Tag Archives: faith

Saint Mary the Virgin

Il_Sassoferrato_-_Madonna_with_the_Christ_Child_-_WGA20874Faith in God’s Promises

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

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 fully grasp the ministry of her son, however. We cannot fault her for that. There was no one ever like Jesus, either before or since. 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.

What is our witness today? Are we highly favored of God? 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.

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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 9B

Track 1: Jerusalem, the Eternal City

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
Psalm 48
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Mark 6:1-13

Jerusalem is a very important piece of real estate. So many forces have attempted to claim Jerusalem as their own, forgetting the God Almighty has claimed Jerusalem for his own. As the anointed of God, David reigned in Jerusalem over Israel and Judah.  From 2 Samuel we read:

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inwards. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.   (2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10)

A Messiah would come from the lineage of David and he would rule over not just Israel and Judah, but all the earth. The psalmist wrote:

As we have heard, so have we seen,
in the city of the Lord of hosts, in the city of our God;
God has established her for ever.

We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God,
in the midst of your temple.

Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end;
your right hand is full of justice.

Let Mount Zion be glad
and the cities of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments.

Make the circuit of Zion;
walk round about her;
count the number of her towers.

Consider well her bulwarks;
examine her strongholds;
that you may tell those who come after.

This God is our God for ever and ever;
he shall be our guide for evermore.   (Psalm 48:7-13)

From this passage we see that God’s claim on Jerusalem is an eternal claim. Again,  the psalmist writes:

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
    which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
    so the Lord surrounds his people,
    from this time on and forevermore.   (Psalm 125:1-2 )

The throne of David will extend forever. Jesus, the Messiah, will rule from Jerusalem when he returns to the earth. When that occurs there will be a new heaven and a new earth. All that we see now will have passed away. Thus, all plans to divide Jerusalem will come to naught. All peace plans will fail. Only the Prince of Peace will rule in Jerusalem safely.

What does all this mean to us today. It means that we need to abandon the plans of men and embrace the plans of God. How we fret over the things that are passing away. Surely we must do our part to be good citizens today. But our ultimate citizenship is with God. Are we tuned to the things of God?

The Apostle Paul learned to put aside the cares of this life for the plans and purposes of God:

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong   (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Jesus disciples were called to do ministry in his name, but first they must be willing to disregard the trivial concerns of this world:

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them   (Mark 6:6-13)

Our world have become too complicated. How do we sort it out? Perhaps we must begin by asking, what is passing away and what will remain. Jerusalem will not pass away. God’s promises will not pass away. Jesus, our savior, will never leave us of forsake us. Lastly, from the Apostle Peter:

The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.   (2 Peter 39-13)

Do we think eternally or temporally? The old Jerusalem will be no more. The new Jerusalem is eternal.

 

 

Track 2: Unbelief

Ezekiel 2:1-5
Psalm 123
2 Corinthians 12:2-10
Mark 6:1-13

Faith is a key element in our interaction with God. In Hebrews we read that God requires us to approach him with faith:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.   (Hebrews 11:6)

The Apostle Paul tells us that “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). But we must exercise our faith in order for it to be productive. We must choose to use our faith. This proved to be difficult for the people of Nazareth when Jesus returned to his hometown. From Mark we read:

Jesus came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.   (Mark 6:1-6)

Despite all that the towns people had heard Jesus, they were skeptic.Perhaps they liked Nazareth just the way it was and were not willing to do what they heard he did elsewhere.Unbelief is our resistance to change. God is a change agent and we are desperately trying to keep the status quo. Today we may believe we can almost manage, but if things change we may lose control. Jesus told Nicodemus that we must be willing to lose control:

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”   (John 3:5-8)

Faith is not dependent on our strength but on the strength of God. The Apostle Paul this be direct experience. Paul wrote:

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.   (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Unbelief is the reverse. It is based on the assumption that we may know more than God. God is not practical. He does not understand the situation we are facing. This was the arrogance of Nazareth. Is it ours also?

We may thwart the plans of God to some degree, but we will not be able to stop them as hard as we well might try. Why would we want to stop them when we realize that God has good plans for us? The more we choose to flow with God the more we are able to receive his blessings. The greatest blessings are our salvation and companionship with God.

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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8B

Track 1: How the Mighty Have Fallen

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

In today’s reading from 2 Samuel, King David laments the death of King Saul and his son Jonathan:

Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!

Tell it not in Gath,
proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon;

or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

You mountains of Gilboa,
let there be no dew or rain upon you,
nor bounteous fields!

For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.   (2 Samuel 1:25-27)

Saul was anointed by God to be king over Israel. He was a mighty warrior who conquered many of Israel’s enemies. Yet Saul had decided to do things on his own, without regard to the will of God. Because of this, Israel was continually being attacked by its enemies. Saul was warned but kept on rebelling against God.

How could someone be so stubborn? Does that sound like someone we might know? The psalmist wrote:

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts;
    there is no one who does good.

God looks down from heaven on humankind
    to see if there are any who are wise,
    who seek after God.

They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse;
    there is no one who does good,
    no, not one.   (Psalm 53:1-3)

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The psalmist wrote:

Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss,
O Lord, who could stand?

Have we not all been guilty of rebellion against God? In a time of desperation we call out to God, hoping that he will still here us. The psalmist goes on to offer this assurance:

For there is forgiveness with you;
therefore you shall be feared.

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
in his word is my hope.    (Psalm 130:1-5)

God is faithful even when we are not faithful. He is ready to forgive those who will repent of their sins and turn to him. He has been waiting patiently for us. We must learn to wait patiently on him, not losing our hope in his  word. The psalmist reminds us:

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
    he remembers that we are dust.   (Psalm 103:8-14)

We may have fallen, but we do not have to remain fallen. Saul refused to repent. Let us not be so stubbornness of heart. Out of the depths let us cry out to God. It is not too late to call upon his name.

 

 

Track 2: Your Faith Has Made You Well

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Lamentations 3:21-33
or Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

We are blessed today with quite a story of faith from the Gospel of Mark:

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”   (Mark 5:24-34)

What is so remarkable about this true story? The woman who was healed had been suffering from her illness for twelve years, but she did not lose hope that God could heal her. She tenaciously held on to that hope. Perhaps she was familiar with this passage from Lamentations:

This I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”   (Lamentations 3:21-24)

She did not give up hope in God. She did not become discouraged to the point of unbelief. Her belief is that God could heal her and that God would heal her. She understood the character of God: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” She could have given up hope in God’s love but did not because she knew that God is love and that his love never ceases.

In life we can have difficulties. We can have illnesses. That is  simply a part of life. God allows these things, but that does not mean that he wills that our trials continue. His perfect will is that we will be made whole. Again from Lamentations:

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for one to bear
    the yoke in youth,
to sit alone in silence
    when the Lord has imposed it,   (Lamentations 3:25-28)

The woman understood that she had to wait for God patiently. God would come through for her. We are armed with knowledge that this woman did not have: Healing is provided in the cross which Jesus bore. In Isaiah we read:

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)

This leads us to the next and vital point about faith in God. The woman was able to touch God. She knew that if she could just touch the clothes of Jesus she would be healed. He did not have to speak to her. He had the power of God to heal. She just had to touch him with her faith.

How do we do that? How do we touch Jesus? Satan is constantly telling us that we are unworthy of his healing because of our sin. The more we have to wait on God’s healing the more Satan will make his case against us. The key to touching God is to believe in his character more than the circumstances in which we may find ourselves. The woman who was hemorrhaging strongly believed that God would heal her. She believed that he wanted to heal her because he is a loving and healing God. The psalmist wrote:

The Lord works vindication
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.   (Psalm 103:6-13)

One of the greatest obstacles of healing is our belief that we are not worthy of God’s healing. Our faith should not based on who we are but on who God is. God is not limited by our character. God is governed by his character. “He does not deal with us according to our sins, not repay us according to our iniquities” the psalmist tells us. Do we believe this? Then we have every right to reach out and touch him. As we touch him, he will  touch us and say to us: “Your faith has made you well.”

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