Monthly Archives: October 2020

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 preach on his behalf. That is the work of 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-First Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 25

Track 1: From Generation to Generation

Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

The psalmist wrote:

Lord, you have been our refuge
from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born,
from age to age you are God.

You turn us back to the dust and say,
“Go back, O child of earth.”

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past
and like a watch in the night.   (Psalm 90:1-4)

God is a generational God. He has plans our lives from day to da.He also has a generational plan for our lives as well. He sees the short term, but he also sees in the long term. He delivered the children of Israel from captivity and bondage in Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Generations before he promised Abraham a homeland. God was now delivering on this promise. From todays Old Testament reading:

Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”   (Deuteronomy 34:1-4)

Moses had completed his assignment. Now it was time to pass the baton to a new generation:

Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses.   (Deuteronomy 34:9)

Joshua would lead the children of Israel into the promise land. He had been trained under Moses. But most importantly, the hand of God was upon him. God always ensures that he has the next leader prepared to step in. But that leader must be willing to endure suffering and trials.

From generation to generation God was unfolding his plan for salvation of Israel and the entire human race. Moving forward several generations we see how God’s plan was coming into focus. The religious leaders during Jesus’ earthly ministry, however, failed to understand what God was doing. They did everything in their power to derail God’s plan. They were asking Jesus questions to trip Jesus up. But they were not ready for Jesus to question them. From today’s Gospel reading:

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.   (Matthew 22:41-46)

Jesus was telling the Pharisees that God’s plan for humanity began far earlier than King David and extended into a future that would never end. Through Nathan the prophet God promised David:

“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before you forever. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:12 13,16)

The Pharisees were too short sighted. God was unfolding his plan before them, but they were stuck on themselves. God’s plan for salvation began long before David, long before Abraham. It began at the very beginning of creation. We read in the Book of Revelation that Jesus was the the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). The psalmist wrote:

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,

One generation shall laud your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.

All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
and tell of your power,
to make known to all people your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.   (Psalm 145::3-13)

We may now be living in the last generation. How do we fit into God’s plan? Are we stuck on ourselves? Are we blind to what the Lord is doing? What is our task?

Will we speak of the glory of God’s kingdom? Will we tell of his power, to make known to all people his mighty deeds? Will we tell gospel of Jesus others about God’s everlasting kingdom? God’s generation plan has come down to us. Are we not to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ until he comes again? We may need a  wider vision. We may need a longer timeline, onet hat extends throughout all eternity.

 

 

Track 2; You Shall Be Holy

Leviticus 19:1-2,15-18
Psalm 1
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

What does the Lord require of us? Reading from Leviticus:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.   (Leviticus 19:1-2)

What does it mean that God is holy? The Hebrew word for holy is Kodesh (קודש). It means set apart for a specific purpose. God has created the world, but he is greater than his creation. Israel was set apart by God from the other nations of the world to be a kingdom of priests.

What does it mean that we should be holy? We are to be set apart from the world as servants of God. He is of a much higher level than we are, but he wants to raise us up to dwell with him.. We cannot achieve this level on our own. God says to us:

Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.   (Leviticus 20:7-8)

How does this happen? The psalmist wrote:

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;
everything they do shall prosper.   (Psalm 1:1-3)

The most powerful way to effect this change is by letting the Word of God dwell in us richly:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.   (Colossians 3:16

When we embrace scripture without reservation, it will energetically work God’s will in uz. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.  (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

God’s word is working inus, but we must cooperate.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

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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 proclaim 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 helped formulate a 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 an 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?

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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St. Luke, Evangelist

The Work of an Evangelist

Luke was a physician, but he was also an exceptional writer and historian. It is wonderful to see such talent harnessed for God’s purposes. His example should inspire all of us to use our gifts and talents to their maximum effect in the service of our Lord.

The Apostle Paul wrote to his protegé Timothy:

As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.   (2 Timothy 4:5)

Luke understood the work of an evangelist. His whole Gospel was tailored to present the narrative of Jesus in an orderly and effective way. In his prologue to the Book of Acts he explains his purpose in writing the third Gospel:

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  (Acts 1:1-3)

Luke was a Greco-Syrian physician who lived in the Greek city of Antioch in Ancient Syria. He wrote from a non-Jewish perspective while Matthew wrote his Gospel from a decidedly Jewish perspective. Matthew emphasized that Jesus came to fulfill and clarify Mosaic Law. Luke emphasized that Jesus came to fulfill the Kingdom of God. We need both perspectives. Fortunately, Luke made the Gospel of Jesus Christ accessible to all people. Inasmuch as he was a traveling companion to the Apostle Paul it is easy to understand his point of view.

Luke stressed the work of the Holy Spirit both in his Gospel and in the Book of Acts. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit:

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  (Luke 4:14-21)

Luke makes it clear that we should be anointed with the Holy Spirit as well. Such an anointing is required to do the work of an evangelist. In the beginning of the Book of Acts, he writes about the baptism with the Holy Spirit which Jesus imparted to all of His disciples:

Jesus appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 1:3-5)

The word from Luke to all of us today is “get anointed and get going for the Gospel.”

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