Tag Archives: ministry

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 13

Track 1: Wrestling with God

Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 17:1-7,16
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:13-21

Jacob was on his way home, getting ready to face his brotherEsau. In today’s Gospel reading we pick up on the story:

The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.   (Genesis 32:22-31)

Jacob’s wrestling was a physical one with God. He was just getting to know God on a more spiritual level. We remember Job from the Old Testament. His wrestling was a more spirirual one. Job stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries in terms of righteousness. Yet Job was under a severe test. He had lost everything that he had owned and even his body was inflicted with loathsome sores. Job did never cursed God as Satan had said he would. But he could not understand why he was experiencing such pain and loss. God’s answer was a surprise:

And the Lord said to Job:

“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
Anyone who argues with God must respond.”

Then Job answered the Lord:

“See, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?
I lay my hand on my mouth.
I have spoken once, and I will not answer;
twice, but will proceed no further.”   (Job 40:1-5)

Have we ever been faultfinders with God? Life does not always seem fair. We may wonder why God has allowed us to undergo certain tribulations or persecutions, although Jesus warned this disciples that they would come.

Ultimately,Job achieved a breakthrough with God:

Then Job answered the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you declare to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”   (Job 42:1-6)

Our wrestling with God will change us. It will not leave us in the same condition before the encounter. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel. His hip was put out of joint. But he was able to meet his brother Esau, and receive his forgiveness. What is more telling is how he settled in Cannan:

Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram; and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for one hundred pieces of money the plot of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.   (Genesis 33:18-20).

For Jacob, now Israel, the God of Abraham and Isaac had become the God of Israel.

Where do we stand with God today? He is the creator of the universe and the God and Father of us all. But is he our God? If we do not give up, if we keep on wrestling with God, he will bless us. Jacob and Job did not give up  They came to know God on a much deeper level. That is where God wants to meet us. He loves us so much.

“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)

 

 

Track 2; Loaves and Fishes

Isaiah 55:1-5
Psalm 145: 8-9, 15-22
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:13-21

In today’s Gospel reading we have the feeding of the five thousand:

Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.   (Matthew 14:13-21)

Notice that Jesus asked his disciples to do something that was impossible for them. He said: “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” When God calls us to do something we know it is of God when it is beyond our means to do it. God called Moses to do the impossible. He asked him to go and lead the children of Israel into the Promised Land. Moses was afraid that no one would believe:

“But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw the staff on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses drew back from it. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Reach out your hand, and seize it by the tail”—so he reached out his hand and grasped it, and it became a staff in his hand — “so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.”   (Exodus 4:1-5)

To Moses his staff was just a rod, to God it was an instrument for miracles. If we wish to do ministry we must begin somewhere. God asks us to begin with whatever we find in our hands. Say, for instance, you are a carpenter. You want to do something in the name of Jesus for the sake of the Gospel. Perhaps you could help build houses for the poor and homeless. This could be monumental task.Habitat for Humanity had a very small and humble beginning. But look how God has blessed this ministry.

The Prophet Zechariah had a vision:

The angel who talked with me came again, and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep. He said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it; there are seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And by it there are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” Then the angel who talked with me answered me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” He said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts. What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring out the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!

Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel.   (Zechariah 4:1-10)

We should not despise small beginnings. Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.

All of us have limitations, but God is not limited. When we work in partnership with him, when we put our trust in him, when we believe what he is telling us, when we exercise our faith, all things are possible.

The psalmist wrote:

The Lord is near to those who call upon him,
to all who call upon him faithfully.

He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and helps them.

The Lord preserves all those who love him,
but he destroys all the wicked.

My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord;
let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.   (Psalm 145:19-22)

Let us begin any ministry with praise to God. Let us call upon him for help and support. Let us listen carefully to what he tells us todo. Jesus gave his disciples instructions. When they followed them five thousand men, besides women and children, were fed.

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Saint Barnabas

Son of Encouragement

Today we celebrate the life and ministry of Saint Barnabas, the traveling companion of the Apostle Paul. He was more than a traveling companion. Barnabas was largely responsible for encouraging Paul to undertake an active ministry in the first place.

We know about Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. We know that Jesus Himself called Paul into ministry. Nonetheless, Paul was not easily accepted as an apostle of Jesus by the leadership in Jerusalem. He had been persecuting the Church. Barnabas, however, looked at Paul through the eyes of Christ. He rescued Paul and presented him to the apostles, testifying that Paul was indeed a true believer. This was typical of Barnabas. His name meant “son of encouragement.”

Barnabas was chosen along with Paul for a special mission:

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.   (Acts 13:1-3)

This was the beginning of the great mission to the Gentiles. Barnabas and Paul were willing to travel without special requirements or treatment. They endured great hardships for the Gospel. They were willing to follow the instructions which Jesus gave His disciples concerning the conduct of ministry:

Jesus said to the twelve, “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.   (Matthew 10:7-10)

What can we learn from Barnabas about our own ministry? He did not care what others thought or said about Paul. He listened only to what God was telling him. He wanted the praises and approval of God more than that of human beings.

A positive attitude is helpful. Prayer and fasting is preparation. The support of a community is vital and of absolute necessity. A willingness to be set apart by the Holy Spirit for ministry directed by God and not by our own desires. Perhaps this last one is the most difficult. The Holy Spirit may lead us into difficult places where we must rely solely on God.

We may not be asked by God to leave home and job. We may, however, be asked to give up some of our cherished beliefs about ministry. We may be asked to leave our comfort zones. We may be required to work with others who are not on the approved list. We might just be called to offer encouragement and support to others in their ministry. God is still calling his Barnabas’s.

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Saint Joseph

Faithful Stewardship

King David wanted to build a permanent house for God. By the Prophet Samuel, God promised David that through David’s offspring he would, himself, build David a permanent house:

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.  (2 Samuel 7:12-16)

This house would be a lasting kingdom on the earth in which God would rule. God is the builder of this house. It is build upon the rock, Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, Nonetheless, faithful people would be needed to be the building blocks.

Joseph was a carpenter. He was not a rich man. He was a husband and a father. He was known in his village, but his recognition probably did not extend much beyond it. He was devout as many good Jews were in his day. He cared for his family and was a faithful in following the Jewish traditions and customs. He lived for a season and then he passed away. Yet Joseph had a great deal to do with the building of the permanent house of David.

Joseph was a descendant of David. He was part of a very significant chain of events. He was given a commission by God the Father to be the earthly father and guardian of His beloved Son. Not fully understanding what God was asking him, Joseph accepted this commission. He accepted it under what, for him, were difficulty circumstances. Mary was already pregnant before Joseph married her. This would have been a disgrace in Judaism. He was asked to believe that her pregnancy was an act of God, something that was unheard. Joseph believed God and faithfully carried out his commission.

We, too, are part of an ongoing chain of events. We, too, have been given a commission by God. We, like Joseph, are often required to make difficult choices. Faith, courage, and a trust in God are required. Life will test us. There will be obstacles and distractions. We will prevail only with God’s help.

What God asks us to do has great significance. We are part of an eternal plan of God. What we do now may seem fleeting or temporary. Nonetheless, God has established a permanent Kingdom that will not pass away. Our life and ministry are very much apart of that Kingdom. What we do now is recorded in heaven. We may not understand the significance of what might seem like unimportant events, but we will when all is revealed to us. In the meantime, God needs us to be faithful. Let us take courage and follow the example of Joseph.

The psalmist wrote:

Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing;
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
‘I will establish your line for ever,
and preserve your throne for all generations.'”  (Psalm 89:1-4)

Joseph was an ordinary carpenter. But no one is insignificant in the eternal plan of God. Let us step into the ministry to which God has called us. One of our greatest ministries is watching over our children and bringing them up in the knowledge of the Lord. We are reminded of this injunction from the Old Testament:

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.   (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

Joseph was given the high assignment of becoming that earthly guardian of our Lord Jesus Christ. This he did faithfully.

Lord, help us to follow the faithful example of Joseph in our day. The house of God is still being built. Will we be one of those faithful building blocks and will our children who follow us?

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