Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom
Second Sunday after Trinity
7.36-8.3: "A New Family "
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Do you have friends who are as important to you as members of your own family? How did those relationships develop and become so vital?
Amongst which groups of people (friends, neighbours, social clubs, church congregation, work colleagues, etc) do you feel most at ease? What is it that makes those groupings so good for you?
A Window on the Text
Luke paints some vivid pictures as he tells the stories of Jesus’ life. This week the setting is a dinner party, last week it was a funeral. In each, the focus is on what Jesus does: miracles of healing, forgiveness and even restoring the dead to life. However, also hidden in the fine detail are clues to the nature of society at that time, and to the ‘kingdom’ that Jesus was proclaiming.
Here, Jesus is a guest at a somewhat fraught dinner party. There are signs that his host, Simon the Pharisee, is uncertain how to treat him. He might have welcomed him with a kiss on the cheek if he had seen Jesus as his equal or, if he saw Jesus as his superior, he should have bowed at his feet. He does neither. It would have been customary for Simon’s servants to wash the guest’s feet while the aperitifs were being served. They might also have offered the guest scented oil (deodorant – in our terminology) or even a clean robe. None of these things were done.
In contrast, the woman who had “lived a sinful life” knows her place on the social scale only too well. She kneels at Jesus’ feet, washes them with her tears, and anoints them with expensive perfume.
These details provide a picture of a highly stratified society, governed by rigid rules and patterns of behaviour, all of which defined individual status and power. In so doing it excluded those less able to conform - in this case, the woman unable to shake off her past and the debtors; in last week’s reading, the widow with no male family members to look after her.
The last three verses (8.1-3) give a glimpse of the radical alternative society that Jesus proclaimed. Male disciples are travelling together with ‘unattached’ females, women whom Jesus had healed and drawn into his community - to which they were now making a contribution; all are welcome, all accepted for who they are, all playing a part.
Responding as a community
- In what ways does your group exhibit the radical open hospitality that Jesus expects of his disciple community?
- Are there subtle, perhaps hidden, ways in which your group, like that of Simon the Pharisee, might be a little less welcoming than you think it is?
- How might you react if someone, with a well known ‘troubled past’, wanted to join the group?
- Give thanks for the individuals and groups of people who make you welcome, accept you as you are, and enable you to be a part of their company.
- Pray for the life of your group and/or church and reflect in silence on the insights that have been revealed in the earlier discussion. Give thanks for the group and commit yourselves to being a radically open community.
- Bless each other with the words of The Grace.
- The ‘highly stratified society’ referred to above, and the rigid rules and patterns of behaviour, which defined individual status and power, were not unlike the Class structures of English society little more than a century ago - relics of which survive in suble ways today.