Tag Archives: Pentecost

First Sunday of Advent: Year B

Tear Open the Heavens and Come Down

We begin a new liturgical year this Sunday. We start with a new season – Advent. Advent is a time of preparation. Others may rush into Christmas with all the early shopping and decorating, but let us spend the time to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child.

Are we in trouble as a nation today? The psalmist of old was aware that the nation of Israel needed God’s help. He prayed:

Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;
shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,
stir up your strength and come to help us.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.   (Psalm 80:1-3)

The Prophet Isaiah realized that Israel had forsaken their God. He prayed:

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence —

as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil —

to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!   (Isaiah 64:1-3)

For Israel, God dwelled behind a curtain within the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Only the high priest could enter and that was once a year in order to make the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people. The enlightened Prophet Isaiah knew there must be more. He wanted God to be strongly present all the time. His prayer was ultimately answered with the birth of Jesus. God did tear open the heavens and come down. God came in the flesh and dwelt among us. The Apostle John writes in the preamble of his Gospel:

The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.   (John 1:14)

There was another tearing of the heavens when Jesus hung on the cross. God removed the requirement of the annual atoning sacrifice made by the high priest when Jesus became that atoning sacrifice once and for all. At the moment of his death the curtain in front of the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. God opened the way for all of us to experience his presence. This was preface to God pouring out his Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

God wants intimate fellowship with us. He is waiting on us. Are we too busy? Are we too distracted by the things of this world. He did not go to such great lengths on our behalf only to have us sit idly by.

We are living in very dark times. Only Christ can break through the current darkness that surrounds us. Jesus warned his disciples that this such a time would come:

Jesus said, “In those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.   (Mark 13:24-27)

How are we to prepare for the coming of Christ in glory. We need a spiritual revival in our churches, our nation, and in our own hearts. This must be our focus. This must be our prayer.

The Apostle Peter was on the Mount of Transfiguration when he saw a glimpse of Jesus in his glory. He writes:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.   (2 Peter 1:16-19)

Though we are living in dark times we are to keep the lamp of God shining in our hearts for the world to see. Advent is a time for us the fan the flames of this lamp. Let us echo the psalmist’s prayer: “Stir up your strength and come to help us.”

When God tears open the heavens and come down one more time, will we be ready?

 

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Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost Proper 25A

Track 1: From Disobedience to Obedience

Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

It must have been a sad day for Moses:

Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”   (Deuteronomy 34:1-4)

An act of disobedience kept Moses from entering of the promise land. Yet he also had reason to rejoice. By his leadership the children of Israel were led out of Egypt. With his help they survived in the wilderness. Before we become to hard on Moses let us be reminded of what Moses accomplished with God’s help:

Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.   (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)

Moses, along with Elijah, was on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. As important as he is, he cannot compare to the Messiah. In Hebrews we read:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling, consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses also “was faithful in all God’s house.” Yet Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken later. Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope.   (Hebrews 3:1-5)

Moses helped pave the way for the Messiah. Through Moses the Law was given, yet through Jesus the Law was fulfilled. That is something the Pharisees did not understand nor did they want to understand.

Jesus knew their hearts. When he raised a very significant question concerning Judaism, they were unwilling to explore the matter of the Messiah with him:

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.   (Matthew 22:41-46)

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were a proud group. They wanted to define Judaism on their own terms. How many of us want to do the same today? We are about ready to enter a promised land that will last for eternity. There is no entrance into this land without the Messiah leading us. He is our Moses. Are we willing to follow him in all circumstances?

The Apostle Peter:

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”   (Acts 4:12)

Moses did not enter the promised land because of his disobedience, but he made a way for the children of Israel to do so. Unlike Moses, Jesus was obedient in every respect. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.   (Philippians 2:5-8)

Jesus entered the kingdom of God through the cross. He has proven himself to be the way. He has gone before us. He has risen from the dead so that we, too, may be raised up to newness of life in him.

 

 

Track 2: Son of Man and Son of God

Leviticus 19:1-2,15-18
Psalm 1
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus asks a theological question that resonates down to this day. It was so deep and so revealing that the Pharisees refused to answer it:

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.   (Matthew 22:41-46)

What is at steak here? The Messiahship, the Holy Trinity, the authority of Christ, the identity of Christ, the purpose of Christ, or all of the above. God had a made a promise to King David that one of his descendants would have an eternal throne. David’s kingdom would never cease. How was this to take place?

On the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter’s sermon shed great light on the subject of Messiah. Peter explained that King David, because he was a prophet, spoke of the resurrection of one of his descendants:

“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,

‘He was not abandoned to Hades,
    nor did his flesh experience corruption.’

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
     until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah this Jesus whom you crucified.”   (Acts 2:32-36)

By the resurrection, God the Father made Jesus, the descendant of David, both Lord and Messiah. Jesus became Lord. Some scholars have argues that this statement goes against the Holy Trinity in that Jesus was not always Lord. How could someone who descended from David be Lord of David when he had not yet been resurrected from the dear?

The statement: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool”’ plays a key role. Translating from the Hebrew, the first Lord in the statement is Yahweh, God the Father. God the Father spoke to someone who was already Lord of King David.

To understand the role of the Messiah, we need to understand his dual nature. The Apostle Paul explains this very well in the first chapter of Romans:

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,   (Romans 1:1-6)

Although Jesus was descended from David by the flesh, another element was also involved. Jesus was born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit. Before his birth on earth he was the Son of God. John’s Gospel makes this very clear:

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)

If Jesus was Lord in heaven, why did he have to become Lord again by the resurrection? Because when he came to earth he emptied himself of his divinity. The Apostle Paul writes:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.   (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus is both Son of God and Son of Man. Jesus question to the Pharisees was more than a Christological exercise. It has everything to do with our understanding of the Messiah. Jesus lived and died as one of us. He understands us and intercedes for us before the Father.

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,

“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”   (Hebrews 2:10-12)

David’s Lord is our Lord. Are we ready to put our full trust in him? He has proven himself to both God and man. He is waiting to prove that we are his brothers and sisters before the Father in heaven, but we must follow him. He has gone before us to pave the way and show us that he is the way. Amen.

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St. Luke, Evangelist

The Work of an Evangelist

Luke was a physician, but he was also an exceptional writer and historian. It is wonderful to see such talent harnessed for God’s purposes. His example should inspire all of us to use our gifts and talents to their maximum effect in service of our Lord.

The Apostle Paul wrote to his protegé Timothy:

As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.   (2 Timothy 4:5)

Luke understood the work of an evangelist. His whole Gospel was tailored to present the narrative of Jesus in an orderly and effective way. In his prologue to the Book of Acts he explains his purpose in writing the third Gospel:

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  (Acts 1:1-3)

Luke was a Greco-Syrian physician who lived in the Greek city of Antioch in Ancient Syria. He wrote from a non-Jewish perspective while Matthew wrote his Gospel from a decided Jewish perspective. Matthew emphasized that Jesus came to fulfill and clarify Mosaic Law. Luke emphasized that Jesus came to fulfill the Kingdom of God. We need both perspectives. Fortunately, Luke made the Gospel of Jesus Christ accessible to all people. Inasmuch as he was a traveling companion to the Apostle Paul it is easy to understand his point of view.

Luke stressed the work of the Holy Spirit both in his Gospel and in the Book of Acts. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit:

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  (Luke 4:14-21)

Luke makes it clear that we should be anointed with the Holy Spirit as well. Such an anointing is required to do the work of an evangelist. In the beginning of the Book of Acts, he writes about the baptism with the Holy Spirit which Jesus imparted to all of His disciples:

Jesus appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 1:3-5)

The word from Luke to all of us is “get anointed and get going for the Gospel.”

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