Paul was in Rome, the epicenter of empire, the magnet for people on the lam such as fugitive slaves. He was a “prisoner of Christ Jesus” not only because the Messiah had captured his heart but also because he had boldly proclaimed the grace and peace he had found. Somehow, through the Christian grapevine, Onesimus found Paul and sought shelter with him. Now Onesimus is going back to his owner.
In a story that is unique to Luke, Jesus heals a nameless woman by giving her the freedom to unbend and stand up straight after she has lived for years in crippling bondage. The woman has not asked to be healed. She simply finds herself in Jesus’ presence—and that leads to healing and life for her. This beautiful story, however, is not without conflict.
In this reading from Luke we confront stark and conflictual sayings of Jesus that sit poorly with contemporary images of God. Our culture seems to prize a God with an infinite capacity for empathy, a God who is “nice.” Luke challenges this thinking. He offers a glimpse of redemption for a world that is anything but nice—and that needs much more than a nice God to redeem it.
In 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain. For centuries they had been tolerated there, and their labor had helped to build a great country. But King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, anxious to establish their hold over a newly united Spain by means of the Catholic Church and the Inquisition, gave the Jews a stark choice: they must be baptized or flee.
Here in the rural upper Midwest, it seems every other person has a pole barn. Usually it’s full of old tires, a trailer, dozens of tools gathering rust, coffee cans loaded with lug nuts and screws. Ed and Edna’s place is pretty typical. Edna's cupboards, bureaus, garage, attic and spare bedroom have been crammed full of things that define her. (“Oh, you know Edna Furbelow,” says her neighbor, “she collected Hummels.”) Now that Edna has died and her husband’s pole barn has finally gotten emptied, everything must go.