Tag Archives: God’s plan

Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 27B

Track 1: God Has a Plan for Us

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
Psalm 127
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

Naomi struggled just to survive. Things seem hopeless for them. They stood alone, without family support. Naomi’s husband and two sons had died. She was in a foreign land without support. Only her daughter-in-law Ruth stood by her. Yet things changed. From today’s reading of the Book of Ruth:

Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.   (Ruth 4:13-17)

Naomi returned to Judah. Ruth found a husband. And then Ruth was blessed with a child who became significant, not only to her and Naomi, but to all of Israel.

The story of Naomi and Ruth is our story. Their struggle is our struggle. Life can be extremely difficult and challenging. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges in life for us is trusting in the plan that God has for each of us. Do we trust God? Do we accept his ordering and steering of our lives.

The psalmist wrote:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
their labor is in vain who build it.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,
in vain the watchman keeps his vigil.

It is in vain that you rise so early and go to bed so late;
vain, too, to eat the bread of toil,
for he gives to his beloved sleep.  (Psalm 127:1-3)

I remember a difficult time in my life. I struggled to overcome apparent failures and setbacks. I was experiencing so much anxiety that I had trouble getting to sleep at night. Does that ring true for any of you? The psalmist tells us that God “gives his beloved sleep.”

To gain that sleep with all the challenges that faced me, I had to accept an even larger challenge. One of the greatest challenges in life is to accept the plan that God has for our lives. We cannot make things happen by our own wisdom and strength alone. We must trust God and allow him to take over our lives. I believe this is what Naomi learned to do, opening up God’s outpouring of blessings on her. From the wisdom of Solomon:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.   (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Are we ready to accept the challenge of trusting God? From Jeremiah we read:

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.   (Jeremiah 29:11-12)

 

 

 

Track 2: God’s Economy

1 Kings 17:8-16
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

God’s economy is not the economy of Wall Street nor the economy of bankers and the market place.It is not the economy which some are preaching:” If you give to the church enough money you will eventually win God’s lottery.”  It is an economy that can only be understood by revelation from God’s holy word.

Today we will look two widows: one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. First the Old Testament:

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”   (1 Kings 17:8-16)

From the New Testament:

Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”   (Mark 12:41-44)

What did these widows have in common and what can we learn from them? They were poor and needy, facing desperate circumstances. The widow of Zarephath was barely surviving. There was widespread famine and she had little to eat. Nonetheless, she was willing to give the man of God all that she had. In the New Testament, Jesus observed a widow as she gave all the money she had to God.

How many of us are willing to give God all that we have? What would it take for us to do that? The two widows were desperate. But despite that they were able to take their minds off themselves in order to help others. Hopefully, some of the money in the treasury would go to help others in need. In the case of the widow of Zarephath, she gave all the food that she had to Elijah. In both cases, the widows must have been able to trust God for their provisions. The psalmist wrote:

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!
whose hope is in the Lord their God;

Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,
and food to those who hunger.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;

The Lord loves the righteous;
the Lord cares for the stranger;
he sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.   (Psalm 146:4-8)

Are we willing to contribute to God out of our abundance? That is a big step for many of us. But to do what these two widows did would require an even greater step. We would have to believe that God is a just God,  that he is in control, and that he is willing to take extraordinary steps to care for our wellbeing. Is that our God?

Jesus said that it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Our financial blessings can be distractions which take us away from depending upon God. The kingdom of God is made up of those people who place God first in their lives and not last, or somewhere down our list of hierarchies.

Where is our focus in life? If we are blessed financially then, all the more, we should be concerned about meeting the needs of others. Our character must become God’s character. God gives justice to those who are oppressed, gives food to those who hunger. lifts up those who are bowed down, cares for the stranger, and sustains the orphan and widow.

God’s economy requires everyone to do their part to help others. Jesus said:

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.   (Luke 12:48)

We must take our eyes off ourselves and look at the needs of others. There are great opportunities for us to see the miraculous economy of God. We are part of that economy. All other economies are fleeting at best. They are passing away. Are we passing away with them?

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Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 4B

Track 1: The Calling of God

1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23-3:6

Today we read about the calling of Samuel. He served in the temple under Eli the priest. During this time the temple was in great need of spiritual renewal. From 1 Samuel we read:

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”   (1 Samuel 3:1-10)

New leadership was needed in the Temple. Notice the expression: “the lamp of God had not yet gone out.” Although Eli’s eyesight was growing dim, this expression was not about his eyesight. New leadership is always needed in the service of God because this world is continually falling into decay. And Satan is constantly attacking the servants of God. For this reason God plans ahead.

God called Samuel at an early age. Samuel was ust a young boy. He was just beginning to hear the voice of God. He was in a position near God so that he might listen to God. God is calling everyone of us today. Are we in a position to listen? Are we attentive to his voice?

It may be easier for the young to hear the call of God. The world has not yet overwhelmed them. God calls us when we are very young indeed. The psalmist wrote:

For you yourself created my inmost parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will thank you because I am marvelously made;
your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

My body was not hidden from you,
while I was being made in secret
and woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;
all of them were written in your book;
they were fashioned day by day,
when as yet there was none of them.   (Psalm 139:13-15)

God has a plan for our lives. From the very beginning he has ordained us and is forming us for that plan. All human life is precious to him. No life is by accident. How many prophets and priest have we killed in the womb through abortions? It is our national disgrace.

If we study the life of Samuel we see that he was a very humble and selfless man who became a great prophet. Our calling by God is not about ourselves. It is about serving the will of God the Father. The Apostle Paul wrote:

 We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)

Can we ignore our calling of God any longer? Let us put selfish matters aside. The harvest of souls is ready. We have been given various gifts and talents, and we are all called by God. Are we listening? Are we ready for him to equip us for his service? We are not too old. God still has a plan for us. We are not too young. All the better to listen to the voice of God. He is speaking to us as he spoke to Samuel. Our answer should be: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

 

 

Track 2: A Holy Sabbath

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Psalm 81:1-10
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23-3:6

When I was young we did not have the internet, smart phones, or even television. We played a lot of board games and card games. My brother and I liked to play cards, especially with our grandmother. But there was a rule about cards we had to follow. We could not play cards on Sunday. That would disrespect the day.

At least in those days their was a mindset to observe the Sabbath. Stores were closed. There was supposed to be something different about the Sabbath. We were  supposed to at least acknowledge its existence.

God gave the children of Israel this command about the sabbath while they were encamped in the wilderness:

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.   (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

It would seem that God was saying: “Do not be distracted by so many things on the sabbath. Remember what I have done for you and use the time to honor me.”

As I have said, there were rules about the sabbath which I did not understand as a child. The Pharisees specialized in rules, particularly rules about the sabbath. During his earthly ministry, Jesus was constantly confronted about these rules. From today’s Gospel we read:

One sabbath Jesus and his disciples were going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”   (Mark 2:23-28)

Jesus was telling the Pharisees that they had lost all perspective concerning the sabbath. They did not understand why it was given by God. The sabbath was made for humankind. It was given so that his people could spend time with God. We are to use the day to honor God and give thanks to him. God would use the day to refresh us. A time of refreshment from God can only come when we give our time to him.

Some might say that they do not need to go to church. They can commune with God on the golf course. To be sure, God is there. He is there even when we curse him and throw our golf club into the lake. God wants to be with us. And he wants to bless us. Will we let him? Or we will run from him on this day as we often do during the other days of the week?

The dangers of rules for the sabbath is that, by keeping them, we may think that we are a more holy people. We are not holy by any effort on our part. Only God can make us holy. A holy day is a holy time to be with a holy God. Then God can make us more into his image. He can mold us. He is the potter, we are the clay.

I am afraid that in some of our churches, we have allowed other spirits to come in and take the place of God’s Holy Spirit. We need a holy time with a right spirit.

The psalmist wrote:

Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you:
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not worship a foreign god.

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said,
“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”   (Psalm 81:8-10)

Have we let strange gods and strange spirits to come into our churches? The church in America is in great need of a revival. I am sure that most of us will agree with that. We need God to come in and cleanse us. He needs to do some housecleaning. We cannot do it. Let us pray to a holy God and ask him to make us holy once again, or maybe for the first time. Remembering God and imploring him to help us is a large part of what the sabbath is all about.

Jesus understood the sabbath. He observed it, but he did not give up any opportunity to do good by the power of the Holy Spirit. From today’s Gospel we continue reading:

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.   (Mark 3:1-6)

Are going to be Spirit filled and do the work Jesus has asked us to do, or are we going to be gatekeepers like the Pharisee and spend our time making rules so that others can obey them?

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