Monthly Archives: August 2019

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 16C

Track 1: Before I Formed You I Knew You

Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

Children are born with a purpose and a calling from God. That was true of Jeremiah:

The word of the Lord came to me saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”   (Jeremiah 1:4-5)

It is difficult for many of us to understand who God is calling us to be. When we begin to comprehend what God is asking of us, we often protest. Jeremiah did:

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,

says the Lord.”   (Jeremiah 1:6-8)

The assignment which God give us may seem well beyond our capabilities. What we need to understand is that we are not alone. God is with us.

The psalmist wrote:

For you are my hope, O Lord God,
my confidence since I was young.

I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;
from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;
my praise shall be always of you.   (Psalm 71:5-6)

This is the beauty and mystery of our calling. It is an opportunity to know God and have an intimate relationship with our creator and redeemer. This is not what the world teaches. This is not what Satan wants. In fact, Satan wants to abort as many children as possible. Children with a calling from God are dangerous to him.

God has a plan for our lives. Our lives are very much a part of his overall plan for humanity. He has called us in order to reshape us, the deliver us, and heal us. He has called us into his kingdom which is unshakable. The world is passing as we know it is passing away.

From today’s Epistle reading:

At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken– that is, created things– so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.   (Hebrews 12:26-29)

Satan wants us crippled and bound to his lies. God wants to set us free. He sets us free so that we may rejoice and help set others free. In today’s Gospel we read:

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.   (Luke 13:10-13)

Healing and deliverance are often controversial, however. The “authorities” often object to it. They did concerning the ministry of Jesus:

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”   (Luke 13:14-16)

Who are these authorities? They were not appointed by God. We are his authorities when we answer his call.

Will we answer his call today? Will we enter into his unshakable kingdom? Will we celebrate our freedom and joy for all to see? None of us are too small or too insignificant. We are all destined for his glory. We all have a ministry and a calling. The crippled calling may have only been to glorify God. That could be the greatest calling of us all.

 

 

Track 2: By His Stripes We Are Healed

Isaiah 58:9b-14
Psalm 103:1-8
Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:10-17

Healing is very much a part of the ministry of Jesus. Yet it is still controversial, even to this day. His healing ministry often got him into trouble with the authorities. From today’s Gospel reading:

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.   (Luke 13:10-17)

You would have thought that everyone there should have celebrated this woman’s healing. Not so:

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”  (Luke 13:14-16)

The healing ministry is very much a part of the new covenant which Jesus established for us by his sacrificial death on a cruel cross. He spilt his blood on our behalf  so that we might be set free from the power of sin and death. Today’s reading from Hebrews speaks of this new covenant:

You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.   (Hebrews 12:22-24)

There is power in the blood of Jesus.

The psalmist wrote:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.

He forgives all your sins
and heals all your infirmities;

He redeems your life from the grave
and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

He satisfies you with good things,
and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.   (Psalm 103:1-5)

Notice the forgiveness of sins becomes before healing. We must acknowledge our sins. Jesus bore them on the cross. He also bore our infirmities. From Isaiah:

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.   (Isaiah 53:4-5)

The crippled woman whom Jesus healed immediately began praising God. She was bound by Satan but Jesus set her free. Are we still bound by his lies and deception? Or are we ready to affirm, participate in, and celebrate the healing ministry of our Lord?

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St Bartholomew, Apostle

saint-bartholomewAn Israelite in Whom There Is No Deceit

Today we celebrate the life and ministry of the Apostle Bartholomew, also called Nathanael. Little is know of him. We do know that he recognized Jesus as the Son of God from the beginning and that Jesus, Himself, testified to his good character. Reading from today’s Gospel of John:

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”   (John 1:45-51)

Bartholomew was a person of integrity. He was able to deal openly and honestly. He was willing to follow Jesus without a great deal of persuasion, no matter the cost. For these reasons, Jesus was able to prophecy that extraordinary things would take place in his life and ministry.

Nevertheless, there was a cost for Bartholomew for having been chosen. The Apostle Paul spells out some of this cost in his First Epistle to the Corinthians:

I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.   (1 Corinthians 4:9-13)
God gave to Bartholomew the grace to believe and to preach His Word under all circumstances. He travelled extensively as a missionary. Many miracles were attributed to his ministry. Tradition has it that Bartholomew was martyred for the Faith. Our prayer for the Church today is that we may recognize the Messiah, as Bartholomew did, and follow through on our calling. As Bartholomew, are we willing to pay any price?

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 15C

Track 1: The Lord of the Harvest

Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

The psalmist wrote:

You have brought a vine out of Egypt;
you cast out the nations and planted it.

You prepared the ground for it;
it took root and filled the land.   (Psalm 80:8-10)

The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.

He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;

he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;

he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,

judge between me
and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?

When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?   (Isaiah 5:1-7)

God watched over Israel. They were his tender plants. He poured his love into them that they might grow into his kingdom of priests, setting the world on fire, that many people might be saved. God has done the same for us, his engrafted branches. He has given us his very best, his only begotten Son.

Now he is looking for the fruit. Have we produced the fruit of his Spirit? The Apostle Paul wrote:

The works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.   (Galatians 5:19-23)

Do we not realize that it is time for the harvest. God is looking for his fruit in us. Jesus said:

“When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”   (Luke 12:54-56)

We are living in the time of the harvest. It began with the earthly ministry of Jesus. John the Baptist foretold of this time. He was sent to prepare Israel for the harvest. But the religious leaders of the day did not fully grasp what God required. Reading from Matthew:

When he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.   (Matthew 3:7-8)

We, along with Israel, are to bear fruit. How are we to do that. We cannot do it on our own. But God the Father has made it possible through his Son. Jesus said:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.   (John 15:1-6)

Jesus is the Lord of the Harvest. The Harvest is upon us. Jesus has done and is doing his part to prepare us. This is not the time to turn back. Are we to become wild grapes? Let us choose the fruit of the Spirit over the works of the flesh. The time is short. Very short.

We must start with repentance. And we must continue with repentance, allowing Jesus to prune us and shape us. We must continue in his word. And we must abide in him that he may transform is from glory to glory.

When Jesus spoke to the men traveling to Emmaus they were touched by the fire of his word:

“They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (Luke 24:32)

We still need that fire today. Amen.

 

 

Track 2: The Fire of God’s Word

Jeremiah 23:23-29
Psalm 82
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

God spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah:

I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back– those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?   (Jeremiah 23:25-29)

The prophets and preachers of old were tasked to speak God’s word faithfully. But his word was not always popular with the people. Wanting to be liked and accepted, they often did the opposite. They substituted their words for God’s word. God warned them that they should speak his word. Only his word would produce his desired result.

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy:

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.   (2 Timothy 4:22-5 NIV)

There are often consequences for the preacher who faithly preaches God’s word. Jeremiah grew weary of speaking God’s word because of the grief he was receiving. There was a time when he wanted to quit. He pondered:

If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.   (Jeremiah 20:9)

The Apostle Paul wroteL

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!   (1 Corinthians 9:16)

The word of God is for a specific purpose. Jesus said:

“When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”   (Luke 12:54-56)

We are in the time of God’s harvest. The preaching is to prepare  souls for that harvest, Nothing must stand in the way. Jesus was resolute. He said:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.   (Luke 12:34-38)

The word of God may upset people. It often does. Are we, then, to substitute our words for God’s word? Are we to preach our own dreams and not his? If we do we are telling the people that our dream is God’s dream. We would be leading the people astray and denying them their salvation in Christ Jesus.

God has a better dream for us. His dream is glorious. His dream is lasting, Nevertheless, his dream is only fulfilled by way of the cross. From today’s Epistle:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.   (Hebrews 12:1-2)

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