Tag Archives: prophecy

The Season of Pentecost

The Jewish festival of Shavuot (Hebrew: שבועות‎, lit. “Weeks”) is one of three main annual pilgrimage festivals in the Judaism. It commemorates God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai and it also celebrates the conclusion of the grain harvest in Israel. The date of Shavuot is directly linked to the celebration of the Jewish Passover. The grain harvest began with the harvesting of the barley during Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Shavuot. The time in between was seven weeks or fifty days. This time frame also represents the time between Israel’s Exodus from Egypt until the giving of the Law at Sinai.

Pentecost is a major feast day of the Christian liturgical year. It roughly coincides with the Jewish festival of Shavuot. This is not coincidental. Just as Easter is the prophetic fulfillment of Passover, Pentecost is the prophetic fulfillment of Shavuot. The two feasts, Shavuot and Pentecost, have much in common, both historically and spiritually.

During the celebration of Shavuot the Jewish people were reminded of God’s Law:

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.   (Deuteronomy. 8:3-4)

Often Jewish participants would spend all night during Shavuot studying the Torah. They would read significant portions of the Torah aloud.

Pentecost has to do with God’s Law as well. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote of a time that the Law would come in a new way:

But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.  (Jeremiah 31:33)

This is what happens to us when the Holy Spirit comes upon us as it did on the Day of Pentecost for the early disciples. Jesus said that He came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). It is the action of the Holy Spirit to bring us more into alignment with God’s Law. We cannot keep the Law by our own efforts, but we can yield to the Holy Spirit whom Jesus said would lead us into all truth and make alive His teachings.

Pentecost is not simply a static day of celebration of the historical birth of the Christian Church. Surely it marked the beginning of the Church. As with Shavuot for the Jewish people, Pentecost is a time for us to reflect upon God’s Word, allowing the Spirit to renew our zeal for both the Law and the Gospel.

The Season of Pentecost is the longest season of the liturgical year. The Sundays following Pentecost and extending up to the beginning of the new liturgical year in Advent are filled with readings concerning Christian growth. To live in Christ one must grow in the Faith. Spiritual stagnation could ultimately lead to spiritual death and a forsaking of God’s Holy Law.

During the season after Pentecost, there are two tracks each week for Old Testament readings. Within each track, there is a Psalm chosen to accompany the particular lesson.

Track 1 of Old Testament readings  follows major stories and themes, read mostly continuously from week to week. In Year A we begin with Genesis, in Year B we hear some of the great monarchy narratives, and in Year C we read from the later prophets.

Track 2 follows the Roman Catholic tradition of thematically pairing the Old Testament reading with the Gospel reading.

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Filed under lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin

Standing on the Promises of God

Mary, the mother of Jesus, visited her cousin Elizabeth who was also with child. When the child in Elizabeth’s womb hears Mary’s voice he leaps for joy. This child is John the Baptist. This moment of celebration brings joy to Mary and she prophesies:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.   (Luke 1:47-55)

What is remarkable about Mary and Elizabeth also is that they believed in the promise of God, even though great miracles of God were required. Mary, a virgin, had conceived a child and Elizabeth, who was well beyond any child bearing age, had also conceived. Nevertheless, these chosen instruments of God were able to believe God as did Abraham before them.

Are we able to believe in the miraculous today? Mary and Elizabeth understood that the promises God made to them were not just about them. Jesus and John the Baptist are children of the promise which God made to Abraham. Their births extended and expanded this promise down through the ages. Today, we are recipients of the promise.

God has made promises to us as well. His plans for us may not be as dramatic as that of Mary or Elizabeth, but they are important to God’s plan. Are we willing to believe in those promises and hold on to them. There may be obstacles in the way of our receiving God’s promise. The Apostle Paul tells us how to overcome these obstacles with this prescription:

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.   (Romans 12:12)

In time, the promises of God will come to pass. The blessing is in the believing and perseverance. Too often me take matters in our own hands and thwart God’s plans and purposes for us. Others are depending upon us to make the right choices. In fact, their future blessings depend upon our faithfulness. Let us be willing to see beyond ourselves as the wonders of God’s work unfolds.

God will do great things for us but he requires that we exercise our faith. Are we willing to hear, believe, and stand on the promises of God?

 

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Filed under Eucharist, Feast Day, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, The Visitation, visitation of the blessed virgin, Year A

Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent

A New Heaven and a New Earth

When Jesus went into Cana the first time he changed water into wine at a wedding feast, showing how a ceremonial cleansing must give way to the actual cleansing of sin by his blood. On his second entry into Cana Jesus raised the royal official’s son from the dead. This second sign or miracle has to do with the resurrection of the  body to newness of life in Jesus. We read:

The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.”   (John 4:49–52)

The first miracle had to do with a marriage feast. The second miracle had to do with another marriage feast, the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. Are we ready for this Marriage Feast? This feast will help usher in a new Earth which will be decidedly changed from the world that we know now. Isaiah writes:

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 65:25)

There is so much concern today about the environment. While it is true that we should be good stewards of the environment, we cannot prevent this Earth from wearing out. This wearing out is part of God’s plan. The Prophet Isaiah wrote that this world will “wear out like a garment” (Isaiah 51:6).

I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;

the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.   (Isaiah 65:17-18)

We must not worship the creation, but rather the creator.

Thanks be to God that the old earth will pass away. Yet the Lord has said that his Word will never pass away.

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Friday in the Third Week of Lent

Our Idols Become Our God

A scribe asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment. His answer left no room for idolatry:

“The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 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.”   (Mark 12:29–31)

Our worldly idols will not save us. The things in this world which entertain us to the point that we turn away from God are not innocent distractions. Eventually we become what we worship. Worldly pleasures lead to worldly people. Our possessions do not heal us or protect us. We ultimately become possessed by them.

God spoke through the Prophet Hosea:

O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
    It is I who answer and look after you.
I am like an evergreen cypress;
    your faithfulness comes from me.   (Hosea 14:8)

There are other, even more sinister, idols. Satan has saturated our society with false deities, even in some our churches. We must be on alert. The psalmist wrote:

Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you:
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not worship a foreign god.   (Psalm 81:8-9)

Very strange gods are coming, even alien gods. Some have arrived. They are fallen angels. The Apostle Paul has told us that we should not let the worship of angels disqualify us from the prize (Colossians 2:18). Supernatural signs and wonders are not always what they seem. Scripture tells us that Satan can transform himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

We must examine the fruit of these idols. Where are they leading us? Are we moving closer to God or away from him?

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Filed under Jesus, lectionary, Lent, Lenten daily readings, Lenten study, Revised Common Lectionary, Year C