Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 412 146, Hosea 7:8-16, Acts 23:12-24, Luke 7:1-17
One hallmark of a good storyteller is knowing the best times to begin and end the story. Start too soon and people tune out; start too late and the setup may confuse them. Ending at the right time leaves the reader satisfied, yet longing for more; ending later than needed dilutes the impact of the story. The author of Luke, who many scholars agree is also the author of Acts, certainly knows how to keep a story moving.
In Capernaum, Jesus encounters a Roman centurion whose beloved slave is ill. Jesus is amazed by the faith of the centurion, who needs no more reassurance than Jesus’s word that the man will be healed, and so he is. A little later in the town of Nain, Jesus feels compassion for a widow who is preparing to bury her only son. Jesus raises the young man back to life.
In Jerusalem, Paul’s nephew overhears a plot involving more than forty men who have sworn to neither eat nor drink until they have ambushed and killed Paul, who is currently in the custody of the Roman tribune. The tribune, who wishes to protect Paul because he is a Roman citizen, organizes hundreds of men to usher Paul safely to Caesarea.
These stories offer lots of action, and leave us wondering: “What next?”
Who was this slave, that he was so important to the centurion? How did the neighbors feel about living next door to the widow and her formerly dead son? When did those forty conspirators decide it was time to eat again?
We could shrug these questions off as unanswerable, but our speculation could teach us a lot about ourselves. They might reveal whether we are optimists or pessimists. Or whether we really think people can change. Maybe they could help us explore what we believe about how and when the divine intersects with the ordinary.
Biblical stories, like all great stories, are about more than the events described. If we open the gift of our imagination, they tell us – and help us discover for ourselves – deeper truths of the human condition.
Comfort: A good story lasts long after it ends.
Challenge: Pick one of today’s stories, or other stories from the Bible which have unanswered questions, and discuss the possible outcomes with friends.
Prayer: God of infinite imagination, teach me to see the deep truths of your amazing world. Amen.
Discussion: Is there a story – Biblical or otherwise – that leaves you wondering what happens next?
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