Monthly Archives: April 2017

Third Sunday of Easter, Year A

Words of Eternal Life

Two travelers on the road to Emmaus were perplexed. In Luke’s Gospel we read:

Now on that same day two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”   (Luke 24:13-24)

The two travelers were aware of the Jesus and his ministry. They obviously cared about him and were looking for him to be the restorer of Israel. They were close enough to the disciples of Jesus to have heard about the reports of his resurrection. They were intrigued yet remained confused.

Do we often find ourselves in this condition? Life can be very confusing at times. There is only One who can help us at such times. Only the One who existed before the foundation of the world can truly understand what we are going through and help show us the way.

The Apostle Peter wrote concerning Jesus:

You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.   (1 Peter 1:18-21)

Today, is our faith and hope set on God? Do we know Jesus personally? Is he walking with us and unfolding the Word of God for us each day? We are on the road of life. With Jesus, that road leads to everlasting life with him in the Kingdom of God. He is with us to teach us and he is with us to empower us. Are we walking with the one who help lay the foundation of the earth? He is our foundation in this life and for the world to come.

This is the testimony of our fellow travelers on the road:

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”   (Luke 24:30-35)

We need to be emerged in the scriptures. We need to partake of Holy Communion often. And we need to have ears to hear and eyes to see what Jesus is showing to us along the way. If our focus is too much on the world we will miss what he is teaching us. Jesus:

 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.   (John 6:63)

During his earthly ministry, many of his followers turned away from him. When this happened Jesus asked his twelve disciples if they wanted to leave also. Peter responded:

“Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”   ((John 6:68-69))

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Saint Mark, Evangelist

saint-mark-1621Repent and Believe

The evangelist Mark was a traveling companion of Peter. He recorded Peter’s sermons and stories found in the Gospel of Mark. It is clear that Mark’s Gospel was written by a masterful storyteller. Though short, this Gospel has great impact and clarity. In the opening of his Gospel he gets right to the point:

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

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 1:9-15)

Notice that Mark’s Gospel is an action Gospel. It moves quickly and it asks us to move along with it.

Mark was a great evangelist who got right to the point. The Apostle Paul gives us a perception on the importance of evangelism when he speaks about God’s gifts to the Church:

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.   (Ephesians 4:11-13)

The evangelist follows the apostles and prophets in importance. Often times they are thought of as shallow or not very sophisticated. For Mark, the Gospel was simple: Repent and believe. That is the starting point for every Christian and should be the essential message of the Church. Too many of today’s “seeker” churches have forgotten this message.

Mark was willing to risk everything for the sake of telling the Gospel message. Ultimately, he paid the price with his life. What are we willing to risk today? Jesus told His disciples:

“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. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  (Mark 16:15-20)

Are we prepared to join Mark? What will the Lord say about our feet?

How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
    who announces salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
    together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
    the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
    you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
    he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
    before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
    the salvation of our God.   (Isaiah 52:7-10)

We are living in the last days. Evangelism is of paramount importance. There is little time for frills. At the very least we can earnestly pray for the rescue of all lost souls.

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Second Sunday of Easter, Year A

Seeing is Believing or Believing is Seeing?

We remember the story of doubting Thomas. He could not believe in the resurrection without physical evidence, even though others had testified that they had seen the risen Lord. Thomas got his chance to believe when Jesus appeared to his disciples a second time:

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  (John 20:26-29)

We should not be too hard on Thomas. His attitude represents for us a certain human skepticism that most of us share. Where does it come from? Perhaps it goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Satan tricked humankind to believe that we could be like God through a secret wisdom alone. It was just a matter of going around God who, supposedly, was keeping important information from us. Is that not the quest of science today? In fact, for some of today’s scientist,  their quest is an effort to disprove God altogether.

In reality, when it comes to God, physical proof does not work. The children of Israel saw more signs and wonders from God than anyone has ever seen. Yet, within a generation, they almost lost their belief in the God who brought them out of Egypt and nourished them in the wilderness. “Seeing is believing” did not seem to work for them, nor will it work in our day as well.

On the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter testified, in part:

David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,

‘He was not abandoned to Hades,
nor did his flesh experience corruption.’

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.”   (Acts 2:31)

The Apostles witness the resurrection of Jesus Christ first hand. Only a select few of people actually did. But their testimony has helped spread the Gospel around the world. Peter remarked:

Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.   (1 Peter 1:8-9)

Personal testimonies are what touch people’s hearts. The risen Christ is very real to those who believe. They do not just have head knowledge. They have heart knowledge which is no less important. It may be even more important. This does not make Jesus any less real. It is just the God the Father has ordained faith as a required element in the conversion of souls. The Apostle Paul writes:

“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.   (Romans 10:8-10)

Paul tells us what it means to be saved. We received the word of God. We received the testimony and we believed. John Wesley said that his hearts was strangely warmed. Faith changes us.

We did not see the resurrected Lord as did the early apostles, but Jesus has called us blessed:

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

We have experienced Jesus within our hearts. Because we believed we have salvation in the name of Jesus. He can never be taken away from us if we hold him there. His life within us is transforming us more and more into his likeness. That transformation is our primary testimony and that is what changes the world. Many early Christian believers would not give up their testimony and were martyred for the Faith. Faith is all important because it guarantees an eternal inheritance with the Saints of light.

Let us go boldly into the world, as did Peter and the other apostles, and praise the glorious name of Jesus. “Believing is seeing.” May our belief help others to see.

Alleluia! He is risen!

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Saturday in Easter Week

192Witnesses to the Resurrection

Jesus understood the value of Christian witness to His resurrection. This testimony builds our faith. Thus, Jesus was not pleased with His disciples who had heard the testimony of the women but did not believe:

Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.   (Mark 16:14-15)

The Apostles Peter and John, when they believed, became very bold in their faith. Without their witness the Church would never have survived or grown. So vital is the witness of the Christian believer that Satan will do all in his power to thwart it. We see this in today’s reading from Acts:

When the rulers and elders and scribes saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened.   (Acts 4:13-21)

Today, we are called by God to be His witnesses of the resurrection. We are now the disciples of Jesus. Are we bold in our testimony? If we are then we soon discovered how much the enemy comes against us. Now in America Christians are beginning to experience persecution that only existed in others parts of the world. The persecution will become more intense. What will be our response? Will we still be able to speak of Jesus with Joy? The psalmist wrote:

Open for me the gates where the godly can go in.
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord.
    Only those who do what is right can go through it.
Lord, I will give thanks to you, because you answered me.
    You have saved me.

The stone the builders didn’t accept
    has become the most important stone of all.
The Lord has done it.
    It is wonderful in our eyes.
The Lord has done it on this day.
    Let us be joyful today and be glad.   (Psalm 118:19-24)

As our faith is tested, we will discover how deep our faith really is. Let us pray to God that He will strengthen us?

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Friday in Easter Week

The Restoration of Peter

Today’s resurrection appearance is quite a remarkable one:

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread (John 21:4-9)

This resurrection appearance of Jesus was not the first one nor would it be the last. The disciples were beginning to understand what the resurrection might mean. Nevertheless, they were also losing focus with regard to their mission. Jesus did not condemn them. He met them at their point of need and offered reassurance that all He would be there for them.

Peter, the leader, seemed almost rudderless. He was at a loss as to what he and the other disciples should be doing. Thus, he returned momentarily to what he knew best – fishing. Even so, his fishing interlude had proven unsuccessful. Jesus understood that Peter needed more than reassurance. He had denied the Lord three times. Peter needed restoration.

As disciples of Jesus in our day we also tend to lose focus. We become confused. Often times, we do not know what to do next. Perhaps we need reassurance. Perhaps some of us need restoration. Jesus does not abandon His disciples. He will not abandon us. However, we need to remain alert to the help that He provides us, sometimes in unexpected ways. We may not recognize what the Lord is doing at first. He will make it clear for us if we do not cut ourselves off from Him.

Peter could have cut himself off from Jesus out of his own shame and fear. Fortunately, His love for Jesus and his eagerness to find his way back prevailed. Moreover, Jesus restored Peter in a very loving way. He will restore us too. He will renew us. He will revive us. He will refill us with His Holy Spirit. We need His strength and direction because we must be able to strengthen our Christian brothers and sisters as did Peter. Peter slipped, but Peter also went the distance. He endured suffering and his own cross. He was a rock for the Lord. We, too, must become rocks in our day.

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