Church in Mission Featured Sermons The Biblical

Interventions: A Short-Circuit in Mission (Luke 4:14-30)

Short Circuit The Movie I was unable to post my talk from last Sunday here this week because I’ve been busy at YM but I did post it on the church’s blog and on twitter. If you’ve already seen it, I apologize for the duplication, but I wanted to have it here before I post the new one. I’m not sure if I’ll continue to post sermons in this way or not but since I don’t know what I’m doing here’s the link to audio version of the discussion. You can download the audio to your iPod or listen on the webpage.

And here’s the (very) rough written text.

This summer we’re talking about interventions in the Gospel of Luke. These are moments in the Gospels where something unexpected happens, where there is an encounter, a reversal, where everything-as-it-seems is turned upside down. “Interventions” signals the God’s work in the world turning the losers into the winners, and the work of the Kingdom lies outside our ability to control, predict or domesticate it. It is often that God’s plan for salvation even troubles those sure of their own place in God’s will.

This morning I will use the language of a short-circuit to help describe what took place in this early scene of Jesus’ ministry. It is Jesus’ first sermon, his inaugural address, his very first of many interventions, and he does it by way of a public performance in his hometown during worship.

How many of you remember Johnny 5 from the 1986 movie “Short Circuit.” Johnny 5 was a military robot, that after a great power surge was “short circuited” and became “alive.” [SHOW CLIP]

“A short circuit is an abnormal low-resistance connection between two nodes of an electrical circuit that are meant to be at different voltages. This results in an excessive electric current or overcurrent.”

Sometimes the short-circuit results in a malfunction, and from the perspective of at least those who created Johnny 5, his short circuit, is a malfunction. But what I like about this movie, the image it conjurers is that sometimes, a short-circuit provides a new thing, a new perspective. From the perspective of the animal-lover Stephanie Speck Johnny 5 is alive.

I liken Jesus’ first sermon to a “short-circuit,” his oral performance was meant to unhinge, create an overcurrent, the redirected the way these first century Galileans understood God’s salvific work in the world.

[SLIDE] Jesus short-circuits a standard reading of the Hebrew Bible in a way that offers a new perspective, a new reading, that ultimately leads to a new way of being the people of God. Some, as you can see from their response, saw his reading as a malfunction, but we see things differently. We see his reading, his short-circuit points out the movement of God in a way that creates quite the intervention.

But before we get to that here’s a little background.

Jesus’ First Sermon

By the time of Jesus ministry, it was normal for Jews to gather in the synagogues on Sabbath for reading and exposition of the Hebrew bible. As they became more settled under the power of the empire, more synagogues were built and became the central place of worship.

And from what we know here Jesus’ presence at Sabbath worship was something he regularly did!  Interestingly, some have pointed out that because all the other times in the Gospel of Luke we find Jesus in a synagogue teaching but aren’t give the content to his teaching we’re supposed to assume that this was his general message he gave as he traveled from meeting place to meeting place.

And these services were generally be far more like Quaker worship services of old than today’s event-oriented mega churches. The way the synagogues were built encouraged discussion and free exchange among those present, the normal practice was to allow anyone with something significant to say speak up.

If you’ll remember last week, we discussed John’s method of preaching, how it was open to dialogue, allowing others to respond and have a voice, as I put it, we see the same happening here and throughout Jesus’ ministry.

Interventions and Response

Interventions, led by the Holy Spirit, always provoke deep thought and challenge the very framework from which people live their lives. Because of these challenges, the people are given space to process, and respond. Sometimes we see, as was the case with John, they asked the probing question, “What then Shall We Produce? And Sometimes there is a contrast, and the people respond the way they do in our passage this morning, with hostility and rage.

[SLIDE] But in either case, every intervention demands a response. It demands a yes, or a no. There is no in-between with interventions.

And if Response is so important why did these folks want to throw Jesus from a cliff?

This isn’t what you would generally expect from your hometown family and friends on your first public sermon. [ILL: My First Sermon was Really Long!]

Isaiah and Now

Like any inaugural address Jesus stood up and carefully selected the source of what he felt would characterize his administration. He had no plans to clean Washington up, appeal to fears, stress a particular cozy language about who they were as a people, and he certainly didn’t draw on nationalistic tendencies. Instead, his idea was to replace Washington. That is, replace the power structures, both religious and political, with a new vision of God’s people that operated in a distinctly different way from the world.

So, he stands up and reads from Isaiah 61:1-2 (someone already very present in the Gospel of Luke):

“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.”

What did you notice different about this? vengeance? Apparently Jesus edited out the part of about vengeance from the bible he was reading from. Why is this?

When this passage was initially written, it was written from the perspective of Israel, it favored their side and suggested that God would judge all those who oppresses Israel, all those who held it captive. God would judge Israel’s enemies.

But with Jesus two things happen here in Luke 4.

a) He gets up and reads this, and edits the passage removing this clause so that it stresses release and favor, rather than damnation.

b) And then, after he sits down, he says, today this is made true in your midst. (There is no more waiting around for the Messianic Age – it is here now).

As one translator puts it, “You’ve just head Scripture make history. It just came true now in this place.” The stress is on the word NOW!

Today, in your presence, God’s year of Jubilee is upon all of us. Today, right now, we are to begin living not in expectation, or in waiting but in the reality, in the now-ness of the rule of God.

This Passage Classically Describes God’s Mission

This is Jesus’ “mission.” I know the word mission may excite some of you, and make others a little queasy. I’ve come to expect both responses as someone studying “missiology.”

But here for Jesus “mission” means this: living out of the reality of God’s Kingdom and proclaiming that this reality is for everyone, especially the people who have been marked as outsiders by the religious community.

We can domesticate the Gospel and make it safe by keeping it focused on Jesus’ death and resurrection, but from this passage we see that there is far more involved in the Good News, the religious, economic and political all get wrapped up in Jesus’ work.

There is no sphere of life that God is not interested in, all areas of life can and should be given over to God in worship. God demand our total allegiance, and a willingness to respond totally.

Mission for Jesus is now, it is not something that happens out there, it is not something we send special people out to do on our behalf, Mission is saying yes to God. It is carefully tending to the needs of those marked as outsiders. It is handing over every aspect of our lives to be a witness to the kingdom of God.

It is doing whatever we can to extend the reality of God’s kingdom with our own bodies where ever we are at.

Who are the Poor?

What I love so much about this is that Jesus stands up and says this is my mission that is the activity of God’s Spirit is “to bring good news to the poor.” And here he doesn’t just mean those down and out, those who are unemployed, and homeless, he also means those of low honorable status.

[Here’s where the Good News moves beyond the religious and into the political and economic]

When we think of poverty we often think of economics, but in antiquity status was measured differently. It came through sex, family heritage, inherited or genetic traits or defects, it came through performance based actions such as education and conformity to particular religious behaviors.

People could be kept out of the religious community for genetic faults, injury, being deaf, having mental retardation, etc. This is all to say that people had less religious and political rights depending on their status.

God’s understanding of poverty is far bigger, far more inclusive than our own, Jesus’ call to the poor is far more impossible than our own versions of this.

What I find truly liberating about Jesus’ ministry is that in Luke’s Gospel we see this all reversed. All these people who make the dishonorable statue Jesus invites to be a part of his movement.

The point we are drawing to, the climax of the intervention, the very tipping point that leads to our short-circuit is that Jesus shows that there are unexpected recipients of God’s grace and those who are typically excluded are now on the inside (Joel Green).

And as we can see Jesus doesn’t just stop with the poor (that would be far to simple!):

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”” (Luke 4:18-19 NRSV).

Jesus stresses release, as you will see in the chapters that lie ahead, release will include the forgiveness of sins, release from sickness, disease and other physical malformations, people will be released from social barriers that keep them out of the community of God, and they will be released spiritually from diabolic powers.

People will literally be given sight, blind people will be healed, but metaphorical sight will also be given. People will receive God’s revelation and experience salvation and be included into God’s family in ways unimagined, never envisioned before (Green Theology 78).

This is all wrapped up in Jubilee, the year of God’s favor.

[SLIDE] Jesus announces the final Jubilee, not in the sense that it is to never happen again, but that it is to become the reality through which the people of God operate. It is final, because it is now the reality, Jubilee is now the starting point for the people of God not something off in the distance.

As Shane Claiborne says, part of Jesus mission was to call to restore the “economic system of sharing, debt cancellation, and land redistribution” (90). God’s economy is a divine economy, a gift economy, where sharing and the canceling of debts are at the heart of everything and expected reciprocity and equal exchange are absent.

Jubilee is about giving to those who are in need, those who do not deserve it, those who wouldn’t even necessarily ask for it for themselves. We do it not because it will make us better people, or so that we can now expect their allegiance, but because it is how God gives.

But it is much bigger than that as well, it encompasses everyone, all people and all of creation.

God through Jesus personally inaugurates jubilee, and creates a community that will take it upon themselves to live out jubilee.

This is Jesus’ mission, all of it. What he says in his inaugural address, he means to actually do.

And he goes on to do all this stuff in very literal, as well as metaphorical ways.
[Take that presidents, dictators, religious leaders, and big-time CEOs!]

This is all well and good, and why would anyone in their right minds be upset about something like this?

A Short-Circuit in the Mission

It is in the response, the anger and rage, that we see where the short-circuit happens.

The problem arises not by what Jesus said, but by who he says the recipients of God’s favor will be.

a) First, they misunderstand this message is for. That’s why he says, the line about the proverb “Doctor, cure yourself” which was a saying that meant, “you are expected to do in your hometown whatever you do elsewhere.” Jesus’ hearers would have thought this good news was for them.

The problem was Jesus was telling them just the opposite.

b) Then he elaborates by turning to two very famous Hebrew prophets – Elijah and Elisha. In both these stories only people outside Isreal receive God’s favor, and in the story of Elisha, the man who is healed of his leprosy, Naaman the Syrian, is the commanding officer of the Israel’s enemy army!

Jesus is saying, this good news is not for you. You thought God was going to bring vengeance on your enemies, God is declaring favor on them in stead. God declares release. You thought jubilee was just for you, well know it’s for outsiders too.

The short-circuit happens this way.

Jesus gets up, reads a popular old Hebrew text, one that people loved to identify with, saw themselves in it, heard their dreams, and prayers resonated within that passage, so much so that it became a crutch to them, so much that it became the thing itself that kept them from actually helping those in need because they read it only for themselves.

Then he sits down he says this is for the nations.

In the same way that Johnny 5 is both a malfunction, and a new thing that exceeds its created purposes, even contradicts its created purpose, Jesus short-circuits the common reading of this text, creating a malfunction, even a (mis)reading of the text, as you can see from the perspective of those present, but for others, it creates an entirely new reality.

[SLIDE} Jesus’ short-circuit opens up a new reality where the the kingdom of God is understood to be working.

Jesus’ short-circuit was speaking into existence a new reality, a new way of viewing the world, a new way of relating to and understanding God.

He takes the OT wire, and touches it with the reality of God’s presence located within Jesus himself, the incarnation of God, and creates an explosive overcurrent, that radically displays a new way of being the people of God.

Let me try to make the problem as plan as day:

Israel’s God was rescuing the wrong people. They were praying for their own resuce, and he goes on to rescue others.

Jesus turns their expectations around like a mirror, he redirects their hopes, and their prayers for God’s final blessing on them. It was like Jesus said,

“your prayers for God’s help, his judgment on the nations, on your enemies have acted as an excuse for you to abuse and misuse those in your midst. Your religion has become your obstacle to living religiously. Because things aren’t going the way you hoped, you’re taking it out on those who are most vulnerable among you. So now I’m going to show you how to live Good News to those people God deeply loves.”

Let’s put it another way:

“You think this good news is just for you but it isn’t, God’s favor has turned towards everyone you wish to judge, everyone you think are excluded from the grace of God because they don’t follow your religious rules and fit your religious standards are in fact included, and those you think are included don’t get it. God’s goodness is for all the nations, it is for everyone, it’s no longer just for you.”


We are invited to think this morning about both practice and interpretation, what I called ecclesiology and hermeneutics our first week.

We are invited to investigate the questions:

If Jesus embodied his mission fully, what ways might the church continue in this mission? If these are the practices of Christ, should they be the practices of the church?

If Jesus found it fitting to short-circuit the expectations of his hearers, his religious community, to challenge their understanding in very radical ways, how might we as the church be short-circuited by this reading, and what are we to short-circuit in the world? How do we follow the message and method of Jesus put into practice here?

Activity: Write a short-circuit of your own for Luke 4 during open worship.

Blog Entries Quotations

John Caputo on Cyberspace

Far from undermining religious sensibilities, the advanced communication technologies are actually trading in religious goods and thus provide a new space, a cyberspace, for religious imagination. For if, as I have been arguing, religion disturbs our sense of reality and leaves us a little unhinged, if it causes our pre-set sense of the real and the possible to tremble by exposing us to something hyper-real, then the communications revolution going on in our midst, with its accompanying sense of “virtual reality,” which gives us the power to “visit” distant “sites” in cyberspace with the click of a mouse, is laced with religious implications. We have begun, God help us, to tamper with our sense of what is real. But is that not what every religious figure from the Jewish prophet to the televangelist has dreamed of doing? To break the grip of material actuality and open our eyes to being otherwise, to a dimension beyond reality that lifts the limits imposed upon us by presence and actuality – is that not something that classical religion has been trying to do ever since Moses took a hammer to Aaron’s golden calf, which tried to contract the transcendence of God to a physical object?

John Caputo, On Religion, 68

Blog Entries

Camas Friends Church Blog

I’ve just set up a blog for the church I am pastoring, Camas Friends Church. I will be posting my sermons or “dialogues” as I’ve labelled them there, as well as other information about what we’re up to, etc. My hope is to help foster participation during the week around the Scripture we’re discussing as a community, as well as invite other into that conversation. If you’re interested drop on by.

Blog Entries Reviews The Cultural

The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani (A Review)

The Divine CommodityI’m way late to be posting about this book, but I still operate under the “better really late, than even later than that” motto. I was sent “The Divine Commodity” by Skye Jethani, editor of leadership journal, [Powell’s affiliate link embedded] shortly before we packed up all our stuff and moved to the great state of Washington. My initial take with books to review is that I give them an hour or two of skimming and then I’ll write the 150-300 words required, which usually takes me another half-hour or so. I figure this is the best way to make sure I break even with a free book, but Skye’s book blew me away. I read every page carefully, I couldn’t put it down. It is very well-written, engaging and fun to read.

The basic premise of the book is that the narrative of American consumerism is all too powerful in scope and is shaping and sapping the church’s imagination. The book is part American-cultural history, part theology, part art history based on the life of Vincent van Gogh. It deals with topics such as branding, the power and influence of Disney on the imaginations of children, consumerism, mega-churches, isolationism, and desire. Jethani draws on many voices from the church from Augustine, to Brother Lawrence, to the Quaker Thomas Kelly, to the Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier to the fourth century Egyptian peasant Pachomius. The book presents troubling signs of consumerism within the church, suggested practices (such as the practice of silence) for resisting these pressures, and Vincent van Gogh as a model for the church to recapture its imagination. Every chapter ends with a discussion around van Gogh’s life and work, and includes color illustrations of various paintings of his. For Jethani, van Gogh’s art was different from both Realism and Impressionism, one hand Realism tried to paint reality according to the naked eye, whereas Impressionism was more about emotion. Instead van Gogh “believed art should do more than present reality; it should represent reality by uncovering the truth that is not apparent to the naked eye.” Accordingly, the church should follow suit and not live as reality is, but as it should be, unmasking, disentangling, the many narrative threads in our lives, drawing upon the light of God, rather than the darkness of human greed, excess and consumption.

This is a very important book for the church to read and Jethani has done a good job preparing it for use in our communities: it is accessible, comes with handy discussion questions, and educational in a way that engaged many pop culture references. I highly recommend it to all.

The Divine Commodity: Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity by Skye Jethani

Check out the Divine Commodity site as well.

From the Synopses & Reviews on Powell’s Site:


Consumerism, which has invaded the church, has created a culture that values style over substance and image over reality. But through Scripture, history, engaging narrative, and the inspiring art of Vincent van Gogh, Skye Jethani explores an alternative vision of faith that liberates us to live as Christ’s people in a culture opposed to his kingdom.


The human imagination is the key battleground in the conflict between the kingdom of God and the consumer culture. Drawing from the vivid imaginations of Impressionist painters, particularly Vincent van Gogh, each chapter of The Divine Commodity uses personal narrative, biblical exposition, and cultural observation to show how consumerism has shaped our faith, and then challenges the reader to use their sanctified imagination to envision an alternative way of expressing the Christian life in our culture.

Featured Practices Sermons The Biblical

Interventions: What Then Shall We Produce? (Luke 3:1-20)

Johns head

Interventions: What Then Should We Do? John the Baptist and Luke 3:1-20

Peace Playhouse

This past week was our peace playhouse, which from all the reports I heard, went well. Because of this, and given the text we are in this week, it seems appropriate to spend a few minutes conversing around the topic of peace, and nonviolence as Christians.

It’s easy to see peace as conflict avoidance, but that’s not how the Gospel of Luke portrays peace. In fact, it often means conflict, and division. It lands people in jail, and its promotion, in contrast to the logic of the world, is part and parcel of why Jesus was punished in the same way that all insurrectionists were, through crucifixion. He was a threat to the religious and political powers of the day, because he challenged how people were treated, and promised a better, new way to live in this world: according to God’s Kingdom. Had Jesus been like the Zealots, a violent militia type movement, he would have been much easier to vilify, his movement would have been far easier to squash. But as it stood Jesus planted tiny seeds of the kingdom that often-times quietly subverted the powerful and the rich of his day.

Because peace is far more than avoiding conflict, or simply personal inner peace, it requires work, it requires our bodies as much as anything. For Jesus, peace is about peacemaking, a term I find more enticing than nonviolence because  it is about creating something, producing the fruits of peace.

Peace is a way of life, it is a practice that is for life.


At peace playhouse 4-6th grade children were invited to pick up skills and techniques in order to practice (the way of) peace. This was done through various activities: journaling, yoga, drama, art, music, gardening etc.

We might say that practices are activities we do in particular social settings (churches, classrooms, workplaces, etc) as one person a part of a larger community (think monastic practices) that orient us in a certain direction. Practices aid us in the ability to do certain tasks well, tasks that are important to the very life of that community.

For instance, baseball is a practice. It’s something you have to be socialized into, taught, and trained. You wouldn’t expect me to walk into the all-star baseball game and hit a home run because I have been trained in all the skills necessary to do that.

Our lives are made up of practices – What are some of the things you have to do that require skills or techniques?

Quakers, at their best, have believed that the whole of Christian life is a practice that includes peacemaking. It’s not something we just believe in, it’s something we do. Peace is not something we say, “oh great, I believe we’re to love our enemies just as long as I can build a 15 foot privacy fence so I don’t have to see my neighbors face ever again,”

Peace is something that re-orients the way we look at the world and the way we behave in it.

In other words, peace is a way of life. Because it is a practice, it is also a struggle, and therefore it must be a practice we do for life. Every new situation has the potential to challenge the way we love others in conflict.

Guide Our Feet in The Way of Peace

In Luke 1:67-80 Zechariah, remember the priest who wanted a sign from the angel Gabriel and was muted because of it, well finally when his son John was born he stood up, and broke the silence with a powerful (prophetic) song.

In that song he speaks about the work his son will do:

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”” (Luke 1:76-79 NRSV).

John will guide our feet into the “way” of peace.

Not into the doctrine of peace, not into an emotion of peace, or an individual pious kind of peace but the way of peace. It says: To Guide, or keep straight OUR feet into the road, or the way of peace. My editorial would be “to guide us into the struggle for peace.”

In Chapter 1 Luke, through Zechariah, shows that John’s ministry is headed in a particular direction, it is to be put into the frame work of God’s shalom, or peace. It seems to me that here we may find clues into this understanding of “peace is a practice that re-orients life.”

A Contrast Between John and the Powers

In Luke chapter 3 Luke gives us a contrast, he begins and ends this story, with people in power, and sandwiched in the middle is story about wandering prophet doing a ministry outside the city in a muddy river called Jordan. The villians of the narrative surround John’s work outside the city. Here in this sandwich (Luke 3:1-2 and 19-20) we get an introduction into various political, as well as religious, leaders who resist John and Jesus’ work. Luke wants you to take note of these names, a number of them show up in later parts of the Gospel and in Acts. I think these are the chaff spoken of in our passage today.

This is important because Luke is trying to draw a distinction between those who are powerful and those who are on the margins of society (in the wilderness). In Mary’s song there has already been a critique of the powerful and rich (cf. Luke 1). By ending this section with Herod locking John up in prison, we get a very clear picture of the different responses taking place in this Gospel.

Here it is, for John to produce peace is a struggle, and it creates hostility with Herod which eventually costs him his head, literally.

John was an oracular prophet, oracles are announcements of judgment and calls to repentance. John warned that Israel if she did not repent trouble was just around the turn (Wright). John was the kind of a fiery baptist preacher you might imagine from a fiery baptist preacher. He was breathing down oracles of damnation and repentance on those who have been unfaithful and treated others unjustly.

But here’s the difference in his message from those today: he was challenging those who were lining their pockets in the name of religion, those who were using their political positions as heavenly thrones from which they could oppress others. John called for a total transformation of life, a re-orientation around practices of peace.

Let me name a couple:

Baptism (Entrance Into the Rule and Reign of God)

A key ingredient to John’s fiery preaching, to guiding our feet in the way of peace, is seen in his “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3 NRSV).”

Now we may think that John simply meant that he was hoping people would say the sinners prayer, and then jump into the water, but that’s not it at all. John was calling for a different allegiance, a new entry point for people to live under the rule and reign of God. John was trying to prepare his fellow Jews to surrender to the (re)new(al) work God was bringing about in Jesus (NT Wright). A movement that requires a different allegiance.

Baptism symbolizes an entrance into the Rule of God. It is a sign that we subject ourselves to God’s reign, to God’s rule, it is how we are made subjects of God’s kingdom.

We don’t practice baptism this way as Quakers (in part because of what John says here about the greater baptism to come in Jesus), but that is most likely the way the crowds understood John’s baptism. This is because even though he was from a family of priests he challenged the symbolic power of the temple by offering an alternative site of cleansing in the river of Jordan. John’s baptism outside the city walls both created a space for those who weren’t welcome in the temple itself as well as stated, “have here right now what you would normally get at the temple.”

In other words, those who seek to live peace actually go out of their way to create, or produce, sites of worship where those who are excluded can to encounter God. It is as if John said, if you can’t get it elsewhere, you can get it right here. This community seeks to live out the reality of God’s rule!

Repentance (Abandon Revolutionary Zeal)

And repentance for a first century Jew was anything but an intellectual assent to this or that belief, it was far more radical than that. Repentance in the New Testament means “return from exile.” It was what Israel needed to do to return home.

Repentance is the re-entry point into membership of the people of God. It is “what Israel must do if her fortunes are to be restored.”

NT Wright says that repentance means, in this ancient context, “to abandon revolutionary zeal and show loyalty to YHWH.” This is to say that, abandon you’re impulse to go at it alone, to DIY, through violent upheaval and believe in me and my ways. Repentance is to abandon the logic of the world, it is to live in contrast to those who were introduced at the beginning of chapter three, the chaff, and believe instead in the impossible, in the strangely unexpected, often backward-seeming ways of God (I like to think of it as hair-brained and cockeyed).

This is the posture and stance of repentance. Therefore it is a gesture, a practice, a behavior that one must enact in order to enter into the kind of peace God calls us to. It is “to abandon revolutionary zeal and show loyalty to YHWH,” to give up our impulse to go at it alone, or to do it my way. (it is to submit to the missio Dei)

Conversations (What Should We Produce)

Like any good preaching, and we can see that John is a good preacher, there is a response from the crowd, an interjection, a question, and a bewilderment at how to change.

What I love about this passage is that it shows that John’s sermon is really short, it’s most likely a summary of what he said, but it I had considered doing a three sentence sermon and wondered how you all would respond. John’s sermon is a dialogue between him and the people, it is a conversation about implication. (Mind you he does start out by calling his hearers “children of poisonous snakes,” something I won’t be doing anytime soon.)

John’s dialogical method, not simply the content, but his method of speaking to the crowd represents the way of peace that is rooted in the rule and reign of God.

Whereas violence shuts-up, closes down, and enforces, Peace opens up, it creates a space for others to respond, it seeks to give others a voice.

Instead of giving the crowd all the answers in a three point sound bite on how to make their lives better, John helps them to see, through symbols (wilderness), action (baptism), and preaching (dialogue), that the story they are enacting, this new exodus, is a story that doesn’t simply challenge them but re-orients their whole lives.

To be guided in the way of peace is to invite conversation around how this gets lived out in real life, how under the rule of God all of life is re-oriented.

This is the intervention – John’s witness of peace challenges the whole structure of life for his hearers. The crowd asked “What then should we do?” Theirs isn’t a question of application but of re-orientation, if this is true – how must our lives be re-oriented?

I don’t want to bore you with Greek here but the word “do” here is an important word in Luke as well as in the Gospels. For instance, in John 3:21 it is rendered “Live the truth,” it is the same word in our passage this morning, “to make straight paths,” it means to practice, to make a moral commitment to something, elsewhere it means to “produce fruit.”

Their question is, how then shall we live, what should we be practicing, what fruit should we produce with our lives.

And John goes on to describe practices that produce fruits of economic justice – if you have two coats give one away, if you have food share it with others who need it. To the tax collectors he told them to only take as much money as was prescribed, a difficult practice in a culture that gave them the freedom to tack on as much surcharge as they wished. The same was true for the soldiers, they were told to relinquish violent means by not using their position of power in abusive ways, he tells them not to extort money from anyone by threats or false accusations…”

A life of peace comes by way of being re-oriented around these kinds of justice issues. It comes by way of producing fruit that exhibits God’s rule and reign.

I want to suggest that along with peace being rooted in repentance, and the rule of God, it requires that our entire lives be re-oriented, that we ask “what then should we do?” (What Should We Produce)

What then should we do?
What has acted as a baptism of repentance in our lives, bidding us to live under God’s rule?
What are ways we produce the fruits of peace?

You can view or download the slides from here.

Blog Entries Reviews

New Quaker Blogger Book: Writing Cheerfully on the Web

Liz Oppenheimer has recently edited a volume of online conversations from a rich variety of Quaker authors and brought them together in “Writing Cheerfully on the Web,” a play on the George Fox’s famous line, “Walking Cheerfully Over the Earth.”

Here’s what Quaker Books has to say about it:

This book brings to print the online conversation that has been mending our historical schisms and pointing to who we are as the Religious Society of Friends. Writings from 32 Friends from across all the Quaker Branches. On topics such as Convergent Christianity, our traditions. With an index of blogs and a preface by Brent Bill.

I have an essay in the book as well, one you will recognize from this blog. If you’re interested in an introduction into the convergent Friends conversation, or want to find out what other Quakers have to say around an assortment of issues then this will be of interest to you.  It is now available at Quaker Books (

See also Cat Chapin-Bishop’s post for more info.

Blog Entries Quotations

Learning Poetry Like Eugene Peterson

A favorite blogger of mine, Fernando Gros, linked to a post of Eugene Peterson quotes the other day that are well worth reading. Peterson is a hero pastor theologian to many of us. Here are three I particularly enjoyed:

“Children are the best poets up until they get it bred out of them by about sixth grade. One five-year-old poet said, “God who is high and God who is low, help us Lord, who are below.”

“The work of the poet is to change the way we see the world, to change our imaginations.”

“The way of writing that is most congenial to the pastor is poetry. We’re inundated with a church world that is very programmatic, full of methods and how to do it. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with that. There’s almost a denial of the work of the Holy Spirit.”

From the Wise Words of Eugene Peterson

Featured Sermons The Biblical

Luke 1:5-38 Interventions: Birthing the Impossible (Notes from Sunday July 12th)

This is what we reflected on together as a community this past

The kingdom is for the Little Ones

We have two parallel passages today, one with a story of two people “getting on in years” as the text says, alongside two young people not old enough to drive by today’s standards, let alone give birth to a revolution.

Both accounts trace God’s interaction through the angel Gabriel and God’s intervention into two unexpected couples, who turn out to, after their encounters, both be expecting. In the way that last week we see people go from eyewitnesses to witnesses, this week we have people go from being unexpected to expecting.

These are two stories about God giving birth to the impossible.

So far this morning we’ve been experiencing worship around the theme of “the little ones” or our motto might, “the kingdom is for little ones.” If by “little ones” we mean, easily silenced, powerless, sometimes young, sometimes very old, poor, doubtful and weak. All throughout Luke’s Gospel narrative he favors these “little ones.”

Blog Entries

Twitter Will Kill You Video

Found this today, and it’s pretty hilarious, especially considering that I use twitter frequently myself.

Blog Entries The Biblical

Adult Second Hour (Worship) Resource On Luke 1

A fellow reader of “gathering in light,” Paul, emailed and asked me if he could the sermon notes and queries from last week for their Adult Second Hour in his meeting and I said, “Of course, that’s why it’s there.” Well, he went the extra mile and abbreviated the message and turned it into a far more interesting discussing piece by breaking it down into sections to be read. So I wanted to share it with the rest of you in case anyone else was interested in doing something similar.

Narration as Intervention – a worshipful adaptation