John Elliott Lein

Writer, Artist, Designer and Theology Nerd


Turn it Up to 11: Luke’s Jesus and Satanic Evil

SermonJ. Elliott Lein

As I prepared for my very first sermon at my very first parish this week, you can imagine my delight when I read that this Gospel lesson “has been found notoriously difficult to interpret.” Just what you like to hear folks with PhDs in New Testament studies say, right?

But let’s put that on pause for a moment and get our bearings. For some this may be tedious review of the obvious, for others the boundary markers themselves may be foreign, so let’s see if we can get roughly synced up together.

First: What year is it? Yes, it is 2019; yes for some it’s the Year of the Pig; but I’m looking for where we are in our storytelling, in our lectionary...Yes, it’s Year C. And that means...right, we’re reading the Gospel of Luke.

What does that matter? Well, that means we’re following along with Luke’s Jesus. Now, we don’t actually know who wrote this text, but we do know that their portrait of Jesus is unique, as each Gospeler’s is unique. Oversimplifying and exaggerating dramatically, here’s a quick sketch of each of the four so that we can see Luke’s contribution more clearly:

Girard's Decalogue (Sermon)

SermonJ. Elliott LeinComment

“Thou shalt not!”

Negative commands aren’t our favorite things these days. This list of ten is more stereotypically Fundamentalist than Episcopalian, isn’t it?

I should know, since I was raised Fundamentalist in Arkansas. In a little town where a building owner put up an enormous “10 Commandments” banner right across from my office window a few years ago. In the same state where a monument to them was mounted at the courthouse this year. (It was also run over immediately afterward and I can’t deny I cheered.) After all, Jesus didn’t seem to be about this negative talk, and the strident call to remember these Commandments is often associated with oppression of the marginalized in our country.

And yet...

When we read this passage in our Sunday lectionary it may not be immediately obvious how central it is in Scripture. If you were to ask a Jewish person what the center of their faith is, they’d tell you it’s the Exodus from Egypt, deliverance from oppression.