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Sermon by the Rev. Dr. George Hermanson, "Feeding Our Spiritual Life."
This text comes at the end of a long section of teachings and parables that began way back in Luke 12:1, "Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered by the thousands, so that they began to trample on one another, he began to speak ..."
Unfortunately for us poor preachers, the authors of the Lectionary have once again given us a passage with two distinct and unrelated messages. (Don't be misled by the "Then" that begins Luke 3:6 - it is a simple marker of time, not of logical connection. The parable in Luke 3:6-9 is not meant to clarify or be a further teaching about Luke 3:1-5.) So we are faced with the daunting task of preparing two mini-sermons or of mostly ignoring the one-half of the reading that one-half of the congregation were wanting us to say more about! Good luck with that dilemma everyone.
I'm not sure why Luke places these two stories together, but a possible sermon link that I can see is that catastrophes such as those described in the first part of the lesson can often lead to the barrenness that is described in the second part. Experiencing something evil can lead to losing one's faith, one's heart, one's will to live.
When bad things happen to good people our way of making sense of the world can be shattered - emotionally, spiritually, physically - and also mentally.
Verse 1 and 4. These incidents are not reported outside of Luke according to my annotated Bible's footnotes. However, Pilate's slaughtering of others is recorded elsewhere - and ought to give us a foreshadowing of the blood that will be mingled with his sacrifice of a certain other Galilean, Jesus. And the collapse of a tower would not be unheard of.
These two incidents capture 2 of the 3 main causes of human pain and suffering: the deliberate actions of other people, and undeserved accidents. (The third cause is sickness and disease.)
Luke doesn't tell us why some of those present told Jesus about what Pilate had done to the Galileans. Perhaps it had just happened and this was the first time the news had reached those in the crowd? Perhaps - knowing that Jesus and his closest followers were Galileans - there was concern about family and friends? Perhaps there was wondering about how Jesus, as a Galilean, would respond to Pilate's actions?
What we do know is that in both cases Jesus responds to the unasked question, "Why me?" Why has this undeserved pain and death happened?
In both cases, Jesus would shock his audience by saying, "It did not happen to them because they deserved it. They did not die because they were worse sinners than those who lived."