Category Archives: sermon

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin

Standing on the Promises of God

Mary, the mother of Jesus, visited her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child. When the child in Elizabeth’s womb hears Mary’s voice he leaps for joy. This child is John the Baptist. This moment of celebration brings joy to Mary and she prophesies:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.   (Luke 1:47-55)

What is remarkable about Mary and Elizabeth also is that they believed in the promise of God, even though great miracles of God were required. Mary, a virgin, had conceived a child and Elizabeth, who was well beyond any child bearing age, had also conceived. Nevertheless, these chosen instruments of God were able to believe God as did Abraham before them.

Are we able to believe in the miraculous today? Mary and Elizabeth understood that the promises God made to them were not just about them. Jesus and John the Baptist are children of the promise which God made to Abraham. Their births extended and expanded this promise down through the ages. Today, we are recipients of the promise.

God has made promises to us as well. His plans for us may not be as dramatic as that of Mary or Elizabeth, but they are important to God’s plan. Are we willing to believe in those promises and hold on to them. There may be obstacles in the way of our receiving God’s promise. The Apostle Paul tells us how to overcome these obstacles with this prescription:

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.   (Romans 12:12)

In time, the promises of God will come to pass. The blessing is in the believing and perseverance. Too often me take matters in our own hands and thwart God’s plans and purposes for us. Others are depending upon us to make the right choices. In fact, their future blessings depend upon our faithfulness. Let us be willing to see beyond ourselves as the wonders of God’s work unfolds.

God will do great things for us but he requires that we exercise our faith. Are we willing to hear, believe, and stand on the promises of God?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Eucharist, Feast Day, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, The Visitation, visitation of the blessed virgin, Year A

Ascension Day, Year C

You Will Be My Witnesses

There is much speculation in today’s Church concerning the date of Jesus’s return to the earth. Little has changed from the Early Church. This same concern was on the mind and hearts of the early disciples. From Acts we read:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”   (Acts 1:6-8)

Jesus did not answer his disciples directly. Rather, he told them that there was a more important consideration for his Church. They were to be witnesses to his resurrection. From Luke we read:

“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”   (Luke 24:46-49)

There would be two essential ingredients to witnessing for Christ: 1) they were to proclaim the repentance and forgiveness of sins, and 2) that they would be clothed with power from on high. That does not sound like a seeker church with a watered down Gospel. Our church is not to blend into the world and thus, have little relevance. We need to be clothed with the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill our calling. The age of the apostolic faith is not over. We are now the apostles.

Are we excited about the message that has been entrusted to us? The psalmist wrote:

God has gone up with a shout,
the Lord with the sound of the ram’s-horn.

Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.

For God is King of all the earth;
sing praises with all your skill.

God reigns over the nations;
God sits upon his holy throne.   (Psalm 47:5-8)

Are we equipped for ministry? If not, let us ask for power from on high. Jesus promises to baptize us in the Holy Spirit. He has called us to do his greater works. Now is not the time to shrink back or hide behind man-made doctrine or tradition.

The questions the angels asked the disciples on the day of ascension is still applicable to us:

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”   (Acts 1:11)

We do not have time to waste. Let us get on with the true task of the Church. Jesus may come at any moment. We should be living holy lives with our lamps full all the time. But our concern must be for the lost. We were once lost and someone witnessed to us. If we love Jesus then we will obey him. His great commission is all the more important today as we approach the close of the Church age.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ascension, Easter, Eucharist, Feast Day, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year C

Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

Change can be difficult. There is a certain degree of comfort in the familiar. Some of us do not deal with change all that well. Can we imagine what it must have been like for the disciples of Jesus, when he told them he would soon be leaving them? He had been with them daily for three years. He was teaching them and feeding them spiritually. Now he was telling them that he was departing. Reading from John’s Gospel:

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, `I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.”   (John 14:25-28)

His statement must have been a shock. Jesus understood how they must have felt, that is why he said: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He pointed out that they should rejoice because he was going to God the Father. This would make it possible for the Father to send the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus would purchase that gift for us by his sacrifice on the cross. John wrote:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.   (John 7:37-39)

Jesus was glorified on the cross and made it possible for us to share his glory. Without this possibility we could not reach the lost with the Gospel.

The Apostle Paul was on a missionary journey to Philippi. From Acts we read:

On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.   (Acts 16:13-15)

We need to share the Gospel story, but it takes an act of God for anyone to receive the gift of salvation. One of the primary purposes of the Holy Spirit is to illuminate the Gospel. The Holy Spirit points our heart directly to Jesus. Jesus said:

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.   (John 14:26)

When Jesus spoke to his disciples about his departure he was also speaking to us. We live in troubling and uncertain times. The world is changing around us and it seems to be growing darker. Jesus reminds us the greatness of God the Father is greater than anything that we face or fear.

From today’s reading from Revelation:

In the spirit the angel carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day — and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.   (Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5)

This is drastic change. It is change for the good for all who believe. How do we navigate through such a change? We cling to Jesus. All though the world is changing Jesus is not. Scripture tells us that:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.   (Hebrews 13:8)

From Matthews Gospel:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.   (Matthew 24:35)

Jesus is the living Word of God, the Word made flesh. He is Immanuel, God with us.

The world as we know it will be no more. God spoke through the Prophet Isaiah:

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment,
and those who live on it will die like gnats;
but my salvation will be forever,
and my deliverance will never be ended.   (Isaiah 51:6)

A new and better world is coming. It is a world inhabited by those who are saved, who have given their hearts to Jesus and trusted in his saving act on the cross. If that is true for us then our salvation is secure. There is no assurance for nonbelievers.

Today, let us not fear the change that God is bringing. We cannot fully grasp it now. But we can put our trust in God alone. He will see us through.

Leave a comment

Filed under Easter, Eucharist, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year C

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C

The Wideness in God’s Mercy

The Apostle Peter had preached to the Cornelius the Centurion, who became the first Gentile Christian believer. His association with Gentiles lead to complications, however. The circumcised believers in Jerusalem wanted to know why Peter ate with uncircumcised men. Peter explained:

“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, `Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, `By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, `What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, `Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, `John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”   (Acts 11:5-18)

This question was not new to Peter. Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors who were considered uncircumcised. The Pharisees questioned his disciples why he ate with them. When Jesus heard their question he explained:

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”   (Matthew 9:12-13)

Jesus quoted from the Prophet Hosea:

For I desire mercy and not sacrifice,
And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.   (Hosea 6:6)

It is time for all of us to learn the knowledge of God. We need to understand who God is. God is mercy. The psalmist wrote:

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.   (Psalm 103:11-14)

Without God’s mercy none of us would have any hope.

When Jesus was being betrayed and facing the cross, he gave his disciples a new commandment:

At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”   (John 13:31-35)

We have been given mercy by God. Jesus is calling us to show mercy to others. The Prophet Micah wrote:

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?   (Micah 6:8)

If, even as believers we have fallen into sin, let us not give up on God. Our sin does not remove God’s mercy. His mercy is everlasting. We should not take it for granted, however. Our nation is in need of revival. Our churches are in need of reformation.

Let us pray like the Prophet Habakkuk:

O Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known; in wrath may you remember mercy.   (Habakkuk 3:2)

From today’s reading from Revelation we have a picture of the new heaven and the new earth:

“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”   (Revelation 21:3-4)

Only by God’s mercy can we participate in his eternal gift. Let us cling to it. Let us demonstrate it to others. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Eucharist, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year C