This feeling of chaos, hopelessness, and utter despair was the mood du jour for the people of God at the time of the events that unfolded in today’s scripture. The first verse and the beginning of the second verse remind us that the rulers of the day were heavy-handed, tough-minded, and corrupt. It was into this cultural moment that John predicted the arrival of the Messiah, one who would usher in peace at just the right time.
It would seem that today, many people pray without understanding the proper posture, purpose, and potential power that can be released as a result of an effective prayer life. For many, prayer has become a routine and sometimes mindless exercise in which we engage God only when we need help or when we are asking for something. There is so much that is forsaken when we neglect to embrace prayer as the intimate exchange between a Sovereign Father and his beloved children.
The disciples are found arguing about success in Luke’s story. Even though they don’t seem to be arguing specifically over money, Jesus warns his disciples about seeking power and position as a definition of success. Instead, he says to focus on humbly serving others as an act of being united with his work and ministry… We should find our joy not in our accomplishments for God but in our identity with God.
Yesterday, we reflected on Jesus as a revolutionary communicator who purposefully engaged with solitude and silence as a pattern for his ministry and life. Today, we’ll consider how solitude isn’t meant to disengage us from daily life but to help us reengage in the work that God has set before us… Far from being disengaged, a purposeful engagement with God in solitude leads to a greater fruitfulness in our entire lives and in our service to the world.
A child’s vulnerability is their inability to hide behind any kind of facade that can control others. But we adults learn quickly that we must hide our true selves in order to manage others, pursue our goals, and avoid things we fear. This refusal to be authentically vulnerable and insistence to put on the appearance of strength and control is what Jesus warns may ruin our relationship with God. As leaders, we know that this inclination to not be our true selves damages our relationships with others as well.
Jesus contrasts two very familiar first-century characters: a Pharisee and a tax-collector. Perhaps Jesus’s listeners wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Jesus challenge the smugness of the Pharisee, but to praise a tax-collector would certainly have been unexpected. Jesus raises up the value of a person’s honesty, sincerity, and straightforwardness when it comes to one’s relationship with God. And he implies that his true followers will embrace an authenticity that will be noticed by God and others.
Jesus was attentive… Attention-giving can be especially difficult in a culture where attention-getting is so highly valued. Being attentive can be hard amidst Facebook posts, work deadlines, and endless emails. But numerous opportunities to join God in his kingdom work abound daily for those who cultivate a lifestyle of attentiveness to God’s will, to self-care, and to others’ needs.
In Luke 14, Jesus begins to discourse with the people about the cost of discipleship. During this dialogue, he presents the idea of someone building a tower without counting the cost—drafting a detailed plan and accurately assessing what it would take to complete the task… While Jesus was talking about counting the cost in following Christ, the same principle applies to leadership.
Christmas has a lot to do with bodies, if you stop to think about it. The nativity narrative in Luke begins with the news that the aged body of Elizabeth will soon bear a son. Then, a virgin named Mary learns that her body will soon contain the very Son of God. When God’s Son is born, he has a real body, one that starts out life in weakness and dependency. If you take away the bodies, you really don’t have Christmas at all.
When the rules always seem to go in someone else’s favor, when you feel pushed to the margins, when you can’t seem to find your way and people keep telling you, “You best move on,” I pray you hear the soft cries of the holy infant and remember he has gone to prepare a place for you… and there is always room.