Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Saint Barnabas

Son of Encouragement

Today we celebrate 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.

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 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 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.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Feast Day, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, sermon, sermon preparation, St. Barnabas, Year B

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?

Leave a comment

Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year B

Trinity Sunday, Year B

Life through the Spirit

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday in many liturgical churches around the world. The third person of the Trinity is perhaps the most controversial if not the most neglected person of the Godhead. We have sermons and teachings on God the Father and God the Son almost every week. How much do we hear about the Holy Spirit of God?

If we were to boil down the importance of the Holy Spirit to one phrase we might say that the Holy Spirit is the “life-giver.” From Genesis we read:

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

The Holy Spirit is thought to be the breath of God. Without his breath we cannot live. The Apostle Paul wrote: “The Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6)

When Nicodemus visits Jesus at night, unlike many other Jewish leaders, he acknowledged that Jesus must have come from God  Jesus responded to him in a curious way:

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”   (John 3:3-8)

Jesus was saying that the Spirit gives life. He is talking about a new life sustained by the Holy Spirit. This life comes as a gift from God above, yet it is a life that must be received and lived in. This life has a force of its own, like the wind, and must be allowed to chart a new course and direction for those who embrace it.

How we cooperate with the Holy Spirit is all important. The Gospel of John speaks powerful about the Holy Spirit and the writings of Paul add much-needed theological commentary. As Christians, we cannot ignore the importance of the Holy Spirit.

Some may think: “I have Jesus and the cross. That is enough for me.” Yes, it is, provided that we understand that the cross of Christ is also our cross. Paul writes:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.   (Romans 8:1-4)

Jesus fulfilled the just requirements of the law of God by his death on the cross, because the wages of sin is death. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, he washes us clean from all our sin. We need to no longer live under the penalty of what might be called the old law of God or the law of sin and death. But what do we now live under?

The Apostle Paul tells us that the law of the Spirit has replaced the law of sin and death. We are no longer subject to this old law. Paul writes:

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.   (Galatians 5:18-25)

This law of the Spirit is a higher law under which we can live by through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Paul goes on to say that we must choose this new law:

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ– if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.   (Romans 8:12-17)

In other words, we must choose to allow the Holy Spirit of God to govern our lives. To choose not to live by the Spirit is to choose death over life. Jesus said that he came to “give us life and life more abundantly.” The Apostle Paul wrote: “If you live according to the flesh, you will die.” The flesh only leads to death and decay. Satan wants to steal our lives from us by having us concentrate on the flesh, or worldly passions. Our minds and hearts need to be on the Spirit.

However, it will cost us to live by the Spirit. We will experience persecution. We will have our own cross to take up daily. Does this sound like the Christian faith we have been taught? Perhaps it is time for us to grow up and become the children of God and not the children of this world. This world is passing away. Those who live by the Spirit are being renewed day by day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Trinity Sunday, Year B