Tag Archives: salvation

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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Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 19

Track 1: A Time of Celebration

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm 14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

In today’s Gospel we have these wonderful stories of celebration:

All the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to Jesus. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.   ()

This may be age specific, but I can really relate to the second parable Jesus told:

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”   ()

I rejoice when I find my wallet or car keys, but that is such small potatoes. Can you imagine the celebration that go on in heaven? God’s love is to be celebrated.

When we get together with family and friends, we often celebrate our love with food and drink. But there is even greater celebration:

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.   (Romans 14:17)

Celebrations help us to recall the goodness of God. They carry us through the difficulties of this life. God appointed days of celebration for Israel: Passover, First Fruits, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles. These were feast days for both God and his people. His people, which includes us, still celebrate them. The focus is on food and drink, but with a greater focus on the love and provisions of God. They talk about the past, but they prophetically to a brighter future, a glorious future.

The psalmist wrote:

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
    you have taken off my sackcloth
    and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul[c] may praise you and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.   (Psalm 30:11-12)

Each day can be  celebration for us when we commune with God. The psalmist wrote:

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.   (Psalm 118:24)

Today is a day for celebration by those who have found the kingdom of God. It might, in some ways be challenging for us. Jesus said:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.   (John 16:33 KJV)

From Nehemiah we read:

Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord, and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”   (Nehemiah 8:10)

That was an earthly celebration of the Kingdom. In The Book Revelation we have a heavenly one:

And I heard something that sounded like a huge crowd, like rushing water and powerful thunder. They said,

“Hallelujah! The Lord our God, the Almighty,
exercised his royal power!
Let us rejoice and celebrate, and give him the glory,
for the wedding day of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
She was given fine, pure white linen to wear,
for the fine linen is the saints’ acts of justice.”   (Revelation 19:6-8)

We do not want to miss this one!

 

Track 2: Patience and Believing

Exodus 32:7-14
Psalm 51:1-11
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

Through Mose, God had rescued Israel from captivity in Egypt with great signs and wonders. He had parted the Red Sea so his people could walk over on dry ground, releasing the water to drown Pharaoh and his chasing chariots. Let us now read, in astonishment, what followed :

The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ”   (Exodus 32:7-8)

How could this have happened? Mose was up on the mountain of God for an extended time and the Israelites were loosing patience. So they took matters into their own hands and, apparently forgot all the great miracles had done to set them free. They said:

“These are our gods who brought us up out of the land of Egypt!”

What possible can we learn from their reactions? None of us would have been that foolish. Right?

What about a great nation which was conceived and planned by God? He blessed it with wise leaders who were committed to his plan. He awoke the people through a great nationwide revival called the Great Awakened. it took great patience and determination to follow through God’s plan. It took courage and faith.

What are the people of this nation saying and believing now? Have they dismissed their inheritance and distorted their narrative of history? Are some of then not saying?

These are the gods we now follow and believe in: division, strife, accusations, class warfare, abortion, transgenderism, etc.

God has been removed from the culture. He has been taken out of our schools. We are told what to think and believe by those who are skillful in telling us lies. We live in an age of deception. What is our primary source of information and belief? Is it spiritual  or secular:

The secular mind is capable of thinking and believing anything, no matter the level of education. Reading from Romans:

Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to an unfit mind and to do things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of injustice, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.   (Romans 1:28-31)

God still loves us and wants to set us straight. Paul writes:

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.   (Romans 12:2-3)

By the grace of God, Paul preached a Gospel that, at one time, he condemned:

The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners– of whom I am the foremost. But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

This is what Paul needed, a transformed mind. How about any of us? We must be willing to hear God’s Word more than the false gods of this age. It may be a struggle to do so, but the reward is eternal life. We have the examples of those who have gone before us:

Reading 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 12:1-3)

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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 16

Track 1: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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

Let us begin with the Old Testament reading:

The word of the Lord came to me saying,

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

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

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

says the Lord.”   (Jeremiah 1:4-8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Track 2: From Bondage to Freedom

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

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

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

Jesus answered him:

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

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

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

The psalmist wrote:

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

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

He forgives all your sins
and heals all your infirmities;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus called out the scribes and Pharisees:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saint Mary the Virgin

Trusting in God’s Promises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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