Tag Archives: eternal life

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17C

Track 1: Cracked Cisterns

Jeremiah 2:4-13
Psalm 81:1, 10-16
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

The psalmist wrote:

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said,
“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

And yet my people did not hear my voice,
and Israel would not obey me.

So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their hearts,
to follow their own devices.

Oh, that my people would listen to me!
that Israel would walk in my ways!   (Psalm 81:10-13)

Israel had a history with God. Through great signs and wonders he led them out of bondage in Egypt and brought them to a land he had promised their forefather Abraham. Yet they turned away from him to other gods. Through the Prophet Jeremiah he asked:

Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?

But my people have changed their glory
for something that does not profit.

Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
be shocked, be utterly desolate,

says the Lord,

for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,

cracked cisterns
that can hold no water.   (Jeremiah 2:11-13)

God had provided for them living water which met all their needs. God provides this same water to us. Nonetheless, we need to thirst for it. We cannot allow other things to take its place such as entertainment, addictions, and worldly pleasures. If we are not careful these things become our gods. They only last for a short while. They do not satisfy us or sustain us.

Jesus came so that we all might partake of God’s living water. From the Gospel of John we read:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.   (John 7:37-39)

Jesus paid the price so that God could pour out his Holy Spirit upon us all. Without the Spirit we are weak and powerless to resist sin and fight off the Devil’s attacks. Our strength is always draining out of us. We become the cracked cisterns like the ones spoken of in Jeremiah. We need a sustaining power that always refreshes us.

Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well about the living water:

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”   (John 4:10-14)

God provides us his living water overflowing within us. It sustains our lives here on earth. Moreover, it is his supply for life eternal. Are we ready for this supply. Are we thirty for it? Or are we committing the two evils of Israel:

My people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,

cracked cisterns
that can hold no water.

Our cracked cisterns have failed us. God offers us a spring of living water that never runs dry. The Samaritan woman at the well asked Jesus:

“Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”   (John 4:15)

 

 

Track 2: Those Who Are Humble Will Be Exalted

Sirach 10:12-18
or Proverbs 25:6-7
Psalm 112
Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16
Luke 14:1, 7-14

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus speaks about the concept of self-importance:

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, `Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, `Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”   (Luke 14:1, 7-11)

The Book of James echos a similar theme:

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?   (James 2:1-4)

Why do we make distinctions among ourselves? Where does the notion of a certain pecking order come from? In other words, why are some people more important than others? Why might we consider ourselves more important? Today’s reading from Sirach speaks directly to this question:

The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord;
the heart has withdrawn from its Maker.

For the beginning of pride is sin,
and the one who clings to it pours out abominations.

Therefore the Lord brings upon them unheard-of calamities,
and destroys them completely.

The Lord overthrows the thrones of rulers,
and enthrones the lowly in their place.

The Lord plucks up the roots of the nations,
and plants the humble in their place.   (Sirach 10:12-15)

The answer is human pride. When we abandon God pride rears its ugly head. We sense that we have fallen and we look for ways of picking ourselves up. Often the process of picking of oneself up has to do with putting others down. The thinking is: we may be failing, but at least we are ahead of someone else.

The Apostle Paul warns us:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.   (Philippians 2:3)

How often are we willing to treat others as though they were better than us? They are neither better nor worse, because “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Paul is merely suggesting a corrective factor to our normal behavior. We should treat others as though they were better than us.

But then the Apostle gets to the heart of the matter:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death —
    even death on a cross.   (Philippians 2:5-8)

If Jesus could empty himself and humble himself, then surely we can learn to do the same. Certainly we should be willing to give up something of ourselves to a greater purpose. Remember, Jesus said: “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

We may exalt ourselves, but that can never compare to the exaltation of God the Father. God highly exalted Jesus:

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.   (Philippians 2:9-11)

When we empty ourselves Jesus is better able to fill us. When we humble ourselves God exalts us and fills us with his supply. We have more than enough for ourselves. In this way we can be much more generous to others. From today’s reading in Hebrews:

Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.   (Hebrews 13:15-16)

We have living water to share. As we are filled we are better able to share his love with others.

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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 11C

Track 1: There Is Need of Only One Thing

Amos 8:1-12
Psalm 52
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

We live in the age of greed. This is not new. It was true in the time of Amos in the Old Testament. Amos prophesied:

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,

saying, “When will the new moon be over
so that we may sell grain;

and the sabbath,
so that we may offer wheat for sale?

We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,

buying the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”   (Amos 8:4-6)

God had blessed his people, but many had forgotten from whom those blessings came. Something very destructive happens when people forget God. They become less secure in their outlook on life. This feeling of insecurity feeds a desire to gain more wealth. The new wealth does not seem to eliminate the insecurity in many cases, because a fear of losing what has been gained may enter in. The psalmist wrote about

Oh, that God would demolish you utterly,
topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling,
and root you out of the land of the living!

“This is the one who did not take God for a refuge,
but trusted in great wealth
and relied upon wickedness.”

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

I will give you thanks for what you have done
and declare the goodness of your Name in the presence of the godly.   (Psalm 52:7-9)

The only cure for the fear of not having enough is our trusting in the mercy of God. In order to trust him we allow ourselves to be steeped in his Word. The world has many distracting messages. We need to focus on God’s message to us.

In today’s Gospel reading we have the familiar Martha and Mary story:

As Jesus and his disciples went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10:38-42)

Martha was doing important and necessary work. She felt that her sister Mary was not doing her fair share. But Martha was also worried and distracted. This is the trick of Satan. He makes us feel insecure and that we are going to receive disapproval for not fulfilling the expectations of others. In other words, we do not measure up.

But we do measure up. How do we know that? God tells us that we do when we listen to his Word. That is the one thing that we need to do above all. Everything else is secondary. God want us to be “like a green olive tree in the house of God.” It is there where we learn to trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

God makes promised to us but we must believe them and receive them. In today’s Old Testament lesson, God promised Abraham and Sarah a son. The odds of this occurring did not seem likely, from a worldly point of view. Sarah was beyond the age of childbearing. Abraham had to hold on to this promise by faith. He chose to believe God and his voice above all the competing voices which may have surrounded him.

Are we listening? God wants us to sit at the feet of his beloved Son like Mary did. He wants to tell us that he loves us. He wants to assure us of our salvation and eternal life in Jesus, his most precious gift of all. By faith alone we can believe and receive a security in him that will never end. Let us not be so distracted that we miss the voice of his Son.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.   (Matthew 11:28-29)

And also this:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”   (John 3:16)

 

 

Track 2: Who is Our Authority?

Genesis 18:1-10a
Psalm 15
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

Who do we listen to today? Who captures our attention? Who is our authority? Whom do we want to please the most? We live in a culture that tells us that in order to gain acceptance and approval we must please certain people. Political correctness is the order of the day. But who determines what is correct?

Should not our authority know who or what is correct, ruling out that which is not? If we are going to listen to someone then should we not know what their credentials are?

The Apostle Paul wrote about the credentials of Jesus:

Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers– all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.   (Colossians 1:15-20)

In today’s Gospel reading we have the familiar story of Martha complaining about her sister Mary not helping her. Martha is planning a bit meal for Jesus, but Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to him. Martha asks Jesus to intervene. Jesus answers:

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”   (Luke 10:41-42)

Are we doing the one thing that is needful? In a complex world with so many distractions from what is important, to whom or what are we paying attention. Distractions can be dangerous. Paul writes:

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. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.   (Colossians 1:21-23)

We have a famous scientist talking about billions of stars but never mentioning the creator of them. The Apostle Paul writes:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools.   (Romans 1:18-22)

Are we listening to the One through whom the universe was created? Jesus said this about Mary:

There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

What is our one thing? Who is our one thing? Are we listening to Jesus?

Praise God that we still have the availability of the written word of God and the freedom to read it. A time is coming when this opportunity may no longer be available. Amos prophesied:

The time is surely coming, says the Lord God,
when I will send a famine on the land;

not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the Lord.

They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;

they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord,
but they shall not find it.   (Amos 8:11-12)

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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 10C

Track 1: The Plumb Line

Amos 7:7-17
Psalm 82
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

God gave a prophecy to Amos that the leadership did not want to hear.

This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

“See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;

the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”   (Amos 7:7-9)

God has the right to judge his people. The King believed that Amos had no right to talk to him this way. He was, after all, the head of the state. He ruled over the chosen people of God. Who was Amos?

Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”   (Amos 7:12-13)

The danger for all of us is that we think that God is pleased with us. Why is God not correcting somebody else who is far worse than we are? The psalmist asked:

“How long will you judge unjustly,
and show favor to the wicked?   (Psalm 82:2)

Let us be careful what we ask for. God responds:

Now I say to you, ‘You are gods,
and all of you children of the Most High;

Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
and fall like any prince.'”

Arise, O God, and rule the earth,
for you shall take all nations for your own.   (Psalm 82:6-8)

God is in charge. Only he can judge justly. Our understanding is too limited. God has made us in his image and, in a way, we are like him. But he is also wholly other than we are. Only God can be the righteous judge.

But this is Old Testament. What about the New Testament? Reading from the Gospel of Luke:

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”   (Luke 10:25-28)

Jesus tells the lawyer he has given the right answer to his question. But the clinker is that God expects us to do his commandments. He is testing us, not the other way around. He is holding up his plumb line. Do we actually keep his commandments?

The lawyer was very much aware that he did not measure up, so he was looking for a loophole in the law. Again from Luke:

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”   (Luke 10:29)

Perhaps he thought that if he could narrow down the definition of who a neighbor might be he might get by, at least for the neighbor part. Jesus responds with his famous parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”   (Luke 10:30-37)

Samaritans were considered outcasts by the Jews. They were no longer part of God’s chosen people, or so they believed. It must have pained the lawyer to say that a Samaritan could be his neighbor.

We cannot justify ourselves. If we are honest with ourselves we will see that we have not measured up to God’s standards and, thus, we have no right to judge whether or not someone else has measured up. Any contemporary Levites among us want to admit that we have passed by the needed on the other side? Well, we get busy.

The good news is that Jesus has measured up to God’s plumb line. Is our faith grounded in him? The Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossians:

We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.   (Colossians 1:9-12)

In the New Testament God expects us to bear fruit. God will enable us to do so, provided that we embrace the Lord Jesus Christ and his victory over the grave, hell, and death. Paul continues:

He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.   (Colossians 1::13-14).

Amen.

 

 

Track 2: The Good Samaritan

Deuteronomy 30:9-14
Psalm 25:1-9
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

In today’s Gospel reading from a Luke, a lawyer asks Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks him what does the law say. His answer: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus then tells him to do this and he will live. But doing is the hard part. The lawyer knows that he has fallen short.

No offense to lawyers, but they can sometimes find loopholes in the law. This lawyer was looking for one. Perhaps he thought that, if he could narrowly define who his neighbor is, he might pass muster, at least the neighbor part of the commandment:

So wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”   (Luke 10:29)

Jesus answered him with this well known parable:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”   (Luke 10:30-37)

Samaritans were considered outcasts by the Jews. They were no longer part of God’s chosen people, or so they believed. It must have pained the lawyer to say that a Samaritan could be his neighbor.

The lawyer must felt that the commandment was too hard for him. But the law giver Moses speaks otherwise. From Deuteronomy we read:

“Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”   (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

Moses was saying that, if we have the law of God written on our hearts, we should be able to keep it. The Apostle Paul paraphrased Moses in this way:

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

“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. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”   (Romans 10:5-13)

The promise for us is that, when we call on the name of the Lord, we shall be saved. I do not know about you, but, if I am going to keep the law the way Jesus said we should, I need to call upon him daily. He alone can do what I am not able to do. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians:

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.   (Colossians 1:3-8)

Jesus asks us to do good. We often get discouraged because we often fail. But let us not lose heart. We can do good with his help, if we hold on to the promise that God has made to us. If we hold on to the hope that is in the Gospel, then we will not lose hope. If we fully comprehend the grace which God has given us, how he has gone more than the extra mile for us, surely we can follow his example and give more of ourselves. He does not give up on us. We should not give up on him.

But what happens when we do fail? The Apostle John writes:

If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse usfrom all unrighteousness.   (1 John 1:9)

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