Tag Archives: fear

Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 28A

Track 1: Go, Take Your Position

Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

There were many great female leaders in the Bible along with the men. Today, let us look at the ministry of the prophetess Deborah who was Judge of all Israel. She served at a time when Israel was disobedient to God. As a result, God had delivered the Israelites into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan.

From Judges we read:

At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.’”   (Judges 4:4-7)

The the commander of King Jabin’s army was Sisera. Sisera was formidable. He had he hundred chariots of iron. His strength would have been far too great for Israel to face alone. The assignment that Deborah was giving Barak son of Abinnam would be difficult at best, if not impossible. Why would he want to accept it?

Why would we accept a difficult assignment? For Barak, the answer lies in the fact that Deborah’s charge was also God’s charge. Not only that, but he had the assurance from God that God would be with him and bring him the victory. Of course, he still had to trust God and carry out what God was asking.

What about us? We are living in difficult times today. God is still giving out difficult assignments. He is still saying: Go, Take Your Position. God has a position for each of us. That  position is important, not only to us, but to the people who are counting on us. In fact, God is counting on us. Will we take up our position?

If the answer is yes, then it will still take great faith and trust on our part, because we will always face formidable opposition from the enemy. We will first want to hear from God clearly about our assignment. We cannot go off on our own, even for a cause that we believe is right. God determines the right cause for each of us.

Further more, we cannot claim any victory on our own, The Apostle Paul wrote:

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved,[a] be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.   (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

Israel needed the mercy of God Deborah’s time. We need the mercy of God today. Our country needs his mercy. There are enemies afoot, both within and without. To overcome our enemies we must seek the will of God each day in our lives. The psalmist wrote:

To you I lift up my eyes,
to you enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
until he show us his mercy.   (Psalm 123:1-3)

Are we looking to the Lord our God? Are we listening to him? If so, then he has an assignment for us. And he is saying: Go, Take Your Position.

 

 

Track 2: I Knew That You Were a Harsh Man

Zephaniah 1:7,12-18
Psalm 90:1-8, (9-11), 12
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

Many of us are familiar with the parable of the talents. In the parable, the master gave certain talents to his servants to invest while he was away. (A talent represented a rather large sum of money) Some servants received more talents than their fellow servants. Nonetheless, when the master returned it appears that he though each one of his servants had invested wisely

There was exception – the foolish servant who buried what he had been given by the master. From Matthew we read:

Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest.   (Matthew 25:24-27)

Why did this man bury his talents? He stated his reason in the parable: “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.”

Is that the way we see God? Maybe we had parents who were very demanding, or a boss, or a teacher. In the parable, the master was fair. Even though his servants did not receive the same amount, he reward them according to how well they used the talents they were given, not by any absolute universal standard. The expectation of the master was that each servant would do their best to add to what they had been given, regardless of the amount of money they were asked to invest. The foolish servant had misread the character of the master. If we are not careful, we can misread the character of God. God’s true character may be seen in his Word and by his deeds.

The foolish servant was afraid of the master. Did he think he was all alone and could not ask for help? Have we ever felt that way? The  Prophet Jeremiah wrote:

Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.   (Jeremiah 33:2-3)

We are not alone. We are not asked to prove ourselves before God by our own wisdom and strength. The foolish servant was in a state of paralysis, but the foolish servant did not understand the character and nature of the master.

Of course, there is accountability with God. He cannot overlook sin. The Prophet Zephaniah warned of the coming day of the Lord:

Be silent before the Lord God!
For the day of the Lord is at hand;

the Lord has prepared a sacrifice,
he has consecrated his guests.

At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,
and I will punish the people

who rest complacently on their dregs,
those who say in their hearts,

“The Lord will not do good,
nor will he do harm.”

Their wealth shall be plundered,
and their houses laid waste.

Though they build houses,
they shall not inhabit them;

though they plant vineyards,
they shall not drink wine from them.

The great day of the Lord is near,
near and hastening fast;

the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter,
the warrior cries aloud there.

  (Zephaniah 1:7,12-14)

For Christians, the day of the Lord has already come. The prophet wrote that God had prepared a sacrifice. That sacrifice was his son Jesus hanging from a cruel cross. It was a time of darkness. It was the day in which God punished all sin. We are participants of that day, provided that we have placed our sins upon Jesus.

There is a time of judgment coming. It is hastening towards us. But this time of judgment is not for us. The Apostle Paul wrote:

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.   (1 Thessalonians 5:8-11)

Let us not misunderstand the character of God. Now is the time for us to encourage one another. It is not time to hide our gifts. Jesus Christ is our hope of glory. Let us shine for all the world to see. Amen.

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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 24A

Track 1: The Glory of God

Exodus 33:12-23
Psalm 99
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

We are living in the last days. Jesus said that we will not know the day or the hour in which he returns, but we should know the season. What will his return be like? Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew

Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.   (Matthew 24:30)

Why would some people mourn at his coming? Because he is coming with power and great glory. Encountering the glory of God can be unnerving. It was for the children of Israel in the wilderness. At Sinai God spoke to his chosen people directly:

These words the Lord spoke with a loud voice to your whole assembly at the mountain, out of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, and he added no more. He wrote them on two stone tablets, and gave them to me. When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you approached me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders; and you said, “Look, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the fire. Today we have seen that God may speak to someone and the person may still live. So now why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and remained alive? Go near, you yourself, and hear all that the Lord our God will say. Then tell us everything that the Lord our God tells you, and we will listen and do it.” (Deuteronomy 5:22-27)

The children of Israel worried that the fire of God would consume them. They were not too far from the truth in their thinking. The Prophet Malachi forecast the coming of the Lord, but warned that his presence might be hard for many to endure:

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.      (Malachi 3:1-2)

God is a holy God. His glory and presence exposes sinful hearts. Though the children of said that they would do whatever God asked them to do trough Moses, history did not prove that they were honest. They were unwilling to obey God’s law. They, in fact, knew that about themselves, so they could not stand to be in God’s presence.

Are we like the children of Israel today? Or are we like Moses. Moses wanted to be in God’s presence. He sought ever more of God. He asked God to reveal to him his glory:

Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” And the Lord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”   (Exodus 33:18-23)

What made Moses different from the others? He approached God from a very different perspective. Though he was not perfect, Moses had a heart for God. He loved God more than the cares of this world. He wanted to please God. He wanted to fellowship with God.

Because God was displeased with the children of Israel he told Moses to lead them to the promised land without his accompaniment. But Moses would not head Israel to the promised land without God’s presence. He realized that God’s very presence was worth more than anything in this world. He would rather remain in the wilderness with God than lose his presence.

As Christians, God has opened to door for us to enter directly into his presence. We have the right to enter into his glory. On the cross Jesus paid the price for our sin in order that the gates of heaven would be open to us. In Matthew we read:

Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.   (Matthew 27:50-52)

The gates have been opened. Will we enter into his presence? We will if we love him more that this world. We will if we are willing to be honest about our sin. We will if we approach him with a humble and contrite heart. But if we are holding on the sin that we do not wish to release to God, then our hearts will convict us whenever we are aware of his presence.

Jesus is returning with all his glory. Will we be glad to see him or will we be ashamed? Jesus said:

Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.   (Luke 9:26)

Will we be able to say, as did the Apostle Paul?

I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.   (2 Timothy 1:12)

Track 2:  Honoring Authority

Isaiah 45:1-7
Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

Roman rule was hated by the Jewish people. They despised having to pay taxes to the Roman emperor. Knowing this, the Pharisees though they had found a perfect trap for Jesus. They would trick Jesus, in front of a crowd of people, by making him appear to favor Rome in a dispute over taxes:

The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.   (Matthew 22:15-22)

Jesus did not dismiss the practice of paying taxes to Rome. He simply put it into proper perspective. We are to honor governing authorities. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority[a]does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.   (Romans 13:1-7)

We are living in a rebellious time in the country. Some do not like the outcome of the last Presidential election. For some, anarchy is the solution. Defeat the current government by any means necessary. It this the Christian thing to do?

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.   (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Our goal is to tell others about the saving act of Jesus Christ, not to create a climate of chaos. Chaos is a very large distraction to the spread of the Gospel. If we do not honor governmental authorities we are not fostering “a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.”

The One who has established all authority is to receive the greatest honor.  The psalmist wrote:

Ascribe to the Lord the honor due his Name;
bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness;
let the whole earth tremble before him.

Tell it out among the nations: “The Lord is King!
he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”   (Psalm 96:8-10)

Jesus said: “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” God is the ultimate judge. He, alone, determines our ultimate destiny. Soon the Lord Jesus will return to the earth with all his glory. What will he find? Will he find us giving honor where honor is due? Again, Paul wrote:

Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.   (Romans 13:7)

The God of all is due the greatest honor. Again, the psalmist writes:

I am the Lord, and there is no other;
besides me there is no god.
I arm you, though you do not know me,
so that they may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is no one besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.   (Psalm 96:5-6)

We honor him by keeping his commandments and following his Word.

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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 11A

Track 1: The Gate of Heaven

Genesis 28:10-19a
Psalm 139: 1-11, 22-23
or Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Today we reflect upon Jacob’s well known dream of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven:

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”   (Genesis 28:10-17)

Jacob had an encounter with God. God blessed him and made great promises to him. Jacob celebrated the moment and the place where he heard from God, Nonetheless, one of his reactions to all of this was fear. Why was Jacob afraid? We can only speculate. Perhaps it was because Jacob, though a grandson of the great Abraham, was a conniver and a trickster. His character was less than stellar. Often times we may want to hide from God because of our feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

The psalmist wrote:

Where can I go then from your Spirit?
where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there your hand will lead me
and your right hand hold me fast.   (Psalm 139:6-9)

The psalmist understood his own frailty, but he also understood that God was faithful to lead and guide him.

We remember that old hymn about our climbing Jacob’s ladder, but in Jacob’s dream only the angels of God were climbing up and down the ladder. I believe the ladder signifies that God has chosen to minister to us, regardless of who we are and what we might have done. We do not merit his favor nor do we have to climb a ladder to reach God.

In order to fully experience God we must allow his love to wash over us. The Apostle John wrote in his first epistle:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.   (1 John 4:18)

We need to focus on the love of God rather than our shortcomings. We do not want to miss his visitation to us because of our feelings of unworthiness. Jesus has paid the price for our sins, provided that we have acknowledged our debt to him. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh– for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ– if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.   (Romans 8:12-?)

Have we experienced an encounter with God? Have we experienced the gate of heaven? God has opened that gate for by the blood of his Son. When Jesus died on the cross the curtain in the Temple in Jerusalem, which separated the most holy place from the holy place, was torn from top to bottom. What is keeping us from entering into his presence. Even now he is calling us. Even now he is ministering to us. Amen.

 

 

iuTrack 2: The Wheat and the Tares

Isaiah 44:6-8
Psalm 86:11-17
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Jesus told a parable about the wheat and the tares found in the same field. The essence of the parable is that the wheat and the tares are found mixed together. When the workers ask if they should attempt to pull out the tares, the owner tells them to let the wheat and tares grow up together. He knows that it is often difficult to tell them apart in the beginning.  If the workers pull out any of the tares prematurely then they might also damage the wheat. At the time of harvest the tares can then be removed safely and burned.

Later, Jesus explains the meaning of the parable to his disciples:

“The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!”   (Matthew 13:36-43)

We live in very confusing times. How are we to know the truth when both the good and the bad exist side by side? To compound the problem, the good is often presented as evil and evil is called good. Isaiah prophesied that this would occur:

Ah, you who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!   (Isaiah 5:20)

Are we not living in such a time? Even in today’s Church in America there seems to be confusion about fundamental things. That which God has called abominations we are now told are within the orthodoxy of the Church.

Jesus gave us this criteria for determining false prophets and false teachers:

“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? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.   (Matthew 7:15-20)

We need spiritual discernment which comes from reading and studying the Bible, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Unless we are Spirit filled and have a daily walk with God through prayer and meditation upon his word, we will not understand the times we are in nor what the Lord requires of us.

We do need to avoid the temptation of identifying specifically who are the wheat and who are the tares. This is a trap that the enemy sets for us. Only God can distinguish between the two. Only God can know the heart of each individual person. Jesus said:

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.   (Matthew 7:1-2)

God alone is judge. The psalmist wrote:

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel,
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:

I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.

Is there any god besides me?
There is no other rock; I know not one.   (Isaiah 44:6-?)

The parable of the wheat and the tares serves as a warning to us. Those of us who consider ourselves wheat may actually be part of the tares. Only God can say. Worldly appearances and worldly approval count for nothing. The enemy is constantly reassuring us that the broad way of the world is OK.

In his Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.   (Matthew 7:13-14)

God has given us guidelines in his holy word which we should follow, ignoring the cultural standards of the media, entertainment industry, and fallen institutions of education and government.

At the end of the age it will be clearly revealed who are the wheat and who are the tares. Let us hold fast to our Lord Jesus Christ and his teachings until the end.

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