Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today



Lessons From Luke (recap)

The Gospel of Luke was a great read. Lessons from Luke: Recap

  1. Read Slowly
  2. Luke is a Quilter
  3. Parables Are Tricky
  4. Jesus Winks
  5. Bread Is Central

Read Slowly: there is a temptation to read the Bible quickly when you Believe that you already know the story. When you already have the plot figured out you tend to skip over some important details that actually significantly change the trajectory of the narrative.

Luke is a Quilter: the use over parallel layout of the Gospels was really helpful to see both material that Luke included that was not found in either Mark or Matthew, and was equally eye-opening to see how Luke stitched familiar stories together rearranging them and pairing them in the ways that contrasted or juxtaposed the different elements of the story.

Parables Are Tricky: parables are stories told in code in order to come in under the radar of the listener in order to ask them to question the assumptions they came in with. Parables interrogate the established order and the expectations of the listener. In the Gospel of Luke this often has to results:

  1. It makes the hero of the story somebody that the listener may not have thought very highly of. This can be foreigners, servants, and women.
  2. It calls into question the power and the wealth of the upper-class in the assumption talk to God’s favor is with and who God is working for.

Take Luke 16 for instance. In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in the afterlife it is noteworthy that Jesus gives the name to this beggar who would have been I nobody but Jesus does not given name to the rich man who everyone in town would’ve known his name. Jesus is not giving us a map of the afterlife he is using that as a stage to talk about god’s involvement in the drama of human life now. Jesus is telling us what God values in this life.

Parables are not allegory. When you read parables as allegory assigning each character in the story a corresponding person in real life, you often get the point of the parable 100% incorrect. If each time Jesus talks about someone with Power and status, like a landowner, you assume that is the god character in the story then the Gospel of Luke really makes God into a monstrous, violent, and conflicted character. If however, you read the story that God is with the servants instead of the landowner, who is probably Rome in coded language, then Jesus is parable read in entirely inverted from the way most of us have been taught to interpret them.

Which brings up the next point.

Jesus Winks: In Luke 12: 38-40 we begin to see that Jesus’ teaching reads very differently if you are riding high on the hog then if you are on the underside of the beast (in this case Empire). If you have possessions like many of us in America do, the idea of a thief coming in the night causes worry and anxiety. In the context of the first century Jewish occupation by the Romans the thief coming in the night was the in breaking of the kingdom of God.

Earlier in Luke chapter 11 Jesus had talked about the need to bind a strong man if you’re going to ransack his house. And this was probably and allusion to Roman rule and Cesar would be the strong man.

Take Luke 12

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority[a] to cast into hell.[b] Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

When Jesus talks about the one it can be tempting to think he’s talking about God. But it is not God who after he is killed you has the authority to cast you into hell! That is Caesar. Jesus is speaking in code and this should probably be understood as part of the literature of the oppressed. You speak in code when you are not safe just say what you really think. We know that the One in verse 5 (who throws people in hell) is not God because in verse six Jesus name’s God as the one who care about every sparrow.

Jesus often had to speak in code, almost with a wink to his listener, and it’s easy to imagine a Roman century and standing just offscreen keeping an eye on the group that was listening to Jesus. There is so much more that could be said on this topic but I think it would benefit you greatly when you read a parable to ask if the person in power–whether that is a land owner, strongman, the one, etc. – is more likely Cesar character or God. If you make every powerful person in a parable a god character you end up creating a monstrous, even demonic, two-faced and violent character.

Bread Is Important: Luke uses more stories about meals and food, specifically bread, then the rest of the Gospels. It comes up all the time. It can be used as an object lesson. It often involves Women being central to the story. Food plays an important part in the Gospel of Luke.

In fact, if you were to ask me what is the big point, the takeaway, from the Gospel of Luke I would say that it is found at the end of gospel in chapter 24.

35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.

It may surprise you, it’s certainly surprised me, that the major point of Luke’s Gospel maybe that Christ is known in the breaking of bread. I Been thinking about this a lot in the past month. It was ironic to me that we were not able to celebrate our normal tradition of having a meal together after we wrap up Reading a book of the Bible. In the absence of eating meals together because of social distancing and quarantine, it has become clear to me how often Christ is reveled in the breaking of Bread.

The Gospel of Mad Magazine

Mad Magazine is ceasing its publication of the print edition. This is going to be a huge loss.

Mad Magazine used parody, caricature, and satire to lampoon the ridiculous elements of our age.
This was the role of parables in Jesus’s age.

We have been taught to read parables poorly. They have been neutered, sanitized, and de-fanged.

Many of us were taught to read parables as:

  1. Aesop’s Fables
  2. Proverbs
  3. Allegory

Parables are none of those things.

Parables are small stories about birds and farmers, widows and foreigners designed to come in underneath the listener’s radar to that their defenses are down … and then once in, to interrogate assumptions and undermine (subvert) the status quo.

Both Mad and Jesus’s parables utilized irony, skepticism, exaggeration, and satire to poke holes in the hypocritical and unjust elements of the establishment.

Mad’s legacy has now passed to TV shows like the Simpsons, South Park, the Daily Show, and even Saturday Night Live.

Here are two great articles about the end of Mad Magazine (one in the LA Times and one in the NY Times) .

Watch this video and let me know what you think.

A Global Table

One of my favorite aspects of being part of the Methodists is the global communion. Tomorrow happens to be global communion Sunday and I can not wait to preach and then invite people to the table.

My angle tomorrow is going to pair two sets of three:

The first level is directional. After Pentecost, the church spread in at least 3 directions:

  • south to Africa
  • east to Asia
  • west to Europe.

The second level is historic. Coming to the communion table:

  • Reaches back through time to connect us with the saints of the past
  • Wraps around the globe to connect us to our global sisters & brothers
  • Propels us into the future of serving the world that god loves so much

Here is a little video I made to promote this Sunday.

I have been thinking about sacraments lately as I transfer my ordination from a non-sacramental denomination (ordinances) to a sacramental one.

Sacraments are enacted symbols. In this way, they are both signs that point to a greater reality and they are performed signifiers that can never fully reveal or contain the antecedent they are attempting to signify.

Sacraments are both significant artifacts of the church and they are gifts and graces (charis) that both form and inform our faith and practice.

In this sense sacraments and corporate worship are a parable of the kin-dom. Jesus used parables (not earthly stories with heavenly meanings but earthy stories with heavy meanings) to slide underneath the listener’s defenses in order to interrogate the ‘way things are’ to subvert the unjust status quo and turn upside-down / inside-out the listener’s presumptions about the way things are and the way that God wants them.

This is the prophetic ministry of the church – to imagine the world a different way and to image what that looks like to the world around us.

I’m really looking forward to preaching this tomorrow.

Glee's greatest gift

I know that some people are excited about watching a football game today.  I, alas, am not. My beloved Chicago Bears were eliminated by their dastardly rivals and I have been left with no team to cheer for.

But don’t cry for me – I have something to look forward to on TV tonight that warms me deep down in southern California when I am chilled thinking about my friends who are freezing in the NorthEast and on the Canadian Prairies:  The return of Glee!

I love Glee.   I will freely admit it in the face of scorn and disdain Continue reading “Glee's greatest gift”

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