Tag Archives: love

St Matthew, Evangelist

Are You Calling Me?

Yes, God is calling you. He is calling me. He is calling us to be evangelists. Are we prepared to walk away from our personal plans and ambitions?

Matthew was a first century Galilean who collected taxes from the Hebrew people for Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. He had become rich because of his trade, though he was despised like all the other tax collectors who worked for Rome. It must not have been an easy decision for Matthew to leave all that he had and follow an unknown itinerant preacher. After all, his call was very early in Jesus’ earthly ministry. He had little idea of what was being asked of him.

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”  (Matthew 9:9-13)

The Pharisees were gatekeepers. They made the rules and keep scores, not for themselves but for everyone else. That is not what an evangelist does. The evangelist is the one who extends God’s mercy. Judgmental people do not understand evangelism. They may be pious. They may quote scripture. But do they understand the love of God?

Matthew came in contact with the love of Jesus. It changed his whole direction. Are we ready to follow Jesus as Matthew did? Are we ready for a new direction? Do we know the love of God in our hearts? If so, then we will want to share it with others.

In proverbs we read:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Matthew, the tax collector, could answer the call of God because his heart had been touched. He set aside his agenda for that of the Lord Jesus. He did not know where Jesus would be leading him, but he trusted him nonetheless. Do we trust Jesus? Do we love Jesus? He is calling us to go on a adventure. We may never leave home, but we will see our neighbors in a whole new light. Our joy will be to share the good news of Christ with them and all whom we meet.

Matthew is called the Evangelist because of his Gospel writing. Origen said the first Gospel was written by Matthew. This Gospel was composed in Hebrew near Jerusalem for Hebrew Christians and translated into Greek. His Gospel  emphasized how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy.

Early Church fathers such as Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria claim that Matthew preached the Gospel to the Jewish community in Judea, before going to other countries.

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Twelth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17

Track 1: Cracked Cisterns

Jeremiah 2:4-13
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

What is our source of strength in this life? Reading from today’s Old Testament:

My people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,

cracked cisterns
that can hold no water.   (Jeremiah 2:13)

God complained through the psalmist:

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said,
“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

And yet my people did not hear my voice,
and Israel would not obey me.

So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their hearts,
to follow their own devices.

Oh, that my people would listen to me!
that Israel would walk in my ways!   (Psalm 81:10-13)

Israel forsook the living water that God provided for them. How are we doing today? We live in a culture that is cracked and broken. We certainly do not want to rely on it as a source for anything. Yet Satan is more than ready to provide for us his counterfeit cistern. We are feed it each day in our entertainment, media, and in some of our churches.

There is a fountain of living water that God still provides for his people, but we must choose to drink from it.. Have we sought this water?

The psalmist wrote:

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.   (Psalm 36:7-9)

The living water is the fountain of life. There is no life without it, just existence. Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well, we may remember. She was only living an existence. He said to her:

“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”   (John 4)

She asked him:

“Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

 

Track 2: All Who Exalt Themselves

Sirach 10:12-18
or Proverbs 25:6-7
Psalm 112
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

In this world there is a ranking order. Perhaps we pay a little too much attention to it. Reading from today’s Gospel:

When Jesus noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, `Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, `Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”   (Luke 14:7-11)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.   (Philippians 2:3)

This was not the attitude of the Pharisee:

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.   (Matthew 23:1-8)

Is there a pecking order that we should follow? Not according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We read in the Book of James:

My brothers and sisters, do not claim the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory while showing partiality. For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here in a good place, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?   (James 2:1-5)

The pecking order is a smoke screen of Satan. It is a distraction so that we will not be concerned about the needs of others. Satan is suggesting that we must earn our way into a place of importance.If we buy into him, we will find ourselves judging the spiritual walk of others. Not only that, we will become a stumbling block for others.

Is’t time to drop the competitive Christianity and live the life of Christ? Paul wrote:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
assuming human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God exalted him even more highly
and gave him the name
that is above every other name,
so that at the name given to Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.   (Philippians 2:%-11)

Jesus is Lord. He alone is worthy of praise. We stand at the foot of his cross. in this place the ground is level for all of us. Only Jesus can raise us up on high.

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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 10

Track 1: A Plumb Line in Our Midst

Amos 7:7-17
Psalm 82
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

God had a covenant with Abraham. Israel was under this covenant, but they were not keeping his covenant requirements. Reading from the Prophet Amos:

This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

“See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;

the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”   (Amos 7:7-17)

When Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, became aware or this prophecy, he warned King Jeroboam. He then threatened Amos:

And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”   (Amos 7:7-17)

The prophecy of Amos did not follow the narrative of King Jeroboam. But God is a God of truth. He is not bound by any human narrative.

We are a covenant people under the new covenant of God in Christ Jesus. There is no temple. We, the Church, are now the temple of God. In 1 Peter we read:

For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God?   (1 Peter 4:17)

As in the day’s of Jeroboam, God’s judgement is in our in our midst. Do we have any court prophets in our churches who want to protect the status quo? Do we have any Amaziah’s who elevate church doctrine over God’s Word?

How many churches has tacitly supported abortion. What does God’s Word have to say?

Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh.” But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.   (1 Corinthians 6:16-20)

This word speaks against the sin that leads to abortion. There is no mystery about what the Word of God says about the unborn.

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)

What about the doctrine of once saved always saved? The is what the Word teaches:

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.   (Hebrews 10:23-27)

God’s word is clear. When we do not live up to it, what do we do? Do we hide in our doctrines, rituals, and false piety? Confession or coverup? Repentance or rationalized doctrine? What will it be?

God’s covenant people are called to live at higher standard than the world – a much higher standard. God is holding a plumb line beside us. He is a holy God. He calls us to be a holy people: The Church, the body of Christ, of which e2 are a part. has not fulfilled its responsibilities. It should be a moral compass for the world. But the world has crept into the Church.

God is calling us out:

For I am the Lord your God; sanctify yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.   (Leviticus 11:44)

We do not have to hide in darkness. Let us not hide from him, but run to him. The good news is that God is the one who can make us holy. The Apostle Paul wrote:

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.   (Colossians 1:11-14)

 

 

Track 2: Self Justification

Deuteronomy 30:9-14
Psalm 25:1-9
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

If there ever were a question abput who is our neighbor, the Parable of the Good Samaritan should settle it. Reading from the Gospel of Luke:

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”   (Luke 10:25-28)

When Jesus told the lawyer to “do this” he realized that he had to do more than talk. He might be able to make a case for himself if he could narrowly close the category of neighbor. No offense to lawyers is attended, but he was looking for a loophole in the commandment:

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”   (Luke 10:29-37)

 When Jesus implied that we should treat every one as a neighbor, the lawyer realized that God’s Commandments are beyond human rationalization and self justification. They are required to be followed down to the very letter and spirit of the law.

Only Jesus could do that and he did. He fulfilled the righteous requirements by living a perfect life without sin – a lamb without spot or wrinkle, thus becoming the sacrificial lamb and just punishment for our sin. We do not need a loophole in the commandments. He fulfilled all the requirements of the Law. He justified us.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.   (Romans 5:1)

We no longer have to justify ourselves. We have peace with God. Now we can consider everyone our neighbor. No one is threat to our relationship with God. It is based on love, mercy, and forgiveness. Love is not puffed up. It does hot keep a record of wrongs. We do not need to compare ourselves to anyone. God has accepted us and we are to accept and forgive others.

Where do we stand to day? Do we love God with all our hearts? And do we love our neighbor as ourselves? If we fail to do so at times we can call on God for help. Jesus will live within us as he pours out the Holy Spirit upon our hearts. The Apostle Paul wrote:

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.   (Colossians 1:11-14)

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Last Sunday after the Epiphany

From Glory to Glory

During this Season of Epiphany, we have been observing the many ways that God has supernaturally manifested himself . On this last Sunday after the Epiphany, perhaps it is fitting that we observe one the most meteoric manifestations of God’s glory. It is recorded in our reading from Luke:

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. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.   (Luke 9:28-31)

Jesus led Peter, James, and John up the holy mountain. They had positioned themselves. They were the disciples closest to Jesus of the twelve disciples. Jesus wants to do the same for us today when we position ourselves.

But first let us examine what the three disciples experienced. They were not prepared for what they saw:

Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, 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. 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!”    (Luke 9:32-35)

Peter was confused as any one of us might have been. The voice of God the Father tells us Jesus must be heard over all the rest. Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented the Prophets, but Jesus represented more than these two. The Apostle Paul wrote

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.   (1 Corinthians 13:1-2)

Following the Law of God by faith and holding on to the hope of fulfilled prophecy means little without one more ingredient:

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.   (1 Corinthians 13:8)

And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.   (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Jesus was facing the cross on which her would purchase the redemption for who would believe. This would be the greatest manifestation of God’s unconditional love for humankind.

Jesus wants to lead us up the mountain of transfiguration. He wants us to experience the transforming power of God, the light of Christ and his glory. Are we ready?.

We remember that when Moses spent time with God on the mountain, his face would shine. He had to wear a veil over his face when he came down because the people were afraid to look upon him. Moses was veiled because the understanding of the Israelites was vailed.

Our understanding should not be veiled. Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.   (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

We should not dwell on our spiritual experiences. Rather, we should exhibit the changes in our lives. Paul wrote:

For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)

How have we positioned ourselves? Upon whom to we gaze? Whom or what do we worship? We become whatever we worship. Does entertainment crowd our time to spend in prayer, worship, and meditating on God’s Word?

In our lives now Jesus wants to lead us from one degree of glory to another. As we look upon his glory we become more like him. We are filled with his perfect love which casts our all fear. We shine with the light of his glory for all the world to see.

The Apostle Paul prayed:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.   (Ephesian 3:16-19)

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