Tag Archives: righteousness

Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A

The  Shepherd and Guardian of Our Souls

Without a shepherd we are lost. We are like unruly sheep. The prophet wrote:

All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.   (Isaiah 53:6)

The music of Handel’s Messiah set to this reading from Isaiah tells the story. It is so lighthearted and frivolous. As people, we can be so unconcerned about and unaware of the consequences of our actions. Who can save us? Jesus. The Apostle Peter quotes Isaiah:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.   (1 Peter 2:23-25)

As sheep we need a shepherd. We need our shepherd to be the one who laid down his life for us. He alone can forgive us and lead us into righteousness:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.

He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.   (Psalm 23:1-3)

Only Jesus can lead us along right pathways. The institutions of education, the media, the entertainment industry, and the popular culture have worked overtime to lead us astray. Group think, political correctness, demonic music, and the intimidation of free speech have worn down our inner defenses and left us vulnerable to attack from the enemy. In fact, these voices are part of the attack.

These are strange voices to which we do not want to listen of follow. Let us tune our ears to the voice of the Good Shepherd:

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”   (John 10:3-5)

We need Jesus as a shepherd, but he is more than shepherd, He leads us along right pathway and he revives our souls. Friends, our souls are dying without his presence in our lives. Are we embracing Jesus or are we being lead astray by strangers who want to kill and destroy us?

All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”   (John 10:8-10)

Thus, we see the ministry of Jesus as being two-fold. He is our shepherd, but he is also the guardian of our souls. The Greek word for guardian here is episkopoß (episkopos). As it is used in 1 Peter, it means more of a ministry than a position in the Church. Supplementing shepherd, the term suggests the pastoral work of watching over or guarding someone. It also means one who is doing this has the fullest knowledge.

We live in a very dangerous world, one in which the Devil is prowling about, seeking whom he can devour. There is no protection apart from Jesus. We say and believe that Jesus has saved our souls. That is what we should believe. But is Jesus guarding our souls? Is he reviving our souls? He wants us to follow where he is leading us. He is leading us to safety. He knows the pitfalls which lie ahead –  the ones that we do not see and cannot anticipate.

Christianity is an endurance race. We must keep the faith to the end. Too much is at stack for us to rely solely on  ourselves. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Thursday in Easter Week

The Resurrection of the Body

The bodily resurrection of Jesus is up for debate certain biblical scholars and theologians. Today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke leaves little doubt, however:

While the disciples were talking about how they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.  (Luke 24:36-42)

Christianity is not Eastern mysticism. It is not about the destruction of the self. It is not about being entrapped in a human form and trying to escape. Christianity is about the resurrection of the body and the soul. Jesus was raised up bodily. We will also be raised in bodily form along with Him provided that we believe in Him.

Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:10-12)

Is His Spirit living in us? If we do not have the Holy Spirit then we do not have eternal life with God. The Spirit is Holy. We must live Holy. Without holiness no one will see God. We must lead righteous lives. Righteousness is not optional, even for Christian believers. In fact, Christian belief makes righteousness possible. The psalmist wrote:

Open to me the gates of righteousness,
    that I may enter through them
    and give thanks to the Lord.

This is the gate of the Lord;
    the righteous shall enter through it.   (Psalm 118:19-20)

By His death and resurrection Jesus has open for us the gates of righteousness. We must walk through it and remain on the path. The Spirit will lead us into all truth, but we must follow the Spirit. Are we listening to that still, small voice dwelling within us?

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Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Testing God’s Ways

When we strive to live righteous lives we will certainly be tested. Satan, the ruler of this present age, has his minions in place to test us:

Let us test him with insult and torture,
so that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they did not know the secret purposes of God,
nor hoped for the wages of holiness,
nor discerned the prize for blameless souls;
for God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.   (Wisdom 2:19–24)

Some seek God’s ways and some seek to test his ways. Testing is a sign of unbelief. We are using our rational mind to figure God out. That is what many were doing in Jerusalem when Jesus entered the city for the Festival of Booths:

Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.”   (John 7:25–27)

When do we get beyond testing? When we value righteousness more than knowledge. The psalmist wrote:

Evil shall slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.

The Lord ransoms the life of his servants,
and none will be punished who trust in him.   (Psalm 34:21-22)

Our hope is to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and not in our rationalizations.

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Second Sunday in Lent, Year A

91831-050-e1d8edf0A New Beginning

God called Abraham to leave his country and journey to a far off unknown land:

The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

We say that Abraham is the father of faith. He believed and trusted in what God told him to do. Because of this belief he obeyed God, even without fully knowing where God was leading him. Thus, the Apostle Paul states in Romans that God commended Abraham and counted his faith as righteousness. We read:

What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

In today’s Gospel reading we another example of someone having to trust God. In this case it is Nicodemus. We read:

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”   (John 3:1-17)

Jesus said we must begin anew in our lives. We must learn to trust God, not always knowing ahead of time what the outcome will be. The wind blows where it chooses. We need someone to guide us through challenging times. We have this promise from the Lord:

The Lord himself watches over you;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand,

So that the sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
it is he who shall keep you safe.

The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in,
from this time forth for evermore.   (Psalm 121:5-8)

Are we Abraham or Nicodemus? Nicodemus was skeptical. But he had not yet seen how much God really loves us. We have the testimony of the cross:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Eternal life is a gift from God that we cannot earn. Nevertheless, we must believe in him enough to follow Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.

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Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A

seek-wisdomWisdom from Above

The modern day use of the term “conventional wisdom” is credited to the economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who used it in his book The Affluent Society. Referring to “conventional wisdom” he wrote:

“It will be convenient to have a name for the ideas which are esteemed at any time for their acceptability, and it should be a term that emphasizes this predictability.”

Conventional wisdom, then, is acceptable by  the populous. This is not a new concept, however. Jesus faced such so-called wisdom in his day. In his Sermon on the Mount, he speaks about conventional wisdom:

“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 5:38-48)

The culture determines conventional wisdom. The Children had been living in Egypt for 400 years. Unfortunately, certain Egyptian practices had become all too familiar to them.  God instructed Moses to challenge the Children of Israel:

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 19:2)

Regrettably, the culture has crept into the Church. Have we compromised the Gospel of Jesus Christ because we have wanted to be more acceptable to the world?

The problem with conventional wisdom is that it is not really wise at all.

Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,

“He catches the wise in their craftiness,”

and again,

“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
that they are futile.”   (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

Are we seeking wisdom from all the wrong places? Our lives will reveal from where our wisdom has come. In the Bool of James we read:

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 need a harvest of righteousness today. Righteousness is possible! If it were not so then Jesus would not have spoken this injunction:

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”   (Matthew 5:48)

Yes, we are the righteousness of God by faith. But faith without works is dead. We need to move away from earthly wisdom and towards Godly wisdom. James writes:

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.

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