Tag Archives: obedience

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 14

Track 1: Be Dressed for Action

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

In today’s Gospel we read:

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.   (Luke 12:35-38)

How do we interpret his remarks today. Surely Jesus is warning us to keep our lamps lit. That would mean that we are to keep the fullness of the Spirit of God in our hearts. Are ww living in the end times? We have been since the beginning of the Church. But does this mean the rapture of the Church is immanent and we need to be living holy lives in preparation?

Before his ascension, the disciples of Jesus were concerned about the timing of end times events. They asked Jesus:

“Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”   (Acts 1:6-8)

Jesus was more concerned about saving lost souls. He said: “Be dressed for action.” Our lamps should be lit for more than the rapture. He would give his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit so that they might be effective witnesses to his resurrection.

God spoke through the Prophet Isaiah:

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;

cease to do evil,
learn to do good;

seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,

defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.   (Isaiah 1:16-17)

We are to be clean, and we are to learn to do good. Jesus washes us in his blood. He also calls us to be evangelists. For this we need to be dressed for action, The Apostle Paul wrote:.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power; put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, 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.[Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on the evil day and, having prevailed against everything, to stand firm. Stand, therefore, and belt your waist with truth and put on the breastplate of righteousness and lace up your sandals in preparation for the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.   (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Let us be dressed for action. And may our actions help win souls for the kingdom of God.

 

Track 2: The Faith of Abraham

Genesis 15:1-6
Psalm 33:12-22
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

We are saved by the grace of God through the saving acts of our Lord Jesus Christ. He must not underestimate the importance of faith, however. The Apostle Paul wrote:

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)

To fully understand the importance of faith to our Christian walk we need to examine the faith of Abraham. Our faith stands on the foundation of his faith. His faith was tested by God. Again Paul wrote:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.   (Romans 4:18-24)

God put Abraham to severe test:

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.   (Hebrews 11:17-19) 

Abraham passed the test because Abraham believed God. He did hot focus on the circumstance that surrounded him. He held onto the Word and promises of.of God. In our lives we are tested. The enemy brings us circumstanced to make us doubt God’s word. We may wonder if God still loves us, if he is still with us. If we are not careful, we may begin to blame our troubles on God.

But God is still with us.  He does still love us.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”   (John 3:16)

The psalmist wrote:

Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and shield.
Our heart is glad in him
    because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.   (Psalm 33:20-22)

In the Book of James we read:

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.   (James 1:2-4)
Jesus said:
“In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:33)

Abraham would not be distracted by circumstances. He lived by a faith that manifested in obedience to God:

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 have many distractions today. We are going through difficult trials. We need the faith Abraham. We need his courage and dedication to God. As Abraham, let us understand that God is with us, Emanuel. He will never leave us or forsake us. Do we believe God? Then, praise the Lord. We, too, are children of Abraham.

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 9

Track 1: My Rivers Are Better than Yours

2 Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30
Galatians 6:(1-6)7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Most of us probably remember the account of Naaman of the Old Testament. He was the commander of the army of the king of Aram,   He was in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram.

Naaman, unfortunately, had leprosy.. A young girl captive from the land of Israel, who served Naaman’s wife said that there was prophet in Samaria who could cure him of his leprosy. Naaman told his king who said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.”  (2 Kings 5:5)

Reading from 2 Kings:

Naaman went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.   (2 Kings 5:6-10)

Naaman was not prepared for this response from Elisha. The prophet did not greet him properly, or acknowledge his highly esteemed position he enjoyed in his own country:

Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage.    (2 Kings 5:11-12)

Fortunately, the wisdom of his servants prevailed:

His servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, `Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.   (2 Kings 5:13-14)

Naaman almost lost his healing because he did not understand the greatness of God. God is our healer and not any human who may be used as an intermediary. Moreover. whatever standards which we expect God to accord us is immaterial. God has his own standards that we should meet. Do we tell God that “my rivers are better than yours?”

Proverbs warns:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but wisdom is with the humble.   (Proverbs 11:2)

God spoke to the Prophet Micah:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good,
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice and to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God?   (Micah 6:8)

When it comes to healing, we leave everything in the hands of God. He is sovereign. We need to listen carefully to him and obey his commandments and directions. All we need to do is keep thanking hm. We do not need to make judgments or listen to the opinions of others, just our believing Christian physician.

The psalmist wrote:

I will exalt you, O Lord,
because you have lifted me up
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

O Lord my God, I cried out to you,
and you restored me to health.

You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead;
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

Sing to the Lord, you servants of his;
give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,
his favor for a lifetime.

Weeping may spend the night,
but joy comes in the morning.   (Psalm 30:1-6)

 

Track 2: Lambs into the Midst of Wolves

Isaiah 66:10-14
Psalm 66:1-8
Galatians 6:(1-6)7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Would ew say that evangelism is the most important mission of the Church? Certainly the commission that Jesus gave his disciples just prior to his ascension would indicate this to be true:

Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not believe will be condemned.   (Mark 16:14-16

How do we do evangelism? This is how Jesus began his earthly ministy:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the good news of God and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near repent, and believe in the good news.   (Mark 1:14-15)

Repentance is part of thr good news. Sin must be addressed. Certain post modern churches and seeker churches say we must go easy on the need for repentance, at least initialing, because people may take offense.

Jesus prepared the areas he would be visiting by sending out advance teams. He said that they must be prepared to experience offense:

The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, `Peace to this house!’ And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.   (Luke 10:1-6)

Our ministry must be performed in the peace of God and not that of the world. As evangelists we need to remember that we are  ambassadors of Christ. If we are looking for personal affirmation and acceptance we are no longer speaking for him. Jesus said:

Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.   (Luke 10:16)

We must be prepared for rejection. We should not be looking for the acceptance of ourselves, but the acceptance of the Gospel. Rejection is [art of our cross. Jesus said:.

and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.   (Matthew 10:38-40)

Who are the wolves that Jesus warned us about? Perhaps they are some of 8s. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns or figs from thistles?   (Matthew 7:15-15)

If we have sheltered people from the offense of the Gospel, then we have been false teachers and prophets. What has been the fruit of this sheltering? A deed church? The people we shelter might eventually become church leaders. They will oppose thy Gospel at every hand.

The Apostle Paul wrote his student Timothy::

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound teaching, but, having their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, be sober in everything, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.   (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

This type of evangelism got results:

The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”   (Luke 10:17-20)

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The Annunciation

Trusting the Promises of God

Today we read about the greatest announcement ever:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”   (Luke 1:26-37)

Mary had been selected by God the Father to become the mother of Jesus. She believed and received the gift promised to her by the angel Gabriel. Mary’s reply to the angel demonstrated her faith and trust in the Lord:

Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.   (Luke 1:38)

The blessing is in the receiving. This was not the case for King Ahaz in today’s Old Testament reading who refused to do what God asked of him.

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.  (Isaiah 7:10-14)

The message from God was not only for Mary. It is a message of hope and salvation for the entire world. Believing and receiving this message brings to each of us the greatest blessing from God. We are destined to participate in the eternal kingdom of God under the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Are we an Ahaz or a Mary? King Ahaz said that he did not want to trouble God. He did not want to Bill Johnson Ministries from God. He did not want to listen to His Word.  The reason for all his objections is that he did bot want to obey God.

The Season of Lent is a time to open up to God and not be so busy or distracted. This is not so easily done by people who are full of this world. We need to empty ourselves before our maker and hearken unto His Word. Jesus has set the example for us. We read in Hebrews:

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;

in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.

Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”   (Hebrews 10:4-7)

The sacrifice that God requires is the sacrifice of our will to his will. He fulfilled his mission that God the Father had divinely established. In so doing, Jesus provided atonement for our sins and eternal life for all who believe.

God has written about each one of us in his book. He has a plan for us. What is our response? In today’s readings two people heard from God. One was a king and one was a peasant. God made promises to them both. One refused to listen and one welcomed the promise of God. We give thanks to God for Mary and for her example. What will be our example?

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Saint Joseph

Answering a High Calling

King David wanted to build a permanent house for God. By the Prophet Samuel, God promised David that through David’s offspring he would, himself, build David a permanent house:

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.  (2 Samuel 7:12-16)

This house would be a lasting kingdom on the earth in which God would rule. God is the builder of this house. It is build upon the rock, Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, Nonetheless, faithful people would be needed to be the building blocks.

Joseph was a carpenter. He was not a rich man. He was a husband and a father. He was known in his village, but his recognition probably did not extend much beyond it. He was devout as many good Jews were in his day. He cared for his family and was a faithful in following the Jewish traditions and customs. He lived for a season and then he passed away. Yet Joseph had a great deal to do with the building of the permanent house of David.

Joseph was a descendant of David. He was part of a very significant chain of events. He was given a commission by God the Father to be the earthly father and guardian of His beloved Son. Not fully understanding what God was asking him, Joseph accepted this commission. He accepted it under what, for him, were difficulty circumstances. Reading from the Gospel of Matthew:

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”   (Matthew 1:18-21)

Joseph believed God and faithfully carried out his commission.

We, too, are part of an ongoing chain of events. We, too, have been given a commission by God. We, like Joseph, are often required to make difficult choices. Faith, courage, and a trust in God are required. Life will test us. There will be obstacles and distractions. We will prevail only with God’s help.

What God asks us to do has great significance. We are part of an eternal plan of God. What we do now may seem fleeting or temporary. Nonetheless, God has established a permanent Kingdom that will not pass away. Our life and ministry are very much apart of that Kingdom. What we do now is recorded in heaven. We may not understand the significance of what might seem like unimportant events, but we will when all is revealed to us. In the meantime, God needs us to be faithful. Let us take courage and follow the example of Joseph.

The psalmist wrote:

Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing;
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
‘I will establish your line for ever,
and preserve your throne for all generations.'”  (Psalm 89:1-4)

Joseph was an ordinary carpenter. But no one is insignificant in the eternal plan of God. Let us step into the ministry to which God has called us. One of our greatest ministries is watching over our children and bringing them up in the knowledge of the Lord. We are reminded of this injunction from the Old Testament:

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.   (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

Joseph was given the high assignment of becoming that earthly guardian of our Lord Jesus Christ. This he did faithfully.

Lord, help us to follow the faithful example of Joseph in our day. The house of God is still being built. Will we be one of those faithful building blocks and will our children who follow us?

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