Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles

The Messengers of the Gospel

The Apostles who have had the most profound impact on the Church are, without a doubt, Peter and Paul. One was an ordinary, uneducated fisherman who became the principle leader of a movement and faith that has reverberated down through the ages. The other was the outstanding student of Judaism in his day who became a great Christian theologian and missionary extraordinaire, writing a large part of the New Testament.

Which one was more important? We cannot say. I believe that they both were needed by the Early Church and both of their messages are needed today. Peter and Paul needed each other as well. Their messages played off one another. Without the leadership of either one we would not have had the fullness of the Gospel preached to the world. Nonetheless, Peter and Paul did not always see eye to eye. We read in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:11-16)

Peter and Paul resolved their differences and came to a common understanding of the Gospel. They mapped out what have become the essential tenets of the Faith. This opened the door for people of all nations to enter into the Kingdom of God.

Here is how Peter described Paul’s writings:

But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:13-16)

Each apostle started his ministry in the Church from a position of weakness. We remember that Peter had denied his Lord three times before Jesus endured the cross:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”   (John 21:15-19)

In the flesh, Peter was weak. He became a giant of the Holy Spirit. People would be healed if even his shadow passed over them.

As a pharisee, Paul was persecuting the Church, thinking that he was saving Judaism from heresy. Without the intervention of Jesus he would not have become the great missionary that he was.

In looking back on his ministry, Paul wrote to Timothy:

As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.   (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

What is significant about both Peter and Paul is that, against all odds, they taught and preached the Gospel with boldness and perseverance. Although they faced many hardships martyrs, they did not shrink back from the great commission which the Lord Jesus had entrusted to them. The commonality in their leadership is that they did not rely on themselves but on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

They both emphasized that the Kingdom was not of this world. There message was not about getting ahead or being successful in this lifetime. They preached that Christian believers could look forward to the life to come with great hope. In the meantime, believers were to advance in purity and holiness. Peter and Paul were ultimately martyred for their faith. They willingly made every sacrifice for the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They set the highest standard for us to follow today.

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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 after Pentecost: Proper 6

Track 1: Our God Is Too Small

Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7)
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)

We maybe familiar with God’s promise to Abraham. God would make him the father of many nations. When Abraham was nearly 100 years old God promised him a son. His wife Sarah, who had been barren,  was far beyond her child baring years.

In today’s Old Testament reading we pick up on God’s promise. Three strangers came to visit Abraham. Abraham must have recognized that there was something special about these men. He welcomed them and hastened to prepare a meal for them. While he watched them eat they eventually asked this question:

“Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”   (Genesis 18:9-15,)

It was difficult for Sarah to believe the men. Have we ever been in situations where it has been difficult for us to believe God? God is a God of miracles. It is a miracle that God speaks to us and we actually listen to him. When that happens, it is not so unusual that God calls us to go beyond our expectations and comfort zone.

Jesus sent his disciples to go out and preach the good news that the kingdom of heaven has come near. He asked them to do more than that – to heal the sick and raise the dead. From today’s Gospel reading:

The twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. [Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.   (Matthew:5-8)

It was clear from Jesus’ charge that his disciples had to exercise their faith and rely only on the provisions God would supply them along the way. The disciples had great success because the Spirit of the LORD was with them. Is God with us? Are we with him? How big is our God. In the Book of Hebrews we read:

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son,[a] whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains[b] all things by his powerful word.   (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Is Jesus big enough to do what he has promised, to do what he has called us to do? We will not find out unless we exercise our faith? God is preparing an end time revival to bring in a full harvest. Will we join him?

Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”   (Matthew 9:35-38)

Intercessors have prayed and asked God for the harvest. Now God is asking us to join his labor force. Jesus is our message and he is our supply. A part from him we can do nothing. In him and by him and through him precious souls will be saved.

 

Track 2: A Priestly kingdom 

Exodus 19:2-8a
Psalm 100
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8(9-23)

God called the nation of Israel his chosen people, of all the peoples of the earth. What did that mean? From today’s Old Testament reading:

The Israelites had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.”   (Exodus 19:2-6)

Yes, God singled out Israel, but for a purpose. He wanted to use the nation as a way of reaching other nations and peoples. We are joined with Israel as ingrafted branches when we believe on the Lord Jesus and embrace him as Savior and Lord. The Apostle Paul writes:

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.   (Romans 5:1-2)

We have been called to share the glory of God. Paul writes:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.   (2 Corinthians 5:17=21)

Are we reconciled to God. If not, now is the time to be reconciled. Let us repent of our sins and ask Jesus to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Then God will empower us for his great commission. Jesus empowered his twelve disciples:

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.   (Matthew 9:35-38)

Jesus is ready to empower us. Many of our churches may be dead. But let us be alive in Christ. We will break the mold. We will get back to basics. Let us say by faith, the kingdom of heaven is near. Let us invite the Holy Spirit of God to flow through us. We have been chosen for this purpose. Time to get out of our privileged pews and proclaim the power and presence of God. Time to join the priestly kingdom.

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Saint Barnabas

Son of Encouragement

Today we celebrate the life and ministry of Saint Barnabas, the traveling companion of the Apostle Paul. He was more than a traveling companion. Barnabas was largely responsible for encouraging Paul to undertake an active ministry in the first place.

We know about Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. We know that Jesus Himself called Paul into ministry. Nonetheless, Paul was not easily accepted as an apostle of Jesus by the leadership in Jerusalem. He had been persecuting the Church. Barnabas, however, looked at Paul through the eyes of Christ. He rescued Paul and presented him to the apostles, testifying that Paul was indeed a true believer. This was typical of Barnabas. His name meant “son of encouragement.”

Barnabas was chosen along with Paul for a special mission:

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.   (Acts 13:1-3)

This was the beginning of the great mission to the Gentiles. Barnabas and Paul were willing to travel without special requirements or treatment. They endured great hardships for the Gospel. They were willing to follow the instructions which Jesus gave His disciples concerning the conduct of ministry:

Jesus said to the twelve, “As you go, proclaim the good news, `The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.   (Matthew 10:7-10)

What can we learn from Barnabas about our own ministry? He did not care what others thought or said about Paul. He listened only to what God was telling him. He wanted the praises and approval of God more than that of human beings.

A positive attitude is helpful. Prayer and fasting is preparation. The support of a community is vital and of absolute necessity. A willingness to be set apart by the Holy Spirit for ministry directed by God and not by our own desires. Perhaps this last one is the most difficult. The Holy Spirit may lead us into difficult places where we must rely solely on God.

We may not be asked by God to leave home and job. We may, however, be asked to give up some of our cherished beliefs about ministry. We may be asked to leave our comfort zones. We may be required to work with others who are not on the approved list. We might just be called to offer encouragement and support to others in their ministry. God is still calling his Barnabas’s.

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