Monthly Archives: September 2019

Saint Michael and All Angels

Spiritual Warfare

We are in a battle on this earth. The battle has been ongoing for a long time but it did not begin here. The battle began in heaven:

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.   (Revelation 12:7-9)

We are in an epic battle and we must understand who our real enemy is. The Apostle Paul writes:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.   (Ephesians 6:12)

We are fighting the forces of evil. Evil is real. We cannot defeat it by our own strength. Fortunately, we are not in this battle alone. God is with us. His holy angels are on our side. The archangel Michael and his angels are still fighting for us. Today, we honor Michael and all the holy angels.

Yet, it is important for us to understand that we do not worship angles but the One true God who has made us all. Again, the Apostle Paul writes:

Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking,   (Colossians 2:18)

Angels are not to be worshipped. They are to be honored. Let us show our appreciation for the warring angels through our prayers. The psalmist wrote:

The Lord has set his throne in heaven,
and his kingship has dominion over all.

Bless the Lord, you angels of his,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
and hearken to the voice of his word.

Bless the Lord, all you his hosts,
you ministers of his who do his will.   (Psalm 103:19-21)

We can give thanks to God for our guardian angels, but we should not pray to them, or to anyone else, but God alone.

The holy angels are fighting against evil and we must also fight evil. We have two primary weapons to do so. In Revelation we read:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming,

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Messiah,

for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God.

But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,

for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.   (Revelation 12:10-12)

We have the blood of Jesus which covers our sins. This gives us access to the throne of God. By faith in the blood of Jesus we appropriate the righteousness of God in Christ. Thus we have authority over the devil. That is important to understand because prayer is our primary weapon against evil. We can bind evil with our prayers because we have authority over evil by the blood of the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ

Our faith must be complimented by our testimony, however, if our prayer is to be effective. If we claim the blood of Jesus then we must boldly tell others. Our prayers are also made powerful by the word of our testimony. Let us be bold as the Archangel Michael and not shrink back from the face of evil in this world. Amen.

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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 21C

Track 1: Hold on to Hope

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

Jeremiah lived in desperate times. The army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem and Jeremiah was the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace by Zedekiah, king of Judah. From today’s reading in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.   (Jeremiah 32:6-8)

This was not a time when one would expect a strong real-estate market. War was ready about ready to break out. But Jeremiah knew that God had spoken so he proceeded with the transaction:

In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.   (Jeremiah 32:13-15)

In troubling times in whom do we trust? The psalmist wrote:

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,
nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness,
nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

Because he is bound to me in love,
therefore will I deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
I am with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

With long life will I satisfy him,
and show him my salvation.   (Psalm 91:5-6, 14-16)

Are we bound to God in love, no matter the circumstances? This was certainly the case for the Apostle Paul. He wrote Timothy to encourage him:

For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.   (2 Timothy 1:11-12)

Paul was undergoing persecution. This happens to every strong Christian. He is telling his young protege to not lose hope under any circumstances. Why? Because God has a plan for each of us that transcends anything else that we might be faced with on this earth.

Paul wrote the church in Rome:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.   (Romans 5:1-5)

This life can be very difficult, especially for Christians. We must not give up regardless of the circumstances. We must go on with our lives because God is with when we put our trust in him. He is with us when we are bound to him in love. And he has a plan to see us through all of what we may be facing. Our task is to hold on to a holy hope. God has given us the power of his Holy Spirit. Paul tells us that this hope will not disappoint us. Amen.

 

 

Track 2: The Rich Man and Lazarus

Amos 6:1a,4-7
Psalm 146
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

Jesus told parables that were intriguing stories. Of course, they were much more than stories. They illustrated deep truths that cannot and should not be ignored. One of the questions that many people have, including some Christians, is whether or not there is an actual flaming hell. Today’s parable in the Gospel of Luke leaves no doubt:

Jesus said, “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.

How did the rich man end up here? That is the vital question. What went wrong? In the parable Abraham implies that the poor person was overlooked:

Abraham said, `Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.

The rich man was comfortable in life and well supplied with whatever he needed. The poor man was right at his gate, but the rich man obviously ignored him and his needs.

During the time of the Prophet Amos, God spoke out against those who were at ease and uncaring of others:

Alas for those who are at ease in Zion,
and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria.

Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,
and lounge on their couches,

and eat lambs from the flock,
and calves from the stall;

who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,
and like David improvise on instruments of music;

who drink wine from bowls,
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!

Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile,
and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.   (Amos 6:1a,4-7)

Unfortunately, some contemporary American churches have stressed that financial blessings are available to those with enough faith. According to the Apostle Paul this emphasis is all wrong:

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.   (1 Corinthians 15:19)

Paul understood first hand that being a strong Christian often meant persecution. He also believed that money can be a trap for many Christians:

There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.   (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

Paul wrote that the love of money is evil. Money, itself, is not necessarily evil. It all depends on how it is used. Paul writes:

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.   (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Rich or rich in good works? Jesus laid down his life for us. Are we willing to lay down our lives for others?

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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 20C

Track 1: The Dishonest Steward

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1
Psalm 79:1-9
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells the parable of the unjust steward:

“There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, `What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, `How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, `A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, `Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, `And how much do you owe?’ He replied, `A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, `Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.   (Luke 16:1-9)

The parable seems to be quite a controversial one. It is not su much that the parable is controversial but rather the interpretations of it. Some Bible “scholars” have suggested that Jesus is actually commending the steward because of his shrewdness. Worldly people are more clever that we Christian disciples, the thinking goes Thus we need to be more sophisticated and shrewd like the world. Is Jesus really saying that? I believe that is highly doubtful!

The dishonest steward was actually stealing money from the rich man in order to endear himself with other people like himself. Would the rich man commend someone who is stealing his money? Doubtful wouldn’t you say?

Maybe the steward is being commended for his shrewd planning for a more secure future? The parable states:

Make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.   (Luke 16:9)

How secure is wealth, especially dishonest wealth? The parable implies that it will not be lasting in the long run? An even more sobering thought is expressed in the parable. What is the final destination for those who have relied upon dishonest wealth? They will be welcomed into “eternal homes.” The word “eternal” in the original Greek is αἰωνίους (aiōnious). It mean “perpetual.” There is nothing really perpetual in this life so that rules out any earthly destination.

Clearly, Jesus is not commending the dishonest steward. He is saying, in a sarcastic way, that the dishonest steward has, by his actions, sealed his final destination. He will be welcomed there by people like himself, but it not God who will be welcoming him.

Today’s Old Testament reading reveals God heart for those who have been defrauded and not the defrauders:

My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
my heart is sick.

Hark, the cry of my poor people
from far and wide in the land:

“Is the Lord not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?”

(“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images,
with their foreign idols?”)

“The harvest is past, the summer is ended,
and we are not saved.”

For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt,
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.   (Jeremiah 8:18-21)

At the end of the parable, Jesus, commends the faithful stewards and not the dishonest one.

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”   (Luke 16:10-13)

The dishonest steward put his trust in wealth. Where do we place our trust? There are only two choices: God or financial wealth. It is one or the other. Which one leads to eternal life in heaven?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.   (John 3:16)

 

Track 2: The Unjust Steward (Alternative)

Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

This second homily is like the first one in its approach and conclusions. What is different are the introductory readings from the scripture. In this case, the heart of God concerning the poor is revealed through the Prophet Amos:

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,

saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;

and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?

We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,

buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:

Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.   (Amos 8:4-7)

The conclusion of the parable of the unjust steward is the same:

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”   (Luke 16:10-13)

Whoever or whatever we serve will determine our final destination.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.   (John 3:16)

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