Monthly Archives: October 2018

Saint Simon and Saint Jude

st simon and st jude2Called to Preach the Gospel

In today’s Old Testament reading Moses declares:

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop like the rain, my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass, like showers on new growth. For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is he.   (Deuteronomy 32:1-4)

Moses knew that he was blessed by the Spirit of God. Thus, he realized that he had an obligation and responsibility to teach his word.

Saint Simon and Saint Jude were blessed by God. They were called by Jesus directly to preach and teach the Gospel. Some ancient Christian writers say that Simon and Jude went together as missionaries to Persia, and were martyred there. If this is true, it explains why they are usually put together. Little else is known of their ministry. Nevertheless, they were faithful to their calling. After all, the calling of God is not to speak about who we are but about what God has done for us in Christ.

Before He was crucified Jesus told His disciples that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit so that they would be able to on His behalf because that is what the Holy Spirit does. Jesus said:

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.”    (John 15:27)

Have we received the Holy Spirit? Have we also been called by to testify to the truth of the Gospel? The Apostle Paul wrote that Jesus came to reconcile the world unto Himself and that our testimony is important in that process:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.   (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

The new creation that God has brought about in Christ brings reconciliation between all people. Paul writes:

Now in Christ Jesus you Gentiles, who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.   (Ephesians 2:13-18)

People are so divided today. Our responsibility is to bring unity in Christ because we have been given this “message of reconciliation.” We cannot do this on our own, but we have been given the Holy Spirit to guide us and direct us in this ministry. Let us follow the faithful example of men like Simon and Jude.

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Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 25B

JOB-FINALTrack 1: True Repentance

Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 10:46-52

In today’s Old Testament reading, Job answers the question that God asked him: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”

“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;

therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”   (Job 42:2-6)

What does it mean to repent in dust and ashes? When Abraham prayed for the city of Sodom he was careful to tell God how he considered his position. From Genesis we read:

And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” Abraham answered, “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”   (Genesis 18:26-28)

The expression dust and ashes which Abraham used was a way that Abraham humbled himself before God. Abraham understood the fallen nature of humankind. Dust signified this fallen condition. Again from Genesis:

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”   (Genesis 3:19)

The Prophet Jonah was called by God to proclaim the destruction of Nineveh because of the wickedness of the city:

Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands.   (Jonah 3:4-8)

The entire city sat in ashes as a sign of their repentance. They were saying that they took the word of the Lord seriously. They were also saying that they recognized their fault and their position before God.

Repentance is not some casual contract that we make with God. We cannot say we are sorry and that we will try to do better without a sincere acknowledgment that we have offended against God and his holy laws. We cannot negotiate with God from a position of pride. We must show the greatest humility before him and true sorrow for our sins.

The psalmist wrote:

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

I will glory in the Lord;
let the humble hear and rejoice.

Proclaim with me the greatness of the Lord;
let us exalt his Name together.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me out of all my terror.

Look upon him and be radiant,
and let not your faces be ashamed.

I called in my affliction and the Lord heard me
and saved me from all my troubles.

The angel of the Lord encompasses those who fear him,
and he will deliver them.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are they who trust in him!   (Psalm 34:1-8)

In order to be heard by God we must humble ourselves before him. He must honor him with great respect and reverence. As the psalmist wrote, we must “fear” him. Only from this position can we expect forgiveness and blessings from God.

There is another attitude and position we might take before. Such was that of Satan. From the Prophet Ezekiel we read:

Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
    you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
    I exposed you before kings,
    to feast their eyes on you.
By the multitude of your iniquities,
    in the unrighteousness of your trade,
    you profaned your sanctuaries.
So I brought out fire from within you;
    it consumed you,
and I turned you to ashes on the earth
    in the sight of all who saw you.
All who know you among the peoples
    are appalled at you;
you have come to a dreadful end
    and shall be no more forever.   (Ezekiel 28:17-19)

There is no shame in asking God for forgiveness. On the other hand, there can be no pride in repentance.

 

 

 

Track 2: Spiritual Sight

Jeremiah 31:7-9
Psalm 126
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 10:46-52

We know that Jesus in his earthly ministry healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead. Nonetheless, he did not perform such ministries for everyone he met. How did he happen to choose a certain blind beggar for healing? From today’s Gospel we read:

Jesus and his disciples came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.   (Mark 10:46-52)

What was special about Bartimaeus? Bartimaeus knew who Jesus was. He cried out to Jesus, calling him “Son of David.” He knew the prophecy concerning the Messiah and he reasoned that Jesus was that Messiah. Not only that, but Bartimaeus cried out with faith and hope that Jesus would minister to him. And although he was blind, he “sprang up and came to Jesus.” He was prepared to move boldly when the opportunity presented itself. And lastly, Bartimaeus called Jesus “my teacher.”

Bartimaeus was not only interested in his physical healing, he also sought spiritual healing. Though he was blind he was able to see spiritually. He was able to see more in Jesus than many of the followers of Jesus.

Barimaeus, by his own words, indicated that he was a spiritual follower of Jesus. When he received his physical sight he was prepared to take the next step. He “followed him on the way.”

What could be worst than physical blindness for those who are attempting to navigate this world? This answer is “spiritual blindness.” If we are to live out a life acceptable to God that a high priest who has been made perfect forever. Only he can be our permanent offering before God for the sins we have committed. From Hebrews we read:

For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.   (Hebrews 7:26-28)

Bartimaeus was looking for more than a healer. He was looking for a Savior who would take away all of his sins. Are we looking for such a Savior? Only spiritual blindness can keep us from seeking and finding Jesus. He came to save us, but we must be looking for him so that we may follow him. He said:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.   (John 14:6)

For Jesus to accomplish his work as High Priest on our behalf we must be willing, each day, to “follow him on the way.”

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Saint James of Jerusalem

Faith and Works

James, brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, leader of the Christian Church in Jerusalem, and author of the Epistle of James is still speaking to the Church today. Are we listening?

How important was James to the Early Church? The Apostle Paul writes about the people whom Jesus personally appeared to after His resurrection:

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.   (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

It would be an understatement to say that James has not always been understood or appreciated. He is almost like a Rorschach test. People often project on him their own theology. We may be familiar with Martin Luther’s statement about the Epistle of James being an “epistle of straw.” Luther’s theology did not agree with the tone and tenor of James’ Epistle. At the risk of oversimplification, Luther emphasizes sola fide, “faith alone” whereas James states that “good works” demonstrates a genuine faith. James was writing from wisdom and experience and he did not want to make allowances for an easy grace without accountability.

James was the leader of the Church in Jerusalem. A dispute broke out in the Early Church concerning whether or not Gentile converts to the Faith needed to follow Judaic Law. This dispute had the potential of dividing the Church. Accordingly, a council met at Jerusalem to consider what rules Gentile Christians should be required to keep. James formulated the final consensus as to what the requirements for Gentiles should be:

Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.” (Acts 15:19-21)

Without this vital agreement the work of the Gentile Church would have been gravely hindered. We see that James was not locked in ideology or his own peculiar theology. He was a traditionalist when it came to interpreting the Mosaic Law. Yet he was open and flexible. He sets the proper tone for the Church today. Are we divided over many doctrines or have we identified the crucial matters of the faith as did James?

A Spirit lead ecumenical movement is once again emphasizing what is important (not the false spirit that wants to harmonize all religions). This ecumenical movement does not reduce the Church to the lowest common denominator. Rather, it stresses a need for agreement by leaders who will come together in prayer.

What James has taught us is that faith without works is dead. The Church needs to work together, trusting in the leading of the Holy Spirit. We must arise and take up the challenges that lie ahead of us.

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