus’ help. What’s that about? But I digress.)
Jesus shows up and gives instruction about where to fish. The nets burst with the catch. Peter, overwhelmed with the miracle he’s witnessed, kneels before Jesus and says “Depart from me. I’m too sinful to be of use to you.” Jesus issues this call: “From now on you will be fishing for people.” In other words, from now on, Jesus says: “I will take the work you do and transform it for the sake of the kingdom of God.”
Each one of us has a call. The Prayer Book tells us we are all ministers. So as Lent begins, ask these questions: What are you called to do in the world? How do we discover what that call might be? It’s different for each of us, but for years I have been helped by the definition of vocation from Frederick Buechner:
There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Super-ego, or Self-Interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
Chances are we may well feel incapable of living into God’s call. We may find it hard to believe we have any call at all. If that’s the case, perhaps we’re over- functioning, worrying about how we live into the call. That’s God’s work. And if we feel we are not up to the call, maybe that’s the best kind of opportunity for God to go to work in us and through us and in spite of us.
Years ago, I had the privilege of officiating at a monthly eucharist at a nursing home. Some worshippers walked in under their own steam. Some helped by canes and walkers. Some in wheelchairs. Some wheeled in on a gurney. The service concluded with this prayer, which indicated that everyone, including variously abled folks, had a call. Here’s the prayer. Pray it this Monday:
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
- Monday, February 19: Luke 5:1-16
- Tuesday, February 20: Luke 5:17-39
- Wednesday, February 21: Luke 6:1-26
- Thursday, February 22: Luke 6:27-49
- Friday, February 23: Luke 7:1-35
- Saturday, February 24: Luke 7:36-50
- Sunday, February 25: Luke 8:26-56
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