LUKE: The Gospel For Rebels & Outsiders Week 3

A Gospel for the Lowly

Week of February 20

Story from the Outside:
By the time I was 15 I was heavily addicted to drugs, specifically methamphetamine and crack cocaine. I ended up getting pregnant. There really was no option other than getting an abortion. When I was 21 I had stopped using hard drugs but I replaced the drugs with alcohol. I just didn’t know how to get through the day without something to numb the pain. My alcohol use was at a level that there’s much of my life I don’t really remember clearly. I know I disappointed family and friends. I felt worthless.

I recently made the decision to get sober. I started attending a 12-step program and as I’m making my way through the steps I am slowly finding freedom from the prison of substance abuse. I’m beginning to feel like a new person physically, but I still feel damaged. I have made so many mistakes and hurt so many people. I feel like I’m doomed to a life marked by all these mistakes. I don’t feel like I can be of use to anyone. But, the other day when I was at a meeting someone said to me, “Do you see that person over there…they’re on Day One. You can help them. You know how to get to Day Two.” That simple moment showed me I can serve others and made me feel worthy. Maybe all the pain I’ve experienced, all my trials and tribulations, have made me into someone God can use for a greater purpose. I’m beginning to think maybe God doesn’t view me as a person full of sin. Maybe God actually views me as a person full of usefulness and love.

-- Susan

Reflection Questions:
  1. The author of our True Story this week shows us a snapshot of two sides of their person. The addict and the Christian. Addicts are often treated as outsiders, in society as a whole and by the Church in particular. Think back to a time you treated someone a particular way because you were only seeing one side of them. Name some ways you could have acted differently - ways that demonstrate God’s grace.
  2. The author reflects:  the other day when I was at a meeting someone said to me, “Do you see that person over there…they’re on Day One. You can help them. You know how to get to Day Two.”   Maybe the woman at the dinner, washing Jesus’ feet with her own tears and hair (in the passage below), was also on her “day one.” When have you or a loved one been the giver or receiver of this kind of grace and compassion?
  3. Have you ever experienced a situation when someone else recognized a skill or a unique perspective you have that could help others? Can you think of any struggles you’ve endured that allow you to be light and love to those who are treated as lowly or outsiders?

Opening Prayer:

Holy God, thank you for Susan’s story and for the ways you have used her to be love and light to others. Be with us as we continue to work on opening our hearts to those that are pushed to the outside. Guide our conversation so that our minds become more accepting and our hearts become more loving. Amen.

Read Aloud:
Luke 7:11-17
A little later Jesus went to a city called Nain. His disciples and a great crowd traveled with him. As he approached the city gate, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When he saw her, the Lord had compassion for her and said, “Don’t cry.” He stepped forward and touched the stretcher on which the dead man was being carried. Those carrying him stood still. Jesus said, “Young man, I say to you, get up.” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Awestruck, everyone praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding region.

Luke 7:36-50
One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with him. After he entered the Pharisee’s home, he took his place at the table. Meanwhile, a woman from the city, a sinner, discovered that Jesus was dining in the Pharisee’s house. She brought perfumed oil in a vase made of alabaster. Standing behind him at his feet and crying, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured the oil on them. When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw what was happening, he said to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. He would know that she is a sinner.

Jesus replied, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

“Teacher, speak,” he said.

“A certain lender had two debtors. One owed enough money to pay five hundred people for a day’s work. The other owed enough money for fifty. When they couldn’t pay, the lender forgave the debts of them both. Which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the largest debt canceled.”

Jesus said, “You have judged correctly.”

Jesus turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your home, you didn’t give me water for my feet, but she wet my feet with tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but she has poured perfumed oil on my feet. This is why I tell you that her many sins have been forgiven; so she has shown great love. The one who is forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Engaging Scripture:  
Let’s pause before we think about how this passage makes us feel or how it applies to our context. This section can help ground your group in talking about what is written and consider its impact on the original audience.

  1. In the first reading this week, Jesus sees a funeral procession upon approach to the city gates.  In that moment, He shows compassion, consoles extreme brokenness, and overcomes death.  Consider those actions.  How do they impact the people present? How does this story represent God's ultimate rescue plan for all of us?
  2. Starting at verse 36, Jesus uses the humble act of an unseen woman, clearly an outsider, to teach the room about love and forgiveness.  How do you think the different people present reacted to Jesus’ words and actions (the Pharisees, the woman, Simon)?
  3. In both readings this week, we see Jesus turning towards lowly people who were likely experiencing overwhelming waves of desperation and depression.  First, He turns to a grieving widow who lost her only son.  Culturally, that meant she had just lost her entire livelihood. Second, He turns to a woman described as a sinner.  Culturally, she was likely abused and treated horribly.  What are some of the tangible human ways Jesus offers care to these people?  How can we offer care to the outsiders in our own lives?

Application Questions:
  1. In the second passage we see Jesus first lead by example. He doesn't call Simon out for having a certain expectation. When have you experienced this kind of leadership in your life? What has the impact been?
  2. Jesus says:  “The one who is forgiven little loves little.”  What feelings does that bring up for you?  Has that been true for you in your own life? Where can you see examples of the connection between forgiveness and love?
  3. Which character(s) in the story do you most relate to and how/why? Consider:
    • Jesus, leading by example.
    • The woman, showing her love towards Jesus in the home of a leader, despite her label of being a sinner.
    • Simon, who starts the evening with certain opinions and (hopefully) has his eyes opened to a new way of acting towards those considered lowly.

Closing Prayer:  
Almighty God, your divine love knows no limits. You look upon us with compassion. In your presence our deepest needs are met. Thank you for your never-failing love and your extravagant grace. May our lives reflect your love and grace to the world. Help us to see others through your eyes so that we never miss the fullness of who they are. Amen.

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