Category Archives: lectionary

The Transfiguration

Changed into His Likeness

There was a moment when Jesus manifested His glory on the earth. We long for that moment to happen again. In today’s Gospel we read:

About eight days after Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. (Luke 9:28-29)

God also called Moses to come up His holy mountain:

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24:15-18)

Something happens on the mount of God. His presence and His glory are there. God’s glory is like a “devouring fire.” It changes the participant. When Moses returned to the people his face reflected the glory of God.

We remember a time when Moses was on the Mount that he asked God to show him his glory:.

16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”

17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’;[a] and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.   (Exodus 33:16-19)

God calls us up to His holy mount for a purpose – His purpose! There are those who are merely looking for spiritual thrills. False churches and false revivals have been birthed by misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the Holy. Many have been led astray by lying spirits and false angels because they were seeking signs and wonders rather than the Lord Jesus Christ, not realizing that Satan himself can disguise himself as an angel of light. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.   (Colossians 2:18-19)

The Prophet Elijah climbed the Holy Mount of God. He was running for his life. He had given up on his ministry. He was being oppressed by an evil world and thought that he was all alone. On the Mount God set him strait and renewed his spiritual life. There is an impartation of strength and purpose on  the Holy Mount of God.

Peter was on the mount of transfiguration. This was not just a metaphorical experience. It was an actual event. We have this testimony in his own words:

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (2 Peter 1″16-17)

Peter was told to focus on Jesus only. We are not to get distracted by anything, even by signs and wonders.

Is God calling us to come to His mount of transfiguration today? Yes, he is! Are we ready? We are not to seek spiritual experiences per se. Rather, let us seek Jesus and His glory. The Apostle Paul writes:

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:17-18)

We are transformed by whom or what we worship. Let our worship be the Lord Jesus Christ and Him only. He is the culmination of all the Law and the Prophets. Let us focus on Him and listen to His words. Let us look into His face and be transformed from glory to glory.

On the mount of transfiguration, Peter was overcome and lost focus:

Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said.

God had a word for Peter:

While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

Moses and Elijah were on the Mount of Transfiguration, . They represented the Law and Prophets. Jesus, however, is the culmination and fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. The whole of the Old Testament pointed to him.

In a sense, God is calling us up to his Mount. Do we want to see bis glory? Do we want to listen to the One who can help us overcome the chaos of our current world? We are living in a timer of radical transformation. How are we being transformed? By the world or by Jesus?

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 13

Track 1: You Are the Man

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
Psalm 51:1-13
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

We continue with King David’s dreadful deceit. God instructed the Prophet Nathan to go to David and tell him this parable:

“There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.”   (2 Samuel 12:1-4)

David was very harsh in his judgement of the rich man:

He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”   (2 Samuel 12:5-6)

It is easy for us to be critical of others. This was especially true for David in this case, for the rich man showed no pity. But we are not to be judgmental of others in any case. Jesus said:

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?   (Matthew 7:1-3)

When we judge others we often find that judgement coming back on us:

Nathan said to David, “You are the man!   (2 Samuel 12:7)

Perhaps we dwell on the sin of others to avoid looking ay out own sin. God wants us to recognize our sins and confess them.

God responded to David’s confession. Nathan said:

Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  Nathan said to David, “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.”   (2 Samuel 12:11-13)

There are often consequences for sin, even when we confess it and have received God’s forgiveness.

Sin has ti do with an attitude of the heart. When he gained this understanding David wrote Psalm 51:

Have mercy o, O God, according to your loving-kindness;
in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness
and cleanse me from my sinFor I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.

Against you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.

 so you are justified when you speak
and upright in your judgment.

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,
a sinner from my mother’s womb.

For behold, you look for truth deep within me,
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the body you have broken may rejoice.

1Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence
and take not your holy Spirit from me.

Give me the joy of your saving help again
and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.   (Psalm 51:1-13)

What can we learn from this tragedy and David’s confession? We may not have committed such vile crimes, at least not in in the physical. But we must look deep within our hearts:

For behold, you look for truth deep within me,
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.   (Psalm 51:7)

Perhaps we should be proactive in our confessions before God. The psalmist wrote:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.   (Psalm 139:23-24)

If we have an unforgiving and judgmental heart, we have lost the foundation of our faith. God’s kingdom is based on love and forgiveness. Without his love as our foundation we are severely handicapped in coping with our daily lives. The Apostle Paul wrote:

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.   (Ephesians 4:14-16)

Jesus Christ is our head. He is our example. From the cross he forgave everyone. Are we able to follow his example? Yes, with his help, as long as we are able to look at our own sin. Our salvation is far greater than any false sense of self righteousness. We are righteous only by our faith, The blood of Jesus which washes away all of our sin, provided that we confess it.

Track 2: Suggestions

Exodus 16:2-4,9-15
Psalm 78:23-29
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

In today’s readings we have two miraculous feedings, one in the Old Testament and one in the Gospel:

The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’“   (Exodus 1611-12)

In the Gospel, Jesus is teaching about the miracle of Holy Communion:

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”   (John 6:36)

Both feedings are from God. The manna given in the wilderness was vital to the health of the children of Israel. The body and blood of Jesus is vital to our spiritual health. The children of Israel had no choice. We have a choice. Our churches have a choice. Jesus said:

“Very truly, I tell youunless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.   (John 6:53)

 

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Saint James, Apostle

Guido_Reni_-_Saint_James_the_Greater_-_Google_Art_ProjectAble to Drink the Cup

Today we look at one of the “Sons of Thunder.” He was quite ambiguous, or was it his mother?

The mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”  (Matthew 20:20-23)

James and John were among the first disciples called by Jesus. They were with their father Zebedee by the seashore when Jesus called them and they immediately followed Him. Along with Peter they were chosen by Jesus to bear witness to his Transfiguration. Thus, they were significant to Jesus’ ministry.

Their mother thought they were significant enough to request a special place for them in Jesus’ kingdom, but she did not understand what this might mean. James was chosen for greatness in ways his mother did not expect, nor did James.

What was the cup to which Jesus referred in answering the mother? It was the cup that Jesus understood too well. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed this prayer:

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26:39)

James, indeed, drank the cup that Jesus drank. James is traditionally believed to be the first of the twelve apostles who was martyred for the faith. We read about it in the Book of Acts:

Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread.  (Acts 12:1-3)

The Festival of Unleavened Bread was the Jewish Passover. Jesus has become the Passover for those who believe in Him. Because James was faithful in preaching the Passover of Christ he was privileged to join his Lord in laying down his life for the Church. James went from being a big-shot to a hero of the faith by following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Where would the Christian Church be today without the faith and testimonies of the martyrs? If the Early Church were preaching today’s “Gospel” message the Church would probably not even exist. So many today are seeking a higher place and a greater prosperity for themselves. Such seeking only causes envy and division within the Church. Jesus attempted to put a stop to it with His disciples:

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:24-28)

Having just celebrated Mary Magdalene as a true servant leader of God, we now celebrate James, the first apostle martyred for the sake of the Gospel. He was able to drink the cup. Let us pray for the grace and courage that more Church servant leaders will step forward in our day. Perhaps we may be included among them.

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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 12

Track 1:  Strengthen Your Inner Being 

2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

God referred to King David as a man after my own heart. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

When he had removed Saul, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’   (Acts 13:22)

David had a driving force to implements the commandments of God. But there was another force working within him. Reading from 2 Samuel:

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”   (2 Samuel 11:2-5)

David’s desire for Bathsheba caused grave consequences. David attempted to get Uriah, her husband, to sleep with his wife. But Uriah would not do so while he was on military duty. David’s act of adultery would lead to another crime:

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”   (2 Samuel 11:14-15)

Adultery led to murder as David tried to coverup his sin. How could this happen? How could a man after God’s own heart do these things?

Our flesh is a very powerful force.It is a desire to gratify ourselves at the expense of others. In fact, the flesh does not even consider others. Apostle Paul write::

For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  (Romans 7:18-19)

This is not Paul writing about his days as a Pharisee. As a Pharisee Paul wrote:

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.   (Philippians 3:4-6)

As Christians, we are not exempt from the temptations of the flesh. In fact, we are in a spiritual battle with the flesh. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.   (Galatians 5:16-17)

We cannot defeat the flesh on our own strength. We are no match for it. But the flesh has been defeated already at the cross, just as sin, hell, and death have been defeated. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   (Galatians 5:22-24)

How do we crucify the flesh? We must decide to whom do we belong. We must choose the Spirit over the flesh. And we must do this daily. Jesus died for our sins on the cross once and for all. Thus he giv3w us the power to defeat sin. But we must take up our cross daily. Jesus said:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   (Luke 9:23)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord.   (1 Corinthians 15:31)

What is our desire? Each day we must choose. The Apostle Paul prayed:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.   (Ephesians 3:16-19)

God will strengthen or inner being when we pursue him.  Once we taste God’s riches in glory we will not want to choose the flesh. Let us keep seeking Jesus. We are living in the time when God is pouring out his glory on all flesh. Let Pentecost become  our Pentecost.

 

Track 2:

2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-19
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

Both the Old Testament and Gospel reading involve miraculous healings. What do they have in common? Both involve skepticism. The task of feeding so many people seemed impossible. Yet the people followed the instructions that Elisha and Jesus gave. It took an act of obedience as well as faith for God to do his miracle.

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