Tag Archives: grace

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8B

Track 1: How the Mighty Have Fallen

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

In today’s reading from 2 Samuel, King David laments the death of King Saul and his son Jonathan:

Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!

Tell it not in Gath,
proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon;

or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

You mountains of Gilboa,
let there be no dew or rain upon you,
nor bounteous fields!

For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.   (2 Samuel 1:25-27)

Saul was anointed by God to be king over Israel. He was a mighty warrior who conquered many of Israel’s enemies. Yet Saul had decided to do things on his own, without regard to the will of God. Because of this, Israel was continually being attacked by its enemies. Saul was warned but kept on rebelling against God.

How could someone be so stubborn? Does that sound like someone we might know? The psalmist wrote:

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts;
    there is no one who does good.

God looks down from heaven on humankind
    to see if there are any who are wise,
    who seek after God.

They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse;
    there is no one who does good,
    no, not one.   (Psalm 53:1-3)

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The psalmist wrote:

Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss,
O Lord, who could stand?

Have we not all been guilty of rebellion against God? In a time of desperation we call out to God, hoping that he will still here us. The psalmist goes on to offer this assurance:

For there is forgiveness with you;
therefore you shall be feared.

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
in his word is my hope.    (Psalm 130:1-5)

God is faithful even when we are not faithful. He is ready to forgive those who will repent of their sins and turn to him. He has been waiting patiently for us. We must learn to wait patiently on him, not losing our hope in his  word. The psalmist reminds us:

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
    he remembers that we are dust.   (Psalm 103:8-14)

We may have fallen, but we do not have to remain fallen. Saul refused to repent. Let us not be so stubbornness of heart. Out of the depths let us cry out to God. It is not too late to call upon his name.

 

 

Track 2: Your Faith Has Made You Well

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Lamentations 3:21-33
or Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

We are blessed today with quite a story of faith from the Gospel of Mark:

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”   (Mark 5:24-34)

What is so remarkable about this true story? The woman who was healed had been suffering from her illness for twelve years, but she did not lose hope that God could heal her. She tenaciously held on to that hope. Perhaps she was familiar with this passage from Lamentations:

This I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”   (Lamentations 3:21-24)

She did not give up hope in God. She did not become discouraged to the point of unbelief. Her belief is that God could heal her and that God would heal her. She understood the character of God: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” She could have given up hope in God’s love but did not because she knew that God is love and that his love never ceases.

In life we can have difficulties. We can have illnesses. That is  simply a part of life. God allows these things, but that does not mean that he wills that our trials continue. His perfect will is that we will be made whole. Again from Lamentations:

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for one to bear
    the yoke in youth,
to sit alone in silence
    when the Lord has imposed it,   (Lamentations 3:25-28)

The woman understood that she had to wait for God patiently. God would come through for her. We are armed with knowledge that this woman did not have: Healing is provided in the cross which Jesus bore. In Isaiah we read:

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.   (Isaiah 53:4-5)

This leads us to the next and vital point about faith in God. The woman was able to touch God. She knew that if she could just touch the clothes of Jesus she would be healed. He did not have to speak to her. He had the power of God to heal. She just had to touch him with her faith.

How do we do that? How do we touch Jesus? Satan is constantly telling us that we are unworthy of his healing because of our sin. The more we have to wait on God’s healing the more Satan will make his case against us. The key to touching God is to believe in his character more than the circumstances in which we may find ourselves. The woman who was hemorrhaging strongly believed that God would heal her. She believed that he wanted to heal her because he is a loving and healing God. The psalmist wrote:

The Lord works vindication
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.   (Psalm 103:6-13)

One of the greatest obstacles of healing is our belief that we are not worthy of God’s healing. Our faith should not based on who we are but on who God is. God is not limited by our character. God is governed by his character. “He does not deal with us according to our sins, not repay us according to our iniquities” the psalmist tells us. Do we believe this? Then we have every right to reach out and touch him. As we touch him, he will  touch us and say to us: “Your faith has made you well.”

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Good Friday

Behold the Lamb of God

Long before the cross was even an instrument of torture and death there was prophecy concerning a certain death by crucifixion. Long before anyone had experienced this torturous death we have a perfect description of the crucifixion of Jesus:

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax,
melting within me.

My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.

For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.

I can count all my bones;
people look and stare at me.

They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.  (Psalm 22:14-18)

What was the purpose for such an agonizing death? The Prophet Isaiah tells us:

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:3-6)

In the face of so great a sacrifice on our behalf what are we to do?

Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He has inaugurated for us, through the curtain (that is, His flesh); and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.  (Hebrews 10:19-23)

The cross always brings us to the point of decision. We cannot look away from it. We must look upon the Lamb of God in His agony. If we are to participate in the victory of Jesus on the cross, we must first taste of His passion. It is a defeat of our flesh. It is a defeat of our will. It is a defeat of our pride. Down through the ages the cross has spoken to humankind. What is the cross saying to us today?

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Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B

The Cost of Covenant

God has given us a New Covenant to live under. It is better than the older one which governed the children of Israel. It is a covenant full of grace and mercy. But we must remember that it came out of the Old Covenant and is mentioned in the Old Testament of our Bible.

In Jeremiah we read:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.   (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

God was going to do something he had not yet done and then this covenant would be established. What was God going to do and what did he actually do? He poured out his unmerited favor. He offered such unconditional love that is beyond our human understanding. But it cost God something. It cost him a great deal.

As he was facing the cross, we read the Gospel of John, Jesus explained to his disciples what God was about to do and why it was necessary. He used an analogy of the grain of wheat and how it produces growth. He said:

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.   (John 12:24-26)

What was Jesus saying? New life comes out of death. The old way has to die before the new can come. When the grain falls to the earth it must die so that new wheat is formed. Jeremiah prophesied that new life would be coming for the people of God. Jesus explained that this new life would be impossible without the death of the old.

The temple worship would have to die so that Christ might become the new temple. The sacrifice of the lamb for Passover would have to end so that he might become the spotless lamb of God who was sacrificed for the sins of the whole world. Jesus was, in fact, the grain of wheat of which he spoke. He would have to die so that he might be resurrected from the dead.

The Book of Hebrews goes into great depth concern the cost of this new covenant:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.   (Hebrews 5:5-9)

This covenant cost Jesus his life. Hebrews also explains that it will cost our lives as well. If God is to write his law upon our hearts so that we can obey, something must happen. The Old must die before the new comes.

We are also the grain of the New Covenant. King David, in his prayer of repentance, spoke about his inner  being:

For behold, you look for truth deep within me,
and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;
wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,
that the body you have broken may rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.   (Psalm 51:7-11)

God looks for his truth deep within us. He must change our hearts. In order for him to change our hearts the old heart must die away. David said: “Create in me a clean heart.”

There is a price to pay for this New Covenant. I cost God the sacrifice of his only begotten Son. We, also, must die. Not a cruel death, but a liberating death which brings new life, and abundant life that only God can provide for those who put their trust in him. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.   (Romans 6:1-11)

Has God written his law on our hearts? That depends on whether or not we are still holding on to our grain of wheat. Jesus tells us to let it go. He let everything go for us.

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