Monday, October 4, 2010


I really struggled with the lectionary text last week, Luke 17:5-10:

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea', and it would obey you.
"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'? Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"
Part of why I struggled with it is because it didn't seem to fit with where the text had come from or where it was going.  I apppreciate a flow to the narrative, and this whole section titled "sayings of Jesus" just really doesn't seem to go with the preceding parables, or even the story about the ten lepers that follows.  I was smelling an argument for Q, and I hate Q.  I don't believe in Q. To put it bluntly, I think that Q is, as a professor of mine once said, "a figment of the scholarly imagination."  I tend to believe that people wrote what they said they wrote.

And besides: Luke seems to be a fairly smart dude.  Even if he stumbled across some document that had a bunch of random "sayings of Jesus", are we to believe that he just randomly crammed them in somewhere that made no sense whatsoever, because he didn't have a better idea of what to do with them?  Like he or anyone else didn't give the final draft a once-over before shipping it off to Theophilus?  I think not.

So, I preached through the text this weekend - I actually worked on the theme of "what does it mean to live a life of faith?", since that's what all three seemed to be saying - Habakkuk and Luke were giving the "it's not easy, but it's doable", and 2 Timothy was explaining why and how it's doable.  I felt like it was...fine.  Not my greatest work, but not terrible.  And there weren't very many people in church, so: do it, and move on, right?  Next up, the ten lepers: message = be grateful - we've all heard this, yes?

But as I started reading the story of the ten lepers last night, a question arose: Jesus just told the disciples not to expect any sort of thanks for their work, to instead simply acknowledge that they had been obedient.  And here Jesus is tearing into the nine local lepers for not showing any gratitude.  What gives?  And I start thinking to myself, "Self, maybe this is about all gratitude and glory belongs to God, not, ultimately, to his servants.  Maybe the 'sayings of Jesus' really do connect!  Ooh, this is exciting!"

And then, once in a while, the lectionary comes through for you. 

2 Kings 5, baby.  Naaman the pagan goes to Elisha to be healed of leprosy, after a little scuffling does what he is told, is healed, and wants to thank, praise, and give gifts to Elisha, who refuses.  Instead, only when Namaan turns that praise, glory, worship, and sacrifice toward the Lord, does Elisha approve.  Glory to God, not glory to his servants.  Nice.  I like it.

And, since hardly anyone was in church this week, I can reread the earlier part of Luke as part of the Gospel lesson.  Sweet.

Funeral aside, this is going to be a good week!

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My Comments Policy: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23