Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost Proper 26A

Track 1: Crossing the Jordan

Joshua 3:7-17
Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23:1-12

The story of the children of Israel is our story. God has made promises to us. We are to follow him as he leads us from bondage to a new life filled with promise. Often times we feel as though we are in a wilderness. Even when we are God is still leading us. Are we looking to him for guidance?

There are crucial moments in our lives. There are crucial moments in our Christian walk. We may not realize that the moment we are ready to take possession of what God has promised is perhaps the most crucial of all.

In today’s Old Testament reading, the children of Israel are about to cross the Jordan River and enter the promised land. They had been in the wilderness for a generation, but now they are ready. In Joshua we read:

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.   (Joshua 3:14-17)

God went before the children of Israel. The priests led with the ark of the covenant. Not only that, but the priests held the ark of the covenant in the middle of the Jordan so that everyone could safely cross.

For our own Jordan crossing we need the same. We must follow God, but we also need his continual presence in our lives. Jordan crossings are critical. They occur just before we receive a promise from God. The danger in these crossings is that we may be lulled into thinking that, because we have followed God, we can now receive the prize without his additional help. In our celebratory moment Satan is ready to steal our inheritance if we are not careful. God has proven himself. We should have nothing to prove by going it alone. Our goal should always be to put our trust in him.

People may come along side us at our crossings, even friends. Often times they can be unnecessary distractions at best. Some are there only to get us deliberately off course. Let the celebration occur on the other side of the Jordan. Let the glory go to God, We do not need to seek it for ourselves.

The ultimate Jordan crossing is passing from this life to the next. This may be by death or by the rapture. In either case, let us bathe in the presence of God.

The psalmist wrote:

Let God arise,
Let His enemies be scattered;
Let those also who hate Him flee before Him.
As smoke is driven away,
So drive them away;
As wax melts before the fire,
So let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
But let the righteous be glad;
Let them rejoice before God;
Yes, let them rejoice exceedingly.   (Psalm 68:1-3)

Track 2: Sitting on Moses’ Seat

Micah 3:5-12
Psalm 43
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23:1-12

From the Gospel of John we read:

The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.   (John 1:17)

Nonetheless, the Law of Moses is still significant. Jesus spoke about those who interpret the Law:

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 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. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.   (Matthew 23:1-8)

The Apostle Paul was once a Pharisee. After his conversion to Christ he interpreted the law differently. From today’s Epistle reading:

You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.   (1 Thessalonians 2:9-13)

How we interpret the Law has very much to do with how we observe the Law in our daily lives. Paul set a good example for the believers. The Prophet Micah warned against those pervert justice and seek personal gain.

Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob
    and chiefs of the house of Israel,
who abhor justice
    and pervert all equity,
who build Zion with blood
    and Jerusalem with wrong!
Its rulers give judgment for a bribe,
    its priests teach for a price,
    its prophets give oracles for money;
yet they lean upon the Lord and say,
    “Surely the Lord is with us!
    No harm shall come upon us.”   (Micah 3:9-11)

Today, in America, we have many people sitting on Moses’ seat so to speak. Jesus said that in the last days there would be false prophets and false teachers. Some are saying that there should be a universal religion because we all serve the same God. This is a false teaching and a false peace. There is only one Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote:

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.   (Ephesians 4:1-6)

There are also those who impose their strict interpretation on scripture without the benefit of discernment given by the Holy Spirit. That is why we have so many denominations and non-denominations. This, too, is false.

Lastly, there are those who teach and preach just for their own financial gain. Their Gospel is often false because they need to twist scriptures in order to make their congregants give more than they should. Yes, we should be cheerful givers. But God does not want his people impoverished for the sake of a few spiritual elites. This was not the example of the Apostle Paul.

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Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year A

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