Daily Archives: June 3, 2018

Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 5B

Track 1: The Sovereignty of God Rejected

1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15)
Psalm 138
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

Israel was an exceptional nation for one reason only. Though were chosen by an exceptional God. God has lead them out of slavery in Egypt with signs and wonders and brought them into a land promised to their forefather Abraham. With God’s help they defeated the pagan nations in this land. Nevertheless, despite all of this the people wanted to be like other nations. They wanted to have a king. From 1 Samuel we read:

All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.   (1 Samuel 8:4-9)

God was to king over Israel. God’s people were to be a holy nation – a kingdom of priests. They were not merely asking for a king to be like other nations. They were rejecting the plans and purposes of God. Reading on:

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”  (1 Samuel 8:19-20)

There is much talk today about America being an exceptional nation. God makes covenants with people and with nations. When we obey him and keep his commandments he gives us an exceptional task. Any nation favored by God is a holy nation, a missionary nation. The nation is not exceptional. Rather, they are serving an exceptional God.

In 1897, Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was held in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of her reign. The poet Rudyard Kipling was asked to write something to help celebrate the event. He wrote his famous poem “Recessional” which reads in part:

The tumult and the shouting dies;
   The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
   An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

This warning by Kipling is still applicable today, for all nations. Armies rise and fall. Kingdoms come and go. God warns through the Prophet Isaiah:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to live in;
who brings princes to naught,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows upon them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.   (Isaiah 40:21-24)

Through that same prophet he gives his assurances to those who follow in his ways:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.   (Isaiah 40:28-31)

The prophet, psalmist, King David wrote:

May our sons in their youth
    be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars,
    cut for the building of a palace.
1May our barns be filled,
    with produce of every kind;
may our sheep increase by thousands,
    by tens of thousands in our fields,
     and may our cattle be heavy with young.
May there be no breach in the walls, no exile,
    and no cry of distress in our streets.

Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall;
    happy are the people whose God is the Lord.   (Psalm 144:12-15)

The only exceptional nation is the one which is serving an exceptional God. Have we forgotten, America?

 

 

Track 2: Satan’s Illusion

Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

Intimacy with God the Father was established for humankind in the beginning. A fallen angel imparted the notion that we do not need an intimacy with God because there was a reality separate from God which greatly expands our possibilities and experience. From Genesis we read:

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”   (Genesis 3:8-14)

Satan had Adam and Eve buy into a false reality by telling them what they were experiencing had been just an illusion. His trick was and is still the same game: Satan’s substitutes his illusion for God’s reality and then calls God’s reality an illusion.

Today we live in an illusion. This was also true when Jesus ministered upon the earth. We read in Mark’s Gospel:

The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.   (Mark 3:20-27)

Jesus was casting out demons and setting people free from a false reality. His family, however, were worried that his actions were not fitting into the accepted norms. They wanted to restrain Jesus because his reality was different from theirs. Notice that the scribes were saying that what Jesus was doing was demonic when Jesus was actually destroying the works of the demonic. In a world of illusions the actually reality of God’s world does not seem to fit in. Satan’s method is to discredit God’s reality by discrediting his word.

Are we ready to come out from under the burdens of a false narrative and live truly free? As recorded in the Gospel of Mark his family was not quite ready:

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  (Mark 3:31-35)

Family can be a huge obstacle in living as a disciple of Christ. Jesus said that the family of believers transcends any boundaries which family may place upon us.

We live in a fallen world. That is the reality. It is not normal. It is abnormal and against the purposes of God. Yet the world exerts pressures upon us to conform to its way of thinking. We cannot allow ourselves to be dragged down into the same ditch in which the world lives. The Apostle Paul wrote:

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.   (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1)

Satan’s illusion is passing away. Only the reality of God will remain. Now is the time to embrace the truth of God’s reality and word. From the Prophet Isaiah:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.   (Isaiah 40:28-31)

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Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 4B

Track 1: The Calling of God

1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23-3:6

Today we read about the calling of Samuel. He served in the temple under Eli the priest. During this time the temple was in great need of spiritual renewal. From 1 Samuel we read:

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”   (1 Samuel 3:1-10)

New leadership was needed in the Temple. Notice the expression: “the lamp of God had not yet gone out.” Although Eli’s eyesight was growing dim, this expression was not about his eyesight. New leadership is always needed in the service of God because this world is continually falling into decay. And Satan is constantly attacking the servants of God. For this reason God plans ahead.

God called Samuel at an early age. Samuel was ust a young boy. He was just beginning to hear the voice of God. He was in a position near God so that he might listen to God. God is calling everyone of us today. Are we in a position to listen? Are we attentive to his voice?

It may be easier for the young to hear the call of God. The world has not yet overwhelmed them. God calls us when we are very young indeed. The psalmist wrote:

For you yourself created my inmost parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will thank you because I am marvelously made;
your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

My body was not hidden from you,
while I was being made in secret
and woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;
all of them were written in your book;
they were fashioned day by day,
when as yet there was none of them.   (Psalm 139:13-15)

God has a plan for our lives. From the very beginning he has ordained us and is forming us for that plan. All human life is precious to him. No life is by accident. How many prophets and priest have we killed in the womb through abortions? It is our national disgrace.

If we study the life of Samuel we see that he was a very humble and selfless man who became a great prophet. Our calling by God is not about ourselves. It is about serving the will of God the Father. The Apostle Paul wrote:

 We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)

Can we ignore our calling of God any longer? Let us put selfish matters aside. The harvest of souls is ready. We have been given various gifts and talents, and we are all called by God. Are we listening? Are we ready for him to equip us for his service? We are not too old. God still has a plan for us. We are not too young. All the better to listen to the voice of God. He is speaking to us as he spoke to Samuel. Our answer should be: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

 

 

Track 2: A Holy Sabbath

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Psalm 81:1-10
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23-3:6

When I was young we did not have the internet, smart phones, or even television. We played a lot of board games and card games. My brother and I liked to play cards, especially with our grandmother. But there was a rule about cards we had to follow. We could not play cards on Sunday. That would disrespect the day.

At least in those days their was a mindset to observe the Sabbath. Stores were closed. There was supposed to be something different about the Sabbath. We were  supposed to at least acknowledge its existence.

God gave the children of Israel this command about the sabbath while they were encamped in the wilderness:

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.   (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

It would seem that God was saying: “Do not be distracted by so many things on the sabbath. Remember what I have done for you and use the time to honor me.”

As I have said, there were rules about the sabbath which I did not understand as a child. The Pharisees specialized in rules, particularly rules about the sabbath. During his earthly ministry, Jesus was constantly confronted about these rules. From today’s Gospel we read:

One sabbath Jesus and his disciples were going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”   (Mark 2:23-28)

Jesus was telling the Pharisees that they had lost all perspective concerning the sabbath. They did not understand why it was given by God. The sabbath was made for humankind. It was given so that his people could spend time with God. We are to use the day to honor God and give thanks to him. God would use the day to refresh us. A time of refreshment from God can only come when we give our time to him.

Some might say that they do not need to go to church. They can commune with God on the golf course. To be sure, God is there. He is there even when we curse him and throw our golf club into the lake. God wants to be with us. And he wants to bless us. Will we let him? Or we will run from him on this day as we often do during the other days of the week?

The dangers of rules for the sabbath is that, by keeping them, we may think that we are a more holy people. We are not holy by any effort on our part. Only God can make us holy. A holy day is a holy time to be with a holy God. Then God can make us more into his image. He can mold us. He is the potter, we are the clay.

I am afraid that in some of our churches, we have allowed other spirits to come in and take the place of God’s Holy Spirit. We need a holy time with a right spirit.

The psalmist wrote:

Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you:
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not worship a foreign god.

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said,
“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”   (Psalm 81:8-10)

Have we let strange gods and strange spirits to come into our churches? The church in America is in great need of a revival. I am sure that most of us will agree with that. We need God to come in and cleanse us. He needs to do some housecleaning. We cannot do it. Let us pray to a holy God and ask him to make us holy once again, or maybe for the first time. Remembering God and imploring him to help us is a large part of what the sabbath is all about.

Jesus understood the sabbath. He observed it, but he did not give up any opportunity to do good by the power of the Holy Spirit. From today’s Gospel we continue reading:

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.   (Mark 3:1-6)

Are going to be Spirit filled and do the work Jesus has asked us to do, or are we going to be gatekeepers like the Pharisee and spend our time making rules so that others can obey them?

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