Tag Archives: righteous

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 22

Track 1: The Songs of Zion

Lamentations 1:1-6
Lamentations 3:19-26
or Psalm 137
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

From Lamentations we read:

How lonely sits the city
that once was full of people!

How like a widow she has become,
she that was great among the nations!

She that was a princess among the provinces
has become a vassal.

She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;

among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her;

all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile with suffering
and hard servitude;

she lives now among the nations,
and finds no resting place;

her pursuers have all overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.   ()

Jerusalem had been captured. The remnants of Judah were now in exile in Babylon. The psalmist wrote about the what it was like living in exile:

By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept,
when we remembered you, O Zion.

As for our harps, we hung them up
on the trees in the midst of that land.

For those who led us away captive asked us for a song,
and our oppressors called for mirth:
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”

How shall we sing the Lord‘S song
upon an alien soil.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill.

Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,   (Psalm 137:1-6)

What is remarkable here is the question asked by the Babylonians captors:

For those who led us away captive asked us for a song,
and our oppressors called for mirth:
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”

The songs sung by the captives had touched them. The Babylonians heard something in the captives that they did not have. They wanted to hear more of the songs of Zion. Even though the captives felt oppressed, they were still able to sing with joy to the Lord.

Habakkuk, the prophet and poet wrote:

Though the fig tree does not blossom
    and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
    and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
    and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will exult in the God of my salvation.   (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

Faith in God does not eliminate hardships and trials. Things will happen that are out of our control, but we must continue to give thanks for God’s faithfulness in our lives. Despite how we may feel or the circumstance that we find ourselves in, let us reflect upon how God has been faithful to us in the past, .

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; persevere in prayer.   (Romans 12:12)

It is God who gives us hope, especially when we rejoice in him. Circumstances change, but God does not. Let us not fear the circumstances.

The Apostle Peter wrote:

Even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you,   (1 Peter 3:14-15)

The message of a true disciple of Jesus is hope. The hope is fueled by an inner joy. God has given us a fountain of hope. Jesus said that we would have in our hearts: “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

Do we know this Jesus? Do we know the One who feeds our soul? If so, let us reveal him to others through our joy. Like the Babylonian captors, they are looking for something that they have missed. We have the answer for them.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.   (Romans 15:13)

 

 

Track 2: Living by Faith

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-10
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

For almost all of the Old Testament prophets, biographical  information is given about them. We learn about hometown, occupation, or information concerning their tribe. This is not true for the prophet Habakkuk, however. We are told that he is a prophet, but little else. Nonetheless, we can gain an understanding of him by what he has written. Let us look at Habakkuk’s complaint against God:

Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
    and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing
    and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
    strife and contention arise.   (Habakkuk 1:2-3)

Habakkuk was a prophet. He was also an intercessor for the nation, He was concerned about the injustice he was observing

.I will stand at my watchpost
    and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me
    and what he[a] will answer concerning my complaint.   (Habakkuk 2:1)

Habakkuk was an intercessor and watchman. He stood watch over Jerusalem and Judah. He waited to hear from God and did not lose hope:

Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
    make it plain on tablets,
    so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
    it speaks of the end and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
    it will surely come; it will not delay.
Look at the proud!
    Their spirit is not right in them,
    but the righteous live by their faithfulness.   (Habakkuk 2:2-4)

We may look for God to do something to correct injustice. But he has not moved in the time that we expected. Many of us are seeing great injustices today. Perhaps ew have become frustrated and angry by it all?

God’s time is not always our time. But this much is true, God’s timing is perfect. He has an appointed time for everything.

The psalmist wrote:

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;
do not be jealous of those who do wrong.

For they shall soon wither like the grass,
and like the green grass fade away.

Put your trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the Lord,
and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him,
and he will bring it to pass.   (Psalm 37:1-5)

God has given us a vision. It will come to pass. But God requires that we write it down, at least on our hearts. We should be in agreement with him. We should pray faithfully for it to manifest. In fact, we are to pray it into existence. By prayer we speak the future into existence. Our prayers are most effective when we pray using God’s words. That is a form of prophecy.

God tells Habakkuk and he tells us that the vision will come. When it comes we will rejoice. In the meantime we must live by faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hopefor, the conviction of things not seen.”   (Hebrews 11:1) How do we feel when our faith pays off?

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells a curious parable:

“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, `Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was comffective manded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, `We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'”   (Luke 17:7-10)

To understand this parable we must understand that the subject of the parable is the slave and not the owner of the slave. The slave gets no extra credit by merely doing his duty.

When we help pray something into existence, we cannot take the glory for it. To God belongs the glory. We have only done our duty. The righteous live by faith. Doubt and fear belong to those who do not know who God is. He is the God who is is always faithful.

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Holy Cross Day

Day of Judgment

The Prophet Isaiah forecast a time when God would hold a court to judge humankind for sin. God was speaking to the nation of Israel, but Israel was a proxy for all the nations of the world:

Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!

Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?

Was it not I, the Lord?
There is no other god besides me,

a righteous God and a Saviour;
there is no one besides me.   (Isaiah 45:21)

We are asked by God to present our case to him. God is also saying that he is qualified to judge our case because he is creator and has established all life. There is no other god besides him. Furthermore, his very nature and character qualifies him. He will be fair because he is not only a righteous God, but he is also our Savior.

A righteous God must be fair, but he must also be just. He must declare the injustice caused by sin. Sin cannot be ignored or swept under the rug. How is God able to accomplish this most difficult task, that of being both compassionate and just?

Before his verdict of guilty and penalty of death, God provided a path of escape. He did so through his Son Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul reminds us of the cruel crucifixion of Jesus by his own choice and desire:

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

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,

so that at the name of 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 2:5-11)

In today’s Gospel reading we see a link between the judgement of God and a route of escape:

Jesus said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.   (John 12:31-33)

On the cross the sins of the whole world were judged. Jesus bore our sins for us while hanging from a cross and receiving the Father’s judgement. The righteous One  became sin.  The judgement of sin was once and for all, for all who believe. The Apostle Paul’ wrote:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   (Romans 6:23)

Have we allowed God to judge our sins through his Son Jesus? If so, we must acknowledge it. We must turn towards Jesus. We must see him on the cross standing in for us.

God spoke through the Prophet Isaiah:

Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.

By myself I have sworn,
from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness
a word that shall not return:

“To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear.”

Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;

all who were incensed against him
shall come to him and be ashamed.

In the Lord all the offspring of Israel
shall triumph and glory.   (Isaiah 45:22-25)

Do we want triumph and glory? The only judgement of God that is left is the judgement of fallen angels. That judgement is not meant for us. Do we ignore such a great gift of salvation established on a Holy Cross? If Jesus humbled himself, why can we not humble ourselves? In Hebrews we read:

Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will..   (Hebrews 2:1-4)

The cross was very cruel instrument of torture and death. How can it be holy? We say that it is holy only because it can make us holy. We have been washed in the blood of Jesus. Thanks be to God.

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Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

Love Your Enemies

God appointed annual feast days for Israel. They were days for special celebration. God would be the in the midst of his people, and they would rejoice over his presence. But there came a time when God would no longer accept their praise. We read in Amos:

I hate, I despise your festivals,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
    I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.   (Amos 5:21-24)

God looked at Israel and saw rampant injustices. We seem to be living in such as time today. Anger can well up inside inside us when things get so bad. What may provoke is when those who are responsible seem to get away with their crimes, even the ones who are charged to protect us.

The psalmist wrote:

Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers,
the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;
do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.   (Psalm 37:8-9)

Are we open to such advice. Some of our leaders seem to be enemies of the people, not just in this nation, but worldwide.

Jesus gave us advice about our enemies:

“I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

This may be difficult for us. But we have a example of such love in Joseph. Reading from Genesis:

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.   (Genesis 45:4-8)

One of the things that helped Joseph to forgive his brothers is that he could see a much bigger picture of the events. He was able to see God’s picture. He understood God’s purposes.

Again, the psalmist reminds us:

For evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait upon the Lord shall possess the land.

In a little while the wicked shall be no more;
you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.   (Psalm 37:10-11)

We may be discovering how little certain leaders care about our concerns of justice. Our best weapons against them is prayer. Only God can bring about meaningful change. If we allow ourselves to become bitter over the situation, that is what the enemy wants. It could adversely affect our own behavior. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.   (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Jesus said:

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.   ()

God is long-suffering. He wants to save as many people as possible. Perhaps we need more endurance. 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)

Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.   (James 5:11)

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.   (James 5:7-8)

The coming of the Lord is surely near. God has shown us his compassion and mercy through the cross of Christ. Let us pray for all the lost. And let us hold onto a Holy Hope – Christ in us the hope of Glory.

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Saint Thomas, Apostle

jesusthomasdoubt1The Righteous Will Live by Faith

Saint Thomas the Apostle is remembered as “Doubting Thomas.” That may be a little unfair to him. To be sure, he was a skeptic concerning the resurrection of Jesus:

Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with the other disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”   (John 20:24-25)

No one had ever been raised from the dead before. Thomas was confused about the mission of Jesus. On the other hand, Thomas was a faithful disciple. He was willing to sacrifice for what he believed was the cause of Christ. As Jesus was speaking about going to Jerusalem, which proved to be his last trip there, Thomas was aware of the danger involved:

Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”   (John 11:16)

Following Jesus is not easy. Many churches preach a Gospel that is without cost on the part of believers. Jesus was sacrificed on the cross, but there is little talk about the cross which we must take up daily. Jesus said:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   (Luke 9:23)

We must be prepared to make sacrifices if we are to live out the faith in our day. This is especially true in our nation today. Are we willing to go the distance?

Thomas was willing to go the distance. From today’s reading from Hebrews:

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.For,

“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”

And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”   (Hebrews 10:35-38)

During times of test and trials, are we willing to stand our ground for the Lord? We will if we have a vision that God has given us to embrace. If we do not have a vision then we must ask God for one. It is in the difficult times that our vision is most clarified, provided that we seek God and His Word, and provided that we are willing to wait on His response.

From today’s Old Testament reading:

I will stand at my watchpost and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint. Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets , so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.   (Habakkuk 2:1-4)

Living by faith is trusting in God without seeing around the next corner. Jesus has gone ahead of us and He is leading us. Are we willing to follow? Thomas was willing. When he realized that Jesus had risen from the dead he said: “My Lord and my God!”

According to Eusebius’ record, Thomas and Bartholomew were assigned to Parthia and India. Saint Thomas was allegedly martyred at St.Thomas Mount, in Chennai, in 72 A.D July 3rd, and his body was interred in Mylapore. It was said that his ministry led to numerous conversions to Christ. He had been transformed from doubt to great faith and works of the Gospel. The challenge is to live by faith regardless of the circumstances.

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