Category Archives: Revised Common Lectionary

Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 24B

Track 1: Approaching God

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

How do we approach God in our prayers? Job prayed to God. When God answered him, he discovered that he was not on the same footing with God:

The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.   (Job 38:1-4)

The psalmist praised of God for his splendor and majesty:

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
O Lord my God, how excellent is your greatness!
you are clothed with majesty and splendor.

You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak
and spread out the heavens like a curtain.   (Psalm 104:1-2)

God is creator and we are his creation. As we approach God, perhaps we should keep this in mind and show him great reverence and respect.

James and John approached Jesus. From today’s Gospel reading:

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”   (Mark 10:35-38)

Did James and John really know who Jesus is? They approached him as their friend. Later, John, in the preamble to his Gospel wrote this:

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.   (John 1:1-4)

If we are to approach God the Father we will do well to understand the cup which God the Son drank for us. From today’s reading from Hebrews:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.   (Hebrews 5:)

Our high priest is the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father is too Holy to look upon sin. Therefore, he has offered up his Son to take our sins from us. Those sins were placed on him who bore them on a cruel cross. He bore them once and for all. But what about the sins we continue to commit, unwittingly and, in many cases, on purpose? That is where we need a high priest who continually intercedes for us.

Let us read further in Hebrews. From chapter 10;

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.   (Hebrews 10:19-27

How do we approach God the Father? We approach him through Jesus. If we CONTINUE to sin, we must confess our sins. That is paramount in our prayers before God. The Apostle of John wrote:

 If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   (1 John 1:6-9)

 

 

 

венецTrack 2: Bound to Jesus in Love

Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 91:9-16
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

Who is Jesus to us? Is he our Lord? Yes, he is. He is Lord of all. But is he our servant? From Mark’s Gospel we read:

Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”   (Mark 10:42-45)

To receive the lordship of Jesus we must receive his servanthood.

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.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.   (Isaiah 53:4-12)

Jesus was and is the suffering servant of Isaiah. How we respond to his suffering defines us as Christian disciples. Do we love him for what he did? If so, we must be devoted to him. We must be bound to him. The psalmist wrote:

Because he is bound to me in love,
therefore will I deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
I am with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

With long life will I satisfy him,
and show him my salvation.   (Psalm 91:14-16)

If we are bound to this world we cannot be bound to Jesus. If we are bound to our things we cannot be bound to Jesus. If we are bound to proving ourselves as worthy of anything we cannot be bound to Jesus. Now is the time of deliverance. Though great trouble lies ahead, Jesus will protect us. Though Satan has set many traps for us, Jesus will deliver us. Though many in the Church are falling away, Jesus will rescue us. He will do all these things when we are bound to him in love.

Where do we stand today? It has little to do with our past actions. It has little to do with our past declarations. Today, are we bound to Jesus in love? Jesus said:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”   (John 14:16)

Are we able to love the one, and follow the one, who loved us and gave himself entirely to us?

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.   (Isaiah 53:6)

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Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 23B

Track 1: Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Psalm 22:1-15
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

Job had a complaint against God. He felt like God had abandoned him. From Job we read:

“Today also my complaint is bitter;
his hand is heavy despite my groaning.

Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to his dwelling!

I would lay my case before him,
and fill my mouth with arguments.

I would learn what he would answer me,
and understand what he would say to me.

Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
No; but he would give heed to me.

There an upright person could reason with him,
and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.   (Job 23::2-7)

There may be times in our lives when feel that God has abandoned us. But has he? King David wrote this famous psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff —
    they comfort me.   (Psalm 23:1-4)

We remember the many challenges that David had in his life. King Saul tried to kill him on more than one occasion. Yet, David never gave up on God. He put his whole trust in God alone. The enemy wants to defeat us and destroy. One of his primary ways is through discouragement. That is when we need to trust the word of God perhaps the most. From Hebrews we read:

Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper;
    I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?”   (Hebrews 13:5-6)

The Apostle Paul writes:

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   (Romans 8:31-35, 37)

There was only one time when God ever abandoned anyone. It was when Jesus cried out from the cross:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?  (Psalm 22:1)

Some have said that Jesus was just quoting from the Twenty-second Psalm. This is one interpretation, but I believe that much more was going on here. The Twenty-second Psalm was prophetic. It described a crucifixion in detail when such punishment was not yet invented by the Romans. Rather, was it not that God did actually abandon his Son when his Son bore all the sins of the world upon himself? The ultimate punishment for sin is separation from God. The is what Jesus bore for us so that we might never be abandoned by God. And because Jesus did this for us we are able to call upon him in times of need.

From Hebrews:

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.   (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Great is the mercy of God. Great is the sacrifice of his Son. Can we not exercise our faith in such a great God? Can we not put our whole trust in him? In life there will be tests and trials. Jesus said:

The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:32-33)

 

 

 

christ-rich-young-ruler-hofmann-1020802-gallery-noticeTrack 2: The Rich Young Man

Amos 5:6-7,10-15
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

What does it mean to be a seeker of God and his kingdom? Today, we have the illustration of the right young man. From Mark:

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.   (Mark 10:17-22)

The young man was sincere in his quest for the kingdom. He tried to keep the commandments of God. Jesus realized that and he love him for it. (He love us all, but he has a special love tor those who seek to do God’s will). But Jesus required him to do something that was unexpected. He had to go and sell all that he had. The young man’s response was very telling. He could not so what Jesus had asked him even though he wanted to do so.

What was wrong? Was the man’s wealth a problem? Again, from Mark:

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”   (Mark 10:23-27)

It would seem that the disciples of Jesus might have had a “prosperity gospel.” No, in the case of the young man and in any case, money is not the problem. It was something more. The young man had many possessions. Whether or not we are rich or poor, we can all have too many possessions. The danger is that we become possessed by our possessions. Rather than owning them, they own us! In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus warned:

Do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.   (Matthew 6:31-33)

Notice that in today’s reading from Mark, Jesus did not say it is impossible for the rich alone to enter the kingdom of God. He said:  “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Whether rich or poor we need God’s help and grace. But we need to make a step in his direction. We cannot allow our possessions to be all important. We must understand that God is the true treasure. He is the one we seek. From Jeremiah we read:

When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,   (Jeremiah 29:13)

Jesus understands our worldly distractions. He understands our temptations. He alone can help prepare us for the kingdom of God.

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.   (Hebrews 4:14-16)

How much do we seek the kingdom of God? Do we seek it more than our possessions? All we have to do, if that is so, is to be honest with God about it. He is more than capable of doing the rest for us.

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through ourLord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 22B

Track 1: Receiving the Kingdom of God

Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Psalm 26
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

We are familiar with the story of how Satan asked God to test Job and his faith:

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.

As we know, Satan is the “accuser of the brethren.” He specializes in bringing us down. Job was living n a lofty perch.

The psalmist wrote:

Give judgment for me, O Lord,
for I have lived with integrity;
I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.

Test me, O Lord, and try me;
examine my heart and my mind.

For your love is before my eyes;
I have walked faithfully with you.

I have not sat with the worthless,
nor do I consort with the deceitful.   (Psalm 26:1-4)

This psalm was true of Job. He was head and shoulders above his peers. What could be possibly missing in Job’s? Job was outstanding in every way. This much we can say, Satan’s plan was not God’s plan. What Satan meant for ill God meant for good.

Job is a very difficult book to understand. It has numerous interpretations. It plunges very deep into the human psyche and raised many theological issues. It is an important book. We need to wrestle with it. And we need to read it in context with the rest of the Bible.

How does today’s Gospel reading impinge upon Job? Or does it? We read from Mark:

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.   (Mark 10:13-16)

Was Job not as innocent as these little children? Well, we all realize that children are not really innocent, especially as parents. Jesus saying something about children? I believe the key word here is “receive.” We must receive the kingdom of God like children. Children are dependent upon us as parents, teachers, and mentors. They have been placed in a position that requires them to be dependent. On their own, they are not able to contend with some of the challenges of life.

Job was highly successful. He had all that he needed to enable him to live a somewhat independent life. Was he missing something? Perhaps he was missing the concept that he, too, was a dependent person certain ways. On his own, he was not going to enter the kingdom of God. No one can earn their place in the kingdom, not even people like Job. In fact, people who are like Job will have the same disadvantage he had.

Job needed God. He needed his love. He needed his forgiveness. He needed his mercy. He needed to acknowledge that his very life came from God and was sustained by God.  When Job eventually gave up on determining what may be missing in him, God asked him this question: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4) God is God. He is the creator. He is the eternal one. We cannot do anything to impress him. The question for us is: “Has God done enough to impress us?”

Jesus said: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) We cannot earn what God the Father desires to give us by his grace alone. Jesus has earned the kingdom for us. Yet we must receive it with thanksgiving and awe. We are, in fact, all God’s little children.

My very young granddaughter painted me a picture. On it she wrote: “Love is the complete abandonment. I give myself to you.” Her concept of love is beyond her years. Her statement helped me to better understand what I need to say in this homily. Today, am I able to surrender my crown to the one who wore a crown of thorns for me?

 

 

Track 2: The Institution of Marriage

Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm 8
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

The family unit is the basic building block of society. God used the institution of marriage to build and preserve it. From Genesis we read:

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;

this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.”

Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.   ()

Recently someone said to me that the institution of marriage has failed. That seemed like a strange way of saying it. The person who said it was a church-goer. Have we not failed the institution rather than the other way around?  Perhaps what this person said was not so foreign to today’s Church since the divorce rate of churchgoers is the same as non church-goers.

Why is marriage so important to the family? It ensures strong parenting. God blesses marriages. If we live within his guidelines the parents become very strong individuals. They reenforce one another because, through marriage, they really do become one flesh. The parents who are one flesh are needed to raise children as God has intended. A man is really an incomplete parent without a wife. This is true for a woman as well.

But today we have the so-called “modern” family. Almost anything goes. The rules have been changed. The goal posts have been moved. When we find that we cannot obey God’s commandments today, we either ignore them or weaken them. This is true for society in general and it is also true for the Church.

Today is no exception. This was true in the time of Moses. From Mark’s Gospel we read:

Some Pharisees came, and to test Jesus they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”   (Mark 10:2-9)

Jesus was saying that when God declares something he does not change his mind later. We want to change things because we find it difficult to do all the things which God declares. The institution of marriage has not failed. God has not failed. He does not fail us. We fail him! What do we do when this happens? Jesus makes it clear that we cannot changer the rules and have God go along with us.

Divorce is not an unpardonable offense. When we fail at something we need to confess what we have done and not try to cover it up. Repentance is a large part of the Christian faith. God can help us in our weaknesses, but we must seek his help. Repentance is the framework. The cross of Jesus does not cover unconfessed sin. This may be news to some churches, but it is not news to the New Testament, Pauline theology, and the First Epistle of John.

If we do not follow God’s plans for us we ultimately become very weak. Our lives come more like the lives of worldly people. A great revival is needed. It must begin in the household of God. A reformation in the Church is needed. Reformation does not mean more watering down. The “seeker” church is not the reformed church. Moving the goal posts is not reformation.

In the meantime, we need to provide greater support for marriages and families. We need to provide the greatest support to unwed mothers and for those in broken homes and single parent homes. God does not fail them. We have failed them. Sincere repentance with humbly hearts will help usher in new beginnings. Christianity is always about new beginnings.

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