Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 23

Track 1: Make the Voice of His Praise Be Heard

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
Psalm 66:1-11
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Luke 17:11-19

In today’s Gospel reading we have the healing miracle of the ten lepers:

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.

Jesus healed all the lepers, but one of them returned in joy to give thanks. Not only that, but he honored Jesus, recognizing him as the source of his healing:

Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Healing can be an instant miracle, even today, by the name of Jesus, Not all miracles are instantaneous. Through our illnesses, we can often better understand the love and care that God provides us.

The greater healing is being open to worship the Great Physician, the Great I AM. The psalmist wrote:

Come now and see the works of God,

how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.

He turned the sea into dry land,
so that they went through the water on foot,
and there we rejoiced in him.

In his might he rules for ever;
his eyes keep watch over the nations;
let no rebel rise up against him.

Bless our God, you peoples;
make the voice of his praise to be heard;

Who holds our souls in life,
and will not allow our feet to slip. (Psalm 66:1-8)a

We have much to be thankful for. Jesus has saved our souls on the cross. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful–
for he cannot deny himself.

Entering the kingdom of God is, perhaps, the greatest healing. His kingdom is a place of great joy. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.   (Romans 14:17)

How freely do we worship and thank God for all that he has sone? If we are going through difficult circumstances, are we able to offer God a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving? We are blessed when we do and God so loves our praise. The psalmist wrote:

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in you;
    I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.   (Psalm 9:1-2)

 

 

Track 2: Believing and Trusting

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
Psalm 111
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Luke 17:11-19

Most of us probably remember the account of Naaman of the Old Testament. He was the commander of the army of the king of Aram,   He was in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram.

Naaman, unfortunately, had leprosy.. A young girl captive from the land of Israel, who served Naaman’s wife said that there was prophet in Samaria who could cure him of his leprosy. Naaman told his king who said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.”  (2 Kings 5:5)

Reading from 2 Kings:

Naaman went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.   (2 Kings 5:6-10)

Naaman was not prepared for this response from Elisha. The prophet did not greet him properly, or acknowledge his highly esteemed position he enjoyed in his own country:

Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage.    (2 Kings 5:11-12)

Fortunately, the wisdom of his servants prevailed:

His servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, `Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.   (2 Kings 5:13-14)

Naaman almost lost his healing because he did not understand the greatness of God. God is our healer and not any human who may be used as an intermediary. Moreover. whatever standards which we expect God to accord us is immaterial. God has his own standards that we should meet. Do we tell God that “my rivers are better than yours?”

Proverbs warns:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but wisdom is with the humble.   (Proverbs 11:2)

When it comes to healing, we leave everything in the hands of God. He is sovereign. We need to listen carefully to him and obey his commandments and directions. The real healing is believing in and trusting God, regardless of our circumstances or expectations.

Jesus purchased our salvation and healing on a cruel cross. Surely we must understand that we also have a cross to bare? The Apostle Paul wrote:

The saying is sure:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he will also deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful–
for he cannot deny himself.   (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

We must simply believe, obey, and follow our Lord. There will be persecution for free disciples. We will have a cross to bear.But Jesus reminds us:

I have said this to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution, but take courage: I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:33)

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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 22

Track 1: The Songs of Zion

Lamentations 1:1-6
Lamentations 3:19-26
or Psalm 137
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

From Lamentations we read:

How lonely sits the city
that once was full of people!

How like a widow she has become,
she that was great among the nations!

She that was a princess among the provinces
has become a vassal.

She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;

among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her;

all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile with suffering
and hard servitude;

she lives now among the nations,
and finds no resting place;

her pursuers have all overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.   ()

Jerusalem had been captured. The remnants of Judah were now in exile in Babylon. The psalmist wrote about the what it was like living in exile:

By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept,
when we remembered you, O Zion.

As for our harps, we hung them up
on the trees in the midst of that land.

For those who led us away captive asked us for a song,
and our oppressors called for mirth:
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”

How shall we sing the Lord‘S song
upon an alien soil.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill.

Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,   (Psalm 137:1-6)

What is remarkable here is the question asked by the Babylonians captors:

For those who led us away captive asked us for a song,
and our oppressors called for mirth:
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”

The songs sung by the captives had touched them. The Babylonians heard something in the captives that they did not have. They wanted to hear more of the songs of Zion. Even though the captives felt oppressed, they were still able to sing with joy to the Lord.

Habakkuk, the prophet and poet wrote:

Though the fig tree does not blossom
    and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
    and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
    and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will exult in the God of my salvation.   (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Faith in God does not eliminate hardships and trials. Things will happen that are out of our control, but we must continue to give thanks for God’s faithfulness in our lives. Despite how we may feel or the circumstance that we find ourselves in, let us reflect upon how God has been faithful to us in the past, .

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; persevere in prayer.   (Romans 12:12)

It is God who gives us hope, especially when we rejoice in him. Circumstances change, but God does not. Let us not fear the circumstances.

The Apostle Peter wrote:

Even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you,   (1 Peter 3:14-15)

The message of a true disciple of Jesus is hope. The hope is fueled by an inner joy. God has given us a fountain of hope. Jesus said that we would have in our hearts: “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

Do we know this Jesus? Do we know the One who feeds our soul? If so, let us reveal him to others through our joy. Like the Babylonian captors, they are looking for something that they have missed. We have the answer for them.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.   (Romans 15:13)

 

 

Track 2: Living by Faith

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-10
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

For almost all of the Old Testament prophets, biographical  information is given about them. We learn about hometown, occupation, or information concerning their tribe. This is not true for the prophet Habakkuk, however. We are told that he is a prophet, but little else. Nonetheless, we can gain an understanding of him by what he has written. Let us look at Habakkuk’s complaint against God:

Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
    and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
    and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    strife and contention arise.   (Habakkuk 1:2-3)

Habakkuk was a prophet. He was also an intercessor for the nation, He was concerned about the injustice he was observing

.I will stand at my watchpost
    and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me
    and what he[a] will answer concerning my complaint.   (Habakkuk 2:1)

Habakkuk was an intercessor and watchman. He stood watch over Jerusalem and Judah. He waited to hear from God and did not lose hope:

Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
    make it plain on tablets,
    so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
    it speaks of the end and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
    it will surely come; it will not delay.
Look at the proud!
    Their spirit is not right in them,
    but the righteous live by their faithfulness.   (Habakkuk 2:2-4)

We may look for God to do something to correct injustice. But he has not moved in the time that we expected. Many of us are seeing great injustices today. Perhaps ew have become frustrated and angry by it all?

God’s time is not always our time. But this much is true, God’s timing is perfect. He has an appointed time for everything.

The psalmist wrote:

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;
do not be jealous of those who do wrong.

For they shall soon wither like the grass,
and like the green grass fade away.

Put your trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the Lord,
and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him,
and he will bring it to pass.   (Psalm 37:1-5)

God has given us a vision. It will come to pass. But God requires that we write it down, at least on our hearts. We should be in agreement with him. We should pray faithfully for it to manifest. In fact, we are to pray it into existence. By prayer we speak the future into existence. Our prayers are most effective when we pray using God’s words. That is a form of prophecy.

God tells Habakkuk and he tells us that the vision will come. When it comes we will rejoice. In the meantime we must live by faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hopefor, the conviction of things not seen.”   (Hebrews 11:1) How do we feel when our faith pays off?

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells a curious parable:

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was comffective manded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”   (Luke 17:7-10)

To understand this parable we must understand that the subject of the parable is the slave and not the owner of the slave. The slave gets no extra credit by merely doing his duty.

When we help pray something into existence, we cannot take the glory for it. To God belongs the glory. We have only done our duty. The righteous live by faith. Doubt and fear belong to those who do not know who God is. He is the God who is is always faithful.

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Saint Michael and All Angels

Spiritual Warfare

We are in a battle on this earth. The battle has been ongoing for a long time but it did not begin here. The battle began in heaven:

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.   (Revelation 12:7-9)

We are in an epic battle and we must understand who our real enemy is. The Apostle Paul writes:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.   (Ephesians 6:12-13)

We are fighting the forces of evil. Evil is real. We cannot defeat it by our own strength. Fortunately, we are not in this battle alone. God is with us. His holy angels are on our side. The archangel Michael and his angels are still fighting for us. Today, we honor Michael and all the holy angels.

Yet, it is important for us to understand that we do not worship angles but the One true God who has made us all. Again, the Apostle Paul writes:

Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking,   (Colossians 2:18)

Angels are not to be worshipped. They are to be honored. Let us show our appreciation for the warring angels through our prayers. The psalmist wrote:

The Lord has set his throne in heaven,
and his kingship has dominion over all.

Bless the Lord, you angels of his,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
and hearken to the voice of his word.

Bless the Lord, all you his hosts,
you ministers of his who do his will.   (Psalm 103:19-21)

We can give thanks to God for our guardian angels, but we should not pray to them, or to anyone else, but God alone.

The holy angels are fighting against evil and we must also fight evil. We have two primary weapons to do so. In Revelation we read:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming,

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Messiah,

for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God.

But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,

for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.   (Revelation 12:10-12)

We have the blood of Jesus which covers our sins. This gives us access to the throne of God.  Through faith in the blood of Jesus we appropriate the righteousness of God in Christ. Thus we have authority over the devil. That is important to understand because prayer is our primary weapon against evil. We can bind evil with our prayers because we have authority over evil by the blood of the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ. Our faith must be complimented by our testimony, however, if our prayer is to be effective.

If we claim the blood of Jesus then we must boldly tell others. There is often a price to pay for doing so. We cannot cling to the things of this world. We may even have to face death, as in many parts of the world today, by proclaiming our faith.

We are in a battle. The same battle as the angels. It is a spiritual battle. Our weapon is prayer. But let us not forget that the power 0f our prayer is dependent upon holy living. The Book of James states:

Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.   (James 5:16)

We may also have to wage a war within ourselves. Paul wrote:

Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.   (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

But praise be to God we are not alone. God is with us. And his warring are on our side. Let us be bold as the Archangel Michael and not shrink back from the face of evil in this world. Amen.

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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 21

Track 1: A Future with Hope

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

The Prophet Jeremiah was experiencing turbulent times:

At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him.   (Jeremiah 32:2-3)

The future did not look bright. Jerusalem would be destroyed and a remnant would be carried off to captivity in Babylon. How could anyone be optimistic about the future of Judah? But  God spoke to Jeremiah:

Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.   (Jeremiah 32:6-8)

Jeremiah went to great length to protect his purchase:

I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.   (Jeremiah 32:11-15)

God told Jeremiah that, even though he was seeing destruction all around him, he would have a future. Jerusalem would have a future. God was going to protect Jeremiah through all of it. The psalmist wrote:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall say to the Lord,
“You are my refuge and my stronghold,
my God in whom I put my trust.”

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,
nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness,
nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

Because he is bound to me in love,
therefore will I deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
I am with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

With long life will I satisfy him,
and show him my salvation.   (:1-2,5-6, 14-16)

When we are bound to God in love, He will protect us from all harm. God is our shelter, He is our refuge and stronghold, in whom I put my trust.

Times are difficult now for many of us. But our future is bright when we put our trust in him

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.   (Jeremiah 29:11-12)

 

 

Track 2: The Rich Man and Lazarus

Amos 6:1a,4-7
Psalm 146
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

God spoke through the Prophet Amos:

Alas for those who are at ease in Zion,
and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria.

Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,
and lounge on their couches,

and eat lambs from the flock,
and calves from the stall;

who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,
and like David improvise on instruments of music;

who drink wine from bowls,
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!   (Amos 6:1,4-6)

It was not just that certain people were rich. They did not care about the welfare of others, Jesus told a parable to illustrate this point:

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’   (Luke 16:19-26)

The rich man did not care about Lazarus. He did nothing to help him, although he was well aware of this poor man’s condition. The price the rich man paid was very high. He was now in Hades. He called out for some relief from his suffering. No relief was possible. So be began to think of others:

He said, `Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house– for I have five brothers– that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, `No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”   (Luke 16:27-31)

When Jesus rose from the dead, did all Jerusalem repent? No. The minds and hearts of the people had been so warped by false teaching. False piety. Even when there was hope that things could improve for their great benefit, they were stuck in a world that the rulers said was better. They lied and they knew they lied, but they did not want to lose control. The psalmist wrote:

Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,
for there is no help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to earth,
and in that day their thoughts perish.

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!
whose hope is in the Lord their God;

Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,
and food to those who hunger.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;

The Lord loves the righteous;
the Lord cares for the stranger;
he sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.   (Psalm 146:4-8)

Which of the two worlds do we want to believe in? Which of the two worlds do we want to live in? One is very controlled, but oppressive. We must create our own happiness in some way, even when what we do has little thought about the feelings and needs of others.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:

Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.   (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

Then there is the other world, a happy one. Again: “Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”

We have a Savior who died, but who rose from the dead and made all things new. Do we believe in this world? Do we want to live in this world? In this world we feel the love of God so strongly that we want to share his love with everyone

Of course, the enemies of Christ want to drag us back into their dark world. One of the primary ways is through financial wealth. Wealth is not necessarily bad. It may come on its own. Paul writes Timothy?

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.   (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

If we are missing something in our hearts, Go0d will fill them with his love and presence. We do not need to seek anything but him. Nothing else will ever satisfy us except him. All we need to do is turn to him.

When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.   (Jeremiah 29:13)

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