Tag Archives: narrow gate

Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 26B

Track 1: The Family of God

Ruth 1:1-18
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34

Today we begin a look into the life of Ruth, an ancestor of King David, and later that of Jesus of Nazareth. We read from the Book of Ruth:

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.   (Ruth 1:1-5)

A childless widow was tone of the most disadvantaged classes in the ancient world. There was no one to support you, and you had to live on the generosity of strangers. Naomi had no family in Moab, and no one else to help her. She was in a desperate situation.

We have been talking about the importance of the family unit as a building block of our society, But in the case of Naomi there was no more family. She thought it best to return to the land of Judah without her daughters-in-law. So she encouraged them to return to their families so that they might be able to find new husbands. Ruth did not want to do this. Again reading from Ruth:

Naomi said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said,

“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!

Where you go, I will go;
Where you lodge, I will lodge;

your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.

Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.

May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,

if even death parts me from you!”

When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.   (Ruth 1:15-18)

From Ruth’s point of view it would seem that she might have a better future if she stayed in Moab with her family. Naomi faced an unknown future with few guarantees. Why would she want to follow Naomi? Perhaps she realized that Naomi had something that her own family did not have. Perhaps she knew that it would be better to cling to Naomi and her God than to return to her people and their gods.

While one’s personal family is important it is not as important as joining the family of God. There was a time early in Jesus’ ministry where his family apparently wanted to stop him from doing his ministry. From Mark’s Gospel we read:

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”   (Mark 3:31-35)

Doing the will of God is all important. Reading from today’s Old Testament lesson:

Moses said: Now this is the commandment–the statutes and the ordinances–that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children, may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.   (Deuteronomy 6:1-3)

The blessings of God are received through obedience. It is more important to be in the family of God than our own families. In fact, it has been prophesied that families will turn against themselves. She said:

Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.   (Mark 13:12-13)

We are entering those last days. We need the support of the family of God. We need to lend our support to those who are being persecuted because of their faith. Let us take courage because God is with us.

 

 

 

Track 2: The Commandments and the Kingdom

Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Psalm 119:1-8
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34

Many scribes and Pharisees were asking Jesus questions in order to trick him or to trip him up. In today’s Gospel reading that does not appear to be the case:

One of the scribes came near and heard the

disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”   (Mark 12:28-34)

Jesus perceived this scribe was sincere. The scribe understood how important the commandments of God were. How seriously do we take those commandments today? Moses warned the children of Israel to take them seriously:

Moses said: Now this is the commandment–the statutes and the ordinances–that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children, may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.   (Deuteronomy 6:1-3)

We remember what happened to the children of Israel. They lost their way in the wilderness. Many people today, including church goers, have lost their way. Perhaps we as parents, mentors, and church leaders are, at least, partly responsible. Our young people are bombarded by the media with practically everything that is opposed to the faith.

God saw this forming and he gave Moses the remedy:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.   (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

We are to teach our children the commandments of God and not rely on others to do so. We are to take every opportunity during at our disposal. The media is taking opportunity to do otherwise. The way of the world has become the culture. The world makes so many empty promises. Sooner or later we discover that we have been lied to, In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus said:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.   (Matthew 7:13-14)

Our eternal life is at stake. Nonetheless, the joy we find in this life is tied to the commandments of God. The psalmist wrote:

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)

The scribe in today’s Gospel reading was not far from the Kingdom. We want to be as close the the Kingdom as possible. Jesus is the way. He is the gate that is narrow. Let us enter into him and steer as many people as possible to him, especially our families. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year B

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 10B

Track 1: Set Free in Christ

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Psalm 24
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:14-29

It was a time of great celebration. The Ark of the Covenant was at one time in the hands of the Philistines, but now King David had rescued it and having it carried into Jerusalem for the first time. David was so joyous that he was dancing before the Ark. But not everyone was celebrating. From the Second Mood of Samuel we read:

David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.   (2 Samuel 6:12-16)

The glory of God radiated from the Ark of the Covenant. David’s wife Michal did not see the glory. She saw her husband the King acting in an undignified way. He was not conforming to the accepted norms of the day.

The Apostle Paul wrote about conforming to this world:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.   ().

David had little awareness of what was going on around him that day. He was celebrating the presence of the glory of God.

We are treated to the wonderful Davidic psalm today:

Lift up your heads, O gates;
lift them high, O everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.

“Who is this King of glory?”
“The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.”

Lift up your heads, O gates;
lift them high, O everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.   (Psalm 24:7-9)

David knew the Lord as the King of Glory. He was in love with an awesome God, a God of majesty and glory. And David also realized that we are invited by God to partake of his glory. Paul wrote about the honor of being selected to live in the glory of God:

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.   (Ephesians 1:11-14)

When we attend a sporting event do we get emotionally excited by the play and for our team? No one needs to tell us when to cheer and when not to cheer. If it is alright to become emotional at a sporting event, why are we not allowed to cheer and celebrate the glory of God. At a sporing event we may have a passion for the game. David had a passion for God.

God is calling us into a passionate relationship with him. He is calling us out of this world. We may still be living in the world but Jesus said that we would not be of this world. Our present world has put us in an emotional straight jacket, so to speak. We must say and do this. We cannot say and do that. Many will despise our passion for God. They will despise our lively praise and worship. God does not despise us. He loves us and wants to share his love with us. Do we want to get to know him as David did?

Which do we choose – listening to God or the falsehood of this world – eternal life or eternal damnation? Paul wrote to the church in Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.   (Galatians 1:3-5)

 

 

Track 2: Truth or Self Justification?

Amos 7:7-15
Psalm 85:8-13
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:14-29

Today we read about King Herod who allowed himself to be placed in a difficult position. He has arrest John the Baptist. He liked to listen to him preach. He knew that there was something special about John, but now he was forced to make a difficult and unpleasant decision. From today’s Gospel we read:

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother.   (Mark 6:17-28)

Herod beheaded John the Baptist even when he knew it was wrong. Why did he do it? Perhaps he did not want to lose face. He made a promise and his guests might be upset if he did not keep it. He did not want to look bad in front of others so he did something very bad. Does the world dictate our behavior today? It does if we need to justify ourselves. We may need the approval of others to feel that we are accepted. This is the trick of the Devil, of course. He tells that we will not be accepted unless we do certain things. And then when we do those things he accused us for doing them.

There is no real peace in the world. We cannot really get approval from the world. Justification and approval comes from God alone through the blood of Jesus Christ.

To whom are we listening? The psalmist wrote:

I will listen to what the Lord God is saying,
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.

Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

Mercy and truth have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring up from the earth,
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.   (Psalm 85:8-11)

We have a choice to make. Do we listen to the world around us and value what people will say, or do we listen to God. One way leads to destruction and the other way leads to eternal life in God’s heavenly kingdom. In his sermon on the mount Jesus clearly explained our choices:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”   (Matthew 7:13-14)

What advantage do we gain for doing what the world considers correct when it is actually wrong. God determines truth and correctness. His way is correct. Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” If we choose his way, truth will spring up from the earth. We will understand what is right and what is wrong. Moreover, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. But we must first chose him over this world

At a time of great falsehoods how much we need the truth today! The truth is that God loves us and that he has approved us because he has taken all our sins away. They were nailed to the cross of his Son Christ Jesus.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Leave a comment

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