Category Archives: Year C

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 24C

Track 1: Covenant of the Heart

Jeremiah 31:27-34
Psalm 119:97-104
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
Luke 18:1-8

When a Pharisee asked Jesus what he thought the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.   (Matthew 22:37-39)
Notice that Jesus mentioned the word “heart” first. Our relationship with God has to do with the condition of our heart. God wants a relationship with us. It is a love relationship.
God demonstrated his love for Israel when he rescued them from captivity in Egypt. He was leading them to a land he promised Abraham and his descendants. Through Mose he spoke to the people:

The Lord your God will bring you into the land that your ancestors possessed, and you will possess it; he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors.

Moreover, the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.   (Deuteronomy 30:5-6)

The heart can be a devious thing. Let us examine our own hearts evidence. God spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah:

The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse—
who can understand it?
I the Lord test the mind
and search the heart,
give to all according to their ways,
according to the fruit of their doings.   (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

If we are to truly love God then we need his help. God promised to circumcise the hearts of the Israelites. Yet, they offered him great resistance. They broke the covenant God made with their forefathers. They continually disobeyed him. God would have to take greater steps. He spoke through Jeremiah in today’s Old Testament reading:
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt– a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

How could God make this promise and keep it. He would have to take extraordinary measures to deal with Sin. God is a just God and cannot overlook Sin or the punishment it requires. It took the cross of Jesus. The moment that Jesus died on the cross for our sins the curtain was torn from top to bottom – that is the curtain separating the Most Holy Place from the remainder of the Temple in Jerusalem. The price for Sin was paid once and for all.

Now God could write his laws on our hearts. But what does he need from us? He needs our hearts. He wants to transform them. King David prayed:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.   (Psalm 51:10-11)
Only the blood of Jesus can purify our hearts. We need to accept his saving act on the cross. From this point God can begin writing his law on our hearts. Are we still withhold our hearts from him? Are we eager to hear his word? The psalmist wrote:

Your word I have treasured and stored in my heart, That I may not sin against You.   Psalm 119:11

Keeping the law of God is a matter of spiritual grow as we take in God’s word. The Apostle Paul wrote Timothy:

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.   (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

God writes on our hearts by his word. Without his word we will never truly love the Lord and obey him. The psalmist wrote:

I restrain my feet from every evil way,
that I may keep your word.

I do not shrink from your judgments,
because you yourself have taught me.

How sweet are your words to my taste!
they are sweeter than honey to my mouth.

Through your commandments I gain understanding;
therefore I hate every lying way.   (Psalm 119:101-104)

 

 

Track 2: The Unjust Judge

Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 121
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
Luke 18:1-8

Jesus told parables using familiar life experiences so that his listeners could relate to them. In today’s Gosple, Jesus spoke  of an unjust judge:

Jesus told his disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, `Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, `Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'”   (Luke 18:1-5)

People were familiar with examples of unjust judges when Jesus told this parable. Has anything changed today? No. The parable still rings true. Of course, we want justice for the widow, but there is a touch of humor with the attitude of the unjust judge. He does the right thing in this case, but for the wrong reason.

Jesus continued:

“Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”   (Luke 18:6-8)

What do we take away from this parable? The first thing surely should be that God is not like the unjust judge. He is involved with our daily lives. He is not some casual observer who is indifferent to what he sees. He loves us. He cares about us and our wellbeing.

Why did Jesus end the parable with the statement: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” How could that statement relate to the rest of the parable?

There is always a danger of losing faith in God. Luke’s Gospel began the telling of the parable by saying that it was about “the need to pray always and not to lose heart.” We can lose heart. The enemy wants to discourage our hearts. Circumstances in life can be discouraging at times.

In today’s Old Testament reading we find Jacob wrestling with God. Jacob had been living under difficult circumstances. He had not entirely lost faith, but he was seriously seeking a blessing from God. And God blessed him and changed his name to Israel, a name that stands throughout the ages. God is faithful to those who put their trust in him.

We may find ourselves wrestling with God. That does not mean we have lost faith. But if we are to wrestle with God then the requirement is prayer. Prayer is our way of having a dialogue with God. Prayer is the key for maintaining our relationship with him. The parable was about praying always and not losing heart.

When we communicate with God the lies of Satin and this world fade away. We remember that God is a just God. As a righteous and just God, he must punish sin. He is also a loving God. He loves us so much that he took our punishment upon himself. This fact alone should establish our love relationship with him.

The solutions to our problems ib life are not always immediate. The psalmist wrote:

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!   (Psalm 27:14)

Go0d requites us to live by faith. This means we rely on God and not ourselves. The prophet of old wrote:

Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.   (Habakkuk 2:4)

The difficulties we experience in life help build our character. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access[b] to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we[d] also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.   (Romans 5:1-5)

God will help us through them all. Our part is to pray keep the faith. Prayer is, in fact, our keeper of faith. Paul wrote:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.   (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

God is faithful. He will come to our aid. Let us put our whole trust in him. In Christ Jesus we find our victory. In John’s Gospel we read these words of Jesus:

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 16L33)

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St. Luke, Evangelist

The Work of an Evangelist

Luke was a physician, but he was also an exceptional writer and historian. It is wonderful to see such talent harnessed for God’s purposes. His example should inspire all of us to use our gifts and talents to their maximum effect in the service of our Lord.

The Apostle Paul wrote to his protegé Timothy:

As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.   (2 Timothy 4:5)

Luke understood the work of an evangelist. His whole Gospel was tailored to present the narrative of Jesus in an orderly and effective way. In his prologue to the Book of Acts he explains his purpose in writing the third Gospel:

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  (Acts 1:1-3)

Luke was a Greco-Syrian physician who lived in the Greek city of Antioch in Ancient Syria. He wrote from a non-Jewish perspective while Matthew wrote his Gospel from a decidedly Jewish perspective. Matthew emphasized that Jesus came to fulfill and clarify Mosaic Law. Luke emphasized that Jesus came to fulfill the Kingdom of God. We need both perspectives. Fortunately, Luke made the Gospel of Jesus Christ accessible to all people. Inasmuch as he was a traveling companion to the Apostle Paul it is easy to understand his point of view.

Luke stressed the work of the Holy Spirit both in his Gospel and in the Book of Acts. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit:

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  (Luke 4:14-21)

Luke makes it clear that we should be anointed with the Holy Spirit as well. Such an anointing is required to do the work of an evangelist. In the beginning of the Book of Acts, he writes about the baptism with the Holy Spirit which Jesus imparted to all of His disciples:

Jesus appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 1:3-5)

The word from Luke to all of us today is “get anointed and get going for the Gospel.”

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Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 23C

Track 1: The Ten Leapers 

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
Psalm 66:1-11
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Luke 17:11-19

The Jewish exiles in Babylon were demoralized. God spoke to them though the prophet Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.   (Jeremiah 29:4-6)

The exiles had given up on life. God, on the other hand, is in the business of preserving life. Our time line is not his time line. We think in the moment, God operates for eternity.

During the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth, leprosy was considered incurable. Lepers were ostracized from the community. They were considered unclean and dangerous to be near. In today’s Gospel of Luke, ten lepers approached Jesus. He was their only hope, but they approached him from afar:

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.   (Luke 17:11-14)

Have we ever given up on life? Have we ever become so demoralized that we were unsure what to do next? The good news is that God is still with us. We are not alone. Jesus said:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.   (John 10:10)

God wants to give us life. He wants to enrich our lives. How much we receive from him is up to us. He is no respecter of persons. He healed as Samaritan along with the Jewish lepers. Reading further in Luke:

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”   (Luke 17:15-19)

The Samaritan had realized that God had opened a door for him to a new life. He, alone, returned to give thanks.

The psalmist wrote:

Bless our God, you peoples;
make the voice of his praise to be heard;

Who holds our souls in life,
and will not allow our feet to slip.   (Psalm 66:7-8)

God holds our souls in his hands. He will protect and support our lives for an eternity. How much do we put our trust in him? Enough to honor him and praise him above all that is in this world? This world will tear us down. Through the cross of Jesus Christ, God has lifted us up that we might be seated with him in heavenly places.

 

 

Track 2: Receiving Healing from God

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
Psalm 111
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Luke 17:11-19

Naaman was highly favored and he knew that he was. Reading from 2 Kings:

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”   (2 Kings 5:1-3)

Through a circuitous, almost laughable  route he eventually arrived at the Prophet Elisha’s house in all his splender:

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage.   (2 Kings 5:9-12)

What went wrong? Naaman was offended. He was not teated with the respect that he deserve, or though he thought. How many times have we missed a blessing from God because we first got offended? Perhaps more than we have realized.

Except for his leprosy, Naaman was on top. But now Naaman needed help. He was being ask to take more steps to receive help than he wanted to take, or that he felt were necessary. Fortunately, the wisdom of his servants persuaded him otherwise:

But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, `Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.   (2 Kings 5:13-14)

Healing is best understood as a process. God is the healer. Is the great physician. He needs our cooperation for him to do his best work. Naaman not only needed his body cured, he needed an attitude adjustment. We need to humble ourselves before God. If we are to become good patients, then we should be prepared to exercise our patience as well as faith.

A complete healing is more than the cessation of our symptoms. We need to allow God to touch us at our innermost being. In today’s Gospel reading we have the account of Jesus healing ten leapers. When they asked him for healing, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. One out of the ten responded differently:

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”   (Luke 17:15-19)

All of need healing at one time or another, from one thing or another. We appreciate our good doctors and nurses and their care. Do we appreciate the role that God plays. He is the only healer. All of his healings are miracles. We become one of his greatest miracles when we return to give him praise. Only then may we said to be whole. Our wholeness, our “‘sha•lem” can be found in God alone.

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