Category Archives: preaching

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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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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