Tag Archives: faith

Second Sunday of Easter, Year C

Coming to Believe

Today’s readings have to do with faith in the name of Jesus. Through faith in Jesus we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The reading from the Gospel of John makes this very clear:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.   (John 20:30)

From the reading from the Book of Acts, Peter declares

The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.   (Acts 5:30-31)

It is curious that in today’s Gospel reading from John we also read about the lack of faith on the part of the disciple Thomas. Thomas had not been with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to them as a group after his resurrection. Thomas did not believe the testimony of his fellow disciples.

Then Jesus appeared to his disciples again:

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”   (John 20:26-29)

What does this reading tell us? It does indicate the weakness of Thomas’ faith. Faith is so important to our Christian walk. Nonetheless, Jesus did not condemn Thomas. He used his lack of faith as an illustration of two very significant aspects of the Christian faith that are often overlooked: the importance of Christian witness and the significance of spiritual growth.

We are blessed today because we have been witnessed to by others concerning the life and ministry of Jesus. We did not see him on earth as the early disciples did. Yet we have learned to believe in him. Faith development is an ongoing process.

Some might say that you either have faith or you don’t. It is as simple as that. The Book of James would say otherwise. This Book was thought to be so radical by Martin Luther he stated that it should have never been included in canon of New Testament scripture. He is one of the radical thoughts concerning faith by James:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.   (James 2:14-19)

James seems to be suggesting that a person’s faith can be too shallow. Faith should inform one’s whole being. It should motivate us to do good works.

Thomas had a problem. He found it too difficult to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Yet Thomas became a great missionary apostle. He grew in his faith. He matured over time. And he truly came to believe in his Lord and savior very deeply.

Jesus said:

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”   (John 20:29)

Blessed people are those who have come to believe. God gives us what we need to get started. Thomas needed to see his resurrected Lord in the flesh. Others did not. The blessing is in the coming to believe. This coming is a process and God is behind the process. He is with us in our struggles and he teaches us to believe in his precious promise of freedom from sin and eternal life with God.

How important is our witnessing the Gospel to others? It is as important as life and death. We are given the opportunity by the Holy Spirit to help bring others to an understanding of Christian message. Jesus is not dead. He has risen.

If we still find it difficult to witness to others then, perhaps, our faith has not matured as God has intended it. Witnessing helps lead to maturity and maturity helps lead us to witnessing.

Today, are we a doubting Thomas today in our faith? That is not the unforgivable sin. Jesus does not condemn us. He wants us to recognize where we are, but he also wants to lead us forward. When Thomas understood that Jesus had risen from the dear, he said:

“My Lord and my God!”

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Tuesday in Easter Week

do-you-hold-the-right-hand-of-jesus

 He Calls Us Each by Name

Mary Magdalene had a remarkable relationship with Jesus. He chose her to be the first witness of the resurrection:

Mary Magdalene stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.  (John 20:11-18)

Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus at first. She knew Him as her friend and teacher. When others condemned her He forgave her and delivered her from her demons. He was there for her when she needed God. But this time she did not recognize Him. God has been there for each one of us many times in our lives. There have been times when God moved for us but we did not recognize Him. We were not fully aware what He was doing.

Then there is a time when God speaks to us directly. He calls us out by name. The risen Lord spoke her name and Mary Magdalene recognized Him. Out of His grace God calls us unto Himself. He calls to each one of us. The call of God is all important, but how we respond to His call is also important.

Mary wanted to hold on to Jesus as the friend that she knew and loved. Jesus prevented her because He had to ascend to God the Father. His mission must continue. We cannot and should not try hold Him back. He cannot be tied down to the friend that we knew yesterday. He is Lord of all. He must continue to carry out the will of the Father. He does so on our behalf. We may not understand all that He is doing, but we must put our whole trust in Him so that He may accomplish the Father’s will and plan for us and for the whole world.

We may know Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He surely is that, for without Him we could never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Do we know Him as the Lion of Judah who will soon return to for the Bride of Christ?

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Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Fire Walking

Satan wants to enslave us. He wants to force us to worship him, by enticements and even by hreats. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were very devout. They were not going to worship foreign gods even when they were in a foreign land. Nebuchadnez′zar’s fiery furnace would have been persuasive for most people, but not these three Israelites. They relied on God alone to save them, and even if He did not they were not going to worship the king’s golden statue.

We know the story. The King made good on his threat. But the consequences of his action were not anticipated:

Then King Nebuchadnez′zar was astonished and rose up in haste. He said to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” He answered, “But I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”  (Daniel 3:24-25)

Attempting to live holy lives does not guarantee that we will be not be tested in the fire. Rather, this is all the more reason for Satan to attack us, and attack us he will. We need to remember that the battle belongs to the Lord. If we are tested by fire, then we can be assured that Jesus will be in the fire with us.

Jesus is the only one who can set us free from sin:

Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.   (John 8:31–36)

Our task is to continue in Jesus’ word and keep trusting in him.

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Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent

The Tests of Life

When we strive to live righteous lives we will certainly be tested. Satan, the ruler of this present age, has his minions in place to test us:

Let us test him with insult and torture,
so that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they did not know the secret purposes of God,
nor hoped for the wages of holiness,
nor discerned the prize for blameless souls;
for God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.   (Wisdom 2:19–24)

Some seek God’s ways and some seek to test his ways. Testing is a sign of unbelief. We are using our rational mind to figure God out. That is what many were doing in Jerusalem when Jesus entered the city for the Festival of Booths:

Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.”   (John 7:25–27)

When do we get beyond testing? When we value righteousness more than knowledge. The psalmist wrote:

Evil shall slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.

The Lord ransoms the life of his servants,
and none will be punished who trust in him.   (Psalm 34:21-22)

Our hope is to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and not in our rationalizations. Only Jesus can enable us to live righteous and holy lives. In fact, he is our righteousness. We do not have to pass Satan’s tests. The only test in life is: “Do we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?”

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