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Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost Proper 26A

Track 1: Crossing the Jordan

Joshua 3:7-17
Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23:1-12

The story of the children of Israel is our story. God has made promises to us. We are to follow him as he leads us from bondage to a new life filled with promise. Often times we feel as though we are in a wilderness. Even when we are God is still leading us. Are we looking to him for guidance?

There are crucial moments in our lives. There are crucial moments in our Christian walk. We may not realize that the moment we are ready to take possession of what God has promised is perhaps the most crucial of all.

In today’s Old Testament reading, the children of Israel are about to cross the Jordan River and enter the promised land. They had been in the wilderness for a generation, but now they are ready. In Joshua we read:

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.   (Joshua 3:14-17)

God went before the children of Israel. The priests led with the ark of the covenant. Not only that, but the priests held the ark of the covenant in the middle of the Jordan so that everyone could safely cross.

For our own Jordan crossing we need the same. We must follow God, but we also need his continual presence in our lives. Jordan crossings are critical. They occur just before we receive a promise from God. The danger in these crossings is that we may be lulled into thinking that, because we have followed God, we can now receive the prize without his additional help. In our celebratory moment Satan is ready to steal our inheritance if we are not careful. God has proven himself. We should have nothing to prove by going it alone. Our goal should always be to put our trust in him.

People may come along side us at our crossings, even friends. Often times they can be unnecessary distractions at best. Some are there only to get us deliberately off course. Let the celebration occur on the other side of the Jordan. Let the glory go to God, We do not need to seek it for ourselves.

The ultimate Jordan crossing is passing from this life to the next. This may be by death or by the rapture. In either case, let us bathe in the presence of God.

The psalmist wrote:

Let God arise,
Let His enemies be scattered;
Let those also who hate Him flee before Him.
As smoke is driven away,
So drive them away;
As wax melts before the fire,
So let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
But let the righteous be glad;
Let them rejoice before God;
Yes, let them rejoice exceedingly.   (Psalm 68:1-3)

Track 2: Sitting on Moses’ Seat

Micah 3:5-12
Psalm 43
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13
Matthew 23:1-12

From the Gospel of John we read:

The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.   (John 1:17)

Nonetheless, the Law of Moses is still significant. Jesus spoke about those who interpret the Law:

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.   (Matthew 23:1-8)

The Apostle Paul was once a Pharisee. After his conversion to Christ he interpreted the law differently. From today’s Epistle reading:

You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.   (1 Thessalonians 2:9-13)

How we interpret the Law has very much to do with how we observe the Law in our daily lives. Paul set a good example for the believers. The Prophet Micah warned against those pervert justice and seek personal gain.

Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob
    and chiefs of the house of Israel,
who abhor justice
    and pervert all equity,
who build Zion with blood
    and Jerusalem with wrong!
Its rulers give judgment for a bribe,
    its priests teach for a price,
    its prophets give oracles for money;
yet they lean upon the Lord and say,
    “Surely the Lord is with us!
    No harm shall come upon us.”   (Micah 3:9-11)

Today, in America, we have many people sitting on Moses’ seat so to speak. Jesus said that in the last days there would be false prophets and false teachers. Some are saying that there should be a universal religion because we all serve the same God. This is a false teaching and a false peace. There is only one Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote:

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.   (Ephesians 4:1-6)

There are also those who impose their strict interpretation on scripture without the benefit of discernment given by the Holy Spirit. That is why we have so many denominations and non-denominations. This, too, is false.

Lastly, there are those who teach and preach just for their own financial gain. Their Gospel is often false because they need to twist scriptures in order to make their congregants give more than they should. Yes, we should be cheerful givers. But God does not want his people impoverished for the sake of a few spiritual elites. This was not the example of the Apostle Paul.

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The Transfiguration

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There was a moment when Jesus manifested His glory on the earth. We long for that moment to happen again. In today’s Gospel we read:

About eight days after Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. (Luke 9:28-29)

God called Moses to come up His holy mountain:

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24:15-18)

Something happens on the mount of God. His presence and His glory are there. God’s glory is like a “devouring fire.” It changes the participant. When Moses returned to the people his face shown with the glory of God.

Peter was on the mount of transfiguration. This was not just a metaphorical experience. It was an actual event. We have his testimony in his own words:

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (2 Peter 1″16-17)

God calls us up to His holy mount for a purpose – His purpose! There are those who are merely looking for spiritual thrills. False churches and false revivals have been birthed by misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the Holy. Many have been led astray by lying spirits and false angels because they were seeking signs and wonders rather than the Lord Jesus Christ, not realizing that Satan himself can disguise himself as an angel of light. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you.Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.   (Colossians 2:18-19)

Is God calling us to come to His mount of transfiguration? Are we ready? We are not to seek spiritual experiences per se. Rather, let us seek Jesus and His glory.

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:17-18)

We are transformed by whom or what we worship. Let our worship be the Lord Jesus Christ and Him only. He is the culmination of all the Law and the Prophets. Let us focus on Him and listen to His words. Let us look into His face and be transformed from glory to glory.

Very soon Jesus will be calling His Bride. We must wait with expectation with our oil lamps full. We want to be full of the Holy Spirit and emptied from the pleasures and distractions of this world. The ultimate transfiguration for us will be when we receive a glorified body in heaven.

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8A

Track 1: Obedience from the Heart

Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm 13
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

In today’s Old Testament reading from Genesis, God, seemingly, asked Abraham to do the unthinkable:

God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”   (Genesis 22:1-2)

Incredibly, Abraham obeyed God. He had to go a great distance and to great lengths to follow God’s instructions. Can we imagine how he must have felt while on this journey with his son Isaac? There is no other test in all the Bible like this one! Isaac was the son of great promise. God has told Abraham that he would make him the father of many nations through Isaac. Isaac’s very conception was miraculous, considering the age of Abraham and his wife Sarah. Now God was telling Abraham that he must kill his son.

Let us follow this remarkable account to its conclusion:

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”   (Genesis 22:9-12)

Abraham loved God and trusted him. He did so to the point of sacrificing his own son if need be. How many of us would have been willing to follow God’s commandments to this extreme? Abraham demonstrated his love for God by his obedience. Even undergoing an extreme test, he kept his faith and trust in God. He believed that God would keep his promise that he would be the father of many nations. Thus he was willing to do all that God asked of him.

The Apostle Paul wrote about obedience to God’s commandments from the heart:

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.   (Romans 6:16-18)

Love leads to obedience. Jesus also spoke about the importance of obedience in the Gospel of John:

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.   (John 14:23-24)

Abraham demonstrated a love for God that was not dependent on circumstances. He was willing, if necessary, to sacrifice his own son Isaac. His unconditional love mirrors the love of God. The Apostle Paul helps put this love in context:

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.   (Romans 8:31-33)

Since God has given ups his all should we not respond with our whole heart. One of the best ways to respond is through obedience from the heart.

 

 

Track 2: Court Prophets

Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-4,15-18
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

In the Old Testament there were prophets and there were “court prophets.” The course prophets worked for the king and were in charge of giving him good news about his kingdom and rule. Natural, to gain favor with the king one did not want to bring him bad news. In today’s Old Testament reading, the Prophet Jeremiah spoke out against such “prophets:”

The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”   (Jeremiah 28:5-9)

The problem was more than the prophecy given by these were in many cases untrue. This false prophecy was given in the name of the Lord. God had something to say about it. Again, in Jeremiah we read:

See, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who use their own tongues and say, “Says the Lord.” See, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, says the Lord, and who tell them, and who lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or appoint them; so they do not profit this people at all, says the Lord.

When this people, or a prophet, or a priest asks you, “What is the burden of the Lord?” you shall say to them, “You are the burden, and I will cast you off, says the Lord.”   (Jeremiah 23:31-33)

Do we have court prophets in the Church today? They were in the Church in the Apostle Paul’s day he warned Timothy concerning false prophecy. Paul warned his young protege Timothy:

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.   (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

Jesus also warned against false prophets. In Matthew we read:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?   (Matthew 7:15-16)

Who are the court prophets trying to please today? Do people go to prophecy conferences to pay the seers to give them a rosy picture about their future? Of course, the situation can be a little more subtle than that. Rosy sermons about prosperity and financial blessings are all very common today. The promise of a great ministry on the way is very exciting. But where is the message about holy living and self-sacrifice?

Not all of us are going to be wealthy. Not all of us will have great recognizable ministries. In today’s Gospel we read:

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple– truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”   (Matthew 10:40-42)

Faithful service is the key. The Gospel does not need to be embellished. God will determine our rewards. The greatest reward is our eternal salvation through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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