Monthly Archives: June 2021

Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles

The Messengers of the Gospel

The Apostles who have had the most profound impact on the Church are, without a doubt, Peter and Paul. One was an ordinary, uneducated fisherman who became the principle leader of a movement and faith that has reverberated down through the ages. The other was the outstanding student of Judaism in his day who became a great Christian theologian and missionary extraordinaire, writing a large part of the New Testament.

Which one was more important? We cannot say. I believe that they both were needed by the Early Church and both of their messages are needed today. Peter and Paul needed each other as well. Their messages played off one another. Without the leadership of either one we would not have had the fullness of the Gospel preached to the world. Nonetheless, Peter and Paul did not always see eye to eye. We read in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:11-16)

Peter and Paul resolved their differences and came to a common understanding of the Gospel. They mapped out what have become the essential tenets of the Faith. This opened the door for people of all nations to enter into the Kingdom of God.

Here is how Peter described Paul’s writings:

But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:13-16)

Each apostle started his ministry in the Church from a position of weakness. We remember that Peter had denied his Lord three times before Jesus endured the cross:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”   (John 21:15-19)

In the flesh, Peter was weak. He became a giant of the Holy Spirit. People would be healed if even his shadow passed over them.

As a pharisee, Paul was persecuting the Church, thinking that he was saving Judaism from heresy. Without the intervention of Jesus he would not have become the great missionary that he was.

In looking back on his ministry, Paul wrote to Timothy:

As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.   (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

What is significant about both Peter and Paul is that, against all odds, they taught and preached the Gospel with boldness and perseverance. Although they faced many hardships, they did not shrink back from the great commission which the Lord Jesus had entrusted to them. The commonality in their leadership is that they did not rely on themselves but on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

They both emphasized that the Kingdom was not of this world. Their message was not about getting ahead or being successful in this lifetime. They preached that Christian believers could look forward to the life to come with great hope. In the meantime, believers were to advance in purity and holiness. Peter and Paul were ultimately martyred for their faith. They willingly made every sacrifice for the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They set the highest standard for us to follow today.

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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8

Track 1: Reaching out in  Faith

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

In today’s Gospel reading a leader of a synagogue named Jairus had asked Jesus to come and pray for his daughter who was at the p0int of death. Along the way something remarkable happened:

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”   (Mark 5:24-34)

What is so remarkable about this woman? She had been ill for a lengthy time and nothing seemed to help. No doubt her faith had been tested. She may have lost hope in a conventional cure. She was desperate, but she had not given up on God. The psalmist wrote:

Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss,
O Lord, who could stand?

For there is forgiveness with you;
therefore you shall be feared.

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
in his word is my hope.

My soul waits for the Lord,
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, wait for the Lord,
for with the Lord there is mercy;

With him there is plenteous redemption,
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.   (Psalm 130:1-7)

She believed that God could and would heal her. She could have easily blamed God for all of her troubles, but she did not, The enemy loves to tempt us in this way. “Why doesn’t God help me?”

There is another temptation that Satin uses. He tells us that we are not worthy. This woman must have believed in God’s mercy and redemption. She believed in the goodness of God. She believed that healing was her God-given birthright.and she was not going to let anything get in her way of seeking his help..

Did this woman know that Jesus was God? We do not know. But apparently she knew there was something in Jesus that would bring her back to health. She said: “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” She must have believed that there was a life-giving power in Jesus.

Sometimes it takes despair to grasp both our need and desire for God.  Many of us have been touched by God. But have we reached out in faith to touch hm?

Today, are we ready to touch the hem of his garment? God has more for us. He has healing for us.

O Israel, wait for the Lord,
for with the Lord there is mercy;

With him there is plenteous redemption,
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.   (Psalm 130:6-7)

 

Track 2; Suggestions

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Lamentations 3:21-33
or Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

The readings seem to focus on death and the resurrection. From the Wisdom of Solomon we learn that God did not make death. He created us for incorruption.

“but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.”

Our lives have to do with whom we identify. This has to do with the age old struggle. Part of that struggle if often the question of whether or not we see God as good. Do we see him as good? How about absolutely good?

What caused the devil to envy? What causes us to follow him? There are two worlds. One has death and the other has life, eternal life. Which one will we choose. For this world the resurrection of Jesus is required.

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Nativity of St. John the Baptist

The Path of Peace

When John the Baptist was eight days old he was brought to the temple to be circumcised as was the Jewish custom. His father the priest then prophesied over him:

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:75-79)
The path of peace theme is also echoed in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that she has served her term,
    that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
    double for all her sins.   (Isaiah 40:1-2)

There is only one way to peace and Jesus is that way. He is the Prince of Peace. Today, we are hearing about another peace. It is said that a peace will be provided by a new world order and a one world government and a one world religion. How much should we trust this peace? Paul writes to the Church in Thessalonica:

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.   (1 Thessalonians 5:2-4)

When John grew into his ministry he preached that we must repent of our sins and seek the real Messiah. John prepared the way for Him. Jesus has prepared the way for us to approach God the Father.

Thomas, the disciple of Jesus was confused about the identity of Jesus:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.   (John 14:5-6)

There are no alternative ways of peace? John the Baptist’s message was very simple. Repent and seek Jesus. His whole ministry was to point us to Jesus. Nonetheless, in the world today there are many distracting voices. These distractions lead to dead ends, literally. Jesus said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.   (John 14:27)

The world promises peace but delivers persecution. Again Jesus said:

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:33)

Peace will only come to the world during the millennial reign of Jesus. The message of John the Baptist was quite simple. He was not the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah and true path of peace. All we need to do is repent and believe.

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 7

Track 1: Facing Giants

1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20
or
1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16
Psalm 133

2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

In life we may face many obstacles. Some may seem like giants to us. In today’s Old Testament reading we get a chance to see how David handled giants:

David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.”   (1 Samuel 17:34-36)

What David was saying that he knew who he was in God and that his enemy was also an enemy of God. Though it might have seen that David may have been bragging on himself, in this passage he state that this battle belongs to God:

The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”   (1 Samuel 17:41-47)

God’s ways are not our ways. King Saul spoke from a human point of view. It may have seemed like good advice. Yet David knew to trust the higher authority. If we are to allow God to take over we must carefully follow his instructions. We must put 0ur full trust in God as did David:

When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.   (1 Samuel 17:48=49)

The psalmist wrote:

The Lord will be a refuge for the oppressed,
a refuge in time of trouble.

Those who know your Name will put their trust in you,
for you never forsake those who seek you, O Lord.

Sing praise to the Lord who dwells in Zion;
proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.   (Psalm 9:9-11)

Do we know the name of Jesus, enough to put our trust in him. in today’s appointed Gospel, the disciples of Jesus were gaining an even greater understanding of His name. They were in a boat facing a dangerous storm and pleaded with Jesu for help:

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”   (Mark 4:35-41)

Jesus quickly conquered the storm. This same Jesus will conquer our storms.

Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
    we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   (Romans 8:34-37)

We are conquerers because Jesus is our conquerer. He is interceding for us. Do we know Jesus enough to call upon him? Do we know him as Lord of heaven and earth?

 

Track 2: Suggestions

Job 38:1-11
Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

God asked Job:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.”

And the disciples of Jesus asked:

“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Are we in awe of God or do we attempt to lecture his and correct his understanding of our situation? This may be something to explore. In our troubles do we give him thanks for his care? the psalmist wrote:

He stilled the storm to a whisper
and quieted the waves of the sea.

Then were they glad because of the calm,
and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his mercy
and the wonders he does for his children.

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