Friday, January 14, 2011

Not Ranting And Raving, But Convicted

Over at IMonk, Jeff Dunn is doing a bit of ranting and raving, and really, I don't blame him.  As I have been studying the Gospel of Luke, I have become more and more convicted that I don't really follow Christ as he calls me to, and more than that, I for the most part do not see the church, at least here in America following him as he calls us either.

One of the things that I see relates to what Dunn is preaching against is the substitute of technique for obedience to our Lord.  It is the easy road and one that suits our society perfectly.  We are a technique oriented people. It is how we live.  It is how we control.  It is also the opposite of faith.

Have issues with money?  Well, my goodness, don't give it away and be overly generous out of love for God and man.  Disregard the widow and her two mites.  What a fool she was to not put at least 10% away in savings.  Jesus only meant for the rich, young ruler to give everything away, not anyone else.  He wouldn't ask that of you or me.  Look at all the Old Testament writings that encourage savings and thrift.  Just don't bother reading the prophets and of God's judgement because of not helping the poor and widows.  We're not greedy like those Israelites.  And don't get all excited about how the earliest church shared everything they had with one another.  That would be too radical and was only for that time and place anyway.  God wouldn't ask that of us.  Instead, follow this formula and watch your money grow!

Having marriage problems?  It has nothing to do with dying to self and submitting to one another out of love for Christ.  Nooooo.  It is really because the husband isn't being respected or the woman isn't being loved, or you just aren't having enough date nights, or you haven't set up the right boundaries, or you don't speak the other's love language, or, well you get the idea.

What if we really died to self and lived to Christ?  What if we gave so generously that none of our brothers and sisters in Christ were in need?  What if we sacrificed our comfort that the poorest in our community knew they didn't have to worry about their daily needs, because Christ's representatives lived near them and wouldn't let them be in want?  What if instead of worrying about being taken advantage of, we simply said, "Come."?

What would our marriages and families look like if we consistently put the other first?  What if we stopped worrying about our needs being met and instead sought out ways to serve the other?

What if we stopped searching for a magic formula and simply said, "I surrender.  I am a slave.  I have no rights.  My trust and my hope are entirely in the Lord."?

Do we take Jesus words seriously?  Do we really believe them?  I must not, because I do not follow them.  I cannot, because I do not daily take up my cross.  This is what Peter Kreeft calls moral insanity.  It is what Jesus says leads to death.  It is sin.

I am morally insane.  Jesus, come heal me.  I do not take up my cross.  Jesus, help me bear the burden.  I do not trust the one who gives life.  Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Gospel Of Luke: Introduction and Preface

Luke is widely held as the author of The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles. Both tradition and internal evidence upholds this view. Though neither book names its author, the author places himself in the story in Acts as a companion to Paul, and three of Paul’s letters, Colossians, Philemon and II Timothy refer to him as his companion.

There is a wide range of thought as to when the Gospel of Luke was written, most within the range of 60 – 90 AD. I hold to a date around the early to mid 60’s for two reasons: Neither the death of Paul nor his letters, (they were more widely distributed in the latter years), are mentioned in Luke’s account. Luke also sees the need to give a defense of the gentiles place in God’s plan, which there would be little need for if it had been written at a later date.

Lucas, or Luke, is probably an abbreviation of the name Lucanus. From this name and the fact that he was a physician, it is thought by some that he may have been a slave.  Slaves at this time in the Roman Empire were sometimes given a shortened or nickname of their master, and in wealthy families, a slave was often chosen to be educated in medicine to be the family doctor.

That Luke was educated is obvious from his writings.  Both the Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles are written in a higher literary style than the other New Testament books. The allusions to the Septuagint in his gospel and the Hellenistic narrative form both of his books take testify to his intelligence and education.

His grasp of the Septuagint is so great, that it is assumed that he was either a Gentile proselyte or a God-fearer like Cornelius or the Centurion from Luke 7. He was not likely born a Jew, as Paul lists him among the uncircumcised in his letter to the Colossians.

Tradition holds that Luke was from Antioch in Syria. He enters the story in Acts when Paul, Silas and Timothy reach Troas, 50. From there he goes with them to Philippi, 50-57, and remains there. He then journeys with Paul to Jerusalem, 57-61, and then onto Rome, 61.

He is referred to in Acts 16:11-18, 17:1, 20:5-21:18, 27:1, 28:1, 12-16, and by Paul in Colossians 4:14, II Timothy 4:11, and Philemon vs.23&24.

History – Luke’s gospel is often viewed as historic narrative. His style, particularly in the preface of the gospel follows Hellenistic form for the historic narrative in this general time period, similar to Josephus.

Theology – Luke tells the story not only to be accurate and to convey facts, but to place them in an order to comprehend their meaning better. There are major strands woven throughout this gospel: God’s sovereignty and faithfulness, mission of Jesus as he comes against cosmic forces which are opposed to God, Christ as messiah, servant, prophet, king, son of man, and Lord, Holy Spirit, cross, etc.

Narrative theology - This is a term used by Michael Travers to describe the genre Luke uses.It is truth told. The reason to use the narrative, to tell the stories, is to bridge the head and the heart using the imagination. Luke’s writing style weaves history, prophecy, teachings, drama and parables in order to cause the reader to understand their meaning, not just to know the facts.

The purpose in understanding the genre is because it tells us what to expect.If we see Luke as simply a history book, we will look for facts, places, dates, etc. If we look at it as simply theology, we will likely look for doctrinal propositions and categories. If we look at it as a story, a true story, but a story none the less, we can then become part of it. A reader is always a part of the story. We can identify with characters, we can imagine the settings, we can be there, and in doing so, we can meet Jesus and let his words and actions change us.

The Uniqueness of Luke
Luke is considered one of the synoptic gospels because of its similarity to both Matthew and Mark, but it is also quite unique.  It is the longest gospel, with twenty four chapters. Along with Acts, Luke’s writings are a full ¼ of the New Testament. There are at least nine parables, five teachings, and seventeen narrative accounts which are in Luke alone. He also emphasizes feasts/food, women, the poor, the outcast, children, gentiles, the Temple /Jerusalem, prayer and God’s sovereignty.

Luke also serves as a bridge, between Jews and Gentiles and Jesus ministry and the church.
It is the only gospel written by a gentile and the only gospel with a sequel. 

Luke 1:1-4

Luke’s preface follows closely the form of a Hellenistic historic narrative.Accuracy was important in such endevours, but so was good writing and storytelling to keep the reader engaged and aid in understanding.The preface set the tone.

Luke begins with acknowledging that others have attempted writing narratives of the things that have happened, perhaps Mark or Matthew. He mentions eyewitnesses who have delivered the accounts to them. This need not be limited to written accounts. Luke spent a few years in Jerusalem, where there must have been many who had been with Jesus. It would make sense that he gained much from female witnesses since his later accounts of the Nativity and details of Herod’s household would likely have been informed by Mary and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, Chuza. Most New Testament scholars have attempted to explain the differences between the synoptic gospels by suggesting a possible earlier source, Q (for quelle, or source), or for Matthew, another source called M, or for Luke, another source called L. These sources have often been thought of as written documents, but could very well have been the eyewitnesses or stories and traditions that had been relayed.

Luke sees it fitting that he should also make the attempt, perhaps one more orderly or for a wider audience.He addresses the letter to, most excellent Theophilus, a common name in that time, meaning God adorer or lover of God, who must have been of high rank or status by the way he is addressed and perhaps was Luke’s patron, commissioning this work. Luke states that his purpose in writing is to give an orderly, accurate account. This does not necessarily mean chronological order, but one that conveys the meaning and importance of the events which took place. He wants Theophilus and others who would hear or read what he has written to understand and be assured of the accuracy of what they have already been taught, so Theophilus must already be a believer.

References are:  Luke by Darrel Bock, The Gospel of Luke,Sacra Pagina by Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, Joel B. Green, and of course, the Gospel of Luke.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Looking Back And Looking Forward

It can be a disappointing thing to begin a new year.  For me the promise of a new start is idealized while the living it out is not much different from the year before in most ways.  This past year was a bit of a lost one for me.  Not that it wasn't worthwhile, but I have been a bit directionless, dabbling a bit here, trying a bit there.  I tend to be a Jill of all trades and master of none anyway, but even more so this past year.

I'm trying to do better this time around.  A few weeks ago I sat down and wrote out both my activities and my goals.  I use the word goals very loosely.  Except for my daughters' educations, there are no firm plans to get from point A to point B.

What I have been participating in this past year is:
Teaching my daughters
Participated in a small homeschool coop
Daily household upkeep
Learning Koine Greek
Teaching a class on the Liturgy
Participated in an Thomas Aquinas study group
Church choir member
Chairman of the Adult Education team at church
Substitute teach for the Adult Sunday School
Communion bread baker
Communion assistant
This list looks and sounds more impressive than it is.  Many of these things are sporadic and don't really take up much time, but others are pretty time consuming.

My goal and/or hopes are:
Prepare daughters for college (This is the one that is a goal.)
Prepare myself for seminary  (This is more of a hope.)
Grow deeper in my understanding of God's word.
Develop artistic abilities.
In planning, this next year looks similar, the exceptions being, I'll now be teaching a class on the Gospel of Luke instead of the Liturgy and I have resigned from the choir.  The study of the Gospel of Luke has already been a real blessing and I hope to draw closer to Christ as I work through this.  Deciding to leave the choir surprised me in a way, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

There are some things that happened this year that were outside of the norm.  I continued to heal both physically and emotionally after losing our baby.  David fell from a ladder, breaking four ribs, a vertebrae and puncturing a lung.  Some friendships grew more distant and others grew closer.  My father suffered his fourth stroke.  This seems to be the stuff of life, but the past year packed in a bit more stuff than I'd have preferred.   Through it all though, I've found that while some people can be incredibly callous, most are kind, and some extraordinarily so, it makes a world of difference to have a good doctor who also has a nice personality and that even when it feels as though God is A.W.AO.L., he is there, walking alongside.