Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 15

Track 1: Reconciliation

Genesis 45:1-15
Psalm 133
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

We remember how the brothers of Joseph sold him into slavery in Egypt. They were jealous of him, to the point of killing him. Their hatred toward Joseph was so strong. Their evil intentions, however, led to a greater good. God’s intentions are greater than ours. His ways are higher than ours. Today we read about one of greatest examples of how God won the victory over human deceit and hatred.

Because of a great famine the brothers of Joseph were sent to Egypt to buy food by their father Israel. Joseph, because of his faithfulness and obedience to God had risen to be the second in command of all Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh. The brothers, who did not recognize Joseph, were totally unaware that it was Joseph to whom they were talking. 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. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come — so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.   (Genesis 45:4-15)

We can make terrible decisions in life. We can make terrible mistakes. But God can bring good out of our sinful acts when we call upon him. The grace of God, working through Joseph, brought about a reconciliation between the brothers. Joseph was able to forgive his brothers and share God’s love for them. The psalmist wrote:

Oh, how good and pleasant it is,
when brethren live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head
that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron,
and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon
that falls upon the hills of Zion.

For there the Lord has ordained the blessing:
life for evermore.   (Psalm 133:1-5)

Reconciliation. It can only come through forgiveness. It can only come through Christ Jesus who has pain all our debts, The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.   (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

We need reconciliation between our family, friends, and others. But first we must be reconciled to God. Paul continues:

In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.   (2 Corinthians 5:19-21)

 

 

Track 2: The Mercy of God

Isaiah 56:1,6-8
Psalm 67
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

In today’s Gospel we have an encounter of Jesus with a Canaanite woman. Cannane was the land where God drove out the pagan kingdoms because he had promised the land to Abraham. Israel had a long history of dealing with the Canaanites who were constantly threatening their very existence. Reading from Matthews:

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.   (Matthew 15:21-28)

The response of Jesus was not unexpected by the Canaanite woman.. She knew that she was an outsider to Israel and hated by many of them. What is interesting about her, though, is that she recognized the power and authority of Jesus, which many Israelites did not. And she was willing, even at the risk of ridicule, or worst, to ask Jesus for help. Her love for her daughter and her hope that Jesus would cure her, helped her to prevail. But how could she fail? Jesus honored her deep faith. After all, no matter who we are, are righteous only by faith.

You may remember another time when Jesus was moved by a person’s faith. This man was also an outsider as well. He was a tax collector named Zacchaeus. After his encounter with Jesus, he was willing to give up half of his possessions to the poor and to pay back four times those whom he may have defrauded.

Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”   (Luke 19;9-10)

Anyone who  responds to Jesus by faith is a child of Abraham and a child of the promise. Being an actual descendent of Abraham by birth alone is not enough. t

Thus says the Lord:
Maintain justice, and do what is right,

for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,

all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant–

these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;

their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;

for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.   (Isaiah 56:1,6-7)

The key words are “all people.” The Apostle Paul wrote:

For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.   (Romans 11:32)

How do we respond to his goodness and mercy? Do we respond like the Canaanite woman and Zacchaeus with faith? We cannot do so without recognizing who Jesus is and acknowledging his authority. The Canaanite woman was willing to beg. She knew that she was in desperate need and that only Jesus could help her. How desperate are we for healing and deliverance? How desperate are we for a new life in Christ? God is seeking us. Are we seeking him?

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Saint Mary the Virgin

Il_Sassoferrato_-_Madonna_with_the_Christ_Child_-_WGA20874Trusting in God’s Promises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 14


Track 1: The Word Is in Your Heart

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

Today let us dive into the foundation of righteousness. Judaism understood that the only way of being righteous and pleasing God by the law was by keeping the entire Mosaic Law without fail. No one had ever done that before Jesus. Jesus lived his entire life without sin, thereby fulfilling the righteous requirements of the Law.

The Apostle Paul explains, however, that before the the Mosaic Law was given, there was Abraham:

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.   (Romans 4:1-5)

In today’s Epistle reading, Paul goes into greater depth concerning the righteousness by faith:

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

“The word is near you,
on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”   (Romans 10:5-11)

What is Paul saying? Jesus, the word made flesh, is the answer to righteousness. He is Emmanuel, God with us. Do we know2 him? If we do, he is ever so close to us.

But how do we know him? Mary Magdalene knew Jesus as her deliverer and closest friend. She was the first person to witness his resurrection. But she did not yet grasp who Jesus was when she encountered him after the resurrection. Jesus said to her:

“Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”   (John 20:17)

Jesus was her friend, She did not want to lose him to heaven. We cannot bring Jesus down from heaven to experience him on our terms.

The Apostle Thomas was very loyal to Jesus. He loved him so much and could not accept that he had died. It was not so much a question of faith for him as much as it was his profound sense of loss. How could his Lord and friend have died?Thomas wanted to bring back Jesus from the dead in the form that he knew him. But Jesus was no longer that person. He was now present to everyone who believed in him and understood his death and resurrection. All that was required now was faith in the risen Lord to satisfy all our needs, including our need for a right standing before God.

Do we know this Jesus? Do we know him in our hearts? Is he on our lips? Are we ready to give our testimony that we are sinners saved by grace? We have done nothing to deserve this great gift. We have simply joined the ranks of Abraham. We have believed God and he has reckoned it as righteousness.

The paalmist wrote:

Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him,
and speak of all his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Search for the Lord and his strength;
continually seek his face.   (Psalm 105:1-40)

Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth. But that does not tell us entirely who Jesus is. He wants to engrave his word in our hearts.

 

 

Track 2: Give Glory to God

1 Kings 19:9-18
Psalm 85:8-13
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

Do you remember the phrase: “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”? This phrase pretty much describes what the Prophet Elijah esperienced in the Old Testament. Elijah had humiliated the prophets of Baal in a contest to prove to the people who’s God was real. God had sent fire from heaven upon the altar that Elijah setup while the altar of Baal failed to ignite. Not only did the false prophets lose the contest, they also lost their lives. Reading from First Kings:

King Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.   (1 Kings 19:1-3)

Hi=ow quickly had the scene changed fro Elijah:

At Horeb, the mount of God, Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”   (1 Kings 19:9-10)

In somewhat similar experience, Peter, on a lesser scale, pulled defeat out of the jaws of victory. It began when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea:

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”   (Matthew 14:22-27)

Peter became excited when he realized that who he was seeing was Jesus and not a ghost:

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”   (Matthew 14:28-32)

I only know of two people who have walked upon the water: Jesus and Peter. I never have, Have you? So perhaps we should not be too critical of Peter.What went wrong for Peter? What went wrong for Elijah? Reading again from First Kings:

God said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”  (1 Kings 19:11-14)

Elijah thought he was alone, facing evil and his potential death. He had just won a major victory over the prophets of Baal, because God was with him. Where did he go wrong? Perhaps he took his eyes off of God and could only see his circumstances, which were grave.Surely this was the case with Peter. Perhaps Elijah, in his mind, hand taken credit for the victory over Baal. Pride gowa before a fall.

God was not finished with Elijah. We was not finished with Peter either. God’s ministry never ceases. To Elijah he said:

Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”   (1 Kings 19:15-18)

Peter was bold, but Peter stumbled. He denied his Lord three times. Yet we remember that Jesus restored him. He became the rock and leader of the Early Church. His leadership and example has resonated down to this day.

God calls upon us to do his ministry, but it is his ministry, not ours. We cannot take credit for it. And when we stumble all is not lost. God still has a plan and he will continue to use us if we have a heart of repentance. So let us rejoice and leave all who we are and all that God has called us to do in the skillful hands of God.

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The Transfiguration

Changed into His Likeness

There was a moment when Jesus manifested His glory on the earth. We long for that moment to happen again. In today’s Gospel we read:

About eight days after Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. (Luke 9:28-29)

God also called Moses to come up His holy mountain:

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24:15-18)

Something happens on the mount of God. His presence and His glory are there. God’s glory is like a “devouring fire.” It changes the participant. When Moses returned to the people his face shown with the glory of God.

God calls us up to His holy mount for a purpose – His purpose! There are those who are merely looking for spiritual thrills. False churches and false revivals have been birthed by misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the Holy. Many have been led astray by lying spirits and false angels because they were seeking signs and wonders rather than the Lord Jesus Christ, not realizing that Satan himself can disguise himself as an angel of light. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.   (Colossians 2:18-19)

Peter was on the mount of transfiguration. This was not just a metaphorical experience. It was an actual event. We have this testimony in his own words:

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (2 Peter 1″16-17)

Peter was told to focus on Jesus only. We are not to get distracted by anything, even by signs and wonders.

Is God calling us to come to His mount of transfiguration today? Yes, he is! Are we ready? We are not to seek spiritual experiences per se. Rather, let us seek Jesus and His glory. The Apostle Paul writes:

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:17-18)

We are transformed by whom or what we worship. Let our worship be the Lord Jesus Christ and Him only. He is the culmination of all the Law and the Prophets. Let us focus on Him and listen to His words. Let us look into His face and be transformed from glory to glory.

Very soon Jesus will be calling His Bride. We must wait with expectation with our oil lamps full. We want to be full of the Holy Spirit and emptied from the pleasures and distractions of this world. The ultimate transfiguration for us will be when we receive a glorified body in heaven. Now, however, we are called to grow closer to Jesus. This is the work of the Spirit. Our work is to believe and trust what the Spirit is doing in our lives and to seek him out each day. Let us remember that for many, we are the face of Jesus. What is our witness?

On the mount of transfiguration, Peter was overcome and lost focus:

Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said.

God had a word for Peter:

While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

This word is also a word for us. How are we being transformed? By the world or by Jesus?

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