Category Archives: lectionary

First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday

The Ministry of the Holy Trinity 

Today it is Trinity Sunday. It has been said that if anyone is able to explain the Holy Trinity they are probably a heretic. To be sure, the Trinity is certainly difficult to explain, or even to understand. Yet the scriptures clearly depict God in three persons. In today’s readings we have glimpses of how the three person of the Godhead interact with each other.

Let us first look at the act of creation. From Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness [a]was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.   (Genesis 1:1-2)

Here we have a picture of the Holy Spirit waiting to carry out the plans of the God the Father. We see that the Spirit was there in the beginning. He is often referred to as the Wisdom of God. Reading from Proverbs:

Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?

On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;

beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:

“To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.

Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,

when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master worker;

and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,

rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.”   (Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31)

Notice that the Spirit to took delight in the creation of humankind. The Spirit was very much involved in the creation. God the Father spoke to each Person of the Trinity when he said: “Let us.”

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”   (Genesis 1:26)

Where was God the Son in all this? Reading from the first chapter of John’s Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.   (John 1:1-5)

Jesus, the Word of God,  is said to be the agent of creation. Not only that, he became the Word made flesh. He entered into his own creation of our behalf.

It the Holy Trinity some theological concept far above our understanding? No, the Trinity is Emmanuel, God with us. The Trinity impinges upon our daily lives. How is that so? From today’s reading from John:

Jesus said to the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”   (John 16:12-15)

By the Holy Spirit, God will share his very essence with us. The Spirit will share all that the God the Father has – the very essence that was been given to Jesus and give it to us. Are we ready to move beyond gauge spiritual concepts and move into fellowship with all of God? This is our heritage.

The psalmist writes:

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

What is man that you should be mindful of him?
the son of man that you should seek him out?

You have made him but little lower than the angels;
you adorn him with glory and honor.   (Psalm 8:4-6)

God wants to adorn us with glory and honor. Do we believe that? If so, are we boldly ready to claim our inheritance? The Apostle Paul writes:

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)

We are destined to share the glory of God. It is not something that we alone can accomplish. The Holy Trinity is working on our behalf. We need all three Persons of the Trinity. We need the commandments of God the Father. He has set the standard which will never change. He requires us to be holy. We need the ministry of God the Son to forgive us and remit all our sins as we confess them to God. By our faith alone Jesus continues to work on our behalf, interceding for us before the Father. We need the Holy Spirit, the third person of the God Head, to implant the law of God in our hearts and empower us for service. Jesus is returning for a Church without spot or wrinkle.

Have we in the Church been faithful in teaching the fullness of the Gospel? If we have left out anyone the Persons of the Trinity then we need to make some corrections. We should not dissect the Gospel into Liturgical, Evangelical, and Pentecostal. We need all three. Trinity Sunday asks us to look at the whole of the Gospel.

Thanks be to God for the sacred work of the Holy Trinity. God is still forming us into his image. The world around us is working to undermine what God is doing. This world is passing away. God will create a new heaven and a new earth. Let us put our whole trust in God alone.

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Saint Barnabas

Son of Encouragement

Today we celebrate the life and ministry of Saint Barnabas, the traveling companion of the Apostle Paul. He was more than a traveling companion. Barnabas was largely responsible for encouraging Paul to undertake an active ministry in the first place.

We know about Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. We know that Jesus Himself called Paul into ministry. Nonetheless, Paul was not easily accepted as an apostle of Jesus by the leadership in Jerusalem. He had been persecuting the Church. Barnabas, however, looked at Paul through the eyes of Christ. He rescued Paul and presented him to the apostles, testifying that Paul was indeed a true believer. This was typical of Barnabas. His name meant “son of encouragement.”

Barnabas was chosen along with Paul for a special mission:

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.   (Acts 13:1-3)

This was the beginning of the great mission to the Gentiles. Barnabas and Paul were willing to travel without special requirements or treatment. They endured great hardships for the Gospel. They were willing to follow the instructions which Jesus gave His disciples concerning the conduct of ministry:

Jesus said to the twelve, “As you go, proclaim the good news, `The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.   (Matthew 10:7-10)

What can we learn from Barnabas about our own ministry? He did not care what others thought or said about Paul. He listened only to what God was telling him. He wanted the praises and approval of God more than that of human beings.

A positive attitude is helpful. Prayer and fasting is preparation. The support of a community is vital and of absolute necessity. A willingness to be set apart by the Holy Spirit for ministry directed by God and not by our own desires. Perhaps this last one is the most difficult. The Holy Spirit may lead us into difficult places where we must rely solely on God.

We may not be asked by God to leave home and job. We may, however, be asked to give up some of our cherished beliefs about ministry. We may be asked to leave our comfort zones. We may be required to work with others who are not on the approved list. We might just be called to offer encouragement and support to others in their ministry. God is still calling his Barnabas’s.

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Day of Pentecost, Year C

Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Today we remember and celebrate the beginning of the Christian Church, when the Holy Spirit fell upon the early disciples. Reading from the second chapter of Acts:

When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.   (Acts 2:1-4)

The Day of Pentecost was the beginning of the great acts of the apostles of Jesus. It was the beginning but not the end. The promise of the Holy was for us today also. In his sermon of Pentecost, Peter preached:

In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.   (Acts 2:17-18)

Many of his listeners were greatly moved and asked what they should do. Peter replied:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”   (Acts 2:38-39)

Peter makes it clear that the promise of the Holy Spirit was not just for the apostles. It was everyone, including those “who are far off.” That would include us.

Jesus made it very clear that the acts of the apostles were for anyone who believes in him:

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.   ()

The acts are by the Holy Spirit. We must believe and receive the Holy Spirit. And we must do everything in the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus also means the character of Jesus. Jesus was led by the Spirit while on the earth. We are to be led by the same. The Apostle Paul writes:

All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ– if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.   (Romans 8:14-17)

We are joint heirs with Christ because we have received a spirit of adoption. Our destiny is to be glorified along with him. The Bo0k of Acts did not have an ending. The acts are still going on. Are we participating?

What could possibly stop us? How could the power of the Spirit be dampened in us and in our churches? Perhaps through fear. Paul warns about falling back into fear. Fear is not from God. Paul encouraged his protege Timothy to rekindle the Spirit within him:

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.   (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

Satan is the one who uses fear. He wants to confuse us and make us forget our inheritance in Christ. How does he do it? Through intimidation, through ridicule, through persecution. Does the Church today need to be politically correct? Does the Church need to be relevant and make the world feel right at home? Too much “seeker friendly” perhaps? What is the answer? I am not sure, to be honest. But this much we should know, we will not be glorified with Jesus if we do not suffer with him.

We cannot avoid suffering and have the power of the Spirit working in us. Our own power is not what has advanced the Church. It is the Spirit of God which has established and enriches the Church. Let us stir up the gift that is within us. Let us anoint people in the name of Jesus and set them apart for the greater works that God has prepared for them. Let us fulfill our own calling, not by our  will and power, but by the will and power of God. And let us not be ruled by fear. God’s perfect love casts out fear:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.   (1 John 4:18)

We are called to serve under Christ by his Spirit and power. We have been freed from the spirit of fear! God is perfecting us in his love. Let us have our own Pentecost, in our hearts and in our churches. Amen.

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The Season of Pentecost

The Jewish festival of Shavuot (Hebrew: שבועות‎, lit. “Weeks”) is one of three main annual pilgrimage festivals in the Judaism. It commemorates God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai and it also celebrates the conclusion of the grain harvest in Israel. The date of Shavuot is directly linked to the celebration of the Jewish Passover. The grain harvest began with the harvesting of the barley during Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Shavuot. The time in between was seven weeks or fifty days. This time frame also represents the time between Israel’s Exodus from Egypt until the giving of the Law at Sinai.

Pentecost is a major feast day of the Christian liturgical year. It roughly coincides with the Jewish festival of Shavuot. This is not coincidental. Just as Easter is the prophetic fulfillment of Passover, Pentecost is the prophetic fulfillment of Shavuot. The two feasts, Shavuot and Pentecost, have much in common, both historically and spiritually.

During the celebration of Shavuot the Jewish people were reminded of God’s Law:

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.   (Deuteronomy. 8:3-4)

Often Jewish participants would spend all night during Shavuot studying the Torah. They would read significant portions of the Torah aloud.

Pentecost has to do with God’s Law as well. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote of a time that the Law would come in a new way:

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.  (Jeremiah 31:33)

This is what happens to us when the Holy Spirit comes upon us as it did on the Day of Pentecost for the early disciples. Jesus said that He came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). It is the action of the Holy Spirit to bring us more into alignment with God’s Law. We cannot keep the Law by our own efforts, but we can yield to the Holy Spirit whom Jesus said would lead us into all truth and make alive His teachings.

Pentecost is not simply a static day of celebration of the historical birth of the Christian Church. Surely it marked the beginning of the Church. As with Shavuot for the Jewish people, Pentecost is a time for us to reflect upon God’s Word, allowing the Spirit to renew our zeal for both the Law and the Gospel.

The Season of Pentecost is the longest season of the liturgical year. The Sundays following Pentecost and extending up to the beginning of the new liturgical year in Advent are filled with readings concerning Christian growth. To live in Christ one must grow in the Faith. Spiritual stagnation could ultimately lead to spiritual death and a forsaking of God’s Holy Law.

During the season after Pentecost, there are two tracks each week for Old Testament readings. Within each track, there is a Psalm chosen to accompany the particular lesson.

Track 1 of Old Testament readings  follows major stories and themes, read mostly continuously from week to week. In Year A we begin with Genesis, in Year B we hear some of the great monarchy narratives, and in Year C we read from the later prophets.

Track 2 follows the Roman Catholic tradition of thematically pairing the Old Testament reading with the Gospel reading.

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