Tag Archives: fire

Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 7

Track 1: Finding New Life

Genesis 21:8-21
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
Romans 6:1b-11
Matthew 10:24-39

In today’s Old Testament we have the story of Hagar and her son. Sarah, the wife of Abraham had given her slave Hagar to Abraham so that she might have children. Sarah had been barren. Hagar had a son Ishmael by Abraham. But this lead to complications. When Sarah later had her son Isaac, the child promised Abraham by God to be his heir, jealousy arose. Sarah said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.   (Genesis 21:14-19)

Hagar was in despair. She had been thrown out of her home along with her son. She lacked basic resources needed to sustain her life. Her future was uncertain. She had no one to turn to. Just when she was about to give up. God intervened in our lives. Has that ever happened to you in any degree? Ever felt like an outcast? Ever felt abandoned? You may not have experienced anything like this in your life. I, personally, can relate to what Hagar was going through. There have been times in my life, that without the intervention of God, I am not sure I would have ever found my way.

King David spoke to the Lord the words of this song:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold and my refuge,
my savior; you save me from violence.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.   (2 Samuel 22:2-4)

David had been anointed to be the next king, but he was not yet king. King Saul was hunting him down to take his life. David had more enemies than friends at the time. What David knew is something that I have not always known. God is there for us. All we need to do is call upon him.

Crises may come to many of us in life. They can be devastating. But crises do serve a purpose. They often enable to find ourselves or to discover more about ourselves. Better than that, they help us to find God. Or they help us to discover a greater understanding of God and his love.

We do not like crises. We want to avoid turmoil and persecution. Jesus told his disciples:

A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!   (Matthew 10:24-25)

We cannot really avoid them. Jesus said: In this world you always have tribulation, but fear not, I have over come the world (John 16:33). Jesus is our overcomer. He is our rock. He is our deliver. He is the one we can trust and he is the one we need to call upon

And often we do not. Why? Perhaps it is because we want to hold on to the status quo. We may not like what is happening, but it is familiar. The alternative is an unknown, or at least that is what Satan tells us. Can we let go of what is holding us back? Jesus said:

Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.   (Matthew 10:39)

With Jesus everything is new and possible. The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!   (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Hagar discovered the goodness and mercy of God. David did also. God is there for us: Jesus said{

So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.   (Matthew 10:26-31)

 

 

Track 2: The Fire Within

Jeremiah 20:7-13
Psalm 69: 8-11, (12-17), 18-20
Romans 6:1b-11
Matthew 10:24-39

I love reading the Book of Jeremiah. The Prophet Jeremiah did not sanitize anything. His humanity came through. He wrote down the prophecies of God. He also wrote down his complaints against God. We have one of his complaints in today’s Old Testament reading:

O Lord, you have enticed me,
and I was enticed;

you have overpowered me,
and you have prevailed.

I have become a laughingstock all day long;
everyone mocks me.

For whenever I speak, I must cry out,
I must shout, “Violence and destruction!”

For the word of the Lord has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.

If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”

then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.   (Jeremiah 20:7-9)

The prophet wishes he could stop being  a prophet, but word of God constrains him. It is like a fire within him. What is that fire?

One of the resurrection appearances of Jesus is when he met two men walking on the road to Emmaus:

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”   (Luke 24:28-32)

It is the word of God that sets our hearts on fire. They were listening to the Word made flesh. If we listen to him he has a baptism to give us. From the Gospel of Matthew:

“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   (Matthew 3:11)

To be set on fire is a glorious thing. But, as in the case of Jeremiah, it will cause us reproach. The psalmist wrote:

Surely, for your sake have I suffered reproach,
and shame has covered my face.

I have become a stranger to my own kindred,
an alien to my mother’s children.

 Zeal for your house has eaten me up;
the scorn of those who scorn you has fallen upon me.

I humbled myself with fasting,
but that was turned to my reproach.

I put on sack-cloth also,
and became a byword among them.

Those who sit at the gate murmur against me,
and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, this is my prayer to you,
at the time you have set, O Lord:

“In your great mercy, O God,
answer me with your unfailing help.   (Psalm   68:8-15)

Have we ever had a complaint against God? The devil does all that he can to stoke our anger. We can rebel against God or draw more close to him by meditating on his word. True disciples of Jesus will suffer reproach. That will not stop them from their boldness in the Lord’s word. Jesus said:

A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!   (Matthew 10:24-25)

Let us hold fast to the truth in this day, because God is with us. He holds us n his everlasting arms. He needs our testimony to set other hearts on fire. Let us daily get fired up by his word. Then boldly allow ourselves to be directed by the Holy Spirit to speak the truth of God’s word in love. Others are waiting to hear the good news that someone shared with us.

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Second Sunday of Advent, Year A

The Root  of Jesse

On this second Sunday of Advent we hear from the Prophet Isaiah:

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.   (Isaiah 11::1-2)

Jesse was the father of King David. The stump of Jesse refers to the rule of King David and his family line that had been cut off. Only foreign nations were ruling Israel by the end if the Old Testament. The Prophet Malachi closed the age with this message from God:

Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.   (Malachi 4:5–6)

Just when many of the Jews thought that all was lost, a new age was beginning. It began with the preaching of John the Baptist. From today’s Gospel reading:

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.’”   (Matthew 3:1-3)

The kingdom of heaven had come near, indeed. John preached one more powerful than he would usher in this age:

I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.   (Matthew 3:11)

Did the Jewish people reject this new leader? Not everyone did. Many who were baptized by John in the River Jordan were prepared for the coming of Christ Jesus. They wanted to believe what John was saying. They repented of their sins and were willing to undergo a baptism which was reserved for Gentiles. This was a drastic step for them.

It was a drastic step for a Pharisee named Saul who became the Apostle Paul. He was called by God to preach to the Gentiles. Paul quoted from the Old Testament concerning his ministry:

“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name”;

and again he says,

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;

and again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him”;

and again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.”   (Romans 15:9-13)

We are those Gentiles. Do we find our hope in Jesus? That has, for many of us, been a drastic step. But our journey is not yet complete. We are now facing the close of an age.

The age of the Gentiles is closing. We have been living in a difficult age. It is an age that has become more troubling by the day. It has not been easy to confess the lordship of Jesus Christ in many parts of the world. This is now true for America. We are living in transition to a new age. Have we lost our hope? Has our Christian witness diminished?

For some of us it may be a time for repentance. Jesus is preparing us now for a new age. We can no longer hide ourselves in a darkened world. Jesus sees everything. From Isaiah:

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.   (Isaiah 11:3=5)

A new age is coming. It is just around the corner. It is the millennial reign of Jesus on the earth. Are we ready for this age?

In this new age the root of Jesse will have fully blossomed. Again, from Isaiah:

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.   (Isaiah 11:10)

The psalmist wrote:

He shall defend the needy among the people;
he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure,
from one generation to another.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown field,
like showers that water the earth.

In his time shall the righteous flourish;
there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more.   (Psalm 72:4-7)

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