Category Archives: lectionary

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 16

Track 1: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

Let us begin with the Old Testament reading:

The word of the Lord came to me saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,

says the Lord.”   (Jeremiah 1:4-8)

God watches over our lives from a very early age, beginning in our mother’s womb. King David understood this when he composed this psalm:

Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.

For you are my hope, O Lord God,
my confidence since I was young.

I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;
from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;
my praise shall be always of you.   (Psalm 71:5-6)

How much does God have to do with our birthing? The psalmist wrote:

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.   (Psalm 139:13-16)

Let us examine the call by God on the Prophet Isaiah. When did that call begin?

Listen to me, O coastlands,
    pay attention, you peoples from far away!
The Lord called me before I was born,
    while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
    in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow,
    in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, “You are my servant,
    Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
But I said, “I have labored in vain,
    I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my cause is with the Lord,
    and my reward with my God.”

And now the Lord says,
who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
and that Israel might be gathered to him,
for I am honored in the sight of the Lord,
and my God has become my strength—
he says,
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”   (Isaiah 49:1-6)

Where would we be without the great prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah? How many prophets have we aborted in the womb?

The Church should be the moral compass. Are we not speaking out that abortions are wrong? But what if the life of the mother is at risk? How often does that occur? Enough to justify the killing of millions of babies? Is not abortion, for the majority, just a convenient form of brith control? And murder of children?

The Church is always under pressure not to tell the truth, or not to do the right thing. This is not new. Jesus was under that pressure:

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.   (Luke 13:10-17)

The religious rulers were trying to place shame on Jesus. When Jesus did and spoke the truth, the shame fell back on his opponents.

Religious leaders do not always have the right motives. Let us recall what the Apostle Paul was facing:

Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry but others from goodwill.   (Philippians 1:15)

What are our motives today in the Church? Is it about membership numbers? Or my doctrine is more right than hour doctrine? If we preach and teach and act from a heart that loves God, then we will keep his commandments. Just before his ascension Jesus gave the great commandment to his disciples:

Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.   (Mark 16:15)

We are his disciples today. Let us speak up. Let us speak out. And let us tell the truth in love. The are called to change the world. The world should not be changing us.

 

 

Track 2: From Bondage to Freedom

Isaiah 58:9b-14
Psalm 103:1-8
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

In today’s Gospel reading we have this wonderful healing of the crippled woman:

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”   (Luke 13:10-14)

Jesus answered him:

“You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.   (Luke 13:15-17)

Satan’s desire and plan is to put many people as possible into bondage. He wants to keep us from experiencing the healing, freedom, and love which God extends to everyone who blesses his Holy Name. Jesus came to defeat the works of the Devil.

How do we respond to such a healing and deliverance? Do we believe Jesus is still miraculously healing people today? Or are rules, regulations, and doctrine standing in the way?

The psalmist wrote:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.

He forgives all your sins
and heals all your infirmities;

He redeems your life from the grave
and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

He satisfies you with good things,
and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.   (Psalm 103:1-5)

Why would anyone want to keep people in bondage? God warned Israel through the Prophet Isaiah:

If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.   (Isaiah 58:9-?)

God is telling those in authority: quit the speaking of evil against people, quit pointing the finger at others, quit placing a yoke around the necks of people to hold them back. He is saying: If you think you are righteous, start doing righteous acts.

Jesus called out the scribes and Pharisees:

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others, but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.   (Matthew 23:2-4)

The heavy burdens, alone, would be punishment enough. Except, it gets worse. Jesus, declared:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.   (Matthew 23:13-15)

Are we bound in the our church today? Are we locking people out of the kingdom of God by laying religious burdens on them? The Apostle Paul wrote::

If with Christ you died to the elemental principles of the world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.   (Colossians 2:20-23)

These burdens have a way of creeping into our churches. This was happening at the Church in Galatia. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church:

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.   (Galatians 5:1)

False teachers had entered this church, saying that faith in Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection was not enough for salvation. Unbelief of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the cause for any bondage. People want to step in and make u the difference that they believe is lacking in the Gospel.

What is the solution? What is the correction? Paul clarifies:

We have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.   (Galatians 2:16-21)

We need Jesus. We need his sacrifice o the cross. We need his teaching. We need his Word. Jesus said:

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”   (John 8:31-32)

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Saint Mary the Virgin

Trusting in God’s Promises

The prophets of old foretold the Messiah and His ministry, but who could grasp all that they were saying? From Isaiah:

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  (Isaiah 53:1-3)

Mary understood that God had made promises to Abraham and she believed that He would keep them. She lived through terrible circumstances but never gave up her hope and trust in the Lord. Her God was full of love and mercy. Her reverence and humility before God are without question.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”   (Luke 1:46-55)

Mary did not always understand the ministry of her son, however. There was a time in the early ministry of Jesus when Mary was asking her son to come home.Like a good mother, she was concerned for the wellbeing of her son. She had not yet grasped how his ministry was unfolding and how it was fulfilling the promises of God.

We cannot fault Mary for her concern. There was no one ever like Jesus, either before or since. Again, from Isaiah:

Surely he has borne our infirmities
    and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
    struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.   (Isaiah 53:4-5)

As the prophet Simeon foretold, her heart would be pierced and she would gain a greater understanding.

“Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  (Luke 2:34-35)

Our hearts must be pierced also if we are to understand the ministry and message of Jesus. How closely we follow Jesus in our lives will telegraph what we truly believe. Will we go the distance with Him as did His mother Mary? Mary was at the cross when most of Jesus’ disciples fled. She could not turn away. Her love for God was so great. She walked in the steps of Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his own son if that were required by God.

It was after the cross and resurrection that Mary, along with the disciples, understood the ministry of Jesus. She rejoiced along the psalmist of old:

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.   (Isaiah 61:10)

What is our witness today? We may not understand all that is going on. We may not fully grasp the miracle that God is working out. Nonetheless, we can still believe and trust in the promises of God as did Mary. Let us pray for grace to endure the pain while eagerly anticipating our Lord’s victory with patience and endurance? Mary did this and so much more. Her enduring faith and courage has inspired the Church down to this day.

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 15

Track 1: My Beloved Had a Vineyard

Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

Many times in the scriptures we see God using a vineyard as a metaphor for Israel. We have an example in today’s reading from Isaiah:

I will sing for my beloved
    my love song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
    on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones
    and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it
    and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
    but it yielded rotten grapes.  (Isaiah 5:1-2)

God has provided so much love and caee to his vineyard. The psalmist wrote:

You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
You cleared the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches;
it sent out its branches to the sea
and its shoots to the River.
Why then have you broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?   (Psalm:8-12)

Again, from Isaiah:

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,

and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;

he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;

righteousness,
but heard a cry!   (Isaiah 5:7)

Israel had failed to produce the fruit that God required. What about us? Has God cared for us as well? Has he nurtured us? Has he provided all we need to grow and produce fruit for his kingdom on Earth?

When Israel failed, God provided a new approach to tending his vineyard:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LordBut this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord, for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.   (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

He has done this through his Son Jesus. At the beginning of his earthly ministry. when preaching in his home town of Nazareth, Jesus quoted this scripture:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and release to the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
    to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.   (Isaiah 61:1-3)

God would remove from his people the weight of their sin and plant the living Word within their heart. He would then water them by the power of his Holy Spirit.

What was true for Israel and is also true for us, the ingrafted branches of Israel. Not all of Israel received its nurturing. In the prelude to the Gospel of John we read:

Jesus was in the world, and the world came into being through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.   (John 1:10-13)

We need God’s forgiveness through the blood of his Son. We need his Word. It is a seed for our growth. And we need to be watered the the Holy Spirit to become children of God. Are we allowing ourselves to be nurtured by God?

In Hebrews we read:

Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over.   (Hebrews 6:?-8)

 

Track 2: I Came to Bring Fire

Jeremiah 23:23-29
Psalm 82
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

Through the Prophet Jeremiah God said:

Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?   (Jeremiah 23:29)

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus said:

I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!   (Luke 12:49-50)

Little, it seems, has changed. The Word of God brings fire. This should not be a surprise. John the Baptist said:

I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I, and I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   (Matthew 3:11)

How does this fire that Jesus brings manifest itself? Jesus asked:

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:

father against son
and son against father,

mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,

mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”   (Luke 12:51-53)

Does this not seem like a strange thing coming from the Prince of Peace? I am reminded of the poem of William Alexander Percy, now published as a hymn:

They cast their nets in Galilee
Just off the hills of brown
Such happy simple fisherfolk
Before the Lord came down

Contented peaceful fishermen
Before they ever knew
The peace of God That fill’d their hearts
Brimful and broke them too.

Young John who trimmed the flapping sail,
Homeless, in Patmos died.
Peter, who hauled the teeming net,
Head-down was crucified.

The peace of God, it is no peace,
But strife closed in the sod,
Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing–
The marvelous peace of God.

Are we sugarcoating the Gospel to offend as fewest people as possible to get the the message out? Offense is the message!  This was the message God gave Jeremiah:

Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back– those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord.   (Jeremiah 23:23-29)

We do not need a watered down word from God. In Hebrews we read:

The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.   (Hebrews 4:12-13)

The Christian faith is an endurance run. We are going to receive opposition. We have to expect a cross to bear. We need the word of God to perfect our faith. Jesus bore his cross for our sakes, disregarding shame and torment. Again, from Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.   (Hebrews 12d:1-2)

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The Transfiguration

Changed into His Likeness

There was a moment when Jesus manifested His glory on the earth. We long for that moment to happen again. In today’s Gospel we read:

About eight days after Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. (Luke 9:28-29)

God also called Moses to come up His holy mountain:

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24:15-18)

Something happens on the mount of God. His presence and His glory are there. God’s glory is like a “devouring fire.” It changes the participant. When Moses returned to the people his face reflected the glory of God.

We remember a time when Moses was on the Mount that he asked God to show him his glory:.

For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”

The Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.   (Exodus 33:16-19)

God calls us up to His holy mount for a purpose – His purpose! There are those who are merely looking for spiritual thrills. False churches and false revivals have been birthed by misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the Holy. Many have been led astray by lying spirits and false angels because they were seeking signs and wonders rather than the Lord Jesus Christ, not realizing that Satan himself can disguise himself as an angel of light. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.   (Colossians 2:18-19)

The Prophet Elijah climbed the Holy Mount of God. He was running for his life. He had given up on his ministry. He was being oppressed by an evil world and thought that he was all alone. On the Mount God set him strait and renewed his spiritual life. There is an impartation of strength and purpose on  the Holy Mount of God.

Peter was on the mount of transfiguration. This was not just a metaphorical experience. It was an actual event. We have this testimony in his own words:

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (2 Peter 1″16-17)

Peter was told to focus on Jesus only. We are not to get distracted by anything, even by signs and wonders.

Is God calling us to come to His mount of transfiguration today? Yes, he is! Are we ready? We are not to seek spiritual experiences per se. Rather, let us seek Jesus and His glory. The Apostle Paul writes:

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:17-18)

We are transformed by whom or what we worship. Let our worship be the Lord Jesus Christ and Him only. He is the culmination of all the Law and the Prophets. Let us focus on Him and listen to His words. Let us look into His face and be transformed from glory to glory.

On the mount of transfiguration, Peter was overcome and lost focus:

Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said.

God had a word for Peter:

While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

Moses and Elijah were on the Mount of Transfiguration, . They represented the Law and Prophets. Jesus, however, is the culmination and fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. The whole of the Old Testament pointed to him.

Do we want to listen to the One who can help us overcome the chaos we see today? We are living in a time of radical transformation. How are we being transformed? By the world or by Jesus Christ? Disfigured or transfigured?Who do we reflect today?

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