Tag Archives: Discussion

Discussion Question Over Appetizers

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor….
Isaiah 61:1-2a (NIV)

I love “If” questions and discussion starters. For years our family used them around the table to kick-start dinner conversations…

  • If you could have dinner with three people from history, who would you choose?
  • If you were only allowed one song to sing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  • If you had the power to eliminate one illness from the world, which would you eliminate?

I love “If” questions because the answers can vary so greatly from person to person, and those answers allow you to learn new things about even the closest of friends and relatives.

Having journeyed through God’s Message for many years, it is impossible to read today’s chapter and not connect it immediately to Jesus. Because the record of Jesus’ teaching indicates that He chose this passage for His inaugural sermon in His own home synagogue:

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-20 (NIV)

So, Jesus,” I imagine myself saying to the young carpenter from Nazareth as we sit at the table with a glass of wine and an appetizer of freshly made pita bread and hummus. “If you could choose one passage from all of scripture to epitomize your life, what would you choose?”

I don’t have to wonder what He would say, because I know of all the passages He could have chosen for that message in the Nazareth Synagogue, Jesus chose this passage from Isaiah. This was His mission statement. This was His stake in the ground. He didn’t state it as a desire, or a hope, or a goal. He declared it an indisputable fact. Jesus starts His message with Isaiah’s prophetic, messianic proclamation and then begins His sermon with: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 

Many people think of Jesus as a nice teacher who was eventually deified by His followers. Others think of Jesus as a kind of confused mystic who said a lot of amazing things, but might have been a little deluded. I don’t find anything confused in Jesus first recorded sermon. It was a shot across the spiritual bow. It was declarative. So much so, in fact, that it created a violent reaction among His neighbors:

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.

This morning I’m reminded that Jesus didn’t stumble onto the scene. Jesus didn’t just happen to be at the right place and the right time so as to fall into this teaching gig. Jesus came wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger because, from the beginning, there was a purpose. It was there when Simeon broke into song at Jesus consecration. It was there when Jesus was twelve years old and confounded the elders of Israel with His words. Good news to the poor, healing for the broken, sight to the blind, freedom to the enslaved, this was the mission from day 1.

So, Tom,” Jesus says to me over morning coffee in my office. “If you had one passage from all of God’s Message to epitomize your life, what would you choose?”

chapter a day banner 2015

Top Five Beauties

We have a long standing family dinner tradition at our house. There is a book the girls gave me when they were young called “If…”. It is a book of discussion starters that all begin with an “If.” Last night we gathered to celebrate Suzanna’s 19th birthday (Is she really 19? I thought it was just 18. Where does the times go?) and Suzanna wanted to do “If…” questions.

One of the questions that came up at the table was if you had to choose the most beautiful person in history, who would it be? That’s a tough question because we don’t tend to know a lot about historic beauties other than from artist’s depictions and then the person’s beauty is highly dependent on the quality of the artist. Then there is the subjective definition of beauty. We immediately think of physical beauty, but if we’re talking about spiritual beauty then the likes of Mother Theresa are going to the top of the list. Such are the interesting discussions that the “If…” book raises around a dinner table.

So, here are my Top Five beauties, which has more to do with what I find beautiful than any kind of objective standard of beauty. Four of these came up at the table last night, and I can’t argue with any of them though they are all relatively recent as history goes. They are also all women. There were male names that were bandied about at the table, but this is my list and as beauty goes, there is not a man that can get anywhere near the Top Five, perhaps the Top 100.

(in alphabetical order)

 Laetitia CastaLaetitia Casta

Audrey_Hepburn_1956

Audrey Hebpurn

Elizabeth HurleyElizabeth Hurley

sophia lorenSophia Loren

Grace_Kelly_1956Grace Kelly

 

Jesus, the Meta Communicator

Source: sepblog via Flickr
Source: sepblog via Flickr

One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. “Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,” they said. “Who gave you this authority?”

He replied, “I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
Luke 20:1-4 (NIV)

One of our friends is a marriage and family therapist and over the years he’s commented on multiple occasions about the fact that Wendy and I meta communicate better than any couple he’s ever counseled. In other words, we communicate about how we’re communicating. Wendy and I don’t find this to be strange at all. We were both communication majors in college and theatre people by passion. We think about how things are being communicated all the time.

One of the things I love about Jesus is that He was a brilliant communicator. In today’s chapter, we find Jesus in Jerusalem the week before His execution and resurrection. He spends His days teaching in and around the Temple and He has stirred up a hornets nest of socio-political conflict. The crowds love Him. The religious leaders who control the Temple racket want Jesus rubbed out, but are afraid of His popularity and the potential political backlash if they move too quickly against Him. In an effort to publicly discredit Him and tarnish His popularity in the polls, the religious leaders send several waves of spies to try and trip Jesus up and provide them the ammunition to discredit the young rabbi.

But, Jesus (who had once claimed “I am the Word”) is a brilliant meta communicator. He sees through the questions coming at Him and immediately recognizes who is behind the question and what they are trying to do. So, Jesus applied a series of defensive communication strategies. First, He refuses to answer a direct question with a direct answer. Instead, Jesus responds to a question with a question and catches the chief priests in their own trap.

Wendy and I have noticed in recent years that our society and culture have slowly lost the art and ability to have honest, sincere conversations with people of differing opinions in an effort to explore ideas and opinions. The more polarized we become politically, socially and spiritually, the more our we find conversations are actually interrogations:

  • “Do you think homosexuals are going to hell?”
  • “Do you believe the Bible is the inerrant and infallible word of God?”
  • “Don’t you believe a woman should have a right to do what she wants with her body?”
  • “Are you a Democrat or a Republican?”
  • “If a woman eight months pregnant is murdered, is it one homicide or two?”
  • “Do you really think a hunter needs an uzi?”

In my experience, questions like these are not typically asked with the honest intention to openly explore issues of life and society with another person, but instead are asked to trap the respondent into a corner from which the interrogator can easily label him or her. “Oh, well she’s obviously a [conservative, liberal, religious nut job, whacko, gun nut, feminist, misogynist, Republican, Democrat, homosexual, homophobe, and etc.]”. Once labeled, we find it easier to dismiss other people and their thoughts, words, beliefs, opinions, and person.

Today, I’m thankful Wendy and I enjoy a diverse group of family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances who represent a broad spectrum of thoughts, experiences, ideas and opinions. I’m grateful for those who show me love and respect despite their differences with me, and I want to follow Jesus’ command to tangibly love my enemies (which includes perceived enemies of thought, opinion, beliefs and politics).