Monthly Archives: August 2020

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17

Track 1: This Is My Name Forever

Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

Moses had fled from Egypt because he had killed a man. He was hiding out, keeping a low profile so to speak In today’s Old Testament reading we find that he could not hide from God:

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.   (Exodus 3:1-15)

Imagine the shock that Moses must have felt, hearing the voice of God from a blazing bush. He must have been in even more shock when God asked him to go back to the place he fled and lead his people out of bondage. Moses protested:

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’“ God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.   (Exodus 3:1-15)

What does the name of God tell us about God? Does he stand alone? Yes, he is the only one who can say “I Am” without any qualifications. He is not a created being. He is the creator of all things. If no one else existed, he would still exist. He would still be God. He has no limits.

No one defines him. In today’s Gospel reading Peter tries to define God:

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”   (Matthew 16:21-23)

God defines himself. He is who he is. He will be who he will be. He will do what he wants to do. He is sovereign and Lord of all.

Do we have anything in common with Moses? God may not speak to us from a burning bush, but he does speak to us. He asks us to do things far beyond our capabilities. This is one of the ways we can tell that it is God who is speaking to us.

But to do what God asks of us we must take on the name of God. Reading from Numbers:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.   (Numbers 6:22-27)

There is power in the name of God. The mystery is that God places his own name on us to bless us. He places his name upon us to so that we might have power to answer the call that he has given us. He places his name upon us so that we might be able to accomplish all his purposes.

Are we willing to turn aside as did Moses? Are we willing to listen to God? Are we willing to believe his word to us? And we willing to receive power from on high and do mighty works i his  name? The name that God places on us is the name of Jesus.

And being found in human form,
   he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.   (Philippians 2:8-11)

 

 

Track 2: Understanding the Cross

Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

Peter was not prepared for the message that Jesus delivered:

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”   (Matthew 16:21-23)

He did not understand the message of the cross. In today’s Old Testament reading, Jeremiah was having trouble with the same message:

Why is my pain unceasing,
my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?

Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,
like waters that fail.

Therefore, thus says the Lord:

If you turn back, I will take you back,
and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
you shall serve as my mouth.

It is they who will turn to you,
not you who will turn to them.

And I will make you to this people
a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you
to save you and deliver you,

says the Lord.   (Jeremiah 15:19-21)

Jeremiah cold not understand why he was being persecuted. That is what the world does to people of God. Jeremiah did not understand the high cost of following God. Jesus told his disciples:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?   (Matthew 16:24-26)

Do we understand the message of the cross? Do we understand the cross? We are to lose our lives in order to find them. We can think of only protecting ourselves, but we will never know Jesus. We will never understand his purpose and ministry. And we will never understand our purpose and true identity.

Jesus told his disciples:

In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:32)

What God told Jeremiah, he says to us:

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
you shall serve as my mouth.

It is they who will turn to you,
not you who will turn to them.

And I will make you to this people
a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you
to save you and deliver you.

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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 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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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 16

Track 1: Humility before the Lord

Exodus 1:8-2:10
Psalm 124
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

Pharaoh of Egypt was threatened by the growing Hebrew population. He decreed that every male child born to the Hebrews be thrown into the Nile. Today we read how God protected the baby Moses:

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”   (Exodus 2:1-10)

God has a plan for Moses. He would be used iby God n an extraordinary way to rescue his people from slavery in Egypt and lead them to the land promised to the Patriarch Abraham. Moses performed great signs and wonders, under God’s hand, to make this happen. But his leadership position was also shared with his sister Miriam and his brother Aaron.

Miriam and Aaron became jealous of Moses and decided to challenge his leadership and authority:

Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth. Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.So the three of them came out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the entrance of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. And he said, “Hear my words:

When there are prophets among you,
I the Lord make myself known to them in visions;
I speak to them in dreams.
Not so with my servant Moses;
he is entrusted with all my house.
With him I speak face to face— clearly, not in riddles;
and he beholds the form of the Lord.   (Numbers 12:3-8)

What the Lord said about Moses was only true for him and no one else. Moses spoke to God face to face. Yet Moses was more about the mission that God gave him to do than about his position with God. God chose him for the position because because God had given him the mission.

God has assigned each one of us positions and assignments to fulfill in the establishment of his kingdom. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.   (Romans 12:3-8)

How do we respond to the call on our lives? Do we take pride in the assignment which God has given us, expecting great privileges and recognition? Do we become jealous of one another’s roles? Jesus said:

You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.   (Mark 10:42-45)

Whoever we are and whatever we do, we are no more than the servants of God. If we are to do the tasks which God asks us to do, we must keep things in perspective. And what is that perspective? Reading from the Prophet Micah:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?   (Micah 6:8)

The only way we can approach God is with a humble and grateful heart. I order for us to do the work which God has given we must remain in fellowship with him. On our own we can do nothing.

 

 

Track 2: The Question Everyone Must Answer

Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus asks his disciples the all important question:

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.   (Matthew 16:13-18)

With divine help, Peter recognized who Jesus was. But Jesus did not build the Church on Peter’s recognition alone .Rather, he built the Church on his testimony as well. Believing is not enough. From the Book of James we read:

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.   (James 2:19)

Our faith is important. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are saved by grace through faith. The grace comes when God gives us the faith. But what do we do with that faith.

The Aostle Paul it clear that we must give testimony to our faith

“The word is near you,

on our lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);  if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.    (Romans 10:8-10)

Notice that Paul writes that our salvation comes through our testimony. People are waiting to hear our testimony. They are longing to hear the Gospel. God spoke through The Prophet Isaiah:

Listen to me, my people,
    and give heed to me, my nation;
for a teaching will go out from me,
    and my justice for a light to the peoples.
I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,
    my salvation has gone out
    and my arms will rule the peoples;
the coastlands wait for me,
    and for my arm they hope.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
    and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens will vanish like smoke,
    the earth will wear out like a garment,
    and those who live on it will die like gnats;
but my salvation will be forever,
    and my deliverance will never be ended.

Today, who is Jesus to us? Is he Lord of all? Is her our Lord? Is he our savior? What do we tell others about Jesus? The world as we know it will soon be coming to the end. But we will live on because our testimony will last an eternity

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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 15

Track 1: Reconciliation

Genesis 45:1-15
Psalm 133
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

We remember how the brothers of Joseph sold him into slavery in Egypt. They were jealous of him, to the point of killing him. Their hatred toward Joseph was so strong. Their evil intentions, however, led to a greater good. God’s intentions are greater than ours. His ways are higher than ours. Today we read about one of greatest examples of how God won the victory over human deceit and hatred.

Because of a great famine the brothers of Joseph were sent to Egypt to buy food by their father Israel. Joseph, because of his faithfulness and obedience to God had risen to be the second in command of all Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh. The brothers, who did not recognize Joseph, were totally unaware that it was Joseph to whom they were talking. Reading from Genesis:

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come — so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.   (Genesis 45:4-15)

We can make terrible decisions in life. We can make terrible mistakes. But God can bring good out of our sinful acts when we call upon him. The grace of God, working through Joseph, brought about a reconciliation between the brothers. Joseph was able to forgive his brothers and share God’s love for them. The psalmist wrote:

Oh, how good and pleasant it is,
when brethren live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head
that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron,
and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon
that falls upon the hills of Zion.

For there the Lord has ordained the blessing:
life for evermore.   (Psalm 133:1-5)

Reconciliation. It can only come through forgiveness. It can only come through Christ Jesus who has pain all our debts, The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.   (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

We need reconciliation between our family, friends, and others. But first we must be reconciled to God. Paul continues:

In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.   (2 Corinthians 5:19-21)

 

 

Track 2: The Mercy of God

Isaiah 56:1,6-8
Psalm 67
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

In today’s Gospel we have an encounter of Jesus with a Canaanite woman. Cannane was the land where God drove out the pagan kingdoms because he had promised the land to Abraham. Israel had a long history of dealing with the Canaanites who were constantly threatening their very existence. Reading from Matthews:

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.   (Matthew 15:21-28)

The response of Jesus was not unexpected by the Canaanite woman.. She knew that she was an outsider to Israel and hated by many of them. What is interesting about her, though, is that she recognized the power and authority of Jesus, which many Israelites did not. And she was willing, even at the risk of ridicule, or worst, to ask Jesus for help. Her love for her daughter and her hope that Jesus would cure her, helped her to prevail. But how could she fail? Jesus honored her deep faith. After all, no matter who we are, are righteous only by faith.

You may remember another time when Jesus was moved by a person’s faith. This man was also an outsider as well. He was a tax collector named Zacchaeus. After his encounter with Jesus, he was willing to give up half of his possessions to the poor and to pay back four times those whom he may have defrauded.

Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”   (Luke 19;9-10)

Anyone who  responds to Jesus by faith is a child of Abraham and a child of the promise. Being an actual descendent of Abraham by birth alone is not enough. t

Thus says the Lord:
Maintain justice, and do what is right,

for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,

all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant–

these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;

their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;

for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.   (Isaiah 56:1,6-7)

The key words are “all people.” The Apostle Paul wrote:

For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.   (Romans 11:32)

How do we respond to his goodness and mercy? Do we respond like the Canaanite woman and Zacchaeus with faith? We cannot do so without recognizing who Jesus is and acknowledging his authority. The Canaanite woman was willing to beg. She knew that she was in desperate need and that only Jesus could help her. How desperate are we for healing and deliverance? How desperate are we for a new life in Christ? God is seeking us. Are we seeking him?

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