Tag Archives: love

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 12

Track 1:  Strengthen Your Inner Being 

2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

God referred to King David as a man after my own heart. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

When he had removed Saul, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’   (Acts 13:22)

David had a driving force to implements the commandments of God. But there was another force working within him. Reading from 2 Samuel:

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”   (2 Samuel 11:2-5)

David’s desire for Bathsheba caused grave consequences. David attempted to get Uriah, her husband, to sleep with his wife. But Uriah would not do so while he was on military duty. David’s act of adultery would lead to another crime:

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”   (2 Samuel 11:14-15)

Adultery led to murder as David tried to coverup his sin. How could this happen? How could a man after God’s own heart do these things?

Our flesh is a very powerful force.It is a desire to gratify ourselves at the expense of others. In fact, the flesh does not even consider others. Apostle Paul write::

For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  (Romans 7:18-19)

This is not Paul writing about his days as a Pharisee. As a Pharisee Paul wrote:

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.   (Philippians 3:4-6)

As Christians, we are not exempt from the temptations of the flesh. In fact, we are in a spiritual battle with the flesh. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.   (Galatians 5:16-17)

We cannot defeat the flesh on our own strength. We are no match for it. But the flesh has been defeated already at the cross, just as sin, hell, and death have been defeated. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   (Galatians 5:22-24)

How do we crucify the flesh? We must decide to whom do we belong. We must choose the Spirit over the flesh. And we must do this daily. Jesus died for our sins on the cross once and for all. Thus he giv3w us the power to defeat sin. But we must take up our cross daily. Jesus said:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   (Luke 9:23)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord.   (1 Corinthians 15:31)

What is our desire? Each day we must choose. The Apostle Paul prayed:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.   (Ephesians 3:16-19)

God will strengthen or inner being when we pursue him.  Once we taste God’s riches in glory we will not want to choose the flesh. Let us keep seeking Jesus. We are living in the time when God is pouring out his glory on all flesh. Let Pentecost become  our Pentecost.

 

Track 2:

2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-19
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

Both the Old Testament and Gospel reading involve miraculous healings. What do they have in common? Both involve skepticism. The task of feeding so many people seemed impossible. Yet the people followed the instructions that Elisha and Jesus gave. It took an act of obedience as well as faith for God to do his miracle.

Leave a comment

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

Conversion of Saint Paul

the-conversion-of-saint-paul-bartolome-esteban-murilloFrom Darkness to Light

Saul was on the road to Damascus to arrest Christian believers. While in route he experienced one of the most dramatic conversions recorded in the Bible. In his own words:

“I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, `Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ I asked, `Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord answered, `I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles– to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ ”  (Acts 26:12-18)

Well, that was Saul. He was persecuting Christians. Do we have any zealous people in the Church today who are persecuting their fellow parishioners? Well, that is another story.

What about those who have grown-up in the Church? Do they need a conversion experience? We need to understand that the Apostle Paul did grow-up in the Church. He grew up in Judaism which was the only church in his day. The rest of the world was pagan. He was living by the rules. He was educated in the best rabbinic tradition. Here is how he described himself:

Circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.  (Philippians 3:5-6)

I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.  (Galatians 1:14)

We understand, of course, that this was the way Saul described himself before his conversion. How did he describe himself after his conversion?

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  (Romans 7:15-19)

Paul goes on to say:

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)

Conversion opened Saul’s eyes to reality. His religion had failed him. He needed more than religion. His Lord Jesus Christ did not fail him:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  (Philippians 3:7-11)

Saul became the great Apostle Paul who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament. Does his testimony speak to us today? What is our testimony? Are we merely rules enforcers or are we ambassadors for Christ? The lost in this world are counting on us give a witness to the love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul was a rules enforcer who grew to understand God’s mercy and loving kindness. He prayed for the Church in Ephesus:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.   (Ephesians 3:16-19)

SaveSave

1 Comment

Filed under Apostle Paul, Conversion of St. Paul, Epiphany, Eucharist, Feast Day, Gospel, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, Saint Paul, sermon, sermon development, St. Paul, Year B