Tag Archives: revival

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 21B

1102016075_univ_cnt_2_xlTrack 1: Courage

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
Psalm 124
James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-50

When we think of the courageous leaders of the Old Testament how can we ignore the tremendous courage of Queen Esther? Though she was favored by the king, the odds were stacked against her. She was Jewish, though the king did not realize this. The wicked Haman, an important man in the kingdom, instigated a plot to kill all of the Jews of ancient Persia. He attempted to convince King Ahasuerus to order the killing of Mordecai and all the Jews of the lands he ruled. (Mordecai had helped save the kings by informing him of a plot to kill him, unbeknownst to Haman). Haman’s beef with Mordecai is that he would not bow down to him. As a devout Jew, Mordecai could not bow down to anyone except God alone.

Esther was placed in a very difficult position. Mordecai was able to pass the word to Esther of this upcoming event. Unfortunately, she could not approach the king without his permission under threat of her life. What was she to do? She devised a plan, no doubt with God’s help, to inform the king of Haman’s threat. It would take great skill and cunning along with consummate courage.

She invited both the king and Haman to a banquet she prepared. This was a very risky move on her part. After waiting to find favor with the king, she then revealed the plot against her people to him. From Esther we read:

Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.   (Esther 7:9-10)

No matter what form of government we may consider, it is clear that it has great power over the people. Moreover, it should also be very clear that there are powerful people within the government that have their own personal agenda that is not always in the beset interest of the people, or a certain group of people. The Jews of Esther’s day were under threat of annihilation, That is still true in many places today. What is also true is that Christians have become more vulnerable to numerous threats, even in so-called “Christian” nations.

What can we do about this? How can we contend with an all-powerful government? Without God’s help we can do little. We need his wisdom and understanding. Satan uses his weapon of fear to silence us and paralyze us. We need the courage of Esther. God will fight for us, but we must be willing to put our trust in him alone and wait on his timing.

We are seeing many Haman’s of our day being exposed by the hand of God. This is happening in every nation, even in the United States of American. As Christians we must pray for the protection of the saints. We must pray for our leaders to make wise decisions. And we must pray that many more Haman’s will be revealed and that justice may be served.

The psalmist wrote:

If the Lord had not been on our side,
let Israel now say;

If the Lord had not been on our side,
when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive
in their fierce anger toward us;   (Psalm 24:1-3)

The plans and plots against God’s people are now being turned on the perpetrators. What happened to Haman may be the fate of many of them.

God moves in mysterious ways. His timing is not always our timing. But his timing is perfect. From Psalm 27:

Do not fret because of the wicked;
    do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
    and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.   (Psalm 37:1-4)

Nonetheless, we need to do more than applauding the exposure of  evil. James reminds us that, as Christians, we have a responsibility in helping to save the lost.

My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.   (James 5:19-20)

Jesus tells us that we should pray for our enemies. We want justice to be done. We want the evil Haman’s to be apprehended. Nevertheless, the greatest justice of God is when people repent and turn their lives over to him. This is the justice of the cross. Let us not forget in our zeal for justice that we need to pray for sinners, all sinners.

 

 

 

Pentecost - Acts 2:1-4

Track 2: Outside the Tent

Numbers 11:4-6,10-16,24-29
Psalm 19:7-14
James 5:13-20
Mark 9:38-50

Moses had been struggling to govern a large group of some very unruly people, the Children of Israel. He pleaded with God for help. In today’s Old Testament reading we have God’s answer:

So the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.   (Numbers 11:16, 24-25)

From this we can observe that elders of the Church might be appointed by ecclesiastical authority, but they will not be under Godly authority unless he pours out his Spirit upon them.

How important are Church elders? Very important! Unfortunately, their position and function within the Church is often misunderstood. They may be overlooked and ignored when people are seeking spiritual help and healing. The author of the Book of James did not want this to happen:

Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.   (James 5:13-16)

Elders are key to the healing ministry within the Church. This ministry is too big for one person. Nevertheless, elders must be true elders anointed by God. They must be properly trained. They must be righteous people operating under the Spirit of God. They must live transparent lives before God.

When Moses appointed elders in the wilderness, they were required to meet him at the test of meeting. A certain event outside the tent occurred which might have seem a disruption to the proceedings. From Numbers we read:

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”   (Numbers 11:26-29)

The danger with sharing ministry is that competition and jealousy can be stumbling blocks. Joshua son of Nun was concerned that protocol must be followed. In today’s Gospel reading we have another Joshua son of Nun named John:

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.   (Mark 9:38-41)

There is this notion that ministry must be done within the Tent. The tent represents the approved and sanctioned ministry of God. But God cannot be contained within a tent. He is larger than any of our tents.

Revival is coming to the Church. It certainly is needed. But it may not come as many anticipate it. The Azusa Street Revival was a historic revival led by William J. Seymour, an African-American preacher. It began with a meeting on April 9, 1906, and lasted for many years. But many “church authorities” and theologians thought that it was outrageous and unorthodox, and therefore, not legitimate. Yet many people were saved, healed and delivered. In many cases, people were repenting on the street before they ever got to the tent of meeting.

God’s power and authority cannot be contained in a tent. If we wish to experience all that God has prepared for us then we must be prepared for the Eldad’s and Medad’s of our day. Perhaps you are an Eldad or Medad? Be open to what the Lord is doing in your life. Your ministry is needed in the Church. If you are discouraged it may be time to change churches. Our ministry must be done under Godly authority, but all authority is not Godly.

Leave a comment

Filed under homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year B

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 16B

Track 1: Glory Filled the House

1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11], 22-30, 41-43
Psalm 84 or 84:1-6
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

Today we have an account of how the glory of God came down at the dedication of the Temple by King Solomon in Jerusalem. From 1 Kings we read:

Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.   (1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11],

This was not the first time that the children of Israel experienced the glory of God. In the wilderness they experienced it. From Leviticus we read:

Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them; and he came down after sacrificing the sin offering, the burnt offering, and the offering of well-being. Moses and Aaron entered the tent of meeting, and then came out and blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came out from the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.   (Leviticus 9:22-24)

The Hebrew word used for glory is כָּבוֹד (kavod).” It can also mean “importance”, “weight”,  or “heaviness.” This is not surprising. The glory of God was often experienced by the people as a weight which came upon them, often forcing them to the ground. The priests in Solomon’s Temple could not stand because of the weight.

During the Azusa Street Revival of  that took place in Los Angeles in 1906, the glory of God entered the sanctuary. Quite often, however, as people approached the location of the revival they fell to the ground on the sidewalk and repented before they even reached the sanctuary. They experienced the weight of God’s glory.

Do we experienced such a phenomenon in our churches today? So we experience the severance and awe brought on by the weight of God’s glory? I am afraid that we may be experiencing a different sort of weight. There is another weight which brings compromise and complacency. This is the weight of today’s culture. It is the weight of the 501 3c contract that our churches have made with the federal government. The church in America used to be the moral compass of the people. Now are we afraid to speak out on important issues for fear of losing our tax exemption status? Have the commandments of God been classified as “hate speech?” The temptation is to be culturally relevant has, no doubt, guided the direction in which our churches  are going.

We need another great revival. We need reformation in our churches. This is coming because many intercessors have prayed for it. Once more the presence of the glory of God will be experienced in the church, But, before that occurs there will be judgment. The Apostle Peter wrote:

For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God?   (1 Peter 4:17)

We are already seeing the judgment of God upon some churches. Many church leaders are being exposed for their wickedness and corruption. Many churches need a housecleaning.

The psalmist wrote:

How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts!
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;
by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.

Happy are they who dwell in your house!
they will always be praising you.   (Psalm 84:1-3)

Evil is on the rise. Our churches will need to be sanctuaries from a wicked world. Again the psalmist wrote:

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,
and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God
than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

For the Lord God is both sun and shield;
he will give grace and glory;

No good thing will the Lord withhold
from those who walk with integrity.

O Lord of hosts,
happy are they who put their trust in you!   (Psalm 84:9-12)

Let us continue to pray for our churches. And let us be willing to fall upon the weight of the glory of God as he removes from us the shackles of the world.

 

 

 

Track 2: Put on the Whole Armor of God

Joshua 24:1-2a,14-18
Psalm 34:15-22
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

We live in a difficult and dangerous world. This is particularly true for Christians. The Apostle Paul warned that we must put on the whole armor of God so that we may be able to stand in the Faith. Paul writes:

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.   (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Jesus warned his disciples that there will always be tribulation for those who profess him as Savior and Lord. We cannot go it alone and survive. The psalmist wrote:

The righteous cry, and the Lord hears them
and delivers them from all their troubles.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and will save those whose spirits are crushed.

Many are the troubles of the righteous,
but the Lord will deliver him out of them all.   (Psalm 34:17-19)

In John’s Gospel Jesus made this promise to us:

The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. Ihave said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:32-33)

Will we stand with the Lord when it no longer popular to do so? That day is here!

There are special times in life when we must whom we will serve. In the wilderness, as preparation for entering the promised land, Joshua told the children of Israel that they must choose whom they will serve:

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel:

“Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

We must make a quality decision. In a difficult age when the culture against us, are we willing to follow the Lord? If so, then we must put on the full armor of God because we are entering enemy territory warfare.

How do we fight this war? Winning battles begins with ourselves. We must put on the breastplate of righteousness. We must be committed to living holy lives. If not, we will be no different than the world around us. How could we expect anyone to follow our example? Holy living is our best defense.

What about offense? Our weapons are not carnal. We do not win by arguments or persuasion. Rather, we must depend on the word of God. Paul wrote:”Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” God’s words are so much more powerful than our words.

The Apostle Peter also wrote:

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.   (1 Peter 3:13-16)

Despite our best efforts, and even with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, some people may just not respond to the Gospel message. At times, we may find ourselves standing alone for the Gospel. What do we do then? We are reminded what the Apostle Paul wrote:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.   (Ephesians 6:13)

Leave a comment

Filed under homily, Jesus, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year B

Independence Day

John Trumbull's painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress.

A More Perfect Union

On our Independence Day, as we celebrate our great heritage as a nation, let us also look at another nation which, in biblical times, was given a great promise and covenant from God. The founders of these nations had at least one thing in common, they trusted in and relied upon God for their formation and mission. One nation was to be a great missionary nation. The other was commissioned by God to be a holy nation and royal priesthood.

Let us look at America first. The delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence took on great personal risk. They were fighting for what they thought was a higher cause and purpose than themselves. As written in the Declaration, they affirmed:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

As part of the Declaration, they made this pledge also:

we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

They did so, realizing what the pledge might bring to them personally. Nevertheless, they did not look back. They fully gave themselves to the cause.

The cost was steep. Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured. Nine of them fought and died from wounds or hardships from the war.

Whether realizing it or not, they were following the example of Abraham and his descendents. Abraham entered into a covenant with God. When he did so he entered into unknown territory. The Book of Hebrews tells us:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.   (Hebrews 11:8-10)

Abraham did not look back. He endured hardship not only for the promise which God had made to him. He did so for the benefit of all the generations who would him.

Those who followed Abraham endured great hardships as well. Again, from Hebrews we read:

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.   (Hebrews 11:13-16)

The hardships were for a purpose. Israel was chose by God for a divine purpose. At Mount Sinai God spoke to Moses concerning their mission: 

‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”   (Exodus 19:4-6)

This struggle, however, did not nullify the promise which God made to Moses at Mount Sinai on behalf of the children of Israel.

America has not yet become the land which God has called it to be. And Israel has not yet become a holy nation and a royal priesthood. What is impossible for humankind is possible with God

After the terrible battle of Gettysburg, which cost so many lives, Abraham Lincoln spoke these words in his famous address:

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

We have not fulfilled these words. Despite our efforts, we have fallen short of the dream that our forefathers had for America. We are not yet that nation under God, which provides freedom and liberty to all its citizens. This does not mean that we should stop striving. Without God the dream would not even be possible.

Our nation is now under attack, both from without and from within. There are people and forces who  wish to destroy America as we know it in order to rebuild their Utopia. While they tear down our institutions and work to destroy the family, they tell us to put our trust in them. They will save us if we follow them.

In today’s Old Testament lesson we read:

You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen.   (Deuteronomy 10:20-21)

Moses was reminding the people of the true architect of the nation of Israel. Perhaps we need the same reminder?

God is calling us to perfection, but we must be willing to follow him. He is our perfection. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks about perfection:

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”   (Matthew 5:43-48)

How will we ever achieve this perfection? We certainly cannot do it on our own. We need divine help. The hope for perfection is fulfilled by faith in Jesus Christ alone. It will take the Millennial Reign of Jesus on the Earth before perfection comes.

Israel will one day be a holy nation. Since we are the ingrafted branches, the American dream and experiment will also be consummated as Christians believers the world over join the new Jerusalem. In the meantime, we must press on. We must return to our heritage and, once again, seek to be a nation whose God is the Lord.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.   (Psalm 33:12)

Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Declaration of Independence, Fourth of July, Holy Day, Independence Day, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost