Tag Archives: scribes

Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 27B

Track 1: God Has a Plan for Us

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
Psalm 127
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

Naomi struggled just to survive. Things seem hopeless for them. They stood alone, without family support. Naomi’s husband and two sons had died. She was in a foreign land without support. Only her daughter-in-law Ruth stood by her. Yet things changed. From today’s reading of the Book of Ruth:

Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.   (Ruth 4:13-17)

Naomi returned to Judah. Ruth found a husband. And then Ruth was blessed with a child who became significant, not only to her and Naomi, but to all of Israel.

The story of Naomi and Ruth is our story. Their struggle is our struggle. Life can be extremely difficult and challenging. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges in life for us is trusting in the plan that God has for each of us. Do we trust God? Do we accept his ordering and steering of our lives.

The psalmist wrote:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
their labor is in vain who build it.

Unless the Lord watches over the city,
in vain the watchman keeps his vigil.

It is in vain that you rise so early and go to bed so late;
vain, too, to eat the bread of toil,
for he gives to his beloved sleep.  (Psalm 127:1-3)

I remember a difficult time in my life. I struggled to overcome apparent failures and setbacks. I was experiencing so much anxiety that I had trouble getting to sleep at night. Does that ring true for any of you? The psalmist tells us that God “gives his beloved sleep.”

To gain that sleep with all the challenges that faced me, I had to accept an even larger challenge. One of the greatest challenges in life is to accept the plan that God has for our lives. We cannot make things happen by our own wisdom and strength alone. We must trust God and allow him to take over our lives. I believe this is what Naomi learned to do, opening up God’s outpouring of blessings on her. From the wisdom of Solomon:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.   (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Are we ready to accept the challenge of trusting God? From Jeremiah we read:

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.   (Jeremiah 29:11-12)

 

 

 

Track 2: God’s Economy

1 Kings 17:8-16
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44

God’s economy is not the economy of Wall Street nor the economy of bankers and the market place.It is not the economy which some are preaching:” If you give to the church enough money you will eventually win God’s lottery.”  It is an economy that can only be understood by revelation from God’s holy word.

Today we will look two widows: one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. First the Old Testament:

Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”   (1 Kings 17:8-16)

From the New Testament:

Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”   (Mark 12:41-44)

What did these widows have in common and what can we learn from them? They were poor and needy, facing desperate circumstances. The widow of Zarephath was barely surviving. There was widespread famine and she had little to eat. Nonetheless, she was willing to give the man of God all that she had. In the New Testament, Jesus observed a widow as she gave all the money she had to God.

How many of us are willing to give God all that we have? What would it take for us to do that? The two widows were desperate. But despite that they were able to take their minds off themselves in order to help others. Hopefully, some of the money in the treasury would go to help others in need. In the case of the widow of Zarephath, she gave all the food that she had to Elijah. In both cases, the widows must have been able to trust God for their provisions. The psalmist wrote:

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!
whose hope is in the Lord their God;

Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,
and food to those who hunger.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;

The Lord loves the righteous;
the Lord cares for the stranger;
he sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.   (Psalm 146:4-8)

Are we willing to contribute to God out of our abundance? That is a big step for many of us. But to do what these two widows did would require an even greater step. We would have to believe that God is a just God,  that he is in control, and that he is willing to take extraordinary steps to care for our wellbeing. Is that our God?

Jesus said that it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Our financial blessings can be distractions which take us away from depending upon God. The kingdom of God is made up of those people who place God first in their lives and not last, or somewhere down our list of hierarchies.

Where is our focus in life? If we are blessed financially then, all the more, we should be concerned about meeting the needs of others. Our character must become God’s character. God gives justice to those who are oppressed, gives food to those who hunger. lifts up those who are bowed down, cares for the stranger, and sustains the orphan and widow.

God’s economy requires everyone to do their part to help others. Jesus said:

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.   (Luke 12:48)

We must take our eyes off ourselves and look at the needs of others. There are great opportunities for us to see the miraculous economy of God. We are part of that economy. All other economies are fleeting at best. They are passing away. Are we passing away with them?

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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

Godly Authority

Jesus taught scripture with an authority and understanding that was not found in the scribes of his day. From today’s Gospel we read:

Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.   (Mark 1:21-22)

Whoever properly speaks and follows God’s word may exercise the power of that word. The scribes were following God’s word in a very shallow, superficial, and legalistic way. Thus they could not expound upon the word with any authority.

The word of God is powerful. When spoken with authority, the word has very practical and immediate applications. Again, reading from Mark:

Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.   (Mark 1:23-28)

Everything is subject to the word of God including evil spirits. If we are to fight evil then we must be able to speak the word of God with authority. The Apostle Paul tells us how to do this:

Finally, 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)

How much we need, today, people who can take up the sword of the Spirit – who can speak the word of God with authority! God told Moses that the children of Israel needed someone to speak the word of God to them:

Moses said: The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet. This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command. Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”   (Deuteronomy 18:15-20)

Notice, the prophets and spiritual leaders of Israel would speak to the people in God’s name. They would speak the very words that God put in their mouths. Do we have such leaders today in our churches?

God gave a warning to those who presume to speak in his name but who actually speak in the name of other gods. Perhaps this describes some of our religious and spiritual leaders today. Some of our leaders and some of our churches have wondered from the truth. That is why we do not see any exercise of authority against evil forces in these churches. There is no power. Healings and deliverances are absent from the scene.

Unfortunately, some churches teach that the days of miracles and healings are over. Not so. Jesus gave this command to all his disciples, including us:

Proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.   (Matthew 10:7-8)

There are many in the church today who do not want to hear this message. But is was also true in the day of the Apostle Paul who wrote Timothy:

Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.   (2 Timothy 4:2-5)

If we cannot find a church were the true authority of God is being exercised, then perhaps God is calling some of us to start a church that will. Paul’s injunction to Timothy and Jesus’ commission still ring true today. Preach and teach the Word. Preach it with authority. Put on the full armor of God and war against evil. Amen.

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