Category Archives: homily

Second Sunday of Advent

The Root of Jesse

Judah was in darkness. They had not heard from a prophet of God for four hundred years. They were no longer in control of their own government, having been conquered by Rome. Although Rome allowed them to have some freedom in practicing Judaism, they were heavily taxed by Rome. The Jewish people had little hope for the future.

The question is: Was there any hope for things to get better? Without hope, despair can take over. This is especially true for those who feel cutoff from God. The devout Jews knew that they were cutoff from God, because Judah had not kept the Mosaic Convent. They had not properly observed the Commandments of God, Although the Jewish religious leaders went through the motions to demonstrate that Judaism was still surviving, the devout Jews knew it was essentially dead.

Suddenly, things changed for Judah. Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet wrote:

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?   (Malachi 3:1-2)

This prophecy referred tp John the Baptist. He would be the messenger of the New Covenant. His ministry was to prepare the people for the coming of their Messiah. But, as foretold in Malachi, not everyone was able to “endure the day of his coming.”

Reading from Today’s Gospel:

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”   (Matthew 3:1-3)

John preached a baptism of repentance. His ministry was to prepare the people to receive their Messiah. Reading from today’s Gospel:

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.   (Matthew 3:4-10)

Many of the religious leaders were not able to receive John’s message. They thought of themselves as children of Abraham by birth. How many of us today see our Christianity as a birthright?

In today’s prophecy from Isaiah, we read about a tree that was cut down, but still was able to produce fruit. This tree was Judah. They had rebelled against God and he had struck them down. Nonetheless, God, in his mercy, would  restore it. It would require the birth of the Messiah and the establishment of new covenant. Reading from Isaiah:

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.   (Isaiah 11:1-2)

Only the Messiah would give the people hope. Devout Jews longed for their Messiah. They looked for a signal from God. The sign was the root of Jesse

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.   (Isaiah 11:10)

Jesus is the root of Jesse. He was born in the ancestry of King David, Jesse being his father.

Today, many of us may need a sign from God. Do we need a “root of Jesse?” Perhaps we may feel abandoned by God. Many of us may feel this way about our nation, or even our church.

The stump figuratively represents this feeling. But out of the stump grows a small root. It may not be noticed at first. But God is not trough with us. He is not trough with our nation.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

and again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse shall come,
    the one who rises to rule the gentiles;
in him the gentiles shall hope.”

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 15:12-13)

Now is not the time to lose hope. Is our focus on circumstances or on Jesus. The circumstances may be difficult, but Jesus is greater than them. Jesus said:

In the world you face persecution, but take courage: I have conquered the world!   (John 16:33)

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Saint Andrew, Apostle

José_de_Ribera_San_AndrésThe Word is Near You

The Gospel of John states that Andrew was first a disciple of John the Baptist:

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).   (John 1:35-41)

What is remarkable about Andrew is that he recognized Jesus as the Messiah almost at once. Andrew was excited to tell his brother Simon Peter. He started his career as a disciple by becoming an evangelist.

He was a very ordinary man – a fisherman along with his brother. Yet his testimony as an apostle of Jesus Christ helped to change the whole world. The Apostle Paul writes:

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”   (Romans 10:18)

God calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things in His name. We have also been called to be disciples of Jesus and evangelists. We have been given power and authority to do so.

Where do we start? We start with the Word as did Andrew and all the apostles. Moses explained the power of God’s Word:

Moses said to the people of Israel: Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.   (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

We have been given a powerful Word from God – Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. He has been placed within our hearts. The Apostle Paul elaborates on what Moses said

“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart”
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.   (Romans 10:8-10)

Are we ready to proclaim the Word that changes the hearts of people? We may be ridiculed for doing so, but we will probable not have to endure the suffering and ultimate death by crucifixion as did Andrew. We owe him and all the apostles a great debt of gratitude.

Let us remember that in our day a great number of people are dependent upon us to share the good news. Are we willing to do so? Jesus said:

I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.   (Luke 12:8-9)

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First Sunday of Advent

The Armor of Light

We begin The Season of Advent As the days grow shorter and the nights seem to get darker, i almost seems like a contest. Who will win? Darkness or light. That was an ancient worry. In many pre-Christian cultures, December was considered the most dreaded time of year, when the lack of heat and light spelled danger. The cold was stark and the darkness seemed like it would last forever.

But light will have its way. It has from the very beginning.

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.   (Genesis 1:3)

There will always be light, because darkness is merely an absence of light. Light is the building block of all things. We are being of light and are made in the image of God, who is light. From the First Epistle of John:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.   (1 John 1:5)

There is no darkness in God. The spiritual darkness we see in the world is not from God. Jesus came to bring light:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it.   (John 1:1-5)

Not everyone wanted the light of Christ, however. His light either brought new abundant like, or it brought judgment against the darkness. Reading from the third chapter of John:

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.   (John 3:19-29)

We are living in an age where spiritual darkness is on the increase. We see it all around us. But much of it is being exposed and people are attempting to hide in propaganda and untruths. What they do not realize is that judgment is coming. The judgment will be catastrophic, as in the time of Noah. From today’s Gospel:

Jesus said to the disciples, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.   (Matthew 24:36-39)

How do we prepare for such a time? The Apostle Paul wrote:

You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.   (Romans 13:11-14)

We need to put on the armor of light. We need to put on Jesus. As his disciples, need to walk the path he has laid out for us. Isaiah wrote:

O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!   (Isaiah 2:5)

When we do we walk in the blessings of God. The light of Christ will shine in us and through us. People will begin to see this. Jesus said:

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

We are living in a time of judgment. We are also living in a time of God’s glory. What we choose will mot only impact us, it will impact the whole world.

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The Season of Advent

Advent is an early New Year. It is the beginning of a new liturgical year for those churches that follow the lectionary readings. A new cycle of scriptural readings begins. This time the Gospel readings come from the Gospel of Matthew, carried throughout the Year A cycle of readings. (See Liturgical Calendar.)

There are four Sundays in Advent which tell of the coming of Jesus. At first the emphasis is on his second coming and end-times, but then the emphasis shifts to the first coming. They offer a powerful progression of how Jesus fulfills the law and the prophets of the Old Covenant while establishing the New Covenant through the Incarnation of God.

Advent is a season of expectation. It is a season of hope. It is an opportunity put away the old and put on the new. It is a time of preparation for the Bride of Christ to prepare for the millennial reign of Jesus.

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.  (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I challenged a friend in ministry to preach on the lectionary readings of Advent. He had never done so. He found himself preaching on subjects he had never preached on before, such as the second coming of Jesus and the end-times. Later he told me that Advent had caused him to grow in the faith. That is the beauty of the lectionary in general and especially the beauty of the Season of Advent.

We do not want to rush into Christmas prematurely. Rather, we need to prepare spiritually for a joyous Christmas. Christmas is so over-commercialized in this nation. It seems to be more a pagan celebration than a religious one, rivaled by only by Halloween.

Let us use Advent to recommit ourselves to Christ as Savior and Lord. And let us explore new insights and meanings that wash over us as we prepare for the coming of the Christ child.

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