Tag Archives: cares of the world

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 23A

Track 1: Interceding for the Nation

Exodus 32:1-14
Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14

Back to the wilderness, we pick up where we left off. Moses is up on the mountain with God when God reveals to him the sin of the people:

The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”   (Exodus 32:7-10)

Fortunately for Israel Moses was able to dissuade God from what he wanted to do. The psalmist extolls the importance of Moses as an intercessor for Israel:

Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb
and worshiped a molten image;

And so they exchanged their Glory
for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.

They forgot God their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,

Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,
and fearful things at the Red Sea.

So he would have destroyed them,
had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,
to turn away his wrath from consuming them.   (Psalm 106:19-23)

[O America, how much your intercessors have provided covering for your idolatry!]

The psalmist also hints at the underlying cause of Israel’s idolatry. The people forgot who they were. They were made in the image of God and did not come from other forms of life. Now they were acting like a godless nation. They also forgot who brought them out of Egypt. How could they go so wrong so quickly? The answer lies in today’s reading from Exodus:

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”   ()

God sometimes delays what he is going to do in order to test our faith. Do we have faith in him in all circumstances, or do the circumstances overcome our faith? The Apostle Paul wrote:

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 4:4-7)

Though we may not always be aware of it, God is near. He is with us. He is Emmanuel. Paul is suggesting that prayer will keep us from despair. If we lose faith, we are in danger of going back to our old idolatries and familiar spirits. What have these ever accomplished for us? They only lead us further astray without providing any lasting satisfaction or peace.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that there is spiritual exercise we can do while we wait upon the Lord. We can count our blessings:

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.   (Philippians 4:8-9))

Perhaps it is time to turn off the 24 hour news cycle. Perhaps it is time to focus on what is good. Let us not so easily give up the lessons and wisdom which God has imparted to us. As Christians, the world is looking to us for hope and light, whether people realize it or not. We are the salt of the earth. It is no time to lose our savor.

We are living in the last days. Jesus told the parable about the wedding banquet. Many were invited but were distracted by the cares of this world. Then there was the guest who made it in the door but was later thrown out because he was not wearing a wedding garment. Is that not the casual Christian who does not understand the requirements of living for Christ? Is that any of us here today?

 

 

Track 2: The Wedding Garment

Isaiah 25:1-9
Psalm 23
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14

The Prophet Isaiah was also a psalmist. Today we read one of his eschatological psalms. He writes about a feast that will be celebrated at some time in the future, presumably in Jerusalem:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.

And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.

Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.   (Isaiah 25:6-8)

Isaiah writes about a time when death will no longer be a factor. This sounds very much like a celebration of the millennial reign of Jesus. As Christians we should be waiting in expectation for this prophecy to be fulfilled. Those who are waiting for this event are, according to the prophet, will be the ones in attendance:

It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.   Isaiah 25:9)

Jesus tells a parable in today’s Gospel reading which highlights this very same theme:

Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.   (Matthew 22:1-10)

Notice who the guests were – ordinary people, both good and bad. God calls all who will listen. He is no respecter of persons. The people who would not come were too occupied with worldly cares. Some were even hostile to the point of killing those servants who were offering the invitation. This is very much the day in which we are living. The culture is now hostile to Christians.

Where do we stand today? Are we waiting for the return of our Lord Jesus with great expectation? This is not the time for being a causal or nominal Christian. There may be those who think that they have had their ticket punched. They are members of a church. They have been baptized. Of this group, there are those who thought they had a license to live however they liked without consequences. The parable addresses their condition at its conclusion:

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”   (Matthew 22:11-14)

Everyone is called by God for the messianic banquet. Not everyone is listening. Some hear the invitation but are distracted by other things more important to them. Some do not want an invitation because they are at odds with God. While still others believe they can get in the door at the last minute with the least amount of commitment. Jesus has provided us a robe of righteousness, but we must wear it.

The true Christian will be waiting with great expectation out of love for the Lord of hosts:

It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.   (Isaiah 25:-9)

Is that true of us?

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Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year A

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 10A

Tract 1: Despising Our Birthright

Genesis 25:19-34
Psalm 119:105-112
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

We all know the story of Jacob taking advantage of his brother Esau and stealing his birthright. From Genesis we read:

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.   (Genesis 25:29-34)

Jacob and Esau were twins, but Esau was born first. Since he was the first-born, he stood in place to receive an inheritance passed down from his family. Yet, Esau was willing to give up his birthright for some stew. How could he do that? How could he be so stupid? How could he be so shortsighted?

Jesus told a parable about the sower sowing seed. The seed was the word of God. The seed fell on good ground which represents hearts open to his word. On the other hand, thorny ground was a different matter. Jesus explained:

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.   (Matthew 13:22)

In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said that we cannot serve two masters. We either serve God or Mammon (that is worldly riches). The desires of the flesh will choke out our spiritual inheritance just as it did for Esau.

These desires of the flesh will so poison our minds so that we will not even be able to comprehend the true riches of God. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.   (Romans 8:5-8)

The commandments of God are what guarantee our spiritual inheritance. Jesus, our Savior, is the one who helps us keep those  commandments. The psalmist wrote:

Your decrees are my inheritance for ever;
truly, they are the joy of my heart.

I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes
for ever and to the end.   (Psalm 119:111-112)

Do we find joy in following the commandments of God?

God has given us an eternal inheritance in his Kingdom through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing on earth today or in the world to come can compare with it.

 

 

Parable of the SowerTrack 2: Seed for the Heart

Isaiah 55:10-13
Psalm 65: (1-8), 9-14
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Today we have the parable of the Sower. The sower scatters the seed. What happens to that seed depends upon where it lands. Jesus said:

“Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”   (Matthew 13:3-9)

What is the seed? It is the very word of God, without which there would not be any life. We are the recipient of that life, provided that the word is planted in our hearts. Our hearts must be open to receiving God’s word. Without the word in our hearts we have no hope for salvation, no hope for eternal life with God.

This concept of the word as seed is not just New Testament. The Apostle Paul quotes Moses concerning the word of God and adds his commentary:

“The word is near you,
    on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.   (Romans 10:5-9)

Is the word of God in our hearts? If so, then we will put our trust in the saving act of our Lord Jesus Christ. When our hearts are closed to the word then they are the hard ground that Jesus speaks about in the parable:

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.   (Matthew 13:19)

Receiving the word is so important that the Devil will do everything in his power to keep that from happening. He will distract us with worldly cares. Jesus said;

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.   (Matthew 13:22)

Worldly cares are the thorns which Jesus spoke about in the parable, which choke off the word. This is a favorite distraction by the Devil. You may remember that he even tried this technique with Jesus when he was in the wilderness:

The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”   (Matthew 4:3-4)

To be sure, we are saved by grace through faith (). Faith is vital. God gives everyone a measure of faith. But we must feed our faith. Paul writes:

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.    (Romans 10:17)

The righteous live by faith, but faith will be diminished without a continual feeding on the word of God. The psalmist wrote:

With my whole heart I seek you;
    do not let me stray from your commandments.
I treasure your word in my heart,
    so that I may not sin against you.   (Psalm 119:10-12)

What kind of fruit we produce as Christians is very much dependent upon how we treasure the word in our hearts. In the parable Jesus said:

But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”   (Matthew 13:23)

Pray that our hearts are good soil, that we hear and understand. And that the cares of this world do not lead us astray. Pray that we treasure the word of God in our hearts. Amen.

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Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year A