Tag Archives: forgiveness

Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

Crucified with Christ

The Liturgy of the Palms

The Liturgy of the Word

It was the best of times. Jesus entered triumphantly into Jerusalem. From Matthew’s Gospel we read:

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”   (Mark 11:1-10)

It was the worst of times. How could the Jewish people, in less than a week, go from “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” to “Crucify Him?” Crucifixion was reserved for the worst criminals of the state. Jesus, the triumphant leader, became Jesus, the criminal whom they crucified.

How could the people change so quickly we ask. In defense of those who got caught up in the frenzy, we must remember that chief priests and religious leaders of the day had much to do with inciting the crowd. Truth is the first casualty with tyrannical leaders. Propaganda and lies were used to sway the people. The government, and even the synagogs, were the last places to discover what was actually happening. In fact, both church and state were perpetuating a false narrative on purpose, Their agenda was to obscure what was really true.

When manipulation and control supplant faith and proclamation, the people are deceived and confused. Betrayal of God’s purposes becomes the order of the day. Does this apply to our day as well?

Even Jesus’s most loyal disciples would leave him as Jesus had foretold:

When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written,

‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’

But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same.   (Mark 14:26-31)

We remember that Peter did deny his Lord as Jesus predicted:

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.   (Mark 15:66-72)

Where did Peter go wrong? Why did he betray his Lord when Jesus said that Peter would be the rock? Perhaps Peter did not understand the crucifixion. We remember when Jesus foretold his death on the cross:

Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”   (Matthew 16:22-23)

The flesh does not want to understand the cross. The cross is where we die to the flesh. We need the mind of Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death–
even death on a cross.   (Philippians 2:5-8)

Have we humbled ourselves before the Lord? Have we given up our ways to take on his way? Jesus is the Way! He is the only way to the Father. The Apostle Paul wrote:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,[a] who loved me and gave himself for me.   (Galatians 2:19-20)

The new creation in Christ only comes through crucifixion. Before there is new life there must be death. Today, we need to look upon the cruel death or our Lord:

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land[t] until three in the afternoon. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he[v] breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!   (Mark 15:33-39)

Jesus won the victory over sin and death through the cross. We can only win our victory through identifying with his victory. We may be praising him like many of the Jews did as he rode into Jerusalem. But if we are going to be able to go the distance and not deny him in troubling times, we must take up our cross and follow him. Jesus said:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”   (Matthew 16:24-25)

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Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Turning Away From Evil

The message of John the Baptist was also the message of Jesus. Reading from today’s Gospel:

After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”   (Mark 1:14-15)

The good news of the Gospel followers repentance. It is the repentance part that often obscured. Today’s Old Testament reading will explain:

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.   (Jonah 3:1-5, 10)

Nineveh was a wicked city and very much the enemy of the Jewish people. We remember that Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh. He initially ran the other way from his assignment from God to preach repentance there. But when he did something happened. God had a drastic change of mind what he was planning for Nineveh. What happened?

The people of Nineveh repented. They did more than confess their sins. They did more than say they were sorry. They actually turned away from evil. Words of repentance mean nothing when they are not put into action. The action part is difficult. We have to let go and abandon what we have been doing in order to change. How difficult for us is that? How many people are prepared to do that at a moment’s notice. Jesus’ disciples were. Reading from the Gospel of Mark:

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.   (Mark 1:16-20)

What is remarkable is that these fishermen left their nets, they left their livelihoods, they left their way of life. How could they do that on such short notice? How could all of Nineveh do so on such short notice? The psalmist wrote:

For God alone my soul in silence waits;
truly, my hope is in him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

In God is my safety and my honor;
God is my strong rock and my refuge.

Put your trust in him always, O people,
pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath,
even those of low estate cannot be trusted.

On the scales they are lighter than a breath,
all of them together.   (Psalm 62:6-11)

We are all lighter than a breath, In fact, we live only by the breath of God. From Genesis we read:

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.   (Genesis 2:7)

Much of what we may hold dear is just a fleeting fancy. Are we possessed by our possessions? Are we captive to our captivations? Or are we ready to turn away from these things? For some of us, in order to turn away from the evil we cling to, we must see something infinitely better. Circumstances in life can bring us to an understanding that what we have falls far short of what God has prepared for us. As it is written:

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—   (1 Corinthians 2:9)

The disciples saw the glory of God in Jesus and they were immediately drawn to him. Do we see Jesus for who is?

For those of us who are stubborn, there is an element that drives us away from evil, once we clearly see it. The citizens of Nineveh must have seen it, that is the fear of the Lord. They heard the preaching of Jonah and they believed what he said. The wrath of God was coming upon them if they did not heed the warning. The wrath of God is coming in this last day for those who refuse to walk away from evil.

John, the Revelator, was asked a question:

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.   (Revelation 7:13-14)

Do we need a washing today?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.   (Hebrews 12L1-20

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Second Sunday of Advent

Comfort My People

We have begun a new liturgical year. We will be reading from the Gospel of Mark. This is how the Gospel of Mark begins:

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;

the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”   (Mark 1:2-3)

The liturgical season of Advent is all about the coming of the Christ Child. Mark has quoted from the Prophet Isaiah.

Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.   (Isaiah 40:1)

This was the message of John the Baptist:

A voice cries out:

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”   (Isaiah 40:3-5)

John was saying that the kingdom of the Lord was coming. But first, things must be straiten out before his return. The kingdom of the Lord is stilling coming. It is not here yet. In our day, sin appears to be on the rise. Has the message of John the Baptist been lost? I believe that we have certainly lost part of it. The message began as a comforting one.

The psalmist wrote:

You have been gracious to your land, O Lord,
you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.

You have forgiven the iniquity of your people
and blotted out all their sins.

I will listen to what the Lord God is saying,
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.

Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

Mercy and truth have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring up from the earth,
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.   (Psalm 85:1-2,8-11)

The psalmist was celebrating what God had done for Israel. God was speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him. God is still doing that to those who will listen. The good news is that God is prepared to do al the straightening out for us. All we have to do is turn our hearts toward him. We cannot clean up and straighten ourselves out on our own.

This is the promise which the Lord makes through the Prophet Isaiah:

See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;

his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,

and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.   (Isaiah 40:10-11)

Are we willing to step aside and watch his hand move on our behalf?

Make no mistake, the Day of the Lord is coning. The Apostle Peter wrote:

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 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 3:8-1)

We need to be living lives of holiness and godliness. That is the message. How we accomplish that is the part that the Church may have misunderstood. The message of John the Baptist was a comforting one for those who believed what he was saying. Many Israelites gave themselves to baptism by John in the Jordan River. Those who refused to listen did everything they could to deny Christ, eventually crucifying him,

This Season of Advent, are we able to admit to God the realities of our lives? God is able to cleanse us and restored us. If we are hearing this word for the first time, now is the time to come under the comfort and protection of Christ.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,   (Isaiah 40:11)

God is still saying:

Comfort, O comfort my people,
    says your God.   (Isaiah 40:1)

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First Sunday of Advent

The Sun Will De Darkened

We live in a very dark world. The darkness is growing exponentially. We may fell that there is little we can do about it. This feeling is not a new for us. That is the way the Prophet Isaiah felt when he prayed:

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence–

as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil–

to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.   (Isaiah 64:1-3

The psalmist echoed the Prophet:

Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;
shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,
stir up your strength and come to help us.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.   (Psalm 80:1-3)

What is this source of darkness that we face? The Prophet Isaiah confessed:

We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.

We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;

for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity,   (Isaiah 64:6-7)

Perhaps we are responsible for some of the darkness. Perhaps we need to confess our failure to call upon God for help? The psalmist recognized he needed a savior when he wrote::

Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand,
the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.

And so will we never turn away from you;
give us life, that we may call upon your Name.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.   (Psalm 80:16-18)

The good news is that God has given us a savior. He has torn open the heavens and come down. Jesus has come to shine in the darkness. From the Gospel of John we read:

Life was in Him,
and that life was the light of men.
That light shines in the darkness,
yet the darkness did not overcome it   (John 1:4-5)

Do we seek the light of Christ? In the Season of Advent the Church celebrates the light of Christ coming into the world. That light is still coming into the world down to this day.

Yet the light of Christ is a double edged sword for many. Jesus came to expose the darkness and liberate us from it. However, the darkness does not go away. As the light of Christ is expanding, so is the darkness. We are given a choice: Choose darkness or light. From John’s Gospel we read:

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”   (John 3:19-21)

The judgement of God is upon those who choose darkness. Darkness is ever increasing. Those who choose the light will escape judgement, but will experience some suffering. Jesus said that in this world we would always have tribulation. But we should fear not because he ahas overcome the world.

As the darkness increases there is a day of culmination. Just before it peaks God will judge the earth. Reading from today’s Gospel:

Jesus said, “In those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.   (Mark 13:24-25)

Jesus is describing what is biblically referred to as the Day of the Lord. That day is coming very soon. He goes on to say:

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake — for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”   (Mark 13:32-37)

Will we be ready? Will we be awake.? So many people are asleep. To be ready we must be blameless. Is that something we can do on our own? The Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus will strengthen us to the end:

He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.   (1 Corinthians 1:8-9)

Jesus can do that and he will do that, provided that we have chosen the light. The light of Christ reveals sin. But, Alleluia, the light of Christ purifies us from all unrighteousness. From the First Epistle of John:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.   (1 John :5-7)

The challenge of the Season of Advent is ultimately a life and death one. Advent never ends until the Lord comes in all his glory.

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.   (Book of Common Prayer)

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