Tag Archives: kingdom of heaven

Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 27

 

Track 1: Choose this Day Whom You  Will Serve

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
Psalm 78:1-7
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

Joshua was preparing the children of Israel tog cross the Jordan river. He pressed upon them the importance of obeying the commandments of God:

“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”   (Joshua 24:14-15)

.Would Israel worship God and serve him alone? The psalmist celebrated that God had served them faithfully:

That which we have heard and known,
and what our forefathers have told us,
we will not hide from their children.We will recount to generations to come
the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord,
and the wonderful works he has done.

He gave his decrees to Jacob
and established a law for Israel,
which he commanded them to teach their children;

That the generations to come might know,
and the children yet unborn;
that they in their turn might tell it to their children;

So that they might put their trust in God,
and not forget the deeds of God,
but keep his commandments;   (Psalm 78:3-7)

The children of Israel responded to Joshua

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”   (Joshua 24:16-18)

Jesus told a parable about those who aid that they were committed to God and his kingdom:

Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”   (Matthew 25:1-13)

As we can learn from the parable, not everyone who declared their commitment were prepared to go the distance. Joshua warned Israel about being faithful to God:

But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.” And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord!” Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” The people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.”   (Joshua 24:19-24)

Joshu challenged Israel. Today, God is challenging us: Are we willing to go the distance with him? The race is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Will we be like the five wise bridesmaids or the five foolish? Are we awake or are we asleep? We live in a day when most people are asleep, even Christians. Time is running short. We do not know the day or the hour when the Lord Jesus will return. It is a dangerous thing to follow the world and its culture. There may not be time for us to repent.

Many believers, however, think that the time of reckoning ha been delayed. The second coming is soe time in the future, but not today. The day of the Lord could very well be for us today. We have no guarantee that we will live tomorrow. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For he says,

“At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!   (2 Corinthians 6:2)

God has been faithful to us. Are we faithful, to him?

 

 

Track 2: The Day of the Lord.

Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16
or 
Amos 5:18-24
Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20
or 
Psalm 70
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

The day of the Lord is coming. Do we understand what that means? Are we prepared? God spoke through the Prophet Amos:

Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord:

Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why do you want the day of the Lord?

It is darkness, not light;
as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear;

or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
and was bitten by a snake.

Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?   (Amos 5:18-20)

The day of the Lord is either a day of judgement or a day of liberation. The Apostle Paul wrote:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.   (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

We live in difficult times. Christians are under persecution. Paul is encouraging us to support one another. We are running a marathon and not a sprint. Jesus illustrated this in the parable of the ten bridesmaids:

Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”   (Matthew 25:1-13)

God is challenging us: Are we willing to go the distance with him? The race is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Will we be like the five wise bridesmaids or the five foolish? Are we awake or are we asleep? We live in a day when most people are asleep, even Christians. Time is running short. We do not know the day or the hour when the Lord Jesus will return. It is a dangerous thing to follow the world and its culture. There may not be time for us to repent.

Many believers, however, think that the time of reckoning ha been delayed. The second coming is some time in the future, but not today. The day of the Lord could very well be for us today. We have no guarantee that we will live tomorrow. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For he says,

“At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!   (2 Corinthians 6:2)

God has been faithful to us. Are we faithful, to him?

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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 20

Track 1: Complaining against God

Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

The children of Israel had seen signs and wonders by God that no one else has even seen, either before or after. But they did not trust God. They weren’t sure that he was on their side. They complained to Moses about having to cross a desert without a food supply. God replied to them through Moses:

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’“ And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’“

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”   (Exodus 16:9-15)

The Israelites even complained about the food that God miraculously provided them. Moving on the the New  Testament, Jesus told a parable about people complaining:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’   (Matthew 20:1-12)

Do we seem to have difficulty understanding God’s ways? He does not always do the things we expect him to do. As a result, God often gets the label of being unfair. Our viewpoint is not God’s viewpoint. God spoke though the Prophet Isaiah;

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.   (Isaiah 55:8-9)

What is the beef of the disgruntle workers? Reading the landowner’s reply to his workers:

“‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”   (Matthew 20:13-16)

A good work ethic is commendable. But the kingdom of heaven is not about works. We want to earn our way and we resent others not having to work as hard as we have had to do. We compare ourselves to others to see how we measure up. Are we better than they are? This is the mindset of those who want to prove themselves worthy before God. They forget that God has already approved them, not by their works, but by his Son.

Perhaps the children of Israel did not want to be so dependent on God for their supply. They wanted to prove themselves worthy. Never mind the miracles. Miracles get in the way of those who want to do something on their own, by their own talent and strength. This mindset often cannot understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Moreover, it may extend to an actual unwillingness to receive the generosity of God even when it is extended. Receiving it means that they really do need his help.

The Apostle Paul has written:

For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.   (Romans 7:32)

We cannot justify ourselves before God. The sooner we can understand this, the sooner we can receive his great, with thanksgiving. In the Apostle Paul’s words:

Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!   (Romans 7:24-25)

Today, are we ready to receive te mercy of God? Are we ready to acknowledge our sins and our need for his forgiveness? Are we ready to receive our salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ? Or do we want to complain against a God who has paid all our debt to him? If so, we just like to complain more being set free. Jesus came to set us free from our bondage to sin. Often times that means being set free from the bondage of our own thoughts and attitudes. This is not the time for an attitude. Today is the day of salvation. Thanks be to God.

 

 

Track 2: Our Sense of Fairness

Jonah 3:10-4:11
Psalm 145:1-8
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

Jonah sent God to Nineveh to preach repentance he did not want to go. Nineveh was a notorious city, hated by the Jews. The last thing he wanted was to see the city spared. Reading from Jonah:

When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.   (Jonah 3:10-4:11)

Jonah could not believe that God would spare Nineveh. They did not keep the law of Moses as he did. When we believe that life is unfair, this means, of course, that we think God is unfair. Jesus told this parable:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vinoseseyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standhere idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’    (Matthew 20:1-12)

The workers who went into the field early were disgruntled. The landowner had been unfair. They were keeping score. The landowner was not playing by their rules.

But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”   (Matthew 20:13-16)

The psalmist wrote:

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
slow to anger and of great kindness   (Psalm 145:8)

That i what made Jonah mad. God was stilll dealing with him:

The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not  be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”   (Jonah 3:10-4:11)

Let us ask ourselves, how fair was it for God to take the punishment for our sins? This is, perhaps, the most unfair act of all.

Do we want to judge and condemn people, as did Jonah? Let us compare this thinking with that of God:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.   (John 3:16-17)

Let us thank God that his fairness is so much more than ours.

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Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 11

Track 1: Surely the Lord Is in This Place

Genesis 28:10-19a
Psalm 139: 1-11, 22-23
or Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Jacob has stolen both his brother’s birthright and the blessing from his father Isaac. His brother Esau was planning to kill him. When Rebecca found this out she told Jacob to flee to Haran to her brother Laban’s house. Today, we pick up on the story. Jacob is in rout to Haran. He must have felt alone and that his future was uncertain. Reading from Genesis:

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”   (Genesis 28:10-17)

Jacob’s dream must have quickly changed his perspective. He said: “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” For Jacob, the place where he experienced God was sacred. He wanted to mark the event.

So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel.   (Genesis 28:18-19)

Perhaps many of us can recall moments when God has spoken to us. We want to remember it always. God may not have spoken to us in an audible voice, but God revealed himself to us in a special way. We may have felt all alone and discouraged. I have certainly been there more than once. But God broke through my discouragement. He broke through my unbelief.

The psalmist wrote:

Where can I go then from your Spirit?
where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there your hand will lead me
and your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,
and the light around me turn to night,”

Darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day;
darkness and light to you are both alike.   (Psalm 139:6-11)

The psalmist was writing that God is always near. Even when we do not want him around, he still remains faithful. We not be aware of God at times, but God is still aware of us. Why would we not want God’s presence at times? That is a good question. There must have been a time when the psalmist felt that way. His breakthrough came when he admitted to himself and to God that he felt that way.

Mountain top experiences may be wonderful. But we live in the valley of life. Is God with us in the valley? Are we with God in the valley? The psalmist David wrote:

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff —
    they comfort me.   (Psalm 23:4)

Today, do we feel estranged from God in any way? Perhaps we have committed sin that we do not believe God can or should forgive? Or perhaps we have a rift with God because we do not feel that he has always been faithful to us? It is time to put things in order. It is time to see things through God’s perspective. The Apostle Paul wrote:

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.   (Romans 8:28)

Our feeling of separation from God is only a feeling. Our feelings do not tell the full story. Often, they mislead us. Satan plays on our emotions. We need to pay more attention to the sound thinking which God has given us:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.   (2 Timothy 1:7)

Satan wants us to feel separated from God. He will do all that he can to convince us. But Satan is a liar. The Apostle Paul writes:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   (Romans 8:35-39)

The name of Jesus is Emmanuel –  God with us. He has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Let us open ourselves up more and more each day to the love of God in Christ Jesus.

 

 

Track 2: The Final Harvest

Genesis 28:10-19a
Psalm 139: 1-11, 22-23
or Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Jesus often taught in parables. In today’s Gospel we have the one concerning the close of the age. This is the time in which we live. Jesus said:

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”   (Matthew 13:24-30)

Notice that good seed was planted. But someone has contaminated the seed. We live on an evil world. God’s plan and provisions are always under attack. That is why it is up to the Church to fight for what is right, just, and true. The truest thing is the Word of God. His Word is truth. If we receive his Word then we become the good seed. However, false teachings and false reports have contaminated some of the seed. Measures need to be taken.

Jesus explains the parable and shows us what God is going to do about this corruption:

“The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!   ()

Notice that Jesus says that his whole world is his kingdom. Everyone, good or bad, is included. But not everyone will remain in the kingdom. Even the Church contains both good and bad. The Apostle Peter writes:

For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God?   (1 Peter 4:17)

God is examining his crop. The final harvest is near. Where do we stand? Are waiting eagerly for the return of Christ? The Apostle Paul wrote:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hopeerly. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.   ()

Now is not the time to be discouraged. Now is not the time to lose hope. The psalmist wrote:

Teach me your way, O Lord,
and I will walk in your truth;
knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.

I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
and glorify your Name for evermore.

For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the nethermost Pit.   (Psalm 139:11-13)

By the blood of Jesus Christ we have been delivered from sin and death. Let us hold on what has been promised to us. In Hebrews ew read:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.   (Hebrews 12:1-3)

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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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