Discerning God's purposes: approaches to preaching and living Luke-Acts.

Author:Pickett, Raymond

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the crowds: "I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." The narrator then remarks:

And all the people who heard this, including the tax collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John's baptism. But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God's purpose for themselves (7:28-30) This is one of several passages in Luke-Acts which signal that God is doing something new through the prophet from Nazareth, and yet it is emphasized throughout that his ministry of proclaiming and enacting the kingdom of God was foretold by and in continuity with Israel's Scriptures. Characters in Luke-Acts wittingly and unwittingly either align themselves with or reject the "purpose of God" disclosed in Scripture and in this narrative about Jesus and his earliest followers. Those who read or hear it are invited to discern for themselves how God is at work both in these "people who have been turning the world upside down," (Acts 17:6) and in the context of their own lives and world. This two-volume account of the mission of Jesus and the church prompts its audiences to look for the divine presence and purpose not at the periphery of society, but rather among the marginalized where the Spirit is always ever restoring life.

The contributions to this volume of Currents in Theology and Mission explore different ways of approaching Luke-Acts and, indeed, other biblical texts with a view to ascertaining how and where God is at work in the world, and how the Spirit might involve us. However, the articles are more interested in equipping and empowering others to interpret and discern for themselves than in providing definitive readings, In the first article Audrey West provides guidance about how to preach the parables in Luke. After surveying different approaches to the parables, she proposes a way of reading that considers the socio-cultural contexts of Jesus and the evangelists, and focuses on how Luke's narrative and theological emphases ate reflected in and carried out by the parables. West takes a closer look at the parable of the leaven in Luke 13:20-21 and the parable of the widow and the judge in Luke 18:1-8. She provocatively suggests that leaven represents a "contaminating" element fundamental to the reign of God in which outcasts are welcomed and the world's assumptions about...

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