Tag Archives: faith

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Planted by Streams of Water

The psalmist wondered why the wicked seemed to prosper and not the upright:

Truly God is good to the upright,
    to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
    my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant;
    I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For they have no pain;
    their bodies are sound and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
    they are not plagued like other people.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes swell out with fatness;
    their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
    loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against heaven,
    and their tongues range over the earth.   (Psalm 73:1-9)

If we are looking for worldly success then the psalmist seems to suggest that God may not be the best mentor. The Apostle Paul wrote:

If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.   (1 Corinthians 15:19)

Paul seems to be saying that life may be more difficult for the Christian disciple than anyone else. It surely was for many in the Early Church, especially the apostles.

God’s “blessings” may not be the type of blessings that the world seeks. In fact, they may be what the world is trying very hard to avoid. Jesus said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
    for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
    for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you[a] on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.   (Luke 6:20-23)

If one is looking for quick success, he or she may be tempted to take short cuts by compromising their ethics or morals.

The psalmist who observed the prosperity of the wicked had second thoughts:

But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
    then I perceived their end.
Truly you set them in slippery places;
    you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
    swept away utterly by terrors!   (Psalm 73:16-19)

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus warned:

“But woe to you who are rich,
    for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now,
    for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
    for you will mourn and weep.   (Luke 6:24-25)

In today’s appointed psalm we read that those who follow the law of God will bear fruit “in due season.”

Happy are those
    who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
    or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
    planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
    and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.   (Psalm 1:1-3)

Difficult times are coming. They will tell us where we are really rooted and grounded. From today’s reading from Jeremiah:

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
    sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
    and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
    and it does not cease to bear fruit.   (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

What is our time frame of reference? Are we prepared for the long haul? Are we planted by streams of water? That water is God’s holy Word. Jesus, the Word made flesh. His sacrifice on the cross is our guarantee for an eternal salvation in the presence of God. That is the promise we are offered in Christ. Christ’s success becomes our success by faith. We are able to stand firm in him no matter what circumstances may come our way. Today’s psalmist concludes:
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

Leave a comment

Filed under Epiphany, Eucharist, Holy Communion, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year C

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

A Sacred Journey

In the state of New York in the United States of America, abortion was approved from the time of conception up to the actual time of birth. Why? Perhaps the birth of a child does not always fit into the plans of the mother or father. What about the plans of God?

From today’s Old Testament reading:

The word of the Lord came to me saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”   (Jeremiah 1:4-5)

How many prophets have we aborted? How many poets? How many physicians? How many priests?

Our lives are sacred to God. He has plans for them. His joy is to watch our lives unfold, to guide us and protect us along the way.

From the Book of Jeremiah we read:

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.   (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Our joy is to discover God’s plan for us. It is to seek him with all our heart. To receive God’s plan we must be willing to exercise our faith. From the Book of Hebrews:

Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.   (Hebrews 11:6)

Faith enables us to accept God’s plans. Without it, life itself may be in danger.

To be sure, God’s plan may often present great challenges to us. This was so for Jeremiah when God first called him. From today’s reading from Jeremiah:

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you,
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,

says the Lord.”   (Jeremiah 1:6-8)

What matters above all else is that God is with us on our journey. The Apostle Paul wrote Timothy:

Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.   (1 Timothy 4:12)

People may tell us that we are too young or too inexperienced for a certain assignment. We need to remember that what God says is more important that what other people may say. There will always be opposition to following the calling of God.

David, the shepherd boy who became king, experienced great opposition. From today’s psalm we read:

Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.

For you are my hope, O Lord God,
my confidence since I was young.

I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;
from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;
my praise shall be always of you.   (Psalm 71:4-6)

As we can see, David was aware that God had a calling on his life from an early age. That is true for us all.

Jesus, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was sent by God the Father to save his people. His very names means salvation. He studied the scriptures from his youth up, in preparation for his ministry. When it became time to proclaim his mission he met great opposition in his hometown. From today’s Gospel we read:

In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus read from the book of the prophet Isaiah, and began to say, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.'” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.   (Luke 4:21-24)

Not only did his listeners reject what Jesus said, but they also wanted to hurl him off a cliff. They must have thought that, since they knew who Jesus was, how could he possibly be qualified to do the ministry that was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah.

This was not the only opposition that Jesus faced. His own family opposed some of the things he was doing. From the Gospel of Mark we read:

Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.”  (Mark 3:20-21)

People may think they know us better than ourselves. They may be well-meaning, but they do not know us the way God knows us. We are his creation and he has great plans for us.

The Apostle Paul experienced great opposition to his ministry. We will experience the same. He learned to listen to the voice of God over the nay sayers. From Galatians:

Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ.   (Galatians 1:10)

Discouragement is a primary weapon of the enemy. We remember how Satan tried to discourage Jesus in the wilderness, before he began his earthly ministry. He told Jesus to take a short cut with him, implying that God’s way may be too hard. Again, God does challenge us. We must remember, however, that we are not alone on our journey. God will enable us to do what he is asking us to do. Paul wrote:

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.   (Philippians 4:13)

We may have failed along the way. Nonetheless, God tells us not to be discouraged. From the Book of Isaiah:

Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
    do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
    and the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more.
For your Maker is your husband,
    the Lord of hosts is his name;
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
    the God of the whole earth he is called.   (Isaiah 54:4-5)

Jesus may have been discouraged but he did not fail. He endured a cruel cross that we might be set free from all our sins and all our failures. He is our redeemer. The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians:

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.   (Philippians 3:12-14)

And from 2 Corinthians:

So 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.   (2 Corinthians 5:16-18)

God still has a plan for us. We are his ambassadors for Christ. We are still on our journey with God. He is still guiding us. He is still delighting in us. We are not a mistake. Our sacred journey with him is not yet complete. Let us press on with faith and encouragement. And let us encourage others along their sacred path. After all, we are ministers of reconciliation.

Consider the alternative: the culture of division and death. Is that to be our legacy? It is not God’s way. Jesus said:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.   (John 10:10)

Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Epiphany, Eucharist, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year C

Saint Thomas, Apostle

jesusthomasdoubt1The Righteous Will Live by Faith

Saint Thomas the Apostle is remembered as “Doubting Thomas.” That may be a little unfair. To be sure he was a skeptic concerning the resurrection of Jesus:

Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with the other disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”   (John 20:24-25)

On the other hand, Thomas was faithful as a disciple. He was willing to sacrifice for what he believed was the cause of Christ. As Jesus was speaking about going to Jerusalem which proved to be his last trip there, Thomas was aware of the danger involved:

Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”   (John 11:16)

Following Jesus is not easy. Many churches preach a grace that has little cost to it except for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. We must be prepared to make sacrifices if we are to live out the faith in our day. This is especially true in our nation today. Are we willing to go the distance? Thomas was willing.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.For,

“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”

And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”   (Hebrews 10:35-38)

During times of test and trials are we will to stand our ground for the Lord? We will if we have a vision that God has given us to embrace. If we do not have a vision then we must ask God for one. It is in the difficult times that our vision is most clarified, provided that we seek God and His Word and provided that we are willing to wait on His response.

I will stand at my watchpost,and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,and what he will answer concerning my complaint. Then the LORD answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets , so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.   (Habakkuk 2:1-4)

Living by faith is trusting in God without seeing around the next corner. Jesus has gone ahead of us and He is leading us. Are we willing to follow. Thomas was willing. When he realized that Jesus had risen from the dead he said: “My Lord and my God!” Is Jesus our Lord and our God?

Leave a comment

Filed under Advent, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, Saint Thomas, sermon, sermon preparation, Year B