Tag Archives: renewal

Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 5B

Track 1: The Sovereignty of God Rejected

1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15)
Psalm 138
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

Israel was an exceptional nation for one reason only. Though were chosen by an exceptional God. God has lead them out of slavery in Egypt with signs and wonders and brought them into a land promised to their forefather Abraham. With God’s help they defeated the pagan nations in this land. Nevertheless, despite all of this the people wanted to be like other nations. They wanted to have a king. From 1 Samuel we read:

All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.   (1 Samuel 8:4-9)

God was to king over Israel. God’s people were to be a holy nation – a kingdom of priests. They were not merely asking for a king to be like other nations. They were rejecting the plans and purposes of God. Reading on:

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”  (1 Samuel 8:19-20)

There is much talk today about America being an exceptional nation. God makes covenants with people and with nations. When we obey him and keep his commandments he gives us an exceptional task. Any nation favored by God is a holy nation, a missionary nation. The nation is not exceptional. Rather, they are serving an exceptional God.

In 1897, Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was held in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of her reign. The poet Rudyard Kipling was asked to write something to help celebrate the event. He wrote his famous poem “Recessional” which reads in part:

The tumult and the shouting dies;
   The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
   An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

This warning by Kipling is still applicable today, for all nations. Armies rise and fall. Kingdoms come and go. God warns through the Prophet Isaiah:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
    Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
    and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
    and spreads them like a tent to live in;
who brings princes to naught,
    and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
    scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows upon them, and they wither,
    and the tempest carries them off like stubble.   (Isaiah 40:21-24)

Through that same prophet he gives his assurances to those who follow in his ways:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.   (Isaiah 40:28-31)

The prophet, psalmist, King David wrote:

May our sons in their youth
    be like plants full grown,
our daughters like corner pillars,
    cut for the building of a palace.
1May our barns be filled,
    with produce of every kind;
may our sheep increase by thousands,
    by tens of thousands in our fields,
     and may our cattle be heavy with young.
May there be no breach in the walls, no exile,
    and no cry of distress in our streets.

Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall;
    happy are the people whose God is the Lord.   (Psalm 144:12-15)

The only exceptional nation is the one which is serving an exceptional God. Have we forgotten, America?

 

 

Track 2: Satan’s Illusion

Genesis 3:8-15
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

Intimacy with God the Father was established for humankind in the beginning. A fallen angel imparted the notion that we do not need an intimacy with God because there was a reality separate from God which greatly expands our possibilities and experience. From Genesis we read:

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”   (Genesis 3:8-14)

Satan had Adam and Eve buy into a false reality by telling them what they were experiencing had been just an illusion. His trick was and is still the same game: Satan’s substitutes his illusion for God’s reality and then calls God’s reality an illusion.

Today we live in an illusion. This was also true when Jesus ministered upon the earth. We read in Mark’s Gospel:

The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.   (Mark 3:20-27)

Jesus was casting out demons and setting people free from a false reality. His family, however, were worried that his actions were not fitting into the accepted norms. They wanted to restrain Jesus because his reality was different from theirs. Notice that the scribes were saying that what Jesus was doing was demonic when Jesus was actually destroying the works of the demonic. In a world of illusions the actually reality of God’s world does not seem to fit in. Satan’s method is to discredit God’s reality by discrediting his word.

Are we ready to come out from under the burdens of a false narrative and live truly free? As recorded in the Gospel of Mark his family was not quite ready:

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)

Family can be a huge obstacle in living as a disciple of Christ. Jesus said that the family of believers transcends any boundaries which family may place upon us.

We live in a fallen world. That is the reality. It is not normal. It is abnormal and against the purposes of God. Yet the world exerts pressures upon us to conform to its way of thinking. We cannot allow ourselves to be dragged down into the same ditch in which the world lives. The Apostle Paul wrote:

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.   (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1)

Satan’s illusion is passing away. Only the reality of God will remain. Now is the time to embrace the truth of God’s reality and word. From the Prophet Isaiah:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
    his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
    and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
    and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.   (Isaiah 40:28-31)

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Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

The Wings of Eagles

We live in a very hectic world. Our personal computers and cell phones that promised to save us time, somehow, ended up taking away some of our leisure time. Maybe we can relax when we get around to taking a vacation? Or perhaps we need a thorough rest as a gift from the Almighty? Jesus said:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”   (Matthew 11:28-30)

Could this be true? God spoke through the Prophet Isaiah:

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.   (Isaiah 40:28-31)

How would it be to soar on the wings of an eagle?  The psalmist wrote:

Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
there is no limit to his wisdom.

The Lord lifts up the lowly,
but casts the wicked to the ground.   (Psalm 147:5-6)

We need to tap into the power of God. The Apostle Paul wrote about the power of God:

God said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power[c] is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.   (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Receiving the power of God is directly related to giving up our own power. It means giving up our own wisdom and tapping into the wisdom of God. In the Book of James we have a comparison between these two wisdoms:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.   (James 3:13-18)

We see that our wisdom can get us into trouble. It is difficult for us to make right decisions because our perspective is often narrow and flawed. We are fallen creatures. God’s wisdom is broad and all encompassing. His wisdom brings peace and harmony. Our wisdom leads to disorder.

What do we do? James tells us to simply ask God for his wisdom:

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.   (James 1:5)

During his earthly ministry, Jesus did not rely on his own wisdom. He sought guidance from the Father. From today’s Gospel we read:

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.   (Mark 1:35)

Again, we live in a very hectic world. Life can be very difficult. We face many storms in life. Do we face them alone, or do we invite Jesus into our lives? Do we rely on our own wisdom or the wisdom which God gives to all those who ask for it?

To soar above the storms and ride on the wings of eagles is a choice we can make. God is there for us. He is concerned about our welfare. He is standing by to help us. Will we act impulsively or will we wait for the Lord?

Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.

Jesus’ yoke is easy. But we must be willing to give up the yoke of this world. We must pass on worldly wisdom and selfish pleasures. And we must be willing to wait patiently on the Lord. He is waiting on us. What will we do?

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