Tag Archives: Isaac

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 10

Track 1: Instant Gratification

Genesis 25:19-34
Psalm 119:105-112
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

The sons of Isaac, Esau and Jacob, were totally unalike. We have an illustration from today’s Old Testament reading:

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!” (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.   (Genesis 25:29-34)

Jacob was quite a slick and opportunistic operator. Nevertheless, how could Esau have agreed to sell his birthright? He was very tired, we might say, and he could only think about the moment. Esau lived for the moment. The moment determines what is important and what one must do. The moment is interested in instant gratification. The future is just too far off to think about.

This is very strange thinking. Before we become too judgmental of Esau we may need to ask ourselves this question: Do we ever indulge in this type of thought? I will say that, for me, it is an easy trap to fall into. How do we explain this sort of behavior? Will our future take care of itself without any planning on our part? On what things do we place our value. Are our momentary needs more valuable to us than the gifts and plans which God surely established for our lives?

Another way of describing our momentary needs is by the word “flesh” which the Apostle Paul refers to quite often in his writings. From the Book of Romans:

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)

The flesh is our enemy. The flesh is our sinful nature. Unfortunately, the flesh is still very much a part of who we are. The psalmist affirms his prerogative of doing what he pleases, but he humbly asks God to help him be pleased with doing the right thing.

Accept, O Lord, the willing tribute of my lips,
and teach me your judgments.

My life is always in my hand,
yet I do not forget your law.   (Psalm 119:108-109)

We do not have to choose he flesh. Paul writes:

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.   (Romans 8:9-11)

Jesus told a parable about the sower, sowing the seed. Jesus is that seed. The sower spreads the seed over various soil with varying results. Let us look at the interpretation that Jesus gives us:

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”   (Matthew 13:18-23)

Has Jesus planted good seed in us? Are we willing to wait for the increase? Do we value his word and what it can do for us in our battle against sin? If we just live in the moment as did Esau, then we too, may lose our birthright. Christ has given us a new birth that leads to eternal life. This is not a time for us to take our eyes off the prize. Our focus must be on the implanted word is us and not on this world. From the Gospel of John, Jesus said:

“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”   (John 8:31-32

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.   (John 14:23)

This psalmist wrote:

With my whole heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.
I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you.   (Psalm 119:11-12)

Where is our true treasure today? Let us hold on to our birthright that Jesus has given us through his death and resurrection.

 

 

Track 2: Bearing Fruit

Isaiah 55:10-13
Psalm 65: (1-8), 9-14
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Jesus spoke many times in parables. In today’s Gospel we have a familiar one:

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”   (Matthew 13:1-9)

The parable had to do with seed planing. The Spirit is the planter and Jesus is the seed. The parable is about hearing the word of God. Jesus interprets the parable for his disciples:

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”   (Matthew 13:18-23)

We are living in a age full of thorns. What was true in the time of Jesus is equally true today. Persecutions against Christians are, in fact, are on the rise. Nominal Christians are taking cover. Hiding one’s faith is not really an option, however. Reading from the Gospel of John:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.   (John 15:1-6)

Jesus is the good seed. Are we good soil? We cannot be unless we are fertilized by the Spirit of God. The Apostle Paul writes:

There is 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. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.   (Romans 8:1-)

We must be3 set free from the flesh. That is not possible if we are still holding on to it. Paul continues:

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.   (Romans 8:6-8)

The flesh will always try to protect itself. The last thing it wants in any sort of persecution. The flesh, which is our old self, needs to be crucified. Paul writes:

But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 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 2:18-20)

By the Holy Spirit God has given us a promise:

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.   (Romans 8:9-11)

We need the Word. We need Jesus. Ww also need his Spirit, With the Spirit we are free:

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you

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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 9

Track 1: A Love Story

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45: 11-18
or Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Today we read about a servant of Abraham who was sent out on a mission:

Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I live, but will go to my country and to my kindred and get a wife for my son Isaac.”   (Genesis 24:2-4)

With fear and trepidation the servant set out to search out a bridge among Abraham’s own people. Let us read a partial account of his journey:

“I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also” — let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’

“Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.”   (Genesis 24:42-49)

The servant was wise enough to seek God in prayer. And he was attentive enough to read the signals which God was giving him. Is that our approach in important assignments? God has the answers and he gives guidance to those who seek him. From today’s Gospel reading:

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.   (Matthew 11:25-27)

God wants to reveal things to us. He does not want us to be the dark. If we are wise in our own eyes we will miss what God is saying.

Back to the servant’s account:

And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.” So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.” Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her.   (Genesis 24:58-67)

This was a great journey of love which God, himself, orchestrated. Will God do the same today for those who seek a  spouse in prayer? Yes, if we seek him in prayer. Yes, if we listen to him carefully and not relying on our own preconceived notions. We may even use a dating service because God is sovereign. He is in charge of all aspects of our lives. As long as we are relying on him he will guide our every move.

What can we learn from this beautiful account? If we are looking for a souse, we need to look in the right place, not among the heathen. We must seek God and trust God in all things. We must not lose patience. We must follow through with God’s help, not getting ahead or falling behind.

There is even a greater love story here. This is the story between a loving God and a trusting bride. We, the Church, are the bride of Christ. Let us follow Jesus through our life as attentively as Abraham’s servant followed his master’s instructions. God makes promises to those who follow him:

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. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,   (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

 

Track 2: This Generation

Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 145:8-15
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Jesus lived in challenging times. He observed the behavior and speech of those around him, even the religious leaders. What God had intended for Israel and what they had become were so far apart.

Jesus said to the crowd, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”   (Matthew 11:16-19)

In the vernacular we might say: “I can’t win for losing. What ever I do is wrong.”

Israel was missing something. Nothing was satisfying them. They felt no inner peace, but they were not sure where to turn. What were they to do?

Jesus was describing a generation. He may have well been describing ours. Something is missing. What do people do when they fell that everything is out of control? Do they not cover up their feelings by seeking to control others? They make up rules for others to follow, hoping that what others do might be pleasing to them.

But then the rules change. What was once acceptable is no longer valid. People must now act and talk in a different way. Those who have become drunk on power must check to see if people will follow them no matter what they ask them to do. And when people comply they are all the more delighted at first, but boredom and depression soon follow. Something is missing. Something feels empty. This may be the way kids act at times. But should not kids grow into adulthood?

Perhaps the first step to recovery is a recognition that there is a problem. Something is missing which is vital. What must a person do? The Apostle Paul wrote about finding order and peace in a chaotic life:

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!   (Romans 7:21-25)

Paul knew his struggle was a spiritual one. He also realized that, on his own, he could not overcome what he was experiencing. What was Israel missing? Perhaps we might ask what are we missing.

Israel was missing Jesus. He was in their midst, but many either did not recognize him or refused to recognize him. He came that they might have life, and life more abundantly (John 10:10). But they were addicted to power and control. They wanted to control others, but they could not even control themselves.

Is this how we feel? We observe chaos all around us. Some are contributing to it while others are trying desperately to stop it. We may all want order in our lives in some way, but we cannot agree on what to do. Surely it is not the control others so that they may conform to some Utopia which we have imaged as possible. Others have different desires which may not agree with ours.

Israel was missing Jesus. He called out to them:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”   (Matthew 11:28-30)

Can the world make this promise? Perhaps we are missing Jesus. Our culture promises to eliminate chaos. How can it when it is so chaotic itself?

Jesus is our rest. Jesus is our teacher. His way seems gentile to all who put their trust in him. When we turn away from him the world seems over whelming. That is because the world is ruled by Satan. He rules us through chaos, all the while lying to us that he will fix everything if we follow him. Jesus  said:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Today, let us seek Jesus with all our hearts. He is still calling out to us. Will we come to hm in faith and find our reset. Will we discover our purpose in life in him?

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8

Track 1: The Lord Will Provide

Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm 13
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Today we have the account of Abraham being severely tested. It speaks to us in so many ways.

God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.   (Genesis 22:1-8)

Abraham was a man of faith. What that meant is that he was faithful to the Lord. Truth faith produces faithfulness. It is easier to be faithful to God in good times. What about tough times? God was about to put Abraham through a severe test.

The prophets of God had difficult tasls. Jeremiah often complained about them. The messages which God gave his prophets to speak were not always welcomed by the people. People want to hear messages of good news. Has anything changed? From the Old Testament:

The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”   (Jeremiah 28:5-9)

What Jeremiah seems to be suggesting to Hananiah is that all prophecy needs to be tested, especially prophecy of good news. Easy times and hard times – the hard times are more difficult. Will we be faithful to God in hard times?

God wanted to know just how far Abraham would go in following his instructions. Abraham had the choice of following those instructions or rejecting them, justifying his decision for any number of reasons. Following them required a tremendous trust in God.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and he laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the alt on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”   (Genesis 22:9-14)

How did Abraham endure this severe test? He knew his  son Isaac was the child of a promise. God had told his that many nations would be blessed through his child. Thus Abraham trusted god to do what he promised.

The tests of faith which we face serve a purpose, perhaps many purposes.. We learn a lot about ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses. More importantly, we learn more about God. The psalmist wrote:

But I put my trust in your mercy;
my heart is joyful because of your saving help.

I will sing to the Lord, for he has dealt with me richly;
I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High.   (Psalm 13:5-6)

This is how we should approach God? From Hebrews we read:

Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.   (Hebrews 11:6-7)

Our whole approach to God must be by faith. We must learn to trust him. Our very salvation depends upon our trust in his gift of mercy and grace. Abraham was asked to give up his son. God did give up his Son. That should be enough for us to put our whole trust in God, He only asks us to do the things that will brings us blessings. Will we follow him in the good times and the bad?

Abraham called that place where he was going to sacrifice his son “The Lord will provide.” The Lord did provide. He provides his Son to stand in for us on the cross. He provides for us every day. Do we put our full faith and trust in him? Do we trust the plans that he has for us as did Abraham?

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: A Cup of Cold Water

Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-4,15-18
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

The Apostle Paul writes about spiritual gifts and callings within the Church in more than one place. I like this list because it includes the ministry of helps,

And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.   (1 Corinthians 12:28)

It has been my experience in churches that, in the minds of some in the congregation, there is a hierarchy of positions in leadership. People often seem to jockey for positions. The Apostle Paul attempted to put this kind of thinking to rest”

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.   (1 Corinthians 12:14-26)

Jesus explained that anyone who helps a prophet receives that same reward of a prophet:

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”   (Matthew 10:40-42)

How wonderful it is for the clergy to receive the ministry of helps. Believe me the clergy need all the help they can get. Our attitude in helping others has a bearing on how God will judge us. Jesus spoke these words about separates the sheep from the goats on judgement day:

Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”   (Matthew 25:41-46)

The ministry of helps is perhaps the most important ministry of all. How do we stand in this category?

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