Tag Archives: Jericho

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 26C

Track 1: I Will Stand at My Watchpost

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4
Psalm 119:137-144
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

The Prophet Habakkuk was frustrated. He was discouraged. He complained to God:

Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.

So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.

The wicked surround the righteous–
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.   (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

He believe there was no justice. God was slack in punishing the wicked while righteous people were being oppressed.

Have we ever felt the same way? We become discouraged because people seem to be getting away with evil and nothing is being done about it, Though discouraged, Habakkuk had not yet lost hope. He would wait upon God to see if he would eventually answer his complaint:

I will stand at my watchpost,
and station myself on the rampart;

I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
and what he will answer concerning my complaint.   (Habakkuk 2:1)

Habakkuk was an intercessor. He would wait, but he would also be praying concerning the situation. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   (Philippians 4:4-7)

Intercessory prayer require some effort on our part. We must learn to be patient. We must learn to trust God.

God has called each one of us to be intercessors. It can be a lonely assignment. More often than not,  it does not bring instant results. We need to pray earnestly, from the heart. God needs our earnest prayers. The psalmist wrote:

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
    Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.   (Psalm 130:1-6)

Waiting of the Lord means more than just exercising patience. It also means serving the Lord. He needs our attention. He needs our faith and hope.

God answered the complaint of Habakkuk this way:

Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.

For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.

If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.

Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.   (Habakkuk 2:2-4)

God’s timing is not always our timing, but his timing is perfect. We must not lose faith in the justice of God. His justice goes beyond our idea of justice. From today’s appointed psalm:

Your justice is an everlasting justice
and your law is the truth.

Trouble and distress have come upon me,
yet your commandments are my delight.

The righteousness of your decrees is everlasting;
grant me understanding, that I may live.   (Psalm 119:142-144)

Let us not become so discouraged that we live like those who do not believe in the justice of God. Today’s Gospel reading tells of Zacchaeus, a tax collector. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but when he came into contact with Jesus he found hope that things could change. Because Jesus accepted him, he decided to make amends for his misdeeds:

Zacchaeus said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”  (Luke 19:8-10)

God’s justice includes mercy. His justice is for more than today alone. His justice is eternal.

 

Track 2: Come Let Us Reason Together

Isaiah 1:10-18
Psalm 32:1-8
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

Through the Prophet Isaiah, God complained concerning the shallowness of his chosen people. Though they observed the appointed festivals and paid lip service in their worship of God, this had little bearing on their daily life. God required much more from them. He demanded much more:

When you stretch out your hands,
    I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
    I will not listen;
    your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your doings
    from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
    learn to do good;
seek justice,
    rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
    plead for the widow.   (Isaiah 1:15-17)

In his psalm of confession, King David expressed what he believed God was looking for:

You desire truth in the inward being;
    therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.   (Psalm 51:6-9)

David understood that he needed God’s help in order to change. God asks a lot of us, but is he unreasonable?

In today’s Gospel reading we learn of a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was anxious to know who Jesus was:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.   (Luke 19:1-6)

Why would a notorious sinner be happy to welcome Jesus? He saw something in Jesus that he did expect to find. He saw something that the grumblers failed to see:

All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”   (Luke 19:7-10)

What did Zacchaeus see in Jesus? Let us return to today’s reading from Isaiah. God said:

Come now, let us argue it out,
says the Lord:

though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be like snow;

though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.   (Isaiah 1:18)

I like the way the King James Version puts this: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.” God is exacting but he not unreasonable. He wants to work with us.

The psalmist wrote:

While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,
because of my groaning all day long.

For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;
my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and did not conceal my guilt.

I said,” I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.   (Psalm 32:3-6)

Confession is the beginning. God also wants to take us a step further. If we are willing, he will cleanse us, he will restore us, and he will give us a fresh new start. This is what excited Zacchaeus. Before Jesus could ask him to repent, he was ready ready to make amends for his sin.

Are we stuck today in some habitual sin? Perhaps it is a sin that we seem not to be able to overcome. In fact, alone, we cannot overcome it. The good news is that God wants to overcome for us. 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! 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 5:7-21)

Do we understand the true nature of God. He is forgiving, he is restorative, and he is our deliverer. “Come, let us reason together,” he tells us. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow.”

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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 10C

Track 1: The Plumb Line

Amos 7:7-17
Psalm 82
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

God gave a prophecy to Amos that the leadership did not want to hear.

This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

“See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by;

the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”   (Amos 7:7-9)

God has the right to judge his people. The King believed that Amos had no right to talk to him this way. He was, after all, the head of the state. He ruled over the chosen people of God. Who was Amos?

Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”   (Amos 7:12-13)

The danger for all of us is that we think that God is pleased with us. Why is God not correcting somebody else who is far worse than we are? The psalmist asked:

“How long will you judge unjustly,
and show favor to the wicked?   (Psalm 82:2)

Let us be careful what we ask for. God responds:

Now I say to you, ‘You are gods,
and all of you children of the Most High;

Nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
and fall like any prince.'”

Arise, O God, and rule the earth,
for you shall take all nations for your own.   (Psalm 82:6-8)

God is in charge. Only he can judge justly. Our understanding is too limited. God has made us in his image and, in a way, we are like him. But he is also wholly other than we are. Only God can be the righteous judge.

But this is Old Testament. What about the New Testament? Reading from the Gospel of Luke:

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”   (Luke 10:25-28)

Jesus tells the lawyer he has given the right answer to his question. But the clinker is that God expects us to do his commandments. He is testing us, not the other way around. He is holding up his plumb line. Do we actually keep his commandments?

The lawyer was very much aware that he did not measure up, so he was looking for a loophole in the law. Again from Luke:

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”   (Luke 10:29)

Perhaps he thought that if he could narrow down the definition of who a neighbor might be he might get by, at least for the neighbor part. Jesus responds with his famous parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”   (Luke 10:30-37)

Samaritans were considered outcasts by the Jews. They were no longer part of God’s chosen people, or so they believed. It must have pained the lawyer to say that a Samaritan could be his neighbor.

We cannot justify ourselves. If we are honest with ourselves we will see that we have not measured up to God’s standards and, thus, we have no right to judge whether or not someone else has measured up. Any contemporary Levites among us want to admit that we have passed by the needed on the other side? Well, we get busy.

The good news is that Jesus has measured up to God’s plumb line. Is our faith grounded in him? The Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossians:

We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.   (Colossians 1:9-12)

In the New Testament God expects us to bear fruit. God will enable us to do so, provided that we embrace the Lord Jesus Christ and his victory over the grave, hell, and death. Paul continues:

He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.   (Colossians 1::13-14).

Amen.

 

 

Track 2: The Good Samaritan

Deuteronomy 30:9-14
Psalm 25:1-9
Colossians 1:1-14
Luke 10:25-37

In today’s Gospel reading from a Luke, a lawyer asks Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks him what does the law say. His answer: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus then tells him to do this and he will live. But doing is the hard part. The lawyer knows that he has fallen short.

No offense to lawyers, but they can sometimes find loopholes in the law. This lawyer was looking for one. Perhaps he thought that, if he could narrowly define who his neighbor is, he might pass muster, at least the neighbor part of the commandment:

So wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”   (Luke 10:29)

Jesus answered him with this well known parable:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, `Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”   (Luke 10:30-37)

Samaritans were considered outcasts by the Jews. They were no longer part of God’s chosen people, or so they believed. It must have pained the lawyer to say that a Samaritan could be his neighbor.

The lawyer must felt that the commandment was too hard for him. But the law giver Moses speaks otherwise. From Deuteronomy we read:

“Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.”   (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

Moses was saying that, if we have the law of God written on our hearts, we should be able to keep it. The Apostle Paul paraphrased Moses in this way:

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

“The word is near you,
    on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”   (Romans 10:5-13)

The promise for us is that, when we call on the name of the Lord, we shall be saved. I do not know about you, but, if I am going to keep the law the way Jesus said we should, I need to call upon him daily. He alone can do what I am not able to do. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians:

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.   (Colossians 1:3-8)

Jesus asks us to do good. We often get discouraged because we often fail. But let us not lose heart. We can do good with his help, if we hold on to the promise that God has made to us. If we hold on to the hope that is in the Gospel, then we will not lose hope. If we fully comprehend the grace which God has given us, how he has gone more than the extra mile for us, surely we can follow his example and give more of ourselves. He does not give up on us. We should not give up on him.

But what happens when we do fail? The Apostle John writes:

If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse usfrom all unrighteousness.   (1 John 1:9)

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