Category Archives: Pentecost

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 12A

Track 1:  Keeping Covenant

Genesis 29:15-28
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b
or Psalm 128
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

Agreements between two people can be made on the basis of a handshake. The handshake alone might be enough to seal the deal, but that is assuming that the parties involved are honorable. Their word is the their bond, so to speak. Jacob and Laban made a deal. Jacob would work for Laban seven years for the hand of Racheal, Laban’s youngest daughter.

We know the story. Jacob, who had tricked his own brother out of his birthright, met his match with Laban. When Jacob completed his seven year of labor, he went to his uncle Laban and asked:

“Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.   (Genesis 29:?-28)

Laban had  ulterior motives. He did not lay all his cards on the table. Perhaps we have experienced people like that in our lives. If they were blood relatives the experience would have been all the more painful.

Now let us look at another agreement, this one between God and Abraham:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.   (Genesis 17:1-?)

This agreement was a covenant between God and the family of Abraham which would pass down through the ages. The psalmist wrote about the character of God concerning his honoring this covenant:

Remember the marvels he has done,
his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,
O children of Jacob his chosen.

He is the Lord our God;
his judgments prevail in all the world.

He has always been mindful of his covenant,
the promise he made for a thousand generations:

The covenant he made with Abraham,
the oath that he swore to Isaac,

Which he established as a statute for Jacob,
an everlasting covenant for Israel,   (Psalm 105:5-10)

God has kept this covenant with the nation of Israel even though Israel failed many times in walking blameless with God. Through Moses, God established a sacrificial system that would remove the burden of guilt from Israel for their failure to follow God’s commandments.

God takes human disobedience very seriously. The purpose behind to covenant requirements was to prepare humankind to join the holy community of God. Yet the sacrificial system under Moses was only temporary. It could not permanently deal with sin once and for all.

The writer of Hebrews tells us how God extended and expanded his covenant:

For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.   (Hebrews 9:13-15)

Unlike Laban and the rest of us, God is faithful and God is true. He keeps his covenant with Israel and with all of humankind down to this day. But we must also keep covenant with him. How do we enter into this covenant agreement? God has made that part easy. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

“The word is near you,
    on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.   (Romans 19:5-10)

Our part of the covenant is to acknowledge before God and the people the great gift he has given us. This covenant is not some short time agreement. The covenant is forever, therefore, our commitment to God must be forever with his help. We cannot be a Laban and consider only what is in it for me.

If we begin this covenant with God and take it seriously, we will grow in righteousness and holiness over time because God will do his part if we do ours.

In today’s Gospel we read:

Jesus put before the crowds another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”   (Matthew 13:31-33)

God  requires only that we trust him and the provision he has made for us through his Son Jesus Christ. He has given us his Holy Spirit to aid us in our walk with him so that we might be blameless. Though our life does not appear to be blameless right now, if we continue in our walk with him, God will bring us to completion. He has sewn his kingdom within us and it is advancing. The Apostle Paul writes:

Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure,   (2 Corinthians 4:15-17)

 

 

Track 2:  The Pearl of Great Price

1 Kings 3:5-12
Psalm 119:129-136
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

When Solomon was preparing to assume the throne of his father David, God appeared to him in a dream. God asked him what gift he could give Solomon. Solomon asked God to give him “an understanding mind to govern your people.” God answered Solomon’s prayer:

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.”   (1 Kings 3:?-12)

God gave Solomon a great gift of wisdom and discernment. It was unmerited. Solomon had not earned it. The gift was a gift of grace which w2s a type and shadow of the kingdom of heaven. The children of Israel were provided a just society under the reign of Solomon through God’s gift. What Solomon desired from God, nonetheless, was something for the people and not himself. His request was selfless. He could have asked for long life and riches instead, but Solomon was willing to give up something of himself in appreciation for what God could do to bless his subjects.

The kingdom of heaven in some ways is like the gift God gave Solomon. Both are given without any merit on our part are that of Solomon. And both are beyond price. Jesus described the kingdom as a pearl of great value:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.   (Matthew 13:?)

The kingdom of heaven, does not cost us anything, at least not monetarily. Nor does it require us to work for it. It is free since it has been paid for by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ our Lord. Why, then, does Jesus say that the merchant in the parable would be willing to sell everything for it?

Perhaps Jesus is saying how we, who are the recipients of the gift of the kingdom, should value what God has done on our behalf. We should realize that there is nothing on this earth and in our present life that can compare to the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of God is an unmerited gift for us. The blood of Jesus provides that gift. To receive that gift and hold on to it, however, we must be willing to value it above all else. In Philippians we read that Jesus valued us above his throne in heaven:

Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

How much do we value him? More that anything in this world? Solomon put the needs of his subjects over his own needs. How much are we willing to subjugate our immediate worldly needs to the advancing of God’s kingdom? The answer lies in how much we value our Lord Jesus Christ and his atonement for our sins.

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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 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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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 11A

Track 1: The Gate of Heaven

Genesis 28:10-19a
Psalm 139: 1-11, 22-23
or Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Today we reflect upon Jacob’s well known dream of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven:

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”   (Genesis 28:10-17)

Jacob had an encounter with God. God blessed him and made great promises to him. Jacob celebrated the moment and the place where he heard from God, Nonetheless, one of his reactions to all of this was fear. Why was Jacob afraid? We can only speculate. Perhaps it was because Jacob, though a grandson of the great Abraham, was a conniver and a trickster. His character was less than stellar. Often times we may want to hide from God because of our feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

The psalmist wrote:

Where can I go then from your Spirit?
where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there your hand will lead me
and your right hand hold me fast.   (Psalm 139:6-9)

The psalmist understood his own frailty, but he also understood that God was faithful to lead and guide him.

We remember that old hymn about our climbing Jacob’s ladder, but in Jacob’s dream only the angels of God were climbing up and down the ladder. I believe the ladder signifies that God has chosen to minister to us, regardless of who we are and what we might have done. We do not merit his favor nor do we have to climb a ladder to reach God.

In order to fully experience God we must allow his love to wash over us. The Apostle John wrote in his first epistle:

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 need to focus on the love of God rather than our shortcomings. We do not want to miss his visitation to us because of our feelings of unworthiness. Jesus has paid the price for our sins, provided that we have acknowledged our debt to him. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh– for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For 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 8:12-?)

Have we experienced an encounter with God? Have we experienced the gate of heaven? God has opened that gate for by the blood of his Son. When Jesus died on the cross the curtain in the Temple in Jerusalem, which separated the most holy place from the holy place, was torn from top to bottom. What is keeping us from entering into his presence. Even now he is calling us. Even now he is ministering to us. Amen.

 

 

iuTrack 2: The Wheat and the Tares

Isaiah 44:6-8
Psalm 86:11-17
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Jesus told a parable about the wheat and the tares found in the same field. The essence of the parable is that the wheat and the tares are found mixed together. When the workers ask if they should attempt to pull out the tares, the owner tells them to let the wheat and tares grow up together. He knows that it is often difficult to tell them apart in the beginning.  If the workers pull out any of the tares prematurely then they might also damage the wheat. At the time of harvest the tares can then be removed safely and burned.

Later, Jesus explains the meaning of the parable to his disciples:

“The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”   (Matthew 13:36-43)

We live in very confusing times. How are we to know the truth when both the good and the bad exist side by side? To compound the problem, the good is often presented as evil and evil is called good. Isaiah prophesied that this would occur:

Ah, you who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!   (Isaiah 5:20)

Are we not living in such a time? Even in today’s Church in America there seems to be confusion about fundamental things. That which God has called abominations we are now told are within the orthodoxy of the Church.

Jesus gave us this criteria for determining false prophets and false teachers:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.   (Matthew 7:15-20)

We need spiritual discernment which comes from reading and studying the Bible, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Unless we are Spirit filled and have a daily walk with God through prayer and meditation upon his word, we will not understand the times we are in nor what the Lord requires of us.

We do need to avoid the temptation of identifying specifically who are the wheat and who are the tares. This is a trap that the enemy sets for us. Only God can distinguish between the two. Only God can know the heart of each individual person. 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.   (Matthew 7:1-2)

God alone is judge. The psalmist wrote:

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel,
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:

I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.

Is there any god besides me?
There is no other rock; I know not one.   (Isaiah 44:6-?)

The parable of the wheat and the tares serves as a warning to us. Those of us who consider ourselves wheat may actually be part of the tares. Only God can say. Worldly appearances and worldly approval count for nothing. The enemy is constantly reassuring us that the broad way of the world is OK.

In his Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.   (Matthew 7:13-14)

God has given us guidelines in his holy word which we should follow, ignoring the cultural standards of the media, entertainment industry, and fallen institutions of education and government.

At the end of the age it will be clearly revealed who are the wheat and who are the tares. Let us hold fast to our Lord Jesus Christ and his teachings until the end.

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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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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 10A

Tract 1: Despising Our Birthright

Genesis 25:19-34
Psalm 119:105-112
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

We all know the story of Jacob taking advantage of his brother Esau and stealing his birthright. From Genesis we read:

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.   (Genesis 25:29-34)

Jacob and Esau were twins, but Esau was born first. Since he was the first-born, he stood in place to receive an inheritance passed down from his family. Yet, Esau was willing to give up his birthright for some stew. How could he do that? How could he be so stupid? How could he be so shortsighted?

Jesus told a parable about the sower sowing seed. The seed was the word of God. The seed fell on good ground which represents hearts open to his word. On the other hand, thorny ground was a different matter. Jesus explained:

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.   (Matthew 13:22)

In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said that we cannot serve two masters. We either serve God or Mammon (that is worldly riches). The desires of the flesh will choke out our spiritual inheritance just as it did for Esau.

These desires of the flesh will so poison our minds so that we will not even be able to comprehend the true riches of God. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.   (Romans 8:5-8)

The commandments of God are what guarantee our spiritual inheritance. Jesus, our Savior, is the one who helps us keep those  commandments. The psalmist wrote:

Your decrees are my inheritance for ever;
truly, they are the joy of my heart.

I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes
for ever and to the end.   (Psalm 119:111-112)

Do we find joy in following the commandments of God?

God has given us an eternal inheritance in his Kingdom through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing on earth today or in the world to come can compare with it.

 

 

Parable of the SowerTrack 2: Seed for the Heart

Isaiah 55:10-13
Psalm 65: (1-8), 9-14
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Today we have the parable of the Sower. The sower scatters the seed. What happens to that seed depends upon where it lands. Jesus said:

“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”   (Matthew 13:3-9)

What is the seed? It is the very word of God, without which there would not be any life. We are the recipient of that life, provided that the word is planted in our hearts. Our hearts must be open to receiving God’s word. Without the word in our hearts we have no hope for salvation, no hope for eternal life with God.

This concept of the word as seed is not just New Testament. The Apostle Paul quotes Moses concerning the word of God and adds his commentary:

“The word is near you,
    on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.   (Romans 10:5-9)

Is the word of God in our hearts? If so, then we will put our trust in the saving act of our Lord Jesus Christ. When our hearts are closed to the word then they are the hard ground that Jesus speaks about in the parable:

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.   (Matthew 13:19)

Receiving the word is so important that the Devil will do everything in his power to keep that from happening. He will distract us with worldly cares. Jesus said;

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.   (Matthew 13:22)

Worldly cares are the thorns which Jesus spoke about in the parable, which choke off the word. This is a favorite distraction by the Devil. You may remember that he even tried this technique with Jesus when he was in the wilderness:

The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”   (Matthew 4:3-4)

To be sure, we are saved by grace through faith (). Faith is vital. God gives everyone a measure of faith. But we must feed our faith. Paul writes:

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.    (Romans 10:17)

The righteous live by faith, but faith will be diminished without a continual feeding on the word of God. The psalmist wrote:

With my whole heart I seek you;
    do not let me stray from your commandments.
I treasure your word in my heart,
    so that I may not sin against you.   (Psalm 119:10-12)

What kind of fruit we produce as Christians is very much dependent upon how we treasure the word in our hearts. In the parable Jesus said:

But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”   (Matthew 13:23)

Pray that our hearts are good soil, that we hear and understand. And that the cares of this world do not lead us astray. Pray that we treasure the word of God in our hearts. Amen.

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