Tag Archives: atoning sacrifice

Twenty Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 28B

Track 1: Adoration

1 Samuel 1:4-20
1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25
Mark 13:1-8

As you may remember, Hannah was barren. In the house of the Lord she prayed for a son, promising that she would dedicate him to the service of God. Eli, the priest, told her that God would grant her what she had asked. Hannah was overjoyed. She believed what Eli said and God granted her petition. As she had promised, she was faithful in dedicating her son in the service of God.

In adoration, Hannah prayed to God:

 “There is no Holy One like the Lord,
    no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
    let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
    and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
    but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
    but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.   (1 Samuel 2:2-5)

King David, at the end of his reign prayed to God in adoration. From 1 Chronicles{

David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly; David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name.   (1 Chronicles 29:10-12)

What did Hannah and David have in common and what was common about their prayers? They both new adversities and hardships, yet they kept their faith in God. And from their prayers it is evident that they both understood at least two things about God: God is sovereign and God is good. These are two key factors which lead us to adoration and praise before God.

Adoration is a matter of the heart. We have settle in our heart that God is love and that he loves us. Circumstances in life can lead us away from that understanding. As we grow in faith, however, we discover more and more of what God’s love means and what it means to each one of us. We demonstrate our acceptance and appreciation of his love by adoration. In doing so we return our love to him.

Adoration is a form of prayer. The more we practice this prayer we solidify our love for God in our hearts. Ultimately, adoration continues in our hearts even when we do not specifically voice it. It becomes a way of life. The Apostle Paul writes:

Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.   (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)

Are we a thankful people? Yes, there may be times in our lives when we find it difficult to give thanks. Paul also writes:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus  (Philippians 4:5-7)

Satan wants us to be discouraged and depressed. God will stand guard over our hearts and minds when we put our trust in him – when we offer him praise and thanksgiving. He will not allow the enemy to steal our joy. The key is adoration. God is sovereign and God is good. He is watching over us. He is protecting us, His peace is upon us. He is our strength and our rock. The psalmist writes:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.   (Psalm 18:2)

In adoration, we show our love and appreciation to God. Have we set our love on God? Again, the psalmist writes:

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
1With [f]long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”   (Psalm 91:14-16)

 

 

Track 2: Temple Worship

Daniel 12:1-3
Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25
Mark 13:1-8

The Temple in Jerusalem was everything to a devout Jew. It was the primary place of worship, the place of atonement, the holy of holies which contained the Ark of the Covenant, the place which housed almighty God. Naturally it was impressive to the disciples of Jesus. In today’s Gospel reading, however, Jesus made this shocking remark concerning the Temple:

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”   (Mark 13:1-2)

Jesus would soon replace the Temple in Jerusalem with himself. When he was asked by what authority he had to cleanse the Temple of the money changers he said:

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.   (John 2:19-22)

Jesus entirely replaced the sacrificial system by becoming the atoning sacrifice for us all. As the Book of Hebrews explains in today’s Epistle reading:

Every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,” and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.   (Hebrews 10:11-14)

We can understand how the disciples were shocked when they were first told about the destruction of the Temple. The stones of the Temple were supposed to be lasting. The Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE during the Siege of Jerusalem.

How shocked would we be if someone told us that we had to give up our way of worship? Perhaps the Spirit of God is saying that to us today.

Which are our sacred stones? Are they a historic church building? A favorite preacher or Bible teacher? A bishop? A form of worship? What do we worship today?

Is Jesus our high priest? The curtain in the Temple which separated the holy place from the most holy place was torn down from top to bottom at the moment Jesus died on the cross. We cannot afford to build any more curtains. Jesus said:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.   (John 14:6)

The psalmist has written:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.   (Psalm 18:2)

Now is not the time to abandon our Lord. Rather, it is a time to understand fully who he is and what he has done for us. The Apostle Peter writes:

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built[a] into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:

“See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him[b] will not be put to shame.”   (1 Peter 2:4-6)

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The Presentation

bellini2Purification

Today we celebrate The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Joseph and Mary. From the Gospel of Luke we read:

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, the parents of Jesus brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”  (Luke 2:22-24)

Let us look at this event as if it were part of a three act play. This was the first act of purification – a ceremonial purification. Mary was considered unclean on the birth of her child, according to Jewish law. After a waiting period of about forty days, she and Joseph were required to offer up their son to God. Mary would then be considered pure and her child would be declared holy before God.

A ritual of ceremonial purification was not without meaning or significance. It was a rehearsal of a spiritual purification which was to come. Today, in many churches, parents present their children to God with the expectation that these children will be raised in the Christian Faith.

At the time of Jesus’ presentation the prophet Simeon blessed the family of Jesus and said to Mary:

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)

This prophecy foretold the second act of purification – a purification of the Law of God. Simeon prophesied that Jesus will bring about major changes in Judaism. Jesus said that he did not come to set aside the law but to fulfill it. The essence of the Law had to do with loving God and neighbor, but it had become merely an elaborate set of rules to follow. As the Word made flesh Jesus demonstrating by his life the true righteous requirements of the law. God requires transparency and truth. We cannot cover up our sins by our works.

Joseph and Mary were presenting Jesus to God in the Temple. Jesus would soon change the whole temple worship by becoming the temple himself. He would become the new Temple by satisfying all the requirements of the old Temple. His blood, spilled on the cross, would become the atoning sacrifice for all our sins once and for all.

From Hebrews we read:

Since God’s children share flesh and blood, Jesus himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.   (Hebrews 2:14-15)

The last act of purification has to do with the purification of the saints. We read in Malachi:

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.   (Malachi 3:3-4)

The Apostle Paul writes that Jesus, by his atoning sacrifice, is able to present us pure before the Father:

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him — provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.   (Colossians 1:21-23)

Paul makes it clear that we must continue in the Faith. Jesus makes this promise for those who do:

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.   (Matthew 10:32-33)

Mary and Joseph presented Jesus holy to God. Jesus turned the tables. He presents Mary and Joseph and all saints as holy to God. Mary and Joseph offered up their son before God. God, the Father, offered His Son as a sacrifice to us all that we may be made holy before him. The Presentation of Jesus is our presentation as well.

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First Sunday of Advent: Year B

Tear Open the Heavens and Come Down

We begin a new liturgical year this Sunday. We start with a new season – Advent. Advent is a time of preparation. Others may rush into Christmas with all the early shopping and decorating, but let us spend the time to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child.

Are we in trouble as a nation today? The psalmist of old was aware that the nation of Israel needed God’s help. He prayed:

Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;
shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,
stir up your strength and come to help us.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.   (Psalm 80:1-3)

The Prophet Isaiah realized that Israel had forsaken their God. He prayed:

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence —

as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil —

to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!   (Isaiah 64:1-3)

For Israel, God dwelled behind a curtain within the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Only the high priest could enter and that was once a year in order to make the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people. The enlightened Prophet Isaiah knew there must be more. He wanted God to be strongly present all the time. His prayer was ultimately answered with the birth of Jesus. God did tear open the heavens and come down. God came in the flesh and dwelt among us. The Apostle John writes in the preamble of his Gospel:

The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.   (John 1:14)

There was another tearing of the heavens when Jesus hung on the cross. God removed the requirement of the annual atoning sacrifice made by the high priest when Jesus became that atoning sacrifice once and for all. At the moment of his death the curtain in front of the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. God opened the way for all of us to experience his presence. This was preface to God pouring out his Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

God wants intimate fellowship with us. He is waiting on us. Are we too busy? Are we too distracted by the things of this world. He did not go to such great lengths on our behalf only to have us sit idly by.

We are living in very dark times. Only Christ can break through the current darkness that surrounds us. Jesus warned his disciples that this such a time would come:

Jesus said, “In those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.   (Mark 13:24-27)

How are we to prepare for the coming of Christ in glory. We need a spiritual revival in our churches, our nation, and in our own hearts. This must be our focus. This must be our prayer.

The Apostle Peter was on the Mount of Transfiguration when he saw a glimpse of Jesus in his glory. He writes:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.   (2 Peter 1:16-19)

Though we are living in dark times we are to keep the lamp of God shining in our hearts for the world to see. Advent is a time for us the fan the flames of this lamp. Let us echo the psalmist’s prayer: “Stir up your strength and come to help us.”

When God tears open the heavens and come down one more time, will we be ready?

 

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