Tag Archives: faith

All Saints’ Day

All Who Have this Hope in Him

Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

Today we celebrate All Saint’s Day. Have you ever wondered who saints are? Often times we may think of them as miracle workers are healers. This is definitely true for many saints. This has even been true for my ministry, but I must say that this does not qualify me for being a saint. I remember the words of Jesus:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’”   (Matthew 7:21-23)

This tells me that any deeds of power do not qualify us to be saints of God. They do not even guarantee our salvation. In fact, we should never take credit them. They are the works of God. God alone is the healer and miracle worker.

What, then, are the requirements of becoming a saint? Perhaps we could start with today’s psalm:

Fear the Lord, you that are his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

The young lions lack and suffer hunger,
but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.

The Lord ransoms the life of his servants,
and none will be punished who trust in him.   (Psalm 34:9-19, 22)

We are to fear God. We are to respect God. We are to seek God. Then the Lord ransoms our lives. He has done so by the blood of his Son.

What type of lives do saints live? We read from today’s Gospel the beautiful beatitudes from Sermon on the Mount:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”   (Matthew 5:3-12)

Is this true of me? I have tried to live this way but I have fallen short many times. I need help – lots of help. Perhaps you do too? We live in a difficult age. Christians have always been persecuted. Now that persecution ha come to the forefront, even in America. Our task is to cling to the faith.

The Apostle John was given a vision of the saints of God in heaven:

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.   (Revelation 7:13-14)

Only God cleanse us from our sins. We must allow him to do so.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.   (1 John 3:1-3)

Do we have the hope in him to purify ourselves? I do not know about others, but I am going to hand on to the faith for dear life, for life eternal.

Very early in my days of the ordained ministry I was taking communion to parishioners who were dying in a hospice. There was one very elderly gentleman there who was not a parishioners, In talking with him I found out that he had been in the ordained ministry for almost his entire life. Just getting started in ministry I asked him to share what he has learned from his faith and ministry over the years. He said to me: Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. I remember what he said because I had found a true saint of God.

Leave a comment

Filed under All Saints' Day, Eucharist, Feast Day, Gospel, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year A

Saint James of Jerusalem

Faith and Works

James, brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, leader of the Christian Church in Jerusalem, and author of the Epistle of James is still speaking to the Church today. Are we listening?

How important was James to the Early Church? The Apostle Paul writes about the people whom Jesus personally appeared to after His resurrection:

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.   (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

It would be an understatement to say that James has not always been understood or appreciated. He is almost like a Rorschach test. People often project on him their own theology. We may be familiar with Martin Luther’s statement about the Epistle of James being an “epistle of straw.” Luther’s theology did not agree with the tone and tenor of James’ Epistle. At the risk of oversimplification, Luther emphasizes sola fide, “faith alone” whereas James states that “good works” demonstrates a genuine faith. James was writing from wisdom and experience and he did not want to proclaim an easy grace without accountability.

James was the leader of the Church in Jerusalem. A dispute broke out in the Early Church concerning whether or not Gentile converts to the Faith needed to follow Judaic Law. This dispute had the potential of dividing the Church. Accordingly, a council met at Jerusalem to consider what rules Gentile Christians should be required to keep. James helped formulate a consensus as to what the requirements for Gentiles should be:

Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.” (Acts 15:19-21)

Without this vital agreement the work of the Gentile Church would have been gravely hindered. We see that James was not locked in an ideology or his own peculiar theology. He was a traditionalist when it came to interpreting the Mosaic Law. Yet he was open and flexible. He sets the proper tone for the Church today. Are we divided over many doctrines or have we identified the crucial matters of the faith?

A Spirit lead ecumenical movement is once again emphasizing what is important (not the false spirit that wants to harmonize all religions). This ecumenical movement does not reduce the Church to the lowest common denominator. Rather, it stresses a need for agreement by leaders who will come together in prayer.

What James has taught us is that faith without works is dead. The Church needs to work together, trusting in the leading of the Holy Spirit. We must arise and take up the challenges that lie ahead of us.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

1 Comment

Filed under Eucharist, Feast Day, Gospel, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, St. James of Jerusalem, Year A

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 16

Track 1: Humility before the Lord

Exodus 1:8-2:10
Psalm 124
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

Pharaoh of Egypt was threatened by the growing Hebrew population. He decreed that every male child born to the Hebrews be thrown into the Nile. Today we read how God protected the baby Moses:

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”   (Exodus 2:1-10)

God has a plan for Moses. He would be used iby God n an extraordinary way to rescue his people from slavery in Egypt and lead them to the land promised to the Patriarch Abraham. Moses performed great signs and wonders, under God’s hand, to make this happen. But his leadership position was also shared with his sister Miriam and his brother Aaron.

Miriam and Aaron became jealous of Moses and decided to challenge his leadership and authority:

Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth. Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.So the three of them came out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the entrance of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. And he said, “Hear my words:

When there are prophets among you,
I the Lord make myself known to them in visions;
I speak to them in dreams.
Not so with my servant Moses;
he is entrusted with all my house.
With him I speak face to face— clearly, not in riddles;
and he beholds the form of the Lord.   (Numbers 12:3-8)

What the Lord said about Moses was only true for him and no one else. Moses spoke to God face to face. Yet Moses was more about the mission that God gave him to do than about his position with God. God chose him for the position because because God had given him the mission.

God has assigned each one of us positions and assignments to fulfill in the establishment of his kingdom. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.   (Romans 12:3-8)

How do we respond to the call on our lives? Do we take pride in the assignment which God has given us, expecting great privileges and recognition? Do we become jealous of one another’s roles? Jesus said:

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)

Whoever we are and whatever we do, we are no more than the servants of God. If we are to do the tasks which God asks us to do, we must keep things in perspective. And what is that perspective? Reading from the Prophet Micah:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?   (Micah 6:8)

The only way we can approach God is with a humble and grateful heart. I order for us to do the work which God has given we must remain in fellowship with him. On our own we can do nothing.

 

 

Track 2: The Question Everyone Must Answer

Isaiah 51:1-6
Psalm 138
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus asks his disciples the all important question:

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.   (Matthew 16:13-18)

With divine help, Peter recognized who Jesus was. But Jesus did not build the Church on Peter’s recognition alone .Rather, he built the Church on his testimony as well. Believing is not enough. From the Book of James we read:

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.   (James 2:19)

Our faith is important. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are saved by grace through faith. The grace comes when God gives us the faith. But what do we do with that faith.

The Aostle Paul it clear that we must give testimony to our faith

“The word is near you,

on our lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);  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.    (Romans 10:8-10)

Notice that Paul writes that our salvation comes through our testimony. People are waiting to hear our testimony. They are longing to hear the Gospel. God spoke through The Prophet Isaiah:

Listen to me, my people,
    and give heed to me, my nation;
for a teaching will go out from me,
    and my justice for a light to the peoples.
I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,
    my salvation has gone out
    and my arms will rule the peoples;
the coastlands wait for me,
    and for my arm they hope.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
    and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens will vanish like smoke,
    the earth will wear out like a garment,
    and those who live on it will die like gnats;
but my salvation will be forever,
    and my deliverance will never be ended.

Today, who is Jesus to us? Is he Lord of all? Is her our Lord? Is he our savior? What do we tell others about Jesus? The world as we know it will soon be coming to the end. But we will live on because our testimony will last an eternity

Leave a comment

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

Saint Mary the Virgin

Il_Sassoferrato_-_Madonna_with_the_Christ_Child_-_WGA20874Trusting in God’s Promises

The prophets of old foretold the Messiah and His ministry, but who could grasp all that they were saying? From Isaiah:

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  (Isaiah 53:1-3)

Mary understood that God had made promises to Abraham and she believed that He would keep them. She lived through terrible circumstances but never gave up her hope and trust in the Lord. Her God was full of love and mercy. Her reverence and humility before God are without question.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”   (Luke 1:46-55)

Mary did not always understand the ministry of her son, however. There was a time in the early ministry of Jesus when Mary was asking her son to come home.Like a good mother, she was concerned for the wellbeing of her son. She had not yet grasped how his ministry was unfolding and how it was fulfilling the promises of God.

We cannot fault Mary for her concern. There was no one ever like Jesus, either before or since. Again, from Isaiah:

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.   (Isaiah 53:4-5)

As the prophet Simeon foretold, her heart would be pierced and she would gain a greater understanding.

“Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  (Luke 2:34-35)

Our hearts must be pierced also if we are to understand the ministry and message of Jesus. How closely we follow Jesus in our lives will telegraph what we truly believe. Will we go the distance with Him as did His mother Mary? Mary was at the cross when most of Jesus’ disciples fled. She could not turn away. Her love for God was so great. She walked in the steps of Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his own son if that were required by God.

It was after the cross and resurrection that Mary, along with the disciples, understood the ministry of Jesus. She rejoiced along the psalmist of old:

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.   (Isaiah 61:10)

What is our witness today? We may not understand all that is going on. We may not fully grasp the miracle that God is working out. Nonetheless, we can still believe and trust in the promises of God as did Mary. Let us pray for grace to endure the pain while eagerly anticipating our Lord’s victory with patience and endurance? Mary did this and so much more. Her enduring faith and courage has inspired the Church down to this day.

SaveSave

SaveSave

3 Comments

Filed under Feast Day, Gospel, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, Saint Mary, sermon, sermon development, Virgin Mary, Year A