Category Archives: lectionary

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, Himself, 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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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 15C

Track 1: The Lord of the Harvest

Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

The psalmist wrote:

You have brought a vine out of Egypt;
you cast out the nations and planted it.

You prepared the ground for it;
it took root and filled the land.   (Psalm 80:8-10)

The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.

He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;

he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;

he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,

judge between me
and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?

When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?   (Isaiah 5:1-7)

God watched over Israel. They were his tender plants. He poured his love into them that they might grow into his kingdom of priests, setting the world on fire, that many people might be saved. God has done the same for us, his engrafted branches. He has given us his very best, his only begotten Son.

Now he is looking for the fruit. Have we produced the fruit of his Spirit? The Apostle Paul wrote:

The works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.   (Galatians 5:19-23)

Do we not realize that it is time for the harvest. God is looking for his fruit in us. Jesus said:

“When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”   (Luke 12:54-56)

We are living in the time of the harvest. It began with the earthly ministry of Jesus. John the Baptist foretold of this time. He was sent to prepare Israel for the harvest. But the religious leaders of the day did not fully grasp what God required. Reading from Matthew:

When he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.   (Matthew 3:7-8)

We, along with Israel, are to bear fruit. How are we to do that. We cannot do it on our own. But God the Father has made it possible through his Son. Jesus said:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.   (John 15:1-6)

Jesus is the Lord of the Harvest. The Harvest is upon us. Jesus has done and is doing his part to prepare us. This is not the time to turn back. Are we to become wild grapes? Let us choose the fruit of the Spirit over the works of the flesh. The time is short. Very short.

We must start with repentance. And we must continue with repentance, allowing Jesus to prune us and shape us. We must continue in his word. And we must abide in him that he may transform is from glory to glory.

When Jesus spoke to the men traveling to Emmaus they were touched by the fire of his word:

“They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (Luke 24:32)

We still need that fire today. Amen.

 

 

Track 2: The Fire of God’s Word

Jeremiah 23:23-29
Psalm 82
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

God spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah:

I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back– those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?   (Jeremiah 23:25-29)

The prophets and preachers of old were tasked to speak God’s word faithfully. But his word was not always popular with the people. Wanting to be liked and accepted, they often did the opposite. They substituted their words for God’s word. God warned them that they should speak his word. Only his word would produce his desired result.

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy:

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.   (2 Timothy 4:22-5 NIV)

There are often consequences for the preacher who faithly preaches God’s word. Jeremiah grew weary of speaking God’s word because of the grief he was receiving. There was a time when he wanted to quit. He pondered:

If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.   (Jeremiah 20:9)

The Apostle Paul wroteL

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!   (1 Corinthians 9:16)

The word of God is for a specific purpose. Jesus said:

“When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”   (Luke 12:54-56)

We are in the time of God’s harvest. The preaching is to prepare  souls for that harvest, Nothing must stand in the way. Jesus was resolute. He said:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.   (Luke 12:34-38)

The word of God may upset people. It often does. Are we, then, to substitute our words for God’s word? Are we to preach our own dreams and not his? If we do we are telling the people that our dream is God’s dream. We would be leading the people astray and denying them their salvation in Christ Jesus.

God has a better dream for us. His dream is glorious. His dream is lasting, Nevertheless, his dream is only fulfilled by way of the cross. From today’s Epistle:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.   (Hebrews 12:1-2)

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Saint Mary the Virgin

Il_Sassoferrato_-_Madonna_with_the_Christ_Child_-_WGA20874Trust in God’s Promises

The prophets of old foretold the Messiah and His ministry, but who could grasp all that they were saying? From Isaiah:

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  (Isaiah 53:1-3)

Mary understood that God had made promises to Abraham and she believed that He would keep them. She lived through terrible circumstances but never gave up her hope and trust in the Lord. Her God was full of love and mercy. Her reverence and humility before God are without question.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”   (Luke 1:46-55)

Mary did not always understand the ministry of her son, however. There was a time in the early ministry of Jesus when Mary was asking her son to come home.Like a good mother, she was concerned for the wellbeing of her son. She had not yet grasped how his ministry was unfolding and how it was fulfilling the promises of God.

We cannot fault Mary for her concern. There was no one ever like Jesus, either before or since. Again, from Isaiah:

Surely he has borne our infirmities
    and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
    struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.   (Isaiah 53:4-5)

As the prophet Simeon foretold, her heart would be pierced and she would gain a greater understanding.

“Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  (Luke 2:34-35)

Our hearts must be pierced also if we are to understand the ministry and message of Jesus. How closely we follow Jesus in our lives will telegraph what we truly believe. Will we go the distance with Him as did His mother Mary? Mary was at the cross when most of Jesus’ disciples fled. She could not turn away. Her love for God was so great. She walked in the steps of Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his own son if that were required by God.

It was after the cross and resurrection that Mary, along with the disciples, understood the ministry of Jesus. She rejoiced along the psalmist of old:

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.   (Isaiah 61:10)

What is our witness today? We may not understand all that is going on. We may not fully grasp the miracle that God is working out. Nonetheless, we can still believe and trust in the promises of God as did Mary. Let us pray for grace to endure the pain while eagerly anticipating our Lord’s victory with patience and endurance? Mary did this and so much more. Her enduring faith and courage has inspired the Church down to this day.

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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 14C

Track 1: Strangers and Foreigners on the Earth

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

Have you heard the saying that people can be “so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good?” Obviously this suggests that certain spiritual or religious people are not down to earth enough in their thinking and, thus, are not in touch with what is going on, or that, maybe they are not practical in their thinking.

Does religion get in the way. It seems that God may be saying this through the Prophet Isaiah:

New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation–
I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.

Your new moons and your appointed festivals
my soul hates;

they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.   (Isaiah 1:13-14)

Israel was observing God’s appointed festivals, but their hearts were not really in them. The religious celebrations were empty because the people were disobeying God’s commandments.

What about the spiritual part. Can people be too spiritual? Certainly the depends on which Spirit to which we are referring. The Epistle reading speaks about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were promised a land of their own which they never lived in. Nevertheless, they were able, spiritually, to look beyond earthly realm. Reading from Hebrews:

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.   (Hebrews 11:13-16)

They put their faith and trust in God, regardless of their earthly circumstances. Perhaps the problem with the expression “earthly good” is that the earth is not good. Jesus would not let people call him good. He said that there is only one person who is good is God the Father.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.   (Romans 3:21-26)

Though God is the only one good, he prepared a way through his Son to consider us good by faith alone. Abraham believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Just as Abraham believed the Lord, so, too, we can believe on the redemptive act of our Lord Jesus Christ and be considered righteous by faith alone.

Perhaps we need to be heavenly minded. That is our only hope of overcoming sin and God’s judgement. The Apostle Paul writes:

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.   (Colossians 3:1-3)

In todays Gospel, Jesus warned:

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”   (Luke 12:35-40)

Heavenly minded or earthly good? There is no earthly good apart from our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us stand in our faith and be ready for the coming of his kingdom on earth. Will no longer be strangers and foreigners on the earth. We will be right at home.

 

 

Track 2: The Righteousness by Faith

Genesis 15:1-6
Psalm 33:12-22
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

Abraham was on a journey with God. It was not just a geographical journey.  It was also a faith journey. From today’s Epistle reading:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old– and Sarah herself was barren– because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”   (Hebrews 11:8-12)

We do not have to conjure up faith on our own. Faith is a gift from God. God has given everyone a measure of faith. Exercising our faith is another matter. Obstacles often appear to be standing in our way. These difficulties, if we dwell upon them, can often lead to unbelief. This did not happen with Abraham. From today’s Old Testament lesson:

The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the Lord came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.   (Genesis 15:1-6)

God can reckon the we are righteous because Jesus has taken away our sins. The Apostle Paul writes:

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 5:21)

The key phrase is “in him.” We cannot go it alone in this world. We need Jesus. Taking our eyes off him is what the tempter sells us each day. Jesus reassures us but also warns us:

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   (Luke 12:32-34)

Abraham was on a journey with God. We are on a journey with God. This requires faith, but also a measure of trust. Do we trust God? Do we trust Jesus? We cannot show that we trust him when we cling to the things of this world.

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