Tag Archives: Moses

Second Sunday in Lent

The Power of the Cross

God made a covenant with Abraham which still applies to Christian believers, even to this day. Reading from Genesis:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.    (Genesis 17:1-7)

A covenant implies that both parties have conditions which must be meet. In the Abrahamic Covenant, God would bless Abraham and make him the ancestor of a multitude of nations. But God had a requirement for Abraham. God said: Walk before me, and be blameless.

What does it mean to be blameless? There was a time when the Apostle Paul claimed to be blameless. Writing in Philippians:

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)

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.   (Romans 4:13-14)

Paul writes that covenant depended upon the faith of Abraham and not on the requirements of the law of Moses:

It depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) —in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.   (Romans 4:16-25)

Abraham believed in the promises of God no matter the circumstances. His faith was unshakable. He did not allow his own desires to dictate hi actions.

Do we have the faith of Abraham today? Reading from today’s Gospel of Mark:

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”   (Mark 8:31-38)

If we are to truly follow Jesus, then we must be able to deny ourselves. We must deny ourselves. That is our cross. 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   (Galatians 5:5,17-18,24)

The law of Moses pointed out our sin, but it was powerless to help us overcome sin. Attempting to keep the law as a modern day Pharisee denies the power of the cross. The law cannot make us blameless. Only Jesus can do that through the power of the cross. Paul wrote:

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.   (Colossians 1:21-23)

Discipleship in Christ cots us something. It coasts us our lives as we know them. Abraham gave his all to God. Do we stand alongside Abraham today?

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Last Sunday after the Epiphany

Changed from Glory to Glory

The Season of the Epiphany has to do with God manifesting his presence to humankind in various ways. There were three special times recorded in the Bible when God manifested his glory. We recall the event of the children of Israel encountering God at Mount Sinai. They became afraid and were unwilling to listen to God directly. They ask Moses to listen to God and tell them what God said. Thus, Moses became the first prophet of God.

Today, we have a second time that God manifested his glory. Reading from 2 Kings:

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.   (2 Kings 2:9-12)

Elisha was in awe of the glory of God. In a way, he resembled the children of Israel in the wilderness. He became a prophet, but first he had a learning curve. When he tried to exercise his new position, he did so in a curious way we read:

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.   (2 Kings 2:13-14)

Our own relationship with God matters more than any mantel of authority we may have.

In today’s Gospel reading from Mark, we have a third remarkable example of God manifesting his glory:

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.   (Mark 9:2-8)

The two men who experienced God’s glory directly were on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented the Prophets. But only Jesus could fulfill both of them. We need to look to Jesus. We need to look upon Jesus. The Apostle wrote:

Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   (2 Corinthians 4:3-6)

We are called by God to come up to his mountain so  to speak. He wants us to experience his glory within our hearts. How do we do that? We must spend time with Jesus. We must worship him in  Spirit and in truth. Again Paul wrote:

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:17-18)

We become like the one we meditate upon and worship. Where is our heart today? Whom do we worship? Are we afraid to draw near to God? Is his glory overwhelming? Or does it beckon us to draw closer to him? We have an advantage over the children of Israel and even Elisha. we have a covering of the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for us. Was he sacrificed in vain?

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  (Collect from the Book of Common Prayer)

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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Hearing the Voice of God

Listening to the voice of God may be a challenge for some of us. It certainly was for the Children of Israel. Reading from Deuteronomy:

Moses said: The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”   (Deuteronomy 18:15-20)

Moses was ordained by God to lead his people out of bondage in Egypt into the promised land. Surely God would speak to him and through him. But would God speak to all of Israel? He did so at Horeb, but the people could not bare to hear his voice.

Why was that so? The people explained that if they did they would die. What is remarkable is that God told Moses that they were right in what they said. We read from the Book of Hebrews:

For we know the one who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.   (Hebrews 10:30-31)

Because of their fear of God they did not want to approach him. Thus God would approach them. He gave them a series of prophets, starting with Moses, who would relay God’s word to them. If they would listen to God and obey his decrees, he would bless them. When they disobeyed, they would taste a portion of his vengeance. Unfortunately, the warnings of the prophets were often not heeded.

God’s last prophet was John theBaptist, whom came in the spirit of Elijah. He ushered in God’s last Word to Israel: The Word made flesh. But who would listen to him? Who listens to him today? Before his crucifixion, Jesus stood looking over Jerusalem:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!   (Matthew 23:37)

For those who have given their heart to the Lord Jesus, the fear factor of hearing God’s voice has been removed. Their sins are remitted by the blood of Jesus. From Ephesians we read:

God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.   (Ephesians 2:4-7)

Are we listening to God today? If not, perhaps we are not aware of our heavenly position with Christ. If we do not listen to him, we will surely be listening to the wrong voice. The psalmist wrote:

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;
    their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
    or take their names upon my lips.   (Psalm 16:4)

How do we listen to God. First, we read his Holy Scripture. God speaks through his written Word. And rather than hiding from him when we sin, we need to confess it. From the Epistle of John:

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

We need to keep an open account with God. He will correct us from time to time, as written in Proverbs:

My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
    or be weary of his reproof,
for the Lord reproves the one he loves,
    as a father the son in whom he delights.   (Proverbs 3:11-12)

When we listen to the voice of God, the enemy will do everything he can to distract us. Jesus said:

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”   (Luke 11:28)

The psalmist wrote:

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly.   (Psalm 85:8)

We need more than ever the peace of the Lord in our hearts. God is speaking that to us now if we are listening. But to listen to him is to turn away from the folly of this world.

Let no one say that God does not speak to his people anymore. Let no one say that we should not hear his words. Jesus said:

“Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”   (John 8:47)

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”  (John 10:27-28)

The voice of God speaks to us on our behalf. These are the promise he made to Israel through Moses:

If you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.    (Deuteronomy 28:1-2)

Jesus said:

A woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”   (Luke 11:27-28)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

But not all have obeyed the good news;[c] for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.   (Romans 10:16-17).

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First Sunday after Christmas

The Word Became Flesh

The Gospel of John does not have an Infancy narrative as do the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Rather, John speaks of a time before the birth of the Christ Child. He writes of the One who pre-existed the world and was the very agent of all creation:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.   (John 1:1-5)

Many of His own Jewish people did not comprehend who Jesus was when they were privileged to see him in person:

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  (John 1:10-11)

Though the Gospel of John does not speak of an infancy narrative. It does speak of our infancy narrative:

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.   (John 1:12-13)

We are reborn as children of God in Jesus. The Apostle Paul writes:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.   (Galatians 4:4-7)

The remarkable thing is that the creator God entered the world of His own creation on our behalf. In Jesus, God made himself vulnerable to humankind, in order to reveal his true nature and heart:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:14)

Jesus is the word made flesh. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He loves us and is for us. Are we with him today?

The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.  (Isaiah 61:10-11)

God is counting on our testimony. We are to be living examples as children of the Almighty. Our infancy narratives are vital to the whole world.

 

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