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Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 24B

Track 1: Approaching God

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

How do we approach God in our prayers? Job prayed to God. When God answered him, he discovered that he was not on the same footing with God:

The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.   (Job 38:1-4)

The psalmist praised of God for his splendor and majesty:

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
O Lord my God, how excellent is your greatness!
you are clothed with majesty and splendor.

You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak
and spread out the heavens like a curtain.   (Psalm 104:1-2)

God is creator and we are his creation. As we approach God, perhaps we should keep this in mind and show him great reverence and respect.

James and John approached Jesus. From today’s Gospel reading:

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”   (Mark 10:35-38)

Did James and John really know who Jesus is? They approached him as their friend. Later, John, in the preamble to his Gospel wrote this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.   (John 1:1-4)

If we are to approach God the Father we will do well to understand the cup which God the Son drank for us. From today’s reading from Hebrews:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.   (Hebrews 5:)

Our high priest is the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father is too Holy to look upon sin. Therefore, he has offered up his Son to take our sins from us. Those sins were placed on him who bore them on a cruel cross. He bore them once and for all. But what about the sins we continue to commit, unwittingly and, in many cases, on purpose? That is where we need a high priest who continually intercedes for us.

Let us read further in Hebrews. From chapter 10;

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.   (Hebrews 10:19-27

How do we approach God the Father? We approach him through Jesus. If we CONTINUE to sin, we must confess our sins. That is paramount in our prayers before God. The Apostle of John wrote:

 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 1:6-9)

 

 

 

венецTrack 2: Bound to Jesus in Love

Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 91:9-16
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

Who is Jesus to us? Is he our Lord? Yes, he is. He is Lord of all. But is he our servant? From Mark’s Gospel we read:

Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”   (Mark 10:42-45)

To receive the lordship of Jesus we must receive his servanthood.

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;

yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.   (Isaiah 53:4-12)

Jesus was and is the suffering servant of Isaiah. How we respond to his suffering defines us as Christian disciples. Do we love him for what he did? If so, we must be devoted to him. We must be bound to him. The psalmist wrote:

Because he is bound to me in love,
therefore will I deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
I am with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

With long life will I satisfy him,
and show him my salvation.   (Psalm 91:14-16)

If we are bound to this world we cannot be bound to Jesus. If we are bound to our things we cannot be bound to Jesus. If we are bound to proving ourselves as worthy of anything we cannot be bound to Jesus. Now is the time of deliverance. Though great trouble lies ahead, Jesus will protect us. Though Satan has set many traps for us, Jesus will deliver us. Though many in the Church are falling away, Jesus will rescue us. He will do all these things when we are bound to him in love.

Where do we stand today? It has little to do with our past actions. It has little to do with our past declarations. Today, are we bound to Jesus in love? Jesus said:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”   (John 14:16)

Are we able to love the one, and follow the one, who loved us and gave himself entirely to us?

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.   (Isaiah 53:6)

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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17B

178099033-612x612Track 1: Intimacy with God

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

A reading From the Song of Solomon:

The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,

leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.

Look, there he stands
behind our wall,

gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.

My beloved speaks and says to me:

“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;

for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.   (Song of Solomon 2:8-12)

God is calling us. He is our beloved. Are we ready to go out and meet him? Or do we feel unworthy? Are we afraid? Maybe God is angry with us? How do we talk to God? If we are listening, we can speak to him like he speaks to us, with tender love and affection.

King David knew how to talk with God. As the psalmist he wrote:

My heart is stirring with a noble song;
let me recite what I have fashioned for the king;
my tongue shall be the pen of a skilled writer.

You are the fairest of men;
grace flows from your lips,
because God has blessed you for ever.

Your throne, O God, endures for ever and ever,
a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom;
you love righteousness and hate iniquity.

Therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness above your fellows.   (Psalm 45:1-2, 7-8)

Was David talking about himself? Was he talking about his kingdom? In a way, yes. He stood in for Jesus until he came to the earth. But David knew he was speaking to Jesus. Jesus’ throne will last forever. God the Father has anointed him above all others. He is king of king and lord of lords. At his name every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Isaiah 45:23).

Jesus has borne all our sins on the cross so that we might have intimacy with him. He did not die for us that we might continue to be estranged from him. Yes, we will have to confess our sins when we are in his presence. That should not stop us from wanting to be in his presence.

We are the fruit which Jesus has produced by his generosity and love. James writes:

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.   (James 1:17-18)

Do we want to honor him and show him our appreciation? Jesus is speaking tender words of love to us. He is waiting for us to speak the same way back to him. What a joy it is to speak with him that way. He loves us. Do we love him? If so, we must tell him. That is how relationships are formed. It is our joy to tell him.

 

 

 

Track 2: Religion that Is Pure

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 15
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were very pius people. They took their religion seriously, but what sort of religion was it? In today’s Gospel we read:

When the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;

in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”   (Mark 7:1-8)

James speaks about the religion of the Pharisee and about the religion of today’s Pharisees:

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.   (James 1:26-27)

We tend to live compartmentally. We may have a very pious religion but it does not always have a positive affect on our daily lives. The Pharisees were going through the motions. They were trying to follow the Mosaic Law, but they lost site of what this law was about. It could be summed up as loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.

What gives the Pharisees away, and some of us modern-day Pharisees as well, is what comes out of the mouth. James reminds us:

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.   (James 1:26)

The tongue is difficult to bridle. It seems to have a life of its own and takes great delight in putting us in a bad light at the most inopportune time. It reveals our inner thoughts and character.

Jesus explained what is in the human heart counts more than what religions practice we may be following:

Jesus called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”   (Mark 7:14-15, 21-23)

How are we then to live? The psalmist tells us:

Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?
who may abide upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right,
who speaks the truth from his heart.

There is no guile upon his tongue;
he does no evil to his friend;
he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.   (Psalm 15:1-3)

This we cannot do without God’s help. But we can do it. And when we do it a witness that the world most desperately needs to see. Mose wrote this concerning the commandments of God:

You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?   (Deuteronomy 4:6-8)

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Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 14B

Track 1: O My Son Absalom, My Son

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
Psalm 130
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
John 6:35, 41-51

We live in a time when many families are weakened, if not torn apart. Families are the basic unit that God has given us for support and encouragement. What has happened? The same thing that happened in the time of King David. David sinned against God. He failed to live by some of the basic commandments of God. And devastation followed.

David’s family was a mess. Absalom was estranged from his Father David for a period of time. We could go into the details of why this happened, but much of it stemmed from David’s adultery and murder of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba.

Even though there were attempts at reconciliation between Absalom and David, Absalom never felt fully reconciled with his father. He ultimately rebelled against his father. He raised an army and attempted to take over the kingdom from his father.

Today in Second Samuel we read of the tragic end of Absalom and of David’s profound grief at the loss of his son:

And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.

Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, “Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.” The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.”

The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”   (2 Samuel 18:15, 31-33)

Many families are in need of reconciliation today. The Apostle Paul wrote about reconciliation:

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.   (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

Notice that Paul said we must first be reconciled to God. Reconciliation begins with each one of us. We have all sinned. We see the terrible consequences of that sin. God wants to hear our heartfelt confession and repentance. The psalmist wrote:

Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss,
O Lord, who could stand?

For there is forgiveness with you;
therefore you shall be feared.

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
in his word is my hope.   (Psalm 130:1-4)

There is forgiveness with God, but there must be true repentance. In today’s Epistle reading Paul gives us examples of what that might mean:

Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.   (Ephesians 4:25-27)

We must allow God to heal us of our hurts and now allow bitterness to take root in us. They it is much easier to be reconciled to others. Paul goes on the write:

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.   (Ephesians 4:29-5:2)

The commandments of God are designed to protect the family as well as ourselves. God will forgive us, but there will still be consequences for our sin. Obedience is our best path to avoid those consequences. When we do sin, a quick and heartfelt repentance is the best path to reconciliation for all concerned.

 

 

Track 2:  I Am the Living Bread

1 Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 34:1-8
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
John 6:35, 41-51

The Prophet Elijah was running from Jezebel for fear of his life. He was on his way to Mount Horeb, the mount of God. He would not have made it, however without food and water. Were it not the intervention of an angel he would have died. From 1 Kings we read:

Elijah went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.   (1 Kings 19:4-8)

We need nourishment for our bodies, but our spirits also need nourishment. Without spiritual nourishment our faith may die. We can make false assumptions and go in wrong directions. Elijah was very much in need of a word from God. He was running but he was not listening. God was ready to speak to him at any moment no matter where he was physically. The same is true for us. Are we willing to slow down and listen?

We remember that the risen Lord Jesus was revealed to the travelers on the road to Emmaus. It was by both Word and Sacrament. Jesus taught to them from the scriptures, but he also shared his first Holy Communion with them after the resurrection. It is then when the travelers understood who he was.

Many churches have been remiss in not teaching what the Holy Communion is. It is a meal. The psalmist wrote:

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are they who trust in him!   (Psalm 34:8)

Jesus wants us to taste him. From John’s Gospel:

Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”   John 6:51)

Jesus’ words at the Last Supper with his disciples were: “Do this in memory of me” (Greek: “τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν“, (Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:24-25). Anamnesis (transliterated from ἀνάμνησιν) means, in the Greek, much more than a remembrance. It means a re-presentation. Participation in the Holy Communion is an active and ongoing experience. The Communion is a feeding of the very life force of Jesus.

Are we going to observe Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, the way in which Jesus invited us to observe it? Why is the Church so divided over the meaning of the Holy Communion? It is because we split hairs over doctrine without going deeper into the words of Jesus? He has given us the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.

If we are to succeed in our mission we will need the nourishment of Christ. Elijah could not have gone on without the feeding provided by God. We have a living Lord who wants to continually share himself with us. He is the living Word made flesh. We meet him in the scriptures. His very life interprets them. He is also the living bread which came down from heaven. From John:

Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; or my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”   (John 6:53-58)

Our very salvation is tied up in the Holy Communion. It is not just an occasional memorial service that reminds of what Jesus did. It is about what Jesus continues to provide for us that will never grow stale. He is risen. He is the living bread. Amen.

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