Tag Archives: Pharisees

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 25

Track 1: From Generation to Generation

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

The psalmist wrote:

Lord, you have been our refuge
from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born,
from age to age you are God.

You turn us back to the dust and say,
“Go back, O child of earth.”

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past
and like a watch in the night.   (Psalm 90:1-4)

God is a generational God. He has plans our lives from day to da.He also has a generational plan for our lives as well. He sees the short term, but he also sees in the long term. He delivered the children of Israel from captivity and bondage in Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Generations before he promised Abraham a homeland. God was now delivering on this promise. From todays Old Testament reading:

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)

Moses had completed his assignment. Now it was time to pass the baton to a new generation:

Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses.   (Deuteronomy 34:9)

Joshua would lead the children of Israel into the promise land. He had been trained under Moses. But most importantly, the hand of God was upon him. God always ensures that he has the next leader prepared to step in. But that leader must be willing to endure suffering and trials.

From generation to generation God was unfolding his plan for salvation of Israel and the entire human race. Moving forward several generations we see how God’s plan was coming into focus. The religious leaders during Jesus’ earthly ministry, however, failed to understand what God was doing. They did everything in their power to derail God’s plan. They were asking Jesus questions to trip Jesus up. But they were not ready for Jesus to question them. From today’s Gospel reading:

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)

Jesus was telling the Pharisees that God’s plan for humanity began far earlier than King David and extended into a future that would never end. Through Nathan the prophet God promised David:

“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before you forever. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:12 13,16)

The Pharisees were too short sighted. God was unfolding his plan before them, but they were stuck on themselves. God’s plan for salvation began long before David, long before Abraham. It began at the very beginning of creation. We read in the Book of Revelation that Jesus was the the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). The psalmist wrote:

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,

One generation shall laud your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.

All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
and tell of your power,
to make known to all people your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.   (Psalm 145::3-13)

We may now be living in the last generation. How do we fit into God’s plan? Are we stuck on ourselves? Are we blind to what the Lord is doing? What is our task?

Will we speak of the glory of God’s kingdom? Will we tell of his power, to make known to all people his mighty deeds? Will we tell gospel of Jesus others about God’s everlasting kingdom? God’s generation plan has come down to us. Are we not to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ until he comes again? We may need a  wider vision. We may need a longer timeline, onet hat extends throughout all eternity.

 

 

Track 2; You Shall Be Holy

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

What does the Lord require of us? Reading from Leviticus:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.   (Leviticus 19:1-2)

What does it mean that God is holy? The Hebrew word for holy is Kodesh (קודש). It means set apart for a specific purpose. God has created the world, but he is greater than his creation. Israel was set apart by God from the other nations of the world to be a kingdom of priests.

What does it mean that we should be holy? We are to be set apart from the world as servants of God. He is of a much higher level than we are, but he wants to raise us up to dwell with him.. We cannot achieve this level on our own. God says to us:

Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.   (Leviticus 20:7-8)

How does this happen? The psalmist wrote:

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;
everything they do shall prosper.   (Psalm 1:1-3)

The most powerful way to effect this change is by letting the Word of God dwell in us richly:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.   (Colossians 3:16

When we embrace scripture without reservation, it will energetically work God’s will in uz. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.  (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

God’s word is working inus, but we must cooperate.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 24

Track 1: Show Me Your Glory

Exodus 33:12-23
Psalm 99
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

There was a point in the wilderness when God threatened to send the children of Israel on their journey without his presence. Moses interceded for Israel, telling God that he could not go on without God’ presence. He implored God:

“If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”   (Exodus 33:15-16)

Moses understood that, without God, he could not lead the children of Israel. In fact, we read in scripture how humble Moses was. God responded to him:

The Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” And the Lord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”   (Exodus 33:17-23)

Moses had found with God. He had a relationship with God. As an intercessor for Israel, he would boldly go before the throne of God. This was not done out of pride, but out of concern for others. In fact, the scriptures tells us this:

Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth.  (Numbers 12:3)

Where do we stand in our relationship with God. Are we prideful? Are we humble? Can we go boldly before the throne of God to seek his help? Jesus, by his blood, has opened a door for us that Moses did not have. Are we willing to walk through it?

Yes, God has done a great work, but there are still some requirements on our part to enter his presence. The psalmist wrote:

Proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God
and fall down before his footstool;
he is the Holy One.

Moses and Aaron among his priests,
and Samuel among those who call upon his Name,
they called upon the Lord, and he answered them.

He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud;
they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave them.

O Lord our God, you answered them indeed;
you were a God who forgave them,
yet punished them for their evil deeds.

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 99:5-9)

The children of Israel were only interested in the hand of God. Moses spoke to God face to face. We can be a type of Moses if we put the needs of others before our own. If I am to have the humility of Moses, I must consider others better than myself and look out for their interests (Philippians 2:3). We can be a type of Moses if we humble ourselves before God, when we acknowledge that we cannot accomplish anything without his help.

We can have a close fellowship with God when we proclaim the greatness of the Lord our God and worship him, When we seek God with all our hearts, when we please God by our actions, God will reveal himself to us in new and deeper ways. Let our prayer be: Show us your glory. It is not about u. It is all about God

 

 

Track 2: Church and State

Isaiah 45:1-7
Psalm 96:1-9, (10-13)
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

God spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah:

“For my people are foolish,
    they do not know me;
they are stupid children,
    they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil,
    but do not know how to do good.”   (Jeremiah 4:22)

The most incredible thing about the nature of evil is the level of ignorance that seems to accompany it. The Pharisees proved this many times as they did in today’s Gospel reading:

The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.   ()

Government authorities have used the game of church and state intimidate and confuse believers. Jesus would have none of it. There is no separation between church and state in God’s mind. God is Lord of both church and state. Mary, the mother of Jesus, said in her song of praise:

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly.   (Luke 1:52)

God raised up Cyrus, king of Persia, to restore the nation of Israel

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped

to subdue nations before him
and strip kings of their robes,

to open doors before him–
and the gates shall not be closed:

I will go before you and level the mountains,

I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,

I will give you the treasures of darkness
and riches hidden in secret places,

so that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.

For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,

I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me.

I am the Lord, and there is no other;
besides me there is no god.
I arm you, though you do not know me,

so that they may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is no one besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.   (Isaiah 45:1-6)

Cyrus was no Sunday school teacher. Yet he was anointed by God for a specific purpose. Clever government officials and politicians would have us believe that God has no hand n government. He has the whole world in his hands. Perhaps it is tme for us to be less clever and more in tune with the purposes of God.

“For my people are foolish,
    they do not know me;
they are stupid children,
    they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil,
    but do not know how to do good.”   (Jeremiah 4:22)

Do we know how to do good? We cannot even know what is good until we know the Lord.

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Tuesday in Holy Week

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Children of the Light

Holy Week reminds us of the contrast between darkness and light. Darkness was all around Jesus but He continued to radiate the love of God. The message that He wanted to convey to His disciples was that they should choose the light over darkness:

Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”  (John 12:35-36)

We have been called  by Jesus to walk as children of the light. Young children are often open and trusting, particularly if they are raised in a loving environment. When we get older we become more aware of our shortcomings and we want to hide them. We don’t want others to see through us because we know that we are not altogether pure. The Pharisees made it a practice of diverting the gaze of others from them by compounding rules that others would not be able to keep. They created darkness to obscure that fact that they were not walking in the light themselves.

While we have Jesus we should walk in Him. He extends His hand to us but we must grasp it. Though He warned the Pharisees they would not listen. There might be a time when we do not have Jesus. All anyone can attempt to do without Him is a coverup. Yet darkness is only a temporary solution. Ultimately, it is no solution at all. Why should we depend upon deception when we can depend upon God?

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”  (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

Notice the order in which God works in us: Wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. These are steps through which God takes us as we respond to him.

God’s light does not come through our good deeds. Our light is a gift and a promise which God made through the Prophet Isaiah:

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”   (Isaiah 49:6)

Jesus is the light of the world. He is our salvation. Are we open to Him as a little child would be, or are we hiding in the darkness of our own making? Let our prayer be the one of today’s psalms:

In you, O Lord, I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
    incline your ear to me and save me.   (Psalm 71:1-2)

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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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