Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 16B

Track 1: Glory Filled the House

1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11], 22-30, 41-43
Psalm 84 or 84:1-6
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

Today we have an account of how the glory of God came down at the dedication of the Temple by King Solomon in Jerusalem. From 1 Kings we read:

Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.   (1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11],

This was not the first time that the children of Israel experienced the glory of God. In the wilderness they experienced it. From Leviticus we read:

Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them; and he came down after sacrificing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the offering of well-being. Moses and Aaron entered the tent of meeting, and then came out and blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.   (Leviticus 9:22-24)

The Hebrew word used for glory is כָּבוֹד (kavod).” It can also mean “importance”, “weight”,  or “heaviness.” This is not surprising. The glory of God was often experienced by the people as a weight which came upon them, often forcing them to the ground. The priests in Solomon’s Temple could not stand because of the weight.

During the Azusa Street Revival of  that took place in Los Angeles in 1906, the glory of God entered the sanctuary. Quite often, however, as people approached the location of the revival they fell to the ground on the sidewalk and repented before they even reached the sanctuary. They experienced the weight of God’s glory.

Do we experienced such a phenomenon in our churches today? So we experience the severance and awe brought on by the weight of God’s glory? I am afraid that we may be experiencing a different sort of weight. There is another weight which brings compromise and complacency. This is the weight of today’s culture. It is the weight of the 501 3c contract that our churches have made with the federal government. The church in America used to be the moral compass of the people. Now are we afraid to speak out on important issues for fear of losing our tax exemption status? Have the commandments of God been classified as “hate speech?” The temptation is to be culturally relevant has, no doubt, guided the direction in which our churches  are going.

We need another great revival. We need reformation in our churches. This is coming because many intercessors have prayed for it. Once more the presence of the glory of God will be experienced in the church, But, before that occurs there will be judgment. The Apostle Peter wrote:

For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God?   (1 Peter 4:17)

We are already seeing the judgment of God upon some churches. Many church leaders are being exposed for their wickedness and corruption. Many churches need a housecleaning.

The psalmist wrote:

How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts!
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;
by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.

Happy are they who dwell in your house!
they will always be praising you.   (Psalm 84:1-3)

Evil is on the rise. Our churches will need to be sanctuaries from a wicked world. Again the psalmist wrote:

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,
and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God
than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

For the Lord God is both sun and shield;
he will give grace and glory;

No good thing will the Lord withhold
from those who walk with integrity.

O Lord of hosts,
happy are they who put their trust in you!   (Psalm 84:9-12)

Let us continue to pray for our churches. And let us be willing to fall upon the weight of the glory of God as he removes from us the shackles of the world.

 

 

 

Track 2: Put on the Whole Armor of God

Joshua 24:1-2a,14-18
Psalm 34:15-22
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

We live in a difficult and dangerous world. This is particularly true for Christians. The Apostle Paul warned that we must put on the whole armor of God so that we may be able to stand in the Faith. Paul writes:

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.   (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Jesus warned his disciples that there will always be tribulation for those who profess him as Savior and Lord. We cannot go it alone and survive. The psalmist wrote:

The righteous cry, and the Lord hears them
and delivers them from all their troubles.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and will save those whose spirits are crushed.

Many are the troubles of the righteous,
but the Lord will deliver him out of them all.   (Psalm 34:17-19)

In John’s Gospel Jesus made this promise to us:

The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. Ihave said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:32-33)

Will we stand with the Lord when it no longer popular to do so? That day is here!

There are special times in life when we must whom we will serve. In the wilderness, as preparation for entering the promised land, Joshua told the children of Israel that they must choose whom they will serve:

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel:

“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

We must make a quality decision. In a difficult age when the culture against us, are we willing to follow the Lord? If so, then we must put on the full armor of God because we are entering enemy territory warfare.

How do we fight this war? Winning battles begins with ourselves. We must put on the breastplate of righteousness. We must be committed to living holy lives. If not, we will be no different than the world around us. How could we expect anyone to follow our example? Holy living is our best defense.

What about offense? Our weapons are not carnal. We do not win by arguments or persuasion. Rather, we must depend on the word of God. Paul wrote:”Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” God’s words are so much more powerful than our words.

The Apostle Peter also wrote:

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.   (1 Peter 3:13-16)

Despite our best efforts, and even with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, some people may just not respond to the Gospel message. At times, we may find ourselves standing alone for the Gospel. What do we do then? We are reminded what the Apostle Paul wrote:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.   (Ephesians 6:13)

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

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