Category Archives: liturgy

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 12B

Track 1: Lust of the Flesh

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

David was on top of the world. He had consolidated the nation of Israel and moved the capital to Jerusalem, along with the Ark of the Covenant. He had subdued all of his enemies. He was a war hero, psalmist, and prophet. Best of all, he had a close relationship with God that made all of this possible. What could go wrong? A great deal! From Second Samuel we read:

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 was in trouble. To cover his own tracks, he tried to get Uriah the Hittite to sleep with his wife. Uriah, the loyal, would not do it while there was a battle going on. For David. drastic measures were needed:

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)

How did this happen? David was close to God but David was now an adulterer and a murderer. Was he any more sinner than we are? The psalmist wrote:

The Lord looks down from heaven upon us all,
to see if there is any who is wise,
if there is one who seeks after God.

Every one has proved faithless;
all alike have turned bad;
there is none who does good; no, not one.   (Psalm 14:2-3)

Each one of us has very powerful urges to disobey the commandments of God. Perhaps one of the most powerful is the lust of the flesh. The flesh wants to satisfy itself at any cost. It is totally selfish. It does not care about God’s law. It wants nothing to stand in its way, and it is very persistent.

The Apostle Paul wrote about his inner struggle:

For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 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. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.   (Romans 7:14-20)

The truth of the matter is that we cannot overcome the desires of the flesh on our own. Paul wrote:

Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord   (Romans 7:24-25)

David repented from his sin. He did so from the heart and God forgave him. Nonetheless, David faced grave consequences because of his sin. Would it not be better to avoid the sin if at all possible and, thus, avoid the consequences? Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians:

I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 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. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.   (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Can we be filled with the fullness of God? Not when we are filled with the fullness of this world. It is our choice. If we seek the fullness of God and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, then we are so much better prepared for the temptations of the world, including the flesh. In fact, do we not discover that our love relationship with Christ is far more exciting and wonderful than anything in this world?

Paul concludes bis thought by praising the Holy Spirit for what he is accomplishing in our lives:

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.   (Ephesians 3:20-21)

How then do we live, by the flesh or by the Spirit.

 

 

Track 2: Tell out the Glory of God

2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-19
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-g21

We find in the Gospel of John an emphasis on signs and wonders. John’s Gospel speaks of events in the earthly life of Jesus that are not found in the synoptic Gospels. At the beginning of the second chapter of John’s Gospel we read about the miracle that Jesus performed at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. We remember that, when there was a shortage if wine, Jesus miraculously transformed water into wine. John speaks about the significance of this miracle. He writes:

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him..   (John 2:11)

It was not only the water was transformed, but by this miracle the disciples of Jesus were radically transformed in their faith.

In today’s Gospel reading from John we see more signs and wonders. Jesus feed five though and people with just five barley loaves and two fish. Following this we have the incident where his disciples were terrified when they saw Jesus walking on the sea:

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”   (John 6:15-20)

John concluded his Gospel be speaking about the importance of these signs and wonders. John writes:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.   (John 21:24-25)

How important is his message about signs and wonders? The signs and wonders speak about the power and glory of God. The psalmist wrote:

All your works praise you, O Lord,
and your faithful servants bless you.

They make known the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your power;

That the peoples may know of your power
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.   (Psalm 145:10-12)

We have a story to tell and perhaps we do not do a very good job of it. Our God is a miraculous God. Do we tell the people about his wondrous works? Some churches today are convinced that the “age of miracles” (so to speak) is over. Why would anyone say that? Do we not observe? Do we not see?

Of course, there are people who do not want to see. Signs and wonders are a threat to the status quo. They are outside the norm. But what the world says and teaches is not the norm that God has for us. God wants to pour out his glory upon the earth. We need to receive it.

We need to share it with others, knowing that the glory is not ours but God’s. A desperate and dying world is starving for the presence of God. Will we speak out? Do we have testimonies to share? Or are we stuck in our own dead little world? For Christian believers this should not be. We first want to know and then we want others to know “God’s power and the glorious splendor of his kingdom.”

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Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year B

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 as many in the church seem to misunderstand today. 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 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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Saint Mary Magdalene

The Resurrection’s First Witness

The Gospel of Luke made it clear that the roles of women in the ministry of Jesus Christ were significant:

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.  (Luke 8:1-3)

When we think of Jesus’ disciples we may primarily be thinking of the twelve that Jesus personally chose to follow Him. They were not alone, however. They were supported by many faithful women of which Mary Magdalene was included. She was not only included. She was prominent. She was the courageous and faithful one. When Jesus’ disciples deserted Him at the cross she was there:

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  (John 19:25)

Jesus could have chosen any one of the twelve disciples to reveal Himself to after His resurrection. He chose a woman – Mary Magdalene:

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.  (Mark 16:9-10)

Why did Jesus choose her? The testimonies of women were often considered unreliable. In fact, the disciples did not believer Mary’s testimony:

It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  (Luke 24:10-11)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ has changed the order of things. Jesus attempted to explain this new order to His disciples before His crucifixion, but they had trouble understanding what He was telling them:

But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.  (Mark 9:34-35)

Mary Magdalene was a primary example of the servant leader who was faithful in her duties, following in the footsteps of her LORD. We remember her today as the resurrection’s first witness.

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Filed under Feast Day, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, St. Mary Magdalene, Year B