Sunday, 31 October 2010

Sunday 31 October

Sermon at Methodist Chapel – Cheddington


Romans 3.19-28

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the "law" that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from observing the law.


Luke 19.1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner’.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”


Reading from Romans is so familiar to us, it has become something of a cliché. How does the preacher base a sermon on a cliché without saying the same things every other preacher has said before?

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Good news! We don’t have to do anything. Although we have all sinned – fallen short like an arrow aimed at a target – yet we are justified freely by the grace of God that came by Jesus Christ. Easy. We can just sit back and accept the redemption offered to us. Is it really that simple? Is that really what Paul is telling us? Let’s looks a bit more closely.

Go back a bit to verse 19, and Paul says:
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.

That means regardless of what God offers us, we are still under the law. Because all are subject to the law, it follows all have sinned. All our lives, we are reminded of this. Every service in the Church starts with a Confession. It seems whatever we do, we cannot escape from this condemnation. We keep having to confess our failings. Why can we not break out of this dreadful cycle of wrongdoing?

Paul’s answer is that whatever we do, however good our intentions, regardless of how blameless a life we lead, we can never attain the righteousness of God. And that is the only measure that counts.

No one can reach God through his or her own merits. No one can meet God’s standard through their own conduct or good works. No one can reach God by their own efforts – it is God who reaches to us, not the other way round.

This is what it means to be under the law. There is nothing we can do. Even in our most beautiful moments, with our most deeply spiritual insights, at a time when we are most Christ-like – we cannot ever clear the bar because it is set at God’s only standard – perfection.

How depressing. Well, not really, because there is another way. Righteousness, we are told, comes through faith in Jesus Christ. But is this as comforting as it sounds? OK, salvation comes through faith and not works, but don’t we constantly feel our faith is weak? Isn’t faith just like a ‘work?’ Surely ‘believing’ is something we do. It’s tempting to conclude that whilst we have shed the burden of all the other ‘works’ and obedience to the Law, we have simply substituted something even harder – faith, and a strong belief in Jesus.

I would say, if faith sounds to you and me like something we have to do, if belief sounds to you and me like something that can be measured against some sort of standard, then we have missed the point and it has indeed become just another work.

Let me suggest to you another way of looking at it. The standard of righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. That’s what Paul says. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Freely by God’s grace – does that not mean nothing is required from us in return?

The faith Paul writes about here is the faith of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God’s righteousness. It is this righteousness – the person of Jesus – that creates and awakens faith in us. Faith is not something we have to struggle with – it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Where and when the Spirit wills.

Take Zacchaeus, for example. He was a sinner. He did not have a strong faith – he was inquisitive, and wanted to know more, so he went and climbed a tree. He did not approach or engage Jesus like the Canaanite woman. He didn’t shout out ‘Lord have mercy on me!’ It was Jesus who noticed and approached him. After agreeing to provide hospitality to the Messiah, then Zacchaeus spontaneously offered to recompense fourfold everyone he had robbed, and to give half his wealth to the poor. These actions were clearly ‘works.’ Jesus accepted his works as evidence of repentance, but he would have entered Zacchaeus’s life regardless. All Zacchaeus had to do was accept the grace freely offered to him.

There is another trap waiting here for the unwary. That is the phrase sacrifice of atonement.

25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.

What are we to make of this? Listening to many Christians they seem to be saying that God is a parent who requires sacrifice. That God needs to be appeased by a violent and degrading sacrifice as a prior condition to offering salvation and reconciliation to his creation.

Surely this is not the God even of the Old Testament, let alone the New. God did not require sacrifice of Isaac. In Canaan human sacrifice was utterly condemned. In Psalm 51 it says:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

The Gospels are not about a God who is appeased by a sacrifice. They are not about a God who needs to be bargained with; many atonement theories, grounded in this idea of sacrifice, are simply guises for a ladder theology. It’s like saying ‘we can still DO something to get to God. Well, we can’t.

Christ sacrificed himself, but it was the evil of men that killed him. Execution is probably a more apt description for what happened than sacrifice. Sacrifice takes away our responsibility for his death. Execution doesn’t.

What Paul actually says is that God presented the death of Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement. That was the effect it had. Not that in some way his death was required. Jesus did what he did to show his righteousness.

God ‘s part in this was to make known to us how great is the righteousness that is now given to us (verses 21-22), that now becomes ours as faith.

This is the real metaphor for atonement. Christ takes everything that is ours and lays the burden on himself and gives us everything that is his. The gift of Christ is his faith. This gift imparts righteousness to us, makes of us believers, not through our works but through the promise that Christ has accomplished all for us. Amen

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Bible Sunday

Reading Isaiah 61

The Year of the LORD 's Favour

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
       because the LORD has anointed me
       to proclaim good news to the poor.
       He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
       to proclaim freedom for the captives
       and release from darkness for the prisoners,

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favour
       and the day of vengeance of our God,
       to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
       to bestow on them a crown of beauty
       instead of ashes,
       the oil of joy
       instead of mourning,
       and a garment of praise
       instead of a spirit of despair.
       They will be called mighty oaks,
       a planting of the LORD
       for the display of his splendour.

Gospel Luke 4.16-24

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your home town what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

“I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his home town.”


Today – Bible Sunday. Theme is Free to Go. Bible is a liberating experience to those who read it. Gospel set for today relates an incident in early part of Jesus’ ministry and took place in Nazareth.

Nazareth was where Jesus grew up and his family lived. Joseph was a carpenter and, according to tradition, died when Jesus was relatively young, leaving him the main breadwinner for the family. He ran the carpentry business in what was a small community with a population of no more than 400.

The synagogue in Nazareth was familiar to Jesus and would have been the main gathering place of the community. Synagogue is derived from a Greek word that originally meant assembly or congregation, referring to gathered people, but over time it came to mean the building where they met.

Imagine simple building. Tiers of stone benches around walls faced onto central platform where readings and prayers conducted. Nothing unusual in any man who could read and comment on Scripture standing to read a passage, then sitting to say a few words about it. What was shocking was the choice of Isaiah 61 – Year of the Lord’s Favour – which begins The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me because he has anointed me... which Jesus unambiguously applies to himself. Today in your hearing this Scripture is fulfilled.

Those who heard knew Jesus from a boy. Small builder. At first, impressed. Local lad speaks well. Then enormity of his claims sinks in.

Heard about miracles he did in Capernaum. Ask him to repeat them in Nazareth. He cannot. They have no faith in him. Is this the reason? He cannot do wonders unless we have faith? Seems puzzled himself. No prophet is accepted in his home town – quotes occasions from OT when prophets were sent to Gentiles in preference to the Jews.

Men in synagogue furious. Drive him out of the town. Would have killed him. But Luke says Jesus walked through them and went on his way.

This event comes at start of Jesus’ ministry. Just after baptism and temptation. First detailed account of his mission. Like a manifesto. Sets the scene for what is to come.

I have always found it hard to understand swing from welcome, admiration, acceptance and praise – through condemnation – to driving out and attempted murder. All because Jesus read a few verses from prophet Isaiah. Illustrates in stark way power of scripture. Appropriate for Bible Sunday.

Christianity, Judaism and Islam all religions ‘of the Book.’ Scripture for Christians is revealed by God. In Anglican tradition, together with tradition and reason, our interpretation of scripture determines how we should act. Yet how much time do Christians spend studying the Bible, compared to Muslims?

Perhaps the Bible is too familiar, too readily available to us, too cheap, too easy to lay our hands on. There is a certain embarrassment we would all feel if we took out a Bible in the Underground or in a train and read it openly. Maybe we should imagine a time when it is banned, when people are killed for just possessing a copy, when lives are lost in an appalling manner for translating it into English.

Some churches, instead of observing Bible Sunday are marking it as No Bible Sunday. There’s even a web site when services take place with no Bible, no Bible quotations and no teaching. No hymns for example. No readings. Imagine – what would we do?


The aim is to make people value Scripture more than they do. Taking something away usually has that effect. The plain fact is, though, that for hundreds of millions of people every Sunday is a No-Bible Sunday.

What is the Bible is not in your language? What if you can’t read? What if owning a Bible is illegal and the punishment is severe?

It’s only 480 years since first complete Bible published secretly in English. Wm. Tyndale was strangled to death whilst tied to the stake and his dead body burned for doing it. This is the legacy of Bible Sunday. Something we take for granted today was the very same book many lost their lives creating.

If we engage with it, we can once again unleash its power to change lives. We are free to go – with God’s love that is at work through the pages of scripture. What was so hard won, for which great sacrifices were made, we should value and reverence more than we do.

Tyndale's final words, spoken “at the stake with a fervent zeal, and a loud voice”, were reported as “Lord! Open the King of England's eyes.” That was in October 1536. 4 years later, 4 new English translations had been published, including King Henry VIII’s own Great Bible.

The Bible is so many things – too many to relate in a short sermon. Jesus’ choice of Isaiah focuses our attention on prophecy. The Spirit of the Lord, he says, is on him. He has been sent to preach the good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind (both physically and spiritually) and release to the oppressed.

Our freedom to engage with it has been hard won. More people have died horribly so we can read it than any other publication. So let the message of Bible Sunday sink in. Let us value Scripture more than we have in the past. Let it be, for us, the liberating experience it was intended to be.

Today, Jesus said, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. Amen

Friday, 22 October 2010

Dan the Man

All-age service at St Giles

Dan the Man – Children’s Playlet


Bad King Nebuchadnezzar was on the throne in Babylon. He had many magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men in his court. But Dan the Man was ten times cleverer than all the others.

One day, bad King Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream. He woke up in a sweat, and could not get back to sleep. So he sent for his magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men.


I have had a bad dream. What can it mean? I want you my magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men to explain it to me. I want to know what it means.


The magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men replied: ‘O King, live forever! Tell us your dream and we will interpret it.’ The King didn’t trust them. He thought the magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men might just invent an explanation, like the royal horoscope that was printed in the Babylon Times. So bad king Nebuchadnezzar came up with a cunning plan.


This is what I have decided. I want you to tell me what my dream was. If you can’t tell me my dream, and then explain it, I will have all you magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men cut in pieces and bulldoze your houses into piles of rubble.


Once more, the magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men replied: ‘O King, tell us your dream and we will interpret it. The King was angry.


You are just trying to gain time. If you can’t tell me my dream, there is only one penalty for you all, for you have conspired together to mislead me and tell me wicked things.


The magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men answered the King: ‘What the King asks is too difficult. No one can reveal the King’s dream except the gods, and they do not live among men.’ This made the King so angry he ordered the execution of all the magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men. He sent for Dan the Man to put them all to death. Now the King favoured Dan the Man, because he showed wisdom and tact, but Dan the Man worshipped the one true God.

When Dan the Man heard about the decree, he asked why bad King Nebuchadnezzar was being so harsh. The King’s officer explained why, and Dan the Man went to see the King.

Dan the Man

O King live forever! I can explain the King’s dream to the King. Just give me some time, and I will return and explain all that the magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men could not reveal.


Then Dan went back to his house and consulted his friends. He asked them to pray for him and to plead for mercy from God concerning the mystery. That very night, the mysterious dream was revealed to Dan in a vision. When Dan awoke, he sung a hymn of praise to God.

Dan the Man

Praise be to the name of God. He reveals deep and hidden things. He knows what lies in darkness. He gives wisdom to the wise. I thank and praise you O God for answering our prayers. For you have made known what we asked of you, and revealed to us the dream of the King.


Then Dan the Man went to see the King’s officer. Do not execute the magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men he said. Take me to the King and I will interpret his dream for him. The King said:


Dan – are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and explain it to me? All the magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men have failed. Can you succeed where they all failed?


O King live forever! The magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men cannot explain it, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.


So Dan interpreted the King’s dream and explained to him what it meant. The King was delighted, even though the dream spelled bad news.


You’re the Man, Dan! Surely your God is the God of gods, for through him you were able to reveal this mystery to me. I will promote you to a high position and lavish you with gifts. You will be ruler over the whole province of Babylon. You will take charge of all the magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men.


But bad King Nebuchadnezzar did not change his ways. He built a statue of gold and set it up in the province of Babylon. He made all his officials bow down and worship the image. But Dan and his friends would not bow down when all the others did. When they saw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not fall down and worship the golden statue, the high officials, the magicians, enchanters, soothsayers and wise men reported them to the King for disobedience.

The King was furious, so when Dan ‘s friends still refused to obey he had them thrown into a blazing hot fiery furnace for refusing to worship the golden statue. The fire was so hot, the slaves who tied up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and threw them into the flames died at once from the scorching heat. The King looked into the fire and to his amazement saw four men walking around.


Look, are my eyes playing tricks? I see four men walking around in the burning fiery furnace. Yet we only threw three men into the flames. They look unharmed, and the fourth man looks like an angel. Open up the furnace and let them out.


So the doors were opened, and the King shouted into the furnace.


Come out!


So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out. Everyone could see they had not been harmed. Not one hair on their heads had been singed, and their clothes did not even smell of smoke.


It’s a miracle! Praise be to the God of Dan and his friends. Only God could have rescued his servants from the flames of fire. So I will promote Dan’s friends to positions of power in all the land, and everyone who says anything against them or their God will be torn in pieces and their houses reduced to piles of rubble.


So that’s the end of the story of Dan the Man, his friends, bad King Nebuchadnezzar, his dreams and the burning fiery furnace. You can read more stories about Dan in the Bible. How he interpreted more dreams. How there was a great feast, and a spooky ghostly had wrote strange words high up on a wall. And how Dan was thrown into a den of roaring hungry lions but survived.

Thursday 21 October Holy Communion

Reading Ephesians 3

A Prayer for the Ephesians

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family [a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Gospel Luke 12

Not Peace but Division

49 "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."


Gospel shows danger of taking passage out of context. Did Jesus not come to bring peace? Do we not offer one another sign of peace? Is the gospel not the good news of love? How come then Jesus says he has come to bring fire on earth. Division not peace. Strife not harmony.

Taken in context – chapter all about coming of Kingdom and our preparedness. Parable of Rich Fool – this night your life will be demanded of you. Do not worry about your life – the flowers and birds are looked after, so will you be. Servants waiting for return of their master from wedding banquet – be ready for Son of Man will return at a hour when you least expect him.

So there is great responsibility – everything will not be sweetness and light. There is a dark side to the Kingdom – judgement for the unprepared. There is also inevitable division and selection. Self-selection probably. Those who turn to God, and those who turn away for their deeds are evil.

Jesus here tells disciples to be alert and respond to urgency of the times. They must be ready, even at expense of causing divisions within own families. Jesus did not come to bring division and strife, but that may be the inevitable result of his coming.

What then is the fire? Fire of Holy Spirit. Fire of purification. And suffering – disciples will have to suffer, as indeed did Jesus himself at his crucifixion.

So Luke is warning his readers, in the words of Jesus, to be prepared – ready to suffer, ready for difficult times. The end of the race is in the Kingdom of God – but there are many hurdles, pitfalls and diversions across out path along the way.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

‘Seeing’ is Believing

Trinity 19 – Holy Communion at St Giles 10 October 2010

Gospel Luke 17

Jesus Heals Ten Men With Leprosy

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"

14 When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19 Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.


It’s telling that if you type ‘Martin Luther’ into a search engine on the Net, most of the results that come up relate to Martin Luther King and not the 16th C Dominican friar. The real Martin Luther protested the sale of indulgences and sparked the Reformation in Europe by posting on the church door of All Saints Wittenburg his 95 Theses.

This Martin Luther, amid the white heat of ethical and liturgical reform was once asked what was the nature of true worship. His reply was ‘the tenth leper turning back.’

Luke’s account of the healing of 10 lepers takes place in the region between Samaria and Galilee. That would be like saying today that an event occurred in the region between Palestine and Israel. Geographically there is no such region, but I think we can all grasp the significance of where the event took place.

Theologically, Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and the cross. What happened along the way says more about the Kingdom he is about to establish after his death than its precise location.

Did you notice anything odd about what Jesus did? 10 leprous men stood at a distance and called out to him. Jesus did not approach or touch them, but told the men to go and show themselves to the priests. This is presumably what they would have done had they already been healed – giving thanks, offering sacrifices according to the law.

Believing, they turned and went. The gospel doesn’t say so, but I think we can conclude their faith played a part in their cure.

One man, seeing he had been healed, never made it to the priests, but turned back to give thanks to Jesus. The odd thing, for me, is that Jesus then complains about the other 9 for doing what he told them to do. They obeyed, and went to show themselves to the priests. It seems a tad disingenuous that the one man who disobeyed – a hated Samaritan – was commended for turning back to give praise to God.

Like the others, his faith made him well. The Greek word sozo can also be translated saved. ‘Your faith has saved you.’

Immediately after this account comes a passage about the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, which I think is significant.

What I want us to see this morning, though, is what occurred at the very point when the tenth leper was healed. It says as soon as he saw he was healed, turned back… As soon as he ‘saw’…

Seeing is believing. All the lepers were healed, but only one ‘saw’ his cure in a particular way. He was the one who shouted in a loud voice.

The Samaritan leper ‘saw’ the origin of Jesus’s power. He returned to give praise to God. The other nine may have only attributed their cure to an itinerant preacher and healer, of which there were many.

Seeing in this way causes him to change direction. He veers from his previous course. And he turns from the old faith of the Temple towards a new revelation in Jesus Christ. That must have appealed to Martin Luther.

Think about all this made me ask certain questions about how we see our faith.

· Faced with human need, do we see demands or gifts?

· Faced with God, do we see a stern judge, or do we see ourselves as beloved children?

· As we look to the future, do we see a fearful uncertainty, or faithful discipleship in the loving arms of the Father and God at work in our lives and in the world around us?

How we answer these types of questions depends on how we see and believe. How we see dramatically shapes our outlook on faith, and so profoundly affects our behaviour.

At the outset of the story, 10 lepers are outcasts. Socially, religiously, economically and in every other way. They are in the region beyond – neither in one place nor another. A region that does not exist.

Jesus notices them, and draws them in. All re-enter society. They are made clean – acceptable once again. But only one remains outcast – he is still a Samaritan. Yet he was the one who saw in a special way. So he was not just ‘healed’ but ‘made whole’ or ‘saved.’ He might not have been restored to society – but he was restored to God – in the true sense of the alternative meaning of sezoken he was ‘saved.’

In Luther’s eyes, he was the tenth leper who turned back. Then, as now, turning back, changing direction, turning away from the conventional path, makes all the difference.

Seeing – is believing.


Thursday, 7 October 2010

Persistent Prayer

Thursday 7 October – Holy Communion at St Giles

Gospel Luke 11

5 Then Jesus said to them, "Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' 7 And suppose the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened.

11 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"


Teaching on prayer.

Previous chapter ends: Jesus visits Mary & Martha. Mary listened to Jesus. Martha complained she had to do all work in kitchen. Jesus replied Mary has chosen the better part.

Chapter 11 starts with Jesus praying in a certain place. When he finished, disciples ask Jesus to teach them prayer (as John taught his disciples). So the background to this request was Jesus’ own time of prayer, and his commending Mary for listening to him and not being distracted by more mundane things.

It’s easy to be distracted – there is so much to do – things that have to be done, and can take our attention away from higher things.

Like in Matthew 6, which has longer form, Jesus starts with Lord’s Prayer (Disciples’ Prayer).

2 He said to them, "When you pray, say:
       " 'Father,
       hallowed be your name,
       your kingdom come.

3 Give us each day our daily bread.

4 Forgive us our sins,
       for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
       And lead us not into temptation.]' "

Then by way of explanation, we have today’s story.

Parable talks of need for urgent and insistent prayer. Not a mumbled routine set of words in church we hardly even notice or comprehend. For Luke, it’s about the end of time.

The request for bread is an urgent petition that cannot easily be denied. Answer has to be right now. Cannot be put off.

However grudging, we know the earthly friend will get up out of bed and help his friend. The message is that our requests for heavenly bread must be equally persistent and immediate.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; those who seek find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened.