Tag Archives: Moses

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Spiritual Blindness

Today’s Gospel reading from John illustrates the darkness and the blindness that permeates our world:

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?” Some were saying, “It is he.” Others were saying, “No, but it is someone like him.” He kept saying, “I am the man.” But they kept asking him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ Then I went and washed and received my sight.”   (John 9:1-11)

Notice that some were having trouble believing that the blind man had actually been healed. Naturally, there might be some reluctance that a man blind from birth could be given sight. Yet, even after seeing the evidence of this, some wanted to explain it away.

I remember a man who received 3rd degree burns on his face and chest. He was looking under the hood of his car and the radiator cap blew off. He was not our parishioner, but we prayed for him. In less than 24 hours he was totally healed (to God be the glory). When he testified to this miracle at his church, no one believed him. He later came to our church and gave his testimony. He just wanted to celebrate what God had done for him. But his experience did not meet the expectations of others. Does our perception ever get in the way of God’s reality?

God asked the prophet Samuel to anoint a new king in place of King Saul. He invited Jesse the Bethlehemite and his sons to a sacrifice to the Lord. God would then select one of the sons of Jesse to be Saul’s replacement. Reading from 1 Samuel:

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.”   (1 Samuel 16:6-7)

As we know, Samuel eventually anointed David, the youngest son of Jesse. Our perception does not always align with that of God’s. The danger is to be so locked in to what we believe and understand that we are unable to see beyond our perceptions.

Back to the man born blind:

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them. “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” His parents answered, “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”   (John 9:18-23)

The parents of the blind man must have understood that their son had been healed, but they were afraid to say so. For many, it is better to hold onto a reality that is accepted by others as the norm, than to believe in a reality that is actually real. This is when “group think” takes over. Our acceptance by others can rule out our independent judgement.

The rulers of the status quo will do all that they can to convince us to deny our truth and accept theirs:

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.” He answered, “I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” Then they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?” And they drove him out.   (John 9:24-34)

It is one thing to be spiritually blind, but quite another to be unwilling to see the hand of God. Facts are not allowed to get in the way of their perception. That was the Pharisees. They dismissed the man because he did not fit their narrative:

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped him. Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”   (John 9:35-41)

The Apostle Paul wrote the Church at Ephesus:

Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light — for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Sleeper, awake!
Rise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”   (Ephesians 5:8-14)

In John’s Gospel we read:

Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed.   (John 3:18-20)

Let us walk as children of the light. Let us open up our eyes and hearts to take in as much of the Spirit of the Lord as possible. We cannot grow as Christians in the dark. Jesus is calling us into his most glorious light. Our perceptions might change. We may even have to give some of our cherished beliefs. Nevertheless, this is a much better alternative to spiritual blindness. The light of Christ lasts for an eternity. The darkness of this world will soon pass away.

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Third Sunday in Lent

Living Water

Today we have the familiar story, found only in the Gospel of John, of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus is tired from his journey. He encounters the woman while he is sitting down by a well:

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”   (John 4: 7-15)

So much can be said about this event. The first sermon I ever preached was about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Each time I read this portion of John I see something new. This time I see a woman who is tired from her daily grind. The water jar was heavy and the well was very deep. She had to continually come back to the well to draw water. And to top it all off, she is bothered by this Jewish man who was interrupting her by asking a favor. Why was he even talking to her. After all, Jews did not normally even deal with Samaritans.

At times we may feel exhausted. We have been pushed beyond our limits? This is how the children of Israel must have felt. They thought they were stuck in a desert with no future. They were going to die for lack of water:

The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.    (Exodus 17:2-6)

What happened to belief in the promises of God? God has shown them signs and wonders. They had left Egypt without a sick person among them. But now they were lost and abandoned by God. Do any of us fit that category?

We need food and drink. Indeed, but life teaches us that we need more. Jesus was talking about a supernatural supply he called of living water? He is the living water. Just as Moses struck the rock at mountain of God. God, the Father, would strike him. He is our rock and our fortress. But he was wounded for our transgressions.

Jesus would soon face the cross. He was in Jerusalem, celebrating the Festival of Booths. Reading from John 6:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”  Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.   (John 7:37-39)

Jesus would pour out his Spirit into our hearts. We would be given living water. Our hearts would become a reservoir of supernatural supply. But first he had to be glorified on the cross to atone for all our sins.

Have we been filled by Jesus or are we letting religion get in the way? When Jesus gently confronted the Samaritan w0man concerning her sin, this is how the conversation went:

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”   (John 4:16-24)

The woman first retreat to religion. Does she cling to it in defense? Without our traditions we are free to look at the deep truths of God. Fortunately she raised her heartfelt question:

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”   (John 4:25-26)

Where do we stand today? Have we runout of our own resources? If so we have an alternative. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman:

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”   (John 4:10)

Do we know about the gift of the Holy Spirit? If so, have we asked Jesus? Perhaps we have, but let us keep asking him. Jesus is the giver of the gift. In this gift we find the rest we are looking for us. Indeed, it will be in us a spring of water gushing up to eternal life. The psalmist wrote:

Harden not your hearts,
as your forebears did in the wilderness,
at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,
when they tempted me.

They put me to the test,
though they had seen my works.

Forty years long I detested that generation and said,
“This people are wayward in their hearts;
they do not know my ways.”

So I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter into my rest.”   (Psalm 95:8-11)

God wants us to enter into his rest today, and every day. Thanks be to God who gives us living water through Christ our Lord.

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Last Sunday after Epiphany

Come up to the Mountain

The psalmist wrote:

O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.   (Psalm 43:3)

Moses received a call from God to come to his holy hill:

The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”   (Exodus 24:12)

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain.   (Exodus 24:15-18)

Jesus received a similar call:

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”    (Matthew 17:1-5)

Martin Luther King received a call to come up to the mountain. In his last speech he exclaimed:

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

There is glory on the mountain – God’s glory. A person is changed on the mountain of God. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.   (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

The mountain top experience is not about our agenda. It is a divine appointment to hear the plan of God for our lives that conforms to his purpose. We are not called to celebrate our mountain top experiences or to boast about them. We are called rather to receive guidance and strength to do what would otherwise be impossible.

We have to come back down to the mountain to face the challenges ahead. Moses came down to witness a full-fledged mutiny. The Rev. King came down to face assassination. Jesus came down to fact the cross. The mountain top does not shelter us from tribulation. It prepares us to follow our Lord at any cost.

But God calls only extraordinary people to come up to this mountain. No! Mose, Peter, James, John, and Martin Luther King were ordinary people who answered an extraordinary call. Call is calling us as well.

There is a day coming when everyone who desires will be able to hear directly from God. Isaiah prophesied:

Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.   (Isaiah 2:3)

This prophecy has to do about the millennial reign of Christ. Until that day, we must soldier on in a fallen world that desperately needs to hear a message from God that he has given us to speak. But first we must be willing to come up to the mountain of the Lord. He is calling us. The psalmist wrote:

Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God
and worship him upon his holy hill;
for the Lord our God is the Holy One.   (Psalm 99:9)

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Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Choose Life

How serious is it for us to faithfully keep the commandments of God? For the Children of Israel it was a matter of life and death. Before they entered the promised land, Moses gave them this warning:

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.  (Deuteronomy 30:15-18)

This is the God of the Old Testament we might be thinking. Surely the God of the New Testament would not sound so severe? Let us examine some of the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount contained in today’s Gospel:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.   (Matthew 5:27-30)

Does Jesus sound any less severe? Sin and death or righteousness and life. We have a choice. We can choose one or the other. Our choice is all important.

If we have to rely only on our human nature then we are lost. The Apostle Paul warned:

Brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh.   (1 Corinthians 3:1-2)

Our human nature often does not want solid food. That was true for the Church in Corinth. They were caught up in jealousy and quarreling. Paul continues:

For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

The Church in Corinth had gotten off track. They were arguing over who was the true apostle. Do we not argue over which church is the true church? Let us concern ourselves over who can give the growth. God will do his part to help us, but we must do our part. We must seek him above all else. He has given his Son Jesus to wipe away our sins and the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. A part from him we can do nothing good.

God warns the Israelites and all of us by his word given through Moses:

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.   (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

We cannot choose life without seeking the God of life. We must seek his word daily. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask: “Give us this day our daily prayer.” Jesus said:

‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”   (Matthew 4:4)

The psalmist wrItes:

With my whole heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.
I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes.
With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth.
I delight in the way of your decrees
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts,
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.   (Psalm 119:10-16

We must seek the aid of the Holy Spirit as well. The Apostle Paul writes;

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.   (Romans 8:2-6)

Worldly people do not struggle with sin, only the disciples of Jesus Christ. He is at our side to help us. Let us choose life!

Happy are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!

Happy are they who observe his decrees
and seek him with all their hearts!   (Psalm 119:1-2)

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