Tag Archives: reconciliation

Saint Simon and Saint Jude

st simon and st jude2Called to Preach the Gospel

In today’s Old Testament reading Moses declares:

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop like the rain, my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass, like showers on new growth. For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, without deceit, just and upright is he.   (Deuteronomy 32:1-4)

Moses knew that he was blessed by the Spirit of God. Thus, he realized that he had an obligation and responsibility to teach his word.

Saint Simon and Saint Jude were blessed by God. They were called by Jesus directly to preach and teach the Gospel. Some ancient Christian writers say that Simon and Jude went together as missionaries to Persia, and were martyred there. If this is true, it explains why they are usually put together. Little else is known of their ministry. Nevertheless, they were faithful to their calling. After all, the calling of God is not to speak about who we are but about what God has done for us in Christ.

Before He was crucified Jesus told His disciples that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit so that they would be able to preach on his behalf. That is the work of the Holy Spirit does. Jesus said:

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.”    (John 15:27)

Have we received the Holy Spirit? Have we also been called by to testify to the truth of the Gospel? The Apostle Paul wrote that Jesus came to reconcile the world unto Himself and that our testimony is important in that process:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.   (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

The new creation that God has brought about in Christ brings reconciliation between all people. Paul writes:

Now in Christ Jesus you Gentiles, who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.   (Ephesians 2:13-18)

People are so divided today. Our responsibility is to bring unity in Christ because we have been given this “message of reconciliation.” We cannot do this on our own, but we have been given the Holy Spirit to guide us and direct us in this ministry. Let us follow the faithful example of men like Simon and Jude.

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Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 15

Track 1: Reconciliation

Genesis 45:1-15
Psalm 133
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

We remember how the brothers of Joseph sold him into slavery in Egypt. They were jealous of him, to the point of killing him. Their hatred toward Joseph was so strong. Their evil intentions, however, led to a greater good. God’s intentions are greater than ours. His ways are higher than ours. Today we read about one of greatest examples of how God won the victory over human deceit and hatred.

Because of a great famine the brothers of Joseph were sent to Egypt to buy food by their father Israel. Joseph, because of his faithfulness and obedience to God had risen to be the second in command of all Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh. The brothers, who did not recognize Joseph, were totally unaware that it was Joseph to whom they were talking. Reading from Genesis:

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come — so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.   (Genesis 45:4-15)

We can make terrible decisions in life. We can make terrible mistakes. But God can bring good out of our sinful acts when we call upon him. The grace of God, working through Joseph, brought about a reconciliation between the brothers. Joseph was able to forgive his brothers and share God’s love for them. The psalmist wrote:

Oh, how good and pleasant it is,
when brethren live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head
that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron,
and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon
that falls upon the hills of Zion.

For there the Lord has ordained the blessing:
life for evermore.   (Psalm 133:1-5)

Reconciliation. It can only come through forgiveness. It can only come through Christ Jesus who has pain all our debts, The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.   (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

We need reconciliation between our family, friends, and others. But first we must be reconciled to God. Paul continues:

In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.   (2 Corinthians 5:19-21)

 

 

Track 2: The Mercy of God

Isaiah 56:1,6-8
Psalm 67
Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28

In today’s Gospel we have an encounter of Jesus with a Canaanite woman. Cannane was the land where God drove out the pagan kingdoms because he had promised the land to Abraham. Israel had a long history of dealing with the Canaanites who were constantly threatening their very existence. Reading from Matthews:

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.   (Matthew 15:21-28)

The response of Jesus was not unexpected by the Canaanite woman.. She knew that she was an outsider to Israel and hated by many of them. What is interesting about her, though, is that she recognized the power and authority of Jesus, which many Israelites did not. And she was willing, even at the risk of ridicule, or worst, to ask Jesus for help. Her love for her daughter and her hope that Jesus would cure her, helped her to prevail. But how could she fail? Jesus honored her deep faith. After all, no matter who we are, are righteous only by faith.

You may remember another time when Jesus was moved by a person’s faith. This man was also an outsider as well. He was a tax collector named Zacchaeus. After his encounter with Jesus, he was willing to give up half of his possessions to the poor and to pay back four times those whom he may have defrauded.

Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”   (Luke 19;9-10)

Anyone who  responds to Jesus by faith is a child of Abraham and a child of the promise. Being an actual descendent of Abraham by birth alone is not enough. t

Thus says the Lord:
Maintain justice, and do what is right,

for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,

all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant–

these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;

their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;

for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.   (Isaiah 56:1,6-7)

The key words are “all people.” The Apostle Paul wrote:

For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.   (Romans 11:32)

How do we respond to his goodness and mercy? Do we respond like the Canaanite woman and Zacchaeus with faith? We cannot do so without recognizing who Jesus is and acknowledging his authority. The Canaanite woman was willing to beg. She knew that she was in desperate need and that only Jesus could help her. How desperate are we for healing and deliverance? How desperate are we for a new life in Christ? God is seeking us. Are we seeking him?

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First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday

The Fullness of God

If the world needs anything today it needs the fullness of God. The Church needs the fullness of God. I need the fullness of God. We all need all of God. What does this mean?

A group of ladies came to my door. I won’t say which church denomination they were from. I invited them in and they began to explain to me that Jesus was not God, but that Jesus was just God’s Son. I asked them to interpret for me the beginning of the Gospel of John:

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)

John loved and knew Jesus. He was given special insight concerning our Lord and, fortunately, he wrote them down for us. Is Jesus really God? Scripture tells us that Jesus is the agent of creation. All things were made through him.

Let us take a closer look at the creation. From the first chapter of Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  (Genesis 1:1-3)

The Hebrew word for “moved” means brooded or hovered over, as when a mother bird broods over her eggs to bring forth life. The Holy Spirit of God was waiting for the command to bring forth life. He very much has a part in the creation as well. Is the Holy Spirit God also?

Later in Genesis we have an account of God creating the human race. God says:

“Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”   (Genesis 1:26)

To whom is God talking to when he says “let us”? He is speaking to members of the Holy Trinity. He is speaking to himself. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, in divine cooperation, was creating the universe and all life.

What is this Holy Trinity? Some might say that it was just a creation of the Council of Nicaea  in AD 325. Nicaea was the first council in the history of the Christian church that was intended to address the entire body of believers. It was convened by the emperor Constantine to resolve the controversy of whether or not Christ is divine or just another created being. The council opined that Jesus was and is divine. He is part of the God-head.

Let us examine today’s appointed readings. From the Gospel of Mathew:

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”   (Matthew 28:16-20)

Was not Jesus commissioning his disciples to baptize new converts of the faith in the name of God – all of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

The Apostle Paul, in today’s Epistle, blessed the Church at Corinth in this way:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Paul wanted the people to be blessed by all of God. And today we need all of God. For each personality of God has a specific ministry in our lives. When one aspect of God’s ministry is misunderstood, overlooked, or downplayed,  the door may be left open for division within the Church. One denomination might stress one thing and another denomination another. We need a unified faith, but we need to start out with a unified God.

We may hear of the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New. Are these two different Gods? In the Old Testament God gives his commandments to Moses. In the Gospels Jesus makes it clear that he did not come to set aside the law, but to fulfill it:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.   (Matthew 5:17-20)

God is a just God who cannot overlook sin. He is also a God of mercy because the punishment for our sin was taken on the cross by his Son. Jesus fulfilled the law by living a perfect life for us. Not only that, but he eradicated by his sacrifice. When we identify with Jesus we may claim his perfect life for ourselves. How so? We must confess our sins. We must accept, with thanksgiving, his great sacrifice and embrace him as Lord of our lives. The Apostle Paul writes:

If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;   (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

When we proclaim Jesus as our Savior, we crucify our old self and are born anew in him by the Spirit. What about any new sin that we might commit? The Apostle Paul writes:

Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.   (Romans 6:1-4)

The Holy Spirit of God brings us newness of life. How so? Paul writes:

Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.   (Galatians 5:16-18)

The Trinity of God tells us that God is not divided. He is one, but he has different ministries that we need for growth and maturity in Christ. God is a divine unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The wonderful news in the Gospel message is that God invites us into a divine unity with him.

 Jesus prayed for his disciples and for those who would come after them, that all would be guided into unity with Him and the Father:

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.   (John 17:20-23)

To enter into the fullness of God we must accept the fullness of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We must allow the fullness of God to minister to our souls. God’s whole nature and desire is to rescue us from sin and bring us into the abundant life that Jesus has promised us. Today, are we fully open to the fullness of God? Do we want to be joined together with him in the fullness of his being? If so, God invites us into himself. How can we refuse such a glorious invitation.

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Second Sunday of Easter

The Covenant of Reconciliation:

The Apostle Thomas is remembered as “Doubting Thomas.” That may be a little unfair. To be sure, he was a skeptic concerning the resurrection of Jesus:

Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with the other disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”   (John 20:24-25)

On the other hand, Thomas had been faithful as a disciple. He was willing to sacrifice for what he believed was the cause of Christ. When Jesus spoke about going to Jerusalem, which proved to be his last trip there, Thomas was aware of the danger involved:

Then Thomas said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”   (John 11:16)

To be sure, Thomas was missing something. First, he missed being there when Jesus appeared to his disciples. He was also missing out on a new status which God had decreed from him, at   status made possible by the death and resurrection of his Son. Thomas was missing the new birth about which Peter would soon preach:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith — being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire– may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  (1 Peter 1:3-7)

From a worldly point of view, Thomas was a good man. Jesus said the greatest man was John the baptist:

Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.   (Matthew 11:11)

Who could be greater than John the baptist? That could be you or me. John had not yet received the new birth because Jesus had not yet risen from the dead. But we have been born after the resurrection. We have an opportunity to enter into the kingdom of God. How do we do that? Let us see how Thomas did that:

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”   (John 20:26-31)

Having seen Jesus now after his resurrection, Thomas makes his affirmation of faith. That same affirmation is open to us. The Apostle Peter writes:

Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.   (1 Peter 1:8-9)

Believing in the resurrection is the gateway to the new birth. The Apostle Paul writes:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.   (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV)

Before the resurrection the people of God were temporarily forgiven through their confession of sin and the making of sacrifices. But they were never reconciled to God. They did not have peace with God. They were still estranged from him.

Now our sins have been forgiven though the cross and resurrection. Jesus has paid the price for our sins once and for all. We are given a new status. We have the opportunity of living in an eternal relationship with God. Is Jesus our Lord and our God? That is what Thomas said after he believed. The Apostle Paul writes:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.   (Romans 10:9-10)

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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