Category Archives: Year B

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17

Track 1: This Is My Name Forever

Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

Moses had fled from Egypt because he had killed a man. He was hiding out, keeping a low profile so to speak In today’s Old Testament reading we find that he could not hide from God:

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.   (Exodus 3:1-15)

Imagine the shock that Moses must have felt, hearing the voice of God from a blazing bush. He must have been in even more shock when God asked him to go back to the place he fled and lead his people out of bondage. Moses protested:

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’“ God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.   (Exodus 3:1-15)

What does the name of God tell us about God? Does he stand alone? Yes, he is the only one who can say “I Am” without any qualifications. He is not a created being. He is the creator of all things. If no one else existed, he would still exist. He would still be God. He has no limits.

No one defines him. In today’s Gospel reading Peter tries to define God:

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”   (Matthew 16:21-23)

God defines himself. He is who he is. He will be who he will be. He will do what he wants to do. He is sovereign and Lord of all.

Do we have anything in common with Moses? God may not speak to us from a burning bush, but he does speak to us. He asks us to do things far beyond our capabilities. This is one of the ways we can tell that it is God who is speaking to us.

But to do what God asks of us we must take on the name of God. Reading from Numbers:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.   (Numbers 6:22-27)

There is power in the name of God. The mystery is that God places his own name on us to bless us. He places his name upon us to so that we might have power to answer the call that he has given us. He places his name upon us so that we might be able to accomplish all his purposes.

Are we willing to turn aside as did Moses? Are we willing to listen to God? Are we willing to believe his word to us? And we willing to receive power from on high and do mighty works i his  name? The name that God places on us is the name of Jesus.

And being found in human form,
   he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.   (Philippians 2:8-11)

 

 

Track 2: Understanding the Cross

Jeremiah 15:15-21
Psalm 26:1-8
Romans 12:9-21
Matthew 16:21-28

Peter was not prepared for the message that Jesus delivered:

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”   (Matthew 16:21-23)

He did not understand the message of the cross. In today’s Old Testament reading, Jeremiah was having trouble with the same message:

Why is my pain unceasing,
my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?

Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,
like waters that fail.

Therefore, thus says the Lord:

If you turn back, I will take you back,
and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
you shall serve as my mouth.

It is they who will turn to you,
not you who will turn to them.

And I will make you to this people
a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you
to save you and deliver you,

says the Lord.   (Jeremiah 15:19-21)

Jeremiah cold not understand why he was being persecuted. That is what the world does to people of God. Jeremiah did not understand the high cost of following God. Jesus told his disciples:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?   (Matthew 16:24-26)

Do we understand the message of the cross? Do we understand the cross? We are to lose our lives in order to find them. We can think of only protecting ourselves, but we will never know Jesus. We will never understand his purpose and ministry. And we will never understand our purpose and true identity.

Jesus told his disciples:

In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:32)

What God told Jeremiah, he says to us:

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,
you shall serve as my mouth.

It is they who will turn to you,
not you who will turn to them.

And I will make you to this people
a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you
to save you and deliver you.

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Monday in Holy Week

The Costly Sacrifice

At the beginning of Holy Week we have the example of love and sacrifice of Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus. She understood who Jesus was and what He was about to do, more than many of His disciples:

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.  (John 12:3-7)

We may do “good works” by giving to the poor, provided our motives are pure. (Judas Iscariot’s motives were not.) Nevertheless, our good works will not purify us. If we ignore the passion and purpose of Christ we will miss the mark.

When Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 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!  (Hebrews 9:11-14)

What does our love of Christ cost us? What do we give to Him in return to demonstrate our love? Mary sacrificed all that she had for her Savior. It is not that she purchased His love. She gave out of joy because she already knew that she had His love. Do we know the love of Jesus? The psalmist wrote:

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
    your judgments are like the great deep;
    you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
   All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.  (Psalm 36:5-7)

Jesus sacrifice for us was and is priceless. The sacrifice we may make to him is not necessarily about money, though our financial giving is important. In his psalm of repentance, King David wrote:

For you have no delight in sacrifice;
    if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.   (Psalm 51:16-17)

Our greatest sacrifice is to love the Lord with all our hearts, mind, soul, and strength. Are we willing to sacrifice our will, our right to be right, our independence from God, our selfish pleasure, our very souls? Mary was willing. Nothing was too costly for her to impede her love for Christ She understood what Christ would do for her. The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.

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Christmas Day: Proper I

The Kingdom of Light

These readings are traditionally used during the Christmas Eve service in many liturgical churches. They may be used on Christmas Day as well.

In today’s Old Testament reading, the Prophet Isaiah foretells a great event:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  (Isaiah 9:6)

At the time this prophecy was being fulfilled the world had become immersed in darkness, much like it is today. Israel was under Roman rule. Rome had laid upon the people a heavy tax. In today’s Gospel we read:

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.   Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  (Luke 2:1-4)

Who would come and save them from the burden of Rome? A prophet of God had not spoken to them in 400 years. Many had lost hope that God would ever deliver them from the tyranny of foreign rule. This was about to change:

Joseph went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.   (Luke 2:5-7)

A far greater tyranny existed than Rome. This tyranny was a spiritual one imposed by the ruler of darkness. As a result, many Israelites had lost the meaning of God’s great love for them. Perhaps this is still true for many of us today.

Into this darkness a great message of hope was spoken, to shepherds no less:

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”   (Luke 2:8-14)

The light of Christ had come

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
    and the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.  (Isaiah (9:2-4)

Satan had blinded the understanding of God’s people. Though Rome was oppressive, the way the Law of Moses was interpreted by the scribes and Pharisees was even more so. Heavy burdens had been placed on the people through numerous religious rules and regulations.

Only the light of Christ could dispel this great darkness. His teachings and his examples clearly demonstrated God’s love for his people. Not only that, but he took on all our burdens by his death on the cross.

Are we still living in darkness today? What about the song: “He is making a list and checking it twice. He is going to find out who is naughty or nice?” Do we measure up? Can God still love us? Have we done enough?

Jesus has done enough! He is still lifting our burdens if we will allow him. Again, from Isaiah:

His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.  (Isaiah 9:7)

We no longer need to live under the tyranny of darkness which tells us that God does not truly love us unless we measure up. God loves us because he measures up. He will establish justice and righteousness for this time onward and forevermore. Human beings cannot do this, though some falsely say that they can. Only God has the means, the authority, and the zeal to accomplish this.

Under this world’s governmental system there will always be some form of oppression. However, this world is passing away. The Kingdom of Light is growing and expanding. Do we not see it? Jesus is still calling people into his everlasting kingdom. Everyone is invited. Have we opened our invitation to join him? This is the true gift of Christmas.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let every hearts prepare him room. Amen.

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Christmas Day: Proper II

mangerThe Greatest Gift of All

These readings are traditionally used during the Christmas Day service in many liturgical churches.

Homily for Adults

Christmas is an exciting time. Children have been anticipating the day all year. The Jewish people were waiting for their Messiah for a very long time. In fact, they had not heard from a prophet for four-hundred years. Were they now ready to hear directly from God? Are we ready?

Can we imagine how excited the shepherds were when they heard a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”   (Luke 2:14)

The shepherd could not have fully understood what the angels were say, but they did not sit idly by:

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.  (Luke 2:15-16)

The message to the shepherds is a universal message. How do we respond to it today? We are talking about the greatest gift of all. Do we receive it? Do we unwrap it? Children do not need to be told to unwrap their presents.

The Apostle Paul helps us unwrap God’s gift:

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.   (Titus 3:4)

Part of unwrapping Christmas is understanding and receiving the new birth in Christ. This gift from God is for each one of us, but we must acknowledge it with thanksgiving. We cannot taken it for granted. It is not meant to be set aside and forgotten.

An often neglected part of unwrapping Christmas is the receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is for our renewal. God will pour his Spirit on us and into us. This is the Spirit which leads us into all truth and fully explains all that Jesus has taught us and is still teaching us.

If we have received God’s gift, then we, like the shepherds, will have cause for great celebration:

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.   (Luke 2:20)

Are we excited about the greatest gif of all enough to want to unwrap it and share it with others?

 

Homily for Children

Gather the children together up near the altar. Give them a chance to settle down and feel comfortable.

Homilist: Do you enjoy getting gifts at Christmas?

   Kids: Yes!

Homilist: Do you like unwrapping them?

   Kids: Of course!

Homilist: How can you tell that a gift is yours?

   Kids: It has my name on it.

Homilist: Would you like to wait a little while before opened your gifts?

   Kids: No!

Homilist: What would you do with a gift when it has been opened?

   Kids: We would look at it and maybe play with it!

Homilist: What if you got the Greatest Gift of all time and your name was written to it? Would you not unwrap it?

    Kids: No way!

Homilist: Now remember that you have to send thank-you notes to everyone who has given you a gift.

    Kids; Yeah, we know. But what about that gift you were talking about? What kind of gift is it?

Homilist: It is a gift from God.

   Kids: Wow! What is it?

Homilist: The birth of His Son Jesus who came to the earth for us.

    Kids: Oh! The baby Jesus.

Homilist: Why is His birth important?

    Kids: Because He came to save us?

Homilist: Yes. Do you think everyone who knows about this gift should unwrap it?

   Kids: If their name was on it.

Homilist: Everyone’s name is on this gift!

   Kids: What do you mean unwrap it?

Homilist: Take it out of the box and play with it.

   Kids: Jesus wants to play with us?

Homilist: Yes, and after we do we should send Him a thank-you note.

    Kids:  Can you send a note to heaven?

Homilist: He is listening to us and He is always with us. If we just say we are thankful He would hear.

     Kids: Oh! When should we thank Him?

Homilist: Every day. Wouldn’t it be sad if someone didn’t open God’s gift?

     Kids: No way. They have to open it.

Homilist: I want to read a verse from scripture to you:

Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.   (Ephesians 2:4-8)

Homilist: Do you see that grace is a gift of God?

   Kids: Yes. But do we really have to send God a thank-you note?

Homilist: Let me read you this scripture:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.   (Romans 10:9-10)

Homilist: God needs us to thank Him with our mouths.

   Kids: Can we do that now?

Homilist: Yes, and at each new day we need to thank him for the greatest gift of all.

 

Obviously this homily is not a script to be memorized by the children. It will not do the homilist any good to memorize it either, because at some point our listeners are going to take off on a tangent. This advice from our Lord apples:

“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”   (Luke 12:11-12)

What is desired is a dialogue with the children. They are a fearsome force to face, but with patience, listening carefully what the children may be saying, and waiting on the Holy Spirit, some good may emerge. We need to have courage and place ourselves fully in the hands of the Lord.

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