Tag Archives: darkness

First Sunday of Advent

The Sun Will De Darkened

We live in a very dark world. The darkness is growing exponentially. We may fell that there is little we can do about it. This feeling is not a new for us. That is the way the Prophet Isaiah felt when 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!

When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.   (Isaiah 64:1-3

The psalmist echoed the Prophet:

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)

What is this source of darkness that we face? The Prophet Isaiah confessed:

We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.

We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;

for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity,   (Isaiah 64:6-7)

Perhaps we are responsible for some of the darkness. Perhaps we need to confess our failure to call upon God for help? The psalmist recognized he needed a savior when he wrote::

Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand,
the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.

And so will we never turn away from you;
give us life, that we may call upon your Name.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.   (Psalm 80:16-18)

The good news is that God has given us a savior. He has torn open the heavens and come down. Jesus has come to shine in the darkness. From the Gospel of John we read:

Life was in Him,
and that life was the light of men.
That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness did not overcome it   (John 1:4-5)

Do we seek the light of Christ? In the Season of Advent the Church celebrates the light of Christ coming into the world. That light is still coming into the world down to this day.

Yet the light of Christ is a double edged sword for many. Jesus came to expose the darkness and liberate us from it. However, the darkness does not go away. As the light of Christ is expanding, so is the darkness. We are given a choice: Choose darkness or light. From John’s Gospel we read:

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”   (John 3:19-21)

The judgement of God is upon those who choose darkness. Darkness is ever increasing. Those who choose the light will escape judgement, but will experience some suffering. Jesus said that in this world we would always have tribulation. But we should fear not because he ahas overcome the world.

As the darkness increases there is a day of culmination. Just before it peaks God will judge the earth. Reading from today’s Gospel:

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.   (Mark 13:24-25)

Jesus is describing what is biblically referred to as the Day of the Lord. That day is coming very soon. He goes on to say:

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake — for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”   (Mark 13:32-37)

Will we be ready? Will we be awake.? So many people are asleep. To be ready we must be blameless. Is that something we can do on our own? The Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus will strengthen us to the end:

He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.   (1 Corinthians 1:8-9)

Jesus can do that and he will do that, provided that we have chosen the light. The light of Christ reveals sin. But, Alleluia, the light of Christ purifies us from all unrighteousness. From the First Epistle of John:

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.   (1 John :5-7)

The challenge of the Season of Advent is ultimately a life and death one. Advent never ends until the Lord comes in all his glory.

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.   (Book of Common Prayer)

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Christ the King, Last Sunday after Pt.

Surely I Am Coming Soon

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 100 or Psalm 95:1-7a
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

In America we may difficulty understanding kingdoms. We deliberately do not have a king. Kings can become corrupt. We fought the Revolutionary War agains a king. Yet today, we are part of a kingdom. The question is: “What kingdom are we apart?” There are two kingdoms. One is corrupt and one is perfect and pure.

The Prophet Ezekiel wrote about God establishing a new kingdom. Israel had begged God for a king so that they could be like other nations around them. God reluctantly gave them a king. Saul was their first king, but Saul became corrupt. Therefore, God was going to take matters in his own hands. From today’s Old Testament reading:

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.   (Ezekiel 34:15-24)

God established a new kingdom under his servant David. This kingdom would correct the mistakes of the first kingdom. And this kingdom would be a lasting kingdom. I would never be destroyed. The psalmist wrote:

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words,
    and gracious in all his deeds.
The Lord upholds all who are falling,
    and raises up all who are bowed down.   (Psalm 145:13-14)

As we know, historically, David’s kingdom was disrupted. Several kingdoms took over Israel. It was disrupted on the earth, though not entirely. Jewish tradition and worship continued. The Dravidic kingdom, however, continued in the heaven-lies. Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this earth when he testified before Pilat. Not yet, he taught us to pray to God the Father: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as ii is in heaven.”

Jesus began establishing his everlasting kingdom on the earth with his resurrection. Having paid the price of sin, he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul wrote:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.   (Ephesians 1:17-21)

This powerful king will soon be returning to the earth. In the meantime, the kingdom of darkness is still advancing upon the earth, the kingdom of Satan and his minions. Christians now live in this kingdom, but are not a part of this kingdom. The Apostle Paul wrote:

All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved —  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.   (Ephesians 2:3-7)

We have been set apart from the kingdom of this dark world. This darkness has grown so great that people are crying out for justice. Evil is now considered good by many, and good is now evil. Soon this will be corrected. From today’s Gospel reading:

Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’   (Matthew 25:31-40)

We are part of a kingdom prepared for us the foundation of the world. WE will no longer suffer by the hands of the unrighteous. God said through Ezekiel:

I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.   (Ezekiel 34:22)

On the other hand, the guilty will be punished:

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”   (Matthew 25:41-46)

People are crying out for justice. Jesus will provide it. We are reminded of what God said through the Prophet Ezekiel:

I will feed them with justice.   (Ezekiel 34:16)

Are we ready for his justice? It may come swiftly.

Are we ready to worship Jesus in his millennial reign? Those who are are those who are doing so now. Our hearts will determine what kingdom we are in. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. Let us  lift our  voices in the praise. The psalmist wrote:

Come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving
and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.   (Psalm 95:1-3)

Satan’s kingdom is a perishing one. The kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is an everlasting one. It is right at our door:

“Surely I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!   (Revelation 22:20)

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Saint Michael and All Angels

Spiritual Warfare

We are in a battle on this earth. The battle has been ongoing for a long time but it did not begin here. The battle began in heaven:

And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.   (Revelation 12:7-9)

We are in an epic battle and we must understand who our real enemy is. The Apostle Paul writes:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.   (Ephesians 6:12-13)

We are fighting the forces of evil. Evil is real. We cannot defeat it by our own strength. Fortunately, we are not in this battle alone. God is with us. His holy angels are on our side. The archangel Michael and his angels are still fighting for us. Today, we honor Michael and all the holy angels.

Yet, it is important for us to understand that we do not worship angles but the One true God who has made us all. Again, the Apostle Paul writes:

Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking,   (Colossians 2:18)

Angels are not to be worshipped. They are to be honored. Let us show our appreciation for the warring angels through our prayers. The psalmist wrote:

The Lord has set his throne in heaven,
and his kingship has dominion over all.

Bless the Lord, you angels of his,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
and hearken to the voice of his word.

Bless the Lord, all you his hosts,
you ministers of his who do his will.   (Psalm 103:19-21)

We can give thanks to God for our guardian angels, but we should not pray to them, or to anyone else, but God alone.

The holy angels are fighting against evil and we must also fight evil. We have two primary weapons to do so. In Revelation we read:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming,

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Messiah,

for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God.

But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,

for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.   (Revelation 12:10-12)

We have the blood of Jesus which covers our sins. This gives us access to the throne of God.  Through faith in the blood of Jesus we appropriate the righteousness of God in Christ. Thus we have authority over the devil. That is important to understand because prayer is our primary weapon against evil. We can bind evil with our prayers because we have authority over evil by the blood of the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ. Our faith must be complimented by our testimony, however, if our prayer is to be effective.

If we claim the blood of Jesus then we must boldly tell others. There is often a price to pay for doing so. We cannot cling to the things of this world. We may even have to face death, as in many parts of the world today, by proclaiming our faith.

We are in a battle. The same battle as the angels. It is a spiritual battle. Our weapon is prayer. But let us not forget that the power 0f our prayer is dependent upon holy living. The Book of James states:

Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.   (James 5:16)

We may also have to wage a war within ourselves. Paul wrote:

Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.   (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

But praise be to God we are not alone. God is with us. And his warring are on our side. Let us be bold as the Archangel Michael and not shrink back from the face of evil in this world. Amen.

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SaveSave

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

Greater Works Ministry

Today we read about the first martyr of the Christian faith:

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.   (Acts 7:55-60)

Why were the people so agitated at Stephen? Stephen had been appointed as a Deacon or servant of the Church, to assist the Apostles in the ministry so that they would have more time to devote themselves to the study of God’s word. But Stephen was no ordinary believer:

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. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council.  (Acts 6:8-12)

“Spirit-filled” Christians are often considered controversial, even in today’s Church. Stephen spoke with a certain spiritual authority that may have been off putting to some. People were not able to argue with him successfully. On top of that, he performed signs and wonders which were only supposed to be done by apostles, prophets, and, perhaps, some elders.
Perhaps signs and wonders are still misunderstood to this day. Are we supposed to do them? What did Jesus say about them? We read in today’s appointed Gospel that:

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”   (John 14:8-14)

There are counterfeit signs and wonders. Satan is able to produce them. They seem very strange and disconnected from any apostolic teaching of the faith. The people who perform them are clearly not grounded in the scriptures. Stephen.was firmly grounded to the point that no one could successfully argue against what he was teaching.

Have we been chosen by God to do the “greater works” ministry. The Apostle Peter quoted the Old Testament prophecy:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;

once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.   (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Yes, we are chosen. But there is a secret in doing this ministry. We do not do it. Stephen did not do it. Jesus did not do it. We cannot do it. It is God the Father who does the signs and wonders. Our task is simply to believe in Jesus, and listen intently and do as the Father directs us. God in us does this ministry if we are gifted by him.

How did the skeptic Philip end up doing the ministry that Jesus prophesied to him. When the words of Jesus sank in this same Philip became a great evangelist. He began performing the “greater works” which Jesus promised. The signs and wonders he performed made a great impact on the people of Samaria when he preached the word there:

Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city.   (Acts 8:4-8)

Are we ready to step into the “greater works” ministry? We must first step into Jesus and the Father by faith. Then we must receive the promise from the Father which is the Holy Spirit. If a skeptic like Philip could answer the call then why should we remain a skeptic when there is an exciting ministry ahead. But let us remember to never take credit for such a ministry. All the praise and glory belongs to God.

Stephen stood out because of the works that he did by the Spirit. Nonetheless, perhaps his greatest achievement is that he forgave those who were stoning him. We need to grow into the character of Jesus just as much, if not more, as the ministry of Jesus.

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