Category Archives: Year C

Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist

saint-john-the-apostle-08Walk in the Light

When all the other disciples had deserted Jesus at the cross John was there with Mary the mother of Jesus. He was called the disciple that Jesus loved. He wrote a Gospel which has the simplest structure and words with regard to reading level, but which contains some of the deepest understandings of the nature of God and His purposes. John was probably the only Apostle who died of old age. John was exceptional in so many ways. His message was also exceptional. Many scholars want to write off the authenticity and validity of John’s Gospel as well as his epistles. Others will say that his Book of Revelation was some sort of mystery code written only for its day. However, John cannot be ignored if we are to grasp the essence of the Christian Faith.

What is John’s message? Can we summarize what the Spirit of God was saying through his writings? Let us say that John was the messenger of Light in a dark world. Jesus is that Light and He draws us to Himself through a community of love:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. 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 1:5-9)

For many people today Christianity is a self-help program. John teaches us that we must live in community, that we cannot have true fellowship with one another unless we are transparent. We must live in the Light of God if we are to have true fellowship. The only downside is that we will be exposed for who we really are. We are sinners. That is why we prefer the darkness of this world:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.   (John 3:18-20)

If we understand the Gospel of John then we will not stop at the edge of the Light. We must enter into the Light. We must enter into Jesus. When we do we have this promise from him:

If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

John’s teachings are the culmination of the season of Advent message and an invitation to live in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Will that be our Christmas this year? If so, how long can we make it last? It will last for an eternity if we remain in the Light.

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Saint Stephen

First Martyr for the Faith

For those who refuse to change, the truth of God is unbearable. This has always been true and is still true today. Let us look at some examples. God sent Jeremiah to King Jehoiakim to warn the nation of impending doom if the people did not repent. This is how the people in authority responded to his prophecy:

The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, `This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.   (Jeremiah 26:7-9)

The messenger of God is rejected because the message of God is rejected.

Jesus lamented over Jerusalem:

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you, desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'”   (Matthew 23:37-39)

Jesus was crucified because the Jewish leaders could not bear his message. They rejected him because they also rejected God the Father. They rejected his plan for their nation and the whole world. They wanted a different message and a different Messiah.

In today’s Epistle lesson we have the example of Stephen:

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.   (Acts 6:8-11)

Stephen was not only a servant of the Church as a deacon, he was a powerful purveyor of the Gospel. The leaders could not withstand the message of Stephen which was by the Holy Spirit. Thus they rejected Stephen. Stephen became the first martyr for the Faith. He was an innocent man full of God’s grace and power, yet he was stoned to death in the name of religion.

People have a certain concept of God. When challenged by God’s truth they often will do anything , including destroying the messenger of God, to keep from hearing and complying with his Word. How far are we willing to go today to reject the Word of God?

The Word was made flesh for us and died on the cross as payment for our sins. Are we to reject such a great salvation? Are we to reject healings? Are we to reject prophecy in our day? Some of our churches and denominations do not allow for certain manifestation of God’s power and presence because they do not allow for God’s truth. Church doctrine does not take the place of the truth in God’s Word.

Where do we stand today? Are we open to God? Are we seeking his revelation in our lives? Is his Word all important to us? If so, then we will surely be persecuted, even within the Church. When that occurs, will we still hold on to the truth at all costs?

Stephen was a man whom the Word of God was all important to him. He was willing to die for it so that the truth might be told. Not only that, he was able to forgive the very people who were stoning him to death.

We would not have the Church today without the testimony of Stephen and many faithful martyrs for the cause of the Gospel. As in the days of Stephen, we are living in an age hostile to the Gospel, even in America. Will we step up and step out for the Gospel in our day?

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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.

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