The Gospel of Luke

abraham_and_lazarus

In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.

Luke 16:24

Ruth said,
“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.

Ruth 1:16

In both Judges and Luke, a Messenger of the Lord appears to a couple, promising a son. In both cases strong drink is specifically prohibited. In both cases Israel will be moved by the promised boy. Both are the beginning of deliverance

And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Although you are barren, having borne no children, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, or to eat anything unclean, for you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor is to come on his head, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”

Judges 13:3-5

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But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.

Luke 1:13-16

But quickly after this familiar Jewish scene is something far rarer in the Hebrew Bible. A direct conversation, with quoted words, between two women not about a man.

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’

Luke 1:39-45

Men are often foolish in Luke. Herod, who murdered John the Baptist, wants to see Jesus because he thinks he may be John the Baptist, risen from the dead!

samuel and saul

Now Herod the ruler heard about all that had taken place, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the ancient prophets had arisen. Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he tried to see him.
Luke 9:7-9

and later Herod has such an emotional journey on the day of the Crucifixion that one is reminded of poor king Saul, whose demons destroyed his life and his mind

When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer.  The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.
Luke 20:8-12

Women, and what they observe, are a theme. The Lord’s conversation with Mary and Martha hints at something to come..

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;  there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42

And these themes, wisdom, observing reality, are repeated. The Gospel of Luke is explicitly in the Wisdom tradition of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, but without the reassuring calmness of Proverbs

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Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary.
Luke 11:49-51

Luke disturbs the reader, introducing sarcasm not seen in the Bible since Job or Ecclesiastes

But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?

Job 12:7-9 (on the death of his family)

All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knows whether the human spirit goes upwards and the spirit of animals goes downwards to the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work, for that is their lot; who can bring them to see what will be after them?

Ecclesiastes 3:20-22

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’

Luke 13:31-33

While it is men who murder, it is women who watch. Women have the gift of realizing a murder is a murder, no matter who is being murdered. The camera pans back — Christ, the soldier, the crowd, the acquaintances, the women —- the witnesses of murders

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Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things

Luke 23:45-49

The closest parallel to this in the Bible — of woman seeing the thing, clearly, is Sarah at her Annunciation, when she spoke to the LORD

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Genesis 18:9-14

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But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

Genesis 18:15

The traditional view of this scene is negative for Sarah, the doubter, who laughed. But the ridiculous is ridiculous, no matter the speaker. Just as a murder is a murder, no matter the victim. The LORD is fully present in the world, really and truly was at supper with Abraham and Sarah. Sarah, like Mary, actually listened to the LORD, and engaged the LORD, and reacted to the human God as the most treasured guest one could have.

The same pattern, with the same wry humor from the LORD, was repeated shortly before His crucifixion. But unlike women, the men do not engage enough to understand what is ridiculous. Given a command to trade cloth for swords, they immediately begin counting the swords in the house, as if the goal was Herod’s head. “Enough,” indeed.

He said to them, “But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”

He replied, “It is enough.”

Luke 22:35-38

Joseph must have felt similar feelings of love and irritation when he sat down for dinner with his brothers.

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The annunciation to Sarah, of course, occurred at a meal

Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

Genesis 18:7-8

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Immediately after the resurrection, the Lord appears to two men, revealing his identity as food is handed out.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.

Luke 24:28-31

Even in the parables, in visiosn of heaven, we see flesh and blood — Abraham and Lazarus — proof that this creation, through Christ, may live forever.

And that is the world of the Gospel of Luke. Earth. A Creator who became a Creature.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke don’t contradict each other, but they emphasize different thing.

In Matthew, primarily, Jesus is Legislator, King of Israel, and Prophet — the Son of Man
In Mark, primarily, Jesus is God of All.
In Luke, primarily, Jesus’s lives in the world of sarcasm, women, and food.

The Legislator…
The King…
The Prophet…
The One True God…

Is a creature,
Is a human,
Is a man.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.

Genesis 2:18

Impressions of “Kitten Clone,” by Douglas Coupland

Kitten-Clone by Douglas Coupland

Depending on your age and interests, you may know Douglas Coupland for

popularizing the term “Generation X” (1991)
his detailed, and thinly fictionalized, novel of Microsoft two decades ago (1996)
his detailed, and thinly fictionalized, novel of EA Sports Vancouver last decade (2007)
His gallery show, Everywhere is Anywhere is Anything is Everything

Kitten Clone combines Generation X’s feeling of being alive after the major events happened, Microsofters & jPod tech sensibility, and Everything’s pop sensibility.

“Kitten Clone” is also interesting, because it completes the histories of Bell Lab’s I’ve written.

Crystal Fire, which I reviewed in 2009, took place in an era where Bell Labs was a scientiifc powerhouse
Life in the Crown Jewel, which I also reviewed in 2009, the first-person account of a corporate official who helped implement many disasterous reforms
and Optical Illusions, which I reviewed in 2010, about the acquisition by the French

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But the wheel keeps turning. Alcatel-Lucent, the purchaser of Bell Labs, has been purchased by Nokia for $16 billion.

And this knowledge, that Kitten Clone is a snapshot of life after Bell Lab’s greatest but not in the after-after Nokia era, is what makes the book moving.

Oddly, near the end, are two paragraphs that relate strongly to Pope Francis’s Laudato Si. Coupland has a gift of writing about right now, whether right now has just happened or is just about to happen:

After leaving Chen’s office, I experienced time sickness as though I really have wormholed into the future. A few hours later, I’m at a dinner in a glass tower above the Bund [in Shanghai], a trillion dollars worth of real estate and LED lighting that blows Tokyo into the weeds. The steaks are from Argentina and cost $100 apiece. There are thirty different kinds of single-malt scotch. The restaurant’s air is cool and fragrant, but the air outside the window is boiling and muggy and has that slightly damaged feeling, like when you see a big car with a large dent in it that makes you wince and say, “Ow.”

“As I sip my drink, I look out the windows toward the power plants that are burning the coal from British Columbia that fuels the air conditioners and elevators and routers and switching devices and laptops and mainframes and hard drives and cell rechargers of Shanghai. The sky is chalked white from particulates, but the glowing skyscraper walls make the sky look like pink water milk.

kitten clone true by coupland

Kitten Clone is high detailed, impressionist, echoing with nostalgia, echoing with the future, echoing with the now.