This past Sunday we struggled with the question of whether we could have the faith enough to put forward our own child as a sacrifice, like Abraham. In the process, we explored what tools, we might have to help us find a deeper faith; some of those we identified were asking, learning, trusting, and accepting, to name a few.
This week we are going to further the discussion of faithfulness by looking at a passage from Luke 13:18-30. While most of the time when this passage is explored, we highlight the last verse in this pericope “Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.(NRSV)” This time, through the use of a combination of translations, we are going to begin to explore the journey to salvation by exploring the need to be gracious.
This pericope starts with two parables, that of the mustard seed and the yeast. These two parables highlight a reality that all people feel when we compare our small lives to the greater world, and as we judge ourselves successful or not based on how big or small we are. Each parable in its own way is telling us not to fret over our perceived inadequacies because in “the measure of kingdom work is in the result not the small and obscure beginnings” Both begin to highlight the reality that if we allow grace to work, we can accept that things which are small will and can grow given time and nurture.
However, what is really interesting is the apocalyptic conclusion of this passage, which is also relating to the eventual fall of Jerusalem. Luke 13:22-30 picks up with the theme coming from the two previous parables and is a theme of faithfulness. When Jesus is asked by the woman about the road to salvation, Jesus gives one of the harshest answers by establishing an image where there are those who will be accepted through the door and those who are not.
The problem that is posed with the door, is that for many Christians, myself included, the graciousness of Christ would not allow there to be an in or an out crowd. Nevertheless, reading further you can see where Christ is going. The reason I am using The Message version is mainly because of this line in Luke 13:28 “strangers to grace.” For me, in reading commentaries and doing my own translating, this line is the key. For over and over, Christ teaches us to practice and be like him. This means that when it comes to grace, if we do not practice Grace, how could we ever possibly accept it?
Together the three passages give a direction to accept the fact that God is using us and not get overwrought with the details of perceived success; rather, be driven to act and react to where God is calling, allowing grace to be our guide, and allow God to use us recognizing that through his Grace, what we cannot see will become a reality.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen