Tag Archives: kingdom of God

Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 6

Track 1: Faith and Patience

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Psalm 20
2 Corinthians 5:6-10,[11-13],14-17
Mark 4:26-34

God had rejected Saul as king fro his disobedience, yet Saul was still the nominal king. Samuel lamented what had happened to Saul. Often we become stuck in a place of emotions, but God had moved on. Reading from 1 Samuel:

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”   (1 Samuel 16:1)

Jesse brought out his sons for Samuel to choose which one would be the new king. Samuel was considering them based on their appearances. But looks can be deceiving:

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.   (1 Samuel 16:6-13)

It was over forty years before David actually became king. David had to endure many hardships, even threats to his life by Saul. Yet David put his full trust in God and did not lose hope.

God’s ways are not our ways and his timing is not our timing. He is planning and positioning things for our future which we may not aware of for a season. This is often the way God works. From today’s Gospel we read:

Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”   (Mark 4:26-32)

What is Jesus saying? He is talking about thye advancement of the kingdom of God on the earth. He was speaking of the kingdom of God advancing in us. This advancement is taken place, much of it hidden at first. When seed is sown it takes some time to germinate. But later the growth is evident. What is our stance when we wait for the growth? Do we ever get so frustrated that we get angry with God for making us wait?

Is our confidence must be in God. He sows the seed, but then he waters it and nurtures it. He knows how to bring it to harvest ad he does for those who trust in him.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

We are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord– for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.   (2 Corinthians 5:6-10)

Satin attempts to steal away our confidence in the promises  of God.  Reading from the Book of James:

My brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.   (James 1:2-4)

Marten Luther did nt like the Book of James. He said it distracted from the doctrine of faith alone. But we need the wisdom of James in order to understand and apply faith. Our faith in God must be continuous. Paul wrote:

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.   (Romans 8:24-25)

Patience and faith are our keys to our growth in the kingdom of God. Today, let us reaffirm our faith before God. Satin will not steal our joy. He will not steal our hope. We are standing on God’s Word. All his promises are yes and Amen. Without patience we may miss out on some of God’s greatest blessings.

 

Track 2: Suggestions

Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm 92:1-4,11-14
2 Corinthians 5:6-10,[11-13],14-17
Mark 4:26-34

Looking at the appointed Old Testament Lesson from Ezekiel and Psalm 92 together a theme seems to emerge. Both speak of a planting of the Lord. The nation of Israel is his tender plant. It is planted on a “mountain height” which is Jerusalem.

“All the trees of the field shall know
that I am the Lord.”   (Ezekiel 17:24a)

All the nations of the earth will know the Lord through Israel.

We are also a planting of the Lord. We do not take the place of Israel. Rather, we are in ingrafted branches of Israel. The promises of God for Israel also apply to us.

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Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 5

Track 1:  Darkness to Light

1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15)
Psalm 138
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

The children of Israel wanted a king like the other nations around them. Samuel new it was a bad idea and took it to the Lord. God gave the people a warning:

So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; [and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers.] He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”   (1 Samuel 8:10-18)

God’s warning did not dissuade them. How often do we think that we no better than God? With our limited understanding, do we think that God is out of touch to reality? This must have been the thinking of the children of Israel:

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”    (1 Samuel 8:19-20)

The founding fathers of our nation understood the dangers of concentrating too much power in governmental leadership. That is why they built in a system of checks and balances agents that power. Leadership makes promises to the people, but too often they are interested in their own welfare, often at the expense of others.

God had a completely different idea for Israel:

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.   (1 Pet. 2:9)

There is the kingdom of darkness which is ruled by Satan. The culture has bought into this kingdom. Then there is the kingdom of light. This kingdom is ruled by God. Which kingdom do we prefer? We cannot have both. The Apostle Paul wrote:

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)

To live in the kingdom of God, however, requires faith on our part. His kingdom is not fully formed on this earth yet. Satan will attempt to draw us back into his domain. Often times it is with ridicule and mockin. Ever heard of the mocking bird media?

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus was casting out demons from many people. He was accused of being out of his mind by the religious authorities. Even his own family were questioning what he was doing:

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”   (Mark 3:31-35)

The kingdom of darkness is passing away. The Apostle wrote:

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.   (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

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. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.   (Romans 8:15-81)

Do we have the staying power? Jesus has that power for us. All we need to do is rely on him. He has won the victory over sin and death.

 

Track 2: Suggestions

Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

The theme of two kingdoms seems to fit here as well. The reading from Genesis tells how the kingdom of darkness began with the fall. Man was in charge of the world until he handed it over to Satan.

The theme of casting out demons in the Gospel reading might be explored. This may be controversial. Can christian be oppressed by demons and be bound by generational curses? But there is nothing new here. Jesus’ own family tried to restrain his from. They were embarrassed by what the religious leaders were saying about Jesus. Maybe it is time for religious leaders to wake up to reality?

 

From this Sunday the appointed lectionary reading are split into two tracks. This treatment is carried through out the remainder of the Pentecostal Season. This year we will concentrate on Track !, offering complete homilies for this track. For Track 2 we will offer suggestions  for homilies based on the different Old Testament readings and Psalms of Track 2.

Track 1 of Old Testament readings  follows major stories and themes, read mostly continuously from week to week. In Year A we begin with Genesis, in Year B we hear some of the great monarchy narratives, and in Year C we read from the later prophets.

Track 2 follows the Roman Catholic tradition of thematically pairing the Old Testament reading with the Gospel reading, often showing how the person and ministry of Jesus Christ is foretold in the Old Testament reading.

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Saint Mark, Evangelist

saint-mark-1621Repent and Believe

The evangelist Mark was a traveling companion of Peter. He recorded Peter’s sermons and stories found in the Gospel of Mark. It is clear that Mark’s Gospel was written by a masterful storyteller. Though short, this Gospel has great impact and clarity. In the opening of his Gospel he gets right to the point:

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  (Mark 1:9-15)

Notice that Mark’s Gospel is an action Gospel. It moves quickly and it asks us to move along with it.

Mark was an evangelist who got right to the point. The Apostle Paul gives us a perspective on the importance of evangelism when he lists God’s gifts to the Church:

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.   (Ephesians 4:11-13)

The evangelist follows the apostles and prophets in importance. Often times they are thought of as shallow or not very sophisticated. For Mark, the Gospel was simple: Repent and believe. That was the message of John the Baptist. That was the message of Jesus on the earth. It is the starting point for every Christian and should be the essential message of the Church. Too many of today’s “seeker” churches have forgotten the repentance part of the message.

Mark was willing to risk everything for the sake of telling the Gospel message. Ultimately, he paid the price with his life. What are we willing to risk today? Jesus told His disciples:

“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  (Mark 16:15-20)

Are we prepared to join Mark? What will the Lord say about our feet?

How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
    who announces salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
    together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
    the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
    you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
    he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
    before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
    the salvation of our God.   (Isaiah 52:7-10)

We are living in the last days. Evangelism is of paramount importance. There is little time for frills. At the very least we can earnestly pray for the rescue of all lost souls. The rescue of souls was Mark’s ministry because it is the ministry of Jesus, then and now.

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Christmas Eve: Proper I

The Kingdom of Light

These readings are traditionally used during the Christmas Eve service in many liturgical churches. They may be used on Christmas Day as well.

Israel had become immersed in darkness, much like it is today. Who would come and save them from the burden of Rome? A prophet of God had not spoken to them in 400 years. Many had lost hope that God would ever deliver them from the tyranny of foreign rule. This was about to change. The Prophet Isaiah had foretold:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  (Isaiah 9:6)

Israel was under Roman rule. Rome had laid upon the people a heavy tax. In today’s Gospel we read:

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. Joseph went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.   (Luke 2:1-7)

A far greater tyranny existed than Rome. This tyranny was a spiritual one, imposed by the ruler of darkness. As a result, many Israelites had lost the understanding of God’s great love for them. Perhaps this is still true for many of us today.

Into this darkness a great message of hope was spoken, to shepherds no less:

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”   (Luke 2:8-14)

The light of Christ had come about which the Prophet Isaiah had spoken:

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
    and the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.  (Isaiah (9:2-4)

Satan had blinded the understanding of God’s people. Though Rome was oppressive, the way the Law of Moses was interpreted by the scribes and Pharisees was even more so. Heavy burdens had been placed on the people through numerous religious rules and regulations.

Only the light of Christ could dispel this great darkness. His teachings and his examples clearly demonstrated God’s love for his people. Not only that, but he took on all our burdens by his death on the cross.

Are we still living in darkness today? What about the song: “He is making a list and checking it twice. He is going to find out who is naughty or nice?” Do we measure up? Can God still love us? Have we done enough?

Jesus has done enough! He is still lifting our burdens if we will allow him. Again, from Isaiah:

His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.  (Isaiah 9:7)

We no longer need to live under the tyranny of darkness which tells us that God does not truly love us unless we measure up. God loves us because he has measured up for us. He will establish justice and righteousness for this time onward and forevermore. Human beings cannot do this, though some falsely say that they can.

Under this world’s governmental systems there will always be some form of oppression. However, this world is passing away. The Kingdom of Light is growing and expanding. Do we not see it? Jesus is still calling people into his everlasting kingdom. Everyone is invited. This is the true gift of Christmas. Have we unwrapped?

Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let every heart prepare him room. Amen.

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