Monthly Archives: July 2022

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 13

Track 1: When Israel Was a Child I Loved Him

Hosea 11:1-11
Psalm 107:1-9, 43
Colossians 3:1-11
Luke 12:13-21

Do ew see God as a loving father? Israel did not always do so. Reading from Hosea:

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.

The more I called them,
the more they went from me;

they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.

I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love.

I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down to them and fed them.   (Hosea 11:1-4)

Those of us who are parents can surely understand the hurt a parent must feel when children seem to reject the love shown them. God had done so much for Israel. How could they forget?

The psalmist wrote:

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy
and the wonders he does for his children.

For he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.

Whoever is wise will ponder these things,
and consider well the mercies of the Lord.   (Psalm 107:8-9,43)

Israel got distracted by the things of this world. They wanted a king like their neighboring countries. They wanted the excitement of worshiping foreign gods. They wanted to build a kingdom nation that suited their needs and desires – a nation that they could make secure so they could ignore what God’s prophets were saying.

How about us. Is God our loving Father? Do we remember how God has cared for us and provided for us? Are have we got into some of the distractions of the Israelites? The exciting of big league sports over church worship services. Maybe we have taken credit for some of God’s blessings?

Have we noticed that there can be an attitude about blessings? God has blessed us, but what has he done for us lately? The enemy has a way of testing our faith. Almost everything that we are currently going through in this country is a test. This is true for nearly all the of the nations of world, many who are going through more serious tests than we are.

Is God our provider” Is he our loving father? Maybe we should read the prophets of old, and perhaps a few of the newer ones who still listen to the voice of God.

Perhaps it is time for us to ignore the concerns and distractions of today’s society. The Apostle Paul wrote:

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.   (Colossians 3:1-4)

 

 

Track 2: Rich toward God

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23
Psalm 49:1-11
Colossians 3:1-11
Luke 12:13-21

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells the parable of the foolish rich man:

“The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, `What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, `I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, `Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”   (Luke 12:16-19)

How many of us have dreamed of winning the lottery? Perhaps we have speculated how we might spend the money. But the main benefit for us might be that we would not have to work so hard. Our motto could easily become: “relax, eat, drink, be merry”

But thee is another element to being super rich. The psalmist tells us:

The wickedness of those who put their trust in their goods,
and boast of their great riches?

We can never ransom ourselves,
or deliver to God the price of our life;

For the ransom of our life is so great,
that we should never have enough to pay it,

In order to live for ever and ever,
and never see the grave.

For we see that the wise die also;
like the dull and stupid they perish
and leave their wealth to those who come after them.   (Psalm 49:5-9)

Our riches can become our gods. When we have all the money we need to live in this world we might believe that there is less reason to trust in God for our provisions. Not only that, we might be insulated from not keeping God’s commandments.

We might be set for this world, so to speak. But what about the next world? Jesus ended the parable this way:

But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”   (Luke 12:20-21)

Are we rich toward God? If not, then we are the poorest of all. We God’s true blessings in this life. And we will miss eternal life with God that the Lord Jesus Christ so graciously purchased for us on a cruel cross.

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Saint James, Apostle

Guido_Reni_-_Saint_James_the_Greater_-_Google_Art_ProjectAble to Drink the Cup

Today we look at one of the “Sons of Thunder.” He was quite ambiguous, or was it his mother?

The mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”  (Matthew 20:20-23)

James and John were among the first disciples called by Jesus. They were with their father Zebedee by the seashore when Jesus called them and they immediately followed Him. Along with Peter they were chosen by Jesus to bear witness to his Transfiguration. Thus, they were significant to Jesus’ ministry.

Their mother thought they were significant enough to request a special place for them in Jesus’ kingdom, but she did not understand what this might mean. James was chosen for greatness in ways his mother did not expect, nor did James.

What was the cup to which Jesus referred in answering the mother? It was the cup that Jesus understood too well. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed this prayer:

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26:39)

James, indeed, drank the cup that Jesus drank. James is traditionally believed to be the first of the twelve apostles who was martyred for the faith. We read about it in the Book of Acts:

Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread.  (Acts 12:1-3)

The Festival of Unleavened Bread was the Jewish Passover. Jesus has become the Passover for those who believe in Him. Because James was faithful in preaching the Passover of Christ he was privileged to join his Lord in laying down his life for the Church. James went from being a big-shot to a hero of the faith by following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Where would the Christian Church be today without the faith and testimonies of the martyrs? If the Early Church were preaching today’s “Gospel” message the Church would probably not even exist. So many today are seeking a higher place and a greater prosperity for themselves. Such seeking only causes envy and division within the Church. Jesus attempted to put a stop to it with His disciples:

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:24-28)

Having just celebrated Mary Magdalene as a true servant leader of God, we now celebrate James, the first apostle martyred for the sake of the Gospel. He was able to drink the cup. Let us pray for the grace and courage that more Church servant leaders will step forward in our day. Perhaps we may be included among them.

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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 12

Track 1: Playing the Harlot

Hosea 1:2-10
Psalm 85
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Luke 11:1-13

God commands Hosea to marry a “wife of whoredom [zenunim],” . This Hebrew term indicates illicit sexual behavior. Reading from Hosea:

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.   (Hosea 1:2-3)

This is the first of a series of expressions in Hosea where God puts himself in the place of a forsaken human lover. Israel had forsaken God by worshipping the false gods of their neighboring nations. Baal worship was one of them whereby the Israelites had to sacrifice their children for a prosperous harvest.

In our nation we may not actually worship Baal, though it has been reported that some of  our leaders do. Unwittingly, we may have been worshipping Baal by the horrendous number of abortions committed each year.

But let us discuss another from of worship. Do we get excited about big league sports and popular celebrities and entertainment that our church services? These are not necessarily bad, but can be major distractions. Who is in control of some these events? It should be easy to tell by some of the Super Bowl halftime shows. Then there is the ideology of some of the big time players of sports which is certainly not Godly or even patriotic.Are they being paid  to speak this nonsense?

How exiting and uplifting are our church services? Possibly not so much if God is locked out of our buttoned downed worship. God wants real worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well:

The hour is coming and is now here when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.   (John 4:23-24)

The psalmist wrote:

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I will sing your praise.

I will bow down toward your holy temple
and praise your Name,
because of your love and faithfulness;

For you have glorified your Name
and your word above all things.   (Psalm 85:1-3)

Are we being seduced by “lovers” other than God and his Son Jesus Christ? Through Hosea God had to tell Israel:

You are not my people and I am not your God.   (Hosea 1:10)

The psalmist wrote:

Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord,
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.   (Psalm 33:12)

God is now speaking to our nation, as he is to every nation around the world. We use to be the moral compass for the world. Is the world now becoming our moral compass. We are living in an extended time for repentance and God is waiting on us. Hr wants to bless us. God we want to bless him? The psalmist wrote:

Will you not give us life again,
that your people may rejoice in you?

Show us your mercy, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

I will listen to what the Lord God is saying,
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.

Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

Mercy and truth have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring up from the earth,
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

The Lord will indeed grant prosperity,
and our land will yield its increase.

Righteousness shall go before him,
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

 

Track 2: Abraham’s Intercession

Genesis 18:20-32
Psalm 138
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Luke 11:1-13

Abraham had a relationship with God the Father. He had access to him. He spoke to God face to face. He believed the promises of God more than the circumstances that he saw around him, not matter how unlikely they might seem to the human mind. He believed God’s Word and trusted that God would act upon his Word. God saw this in Abraham. He tested Abraham’s faith and Abraham passed all tests, no matter how severe they might be. Because of this, God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness.

In today’s Old Testament reading we see Abraham interceding for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God was prepared to destroy the cities because of their wickedness:

The Lord said to Abraham, “How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.”

So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham came near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.”   (Genesis 18:20-26)

There are many remarkable things about the prayers of Abraham. God listens to Abraham and takes into account what Abraham is saying. God allowed Abraham to reason with him, the Almighty God and creator of the universe and all like within it. What we view is a partnership of love and concern for all peoples, even exceptionally evil people.

Can we pray like Abraham? We should be able to do so. God calls us to such prayer. But we must have access to God. He must be able to look at us and see righteousness. In the Book of James ew read:

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.   (James 5:16)

Jesus is our access. He is our righteousness by faith:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.   (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Are we now ready to pray like Abraham? In order to pray like Abraham we must also see like Abraham. Abraham had compassion for the entire human race, even for citizens of Sodom and G. In other words, Abraham was able to look through the eyes of God. Each person has the potential to become like God. He did not want to interfere with that divine call of God. Rather, he wanted to intercede for that call.

Are we able to pray for the people we judge? Are we able to pray for our enemies? Jesus said:

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.   (Luke 6:28)

A true intercessor before God has no human enemies. The Apostle Paul wrote:

for our struggle is not against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.   (Ephesians 6:12)

Because of his faith, Abraham looked forward forward with optimism for the kingdom of God to be established:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance, and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.   (Hebrews 11:8-10)

We are in partnership with God. God needs prayers. We need his wisdom and direction. Let us follow the example of the Father of faith and pray for the lost. For in our day we see many Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s.

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Saint Mary Magdalene

First Witness to the Resurrection

The Gospel of Luke made it clear that the roles of women in the ministry of Jesus Christ were significant:

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.  (Luke 8:1-3)

When we think of Jesus’ disciples we may primarily be thinking of the twelve that Jesus personally chose to follow Him. They were not alone, however. They were supported by many faithful women of which Mary Magdalene was included. She was not only included, she was prominent. She was the courageous and faithful one. When Jesus’ disciples deserted Him at the cross she was there:

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  (John 19:25)

Jesus could have chosen any one of the twelve disciples to reveal Himself to after His resurrection. But he chose a woman – Mary Magdalene:

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.  (Mark 16:9-10)

Why did Jesus choose her? The testimonies of women were often considered unreliable. In fact, the disciples did not believer Mary’s testimony. Reading from Luke’s Gospel:

It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  (Luke 24:10-11)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ changed the order of things. Jesus attempted to explain this new order to His disciples before His crucifixion, but they had trouble understanding what He was telling them:

But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.  (Mark 9:34-35)

Mary Magdalene was a primary example of the servant leader who was faithful in her duties, following in the footsteps of her LORD. We remember her today as the resurrection’s first witness.

Will we follow the example of Mary Magdalene? Will be a servant of others? Will we boldly proclaim the resurrection in our day, no matter what others may say or think? And will we standby Jesus under difficult circumstances? We will when we put our whole trust in Jesus as did Mary Magdalene.

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