Tag Archives: Sin

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 18A

Track 1: Christ Is Our Passover

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 149
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

We are familiar with the Jewish Passover. It was appointed by God as a perpetual holy day of celebration, a time of remembering when God rescued his chosen people from slavery in Egypt. From today’s Old Testament reading:

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.   (Exodus 12:1-13)

The Jewish Passover was a foretaste of the time of great delivery of all humankind from the slavery to sin and death. Passover was prophetically fulfilled on Good Friday when the blood of Jesus is sprinkled on our souls. Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Has the Passover of Jesus been fulfilled in our lives? That is what we celebrate when we partake of the Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper. The question remains, however, what does it take for us to participate fully in the Passover? God passed over Hebrew homes in Egypt. He did not strike down their first born as he did the Egyptians. However, the Hebrews had to make preparation for this event if they were to remain safe and protected from God’s judgement. They had to apply some of the blood of the lambs and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of their houses.

How do we apply the blood of Jesus on our hearts? Surely Christian baptism is very much a part of this preparation. The Apostle Paul wrote:

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.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.   (Romans 6:3-5)

What should not be missed, however, is the the Jewish people had to make an outward, visible sign over their door. This sign was very much a part of the Passover. Without it they would have been under the same judgement as the Egyptians. Jesus said:

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.   (Matthew 10:32-33)

For the Jewish people the Passover was the beginning of a journey. They had to be prepared to move out from Egypt. God told Moses:

This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly.   (Exodus 12:11)

Are we now prepared to move out with God? Or do we want to remain in Egypt? In Hebrews we read:

Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

For if we willfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.   (Hebrews 10:23-27)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.   (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)

Amen!

 

Track 2:  Put on the Armor of Light

Ezekiel 33:7-11
Psalm 119:33-40
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

We are at the close of the Church age. Have we been observing the warning signs? The Apostle Paul warning to the Early Church is all the more revenant to us today. He wrote:

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.   (Romans 13:1114)

This is a time of warning. The prophet, preacher and teacher of righteousness must speak out. Through the Prophet Ezekiel God demand that they do:

You, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.   (Ezekiel 33:7-9)

God warns us today as he warned Israel in order to save us from the consequences of sin. Again, from Ezekiel:

“Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?   (Ezekiel 33:11)

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus is also warning against sin. He tells the Church they must deal with sin and not sweep it under the rug:

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.   (Matthew 18:15-17)

Time is short and sin must be eradicated. This does not sound like the doctrine of “once saved, always saved” does it? Doctrines do not save us. Rather, we must chose to put on the Armor of Light. Jesus is that armor. He is that light.

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”   (John 3:19-21)

Are we ready for the light? Do we want our evil deeds exposed? We cannot hide from God or hide our sins from God. He sees everything. Let us run to him and not away from him. Jesus said to his followers:

“The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”   (John 12:35-36)

When our sin is exposed what should we do? Offer ourselves up for cleansing and restoration. The Apostle John has written that this cleansing is very much a part of the Gospel:

 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   (1 John 1:5-9)

Now is the time to put on the armor of light. It is our only protection in these uncertain times. Living as children of the light is for now and forever. There is no glorious future in darkness.

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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9A

Track 1: The Path of Life

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45: 11-18
or Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Abraham sent his head servant back to his home country and to his relatives in order to obtain a wife for his son Isaac. He did not want his son to marry a daughter of the Canaanites. When his servant questioned Abraham about the matter, Abraham assured him that the angel of God would go before him to intervene on his behalf.

The servant obeyed Abraham. What he reached his destination, he was wise to pray to the Lord first. Then he preceded. In today’s Old Testament, Abraham’s servant recounts his experience of how God responded to his prayer.

“I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also”—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.’   

“Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels.   (Genesis 24:42-46)

We know the story well. Rebekah eventually became Isaac’s wife. But that was Abraham. He had made a covenant with God. He was to become the father of many nations. Is God that involved with our lives? Yes, if we allow him. We, too, have a covenant with God.

In Proverbs we read:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.   (Proverbs 3:5-6)

God has a plan for each of our lives. Following his plan, though there may be hardships, will ultimately bring us great blessings. We may not grow financially wealthy as some preachers are promising today. True wealth is a relationship with God in Christ Jesus. Jesus promised:

“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)

Entering into God’s rest is a path which we may choose to take, or not to take. Jesus is that path. He said:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.   (John 14:6)

God is concerned about every aspect of our lives. Jesus said: “All the hair on our heads are numbered.” A daily walk with God is the answer to today’s turmoil and stress. As we walk with him we will not miss the opportunities and blessings he is sending our way. When we exclude God from our decisions and try to follow our own path, we greatly limit what God can do for us and through us. In Proverbs we read:

There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.   (Proverbs 16:25)

The psalmist wrote about a different and a different outcome:

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

That is our path if we choose it.

 

 

Track 2: Struggling with Sin

Zechariah 9:9-12
Psalm 145:8-15
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Have we ever made New Year’s resolutions and found them difficult to keep? How about Lenten disciplines? We may not be alone. The Apostle Paul shared this with the Church in Rome:

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.   (Romans 7:15-20)

Perhaps the great apostle and missionary to the Gentiles, who wrote a large part of the New Testament was just writing about himself before his Christian conversion? No. This is what he was saying about himself before his conversion:

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.   (Philippians 3:4-6)

In his mind, his religion had helped establish his righteous. It was a false sense of righteousness that Paul would ultimately declare it was like a filthy rag. The holiness of God, when experienced in the presence of the Holy Spirit, will always convict us. This is a good thing. Paul’s dilemma over sin in his life was not going to be solved by any religion.

Having written concerning the futility of overcoming sinful acts on his own, Paul makes this declaration:

Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul’s struggling with sin stopped when he turned his struggle over to the Lord Jesus. 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 11:25-30)

We must first enter the rest Jesus has provided for us before he can continue to do his work of sanctification or cleansing in us. When we do, then he will teach us his ways. He will impart his ways in us. He will not browbeat us. His is gentle and humble in heart. We learn and grow much better when we are not under a burden of guilt.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We will experience conviction, however. This conviction is a good thing. It should not hide from it. The Apostle John tells us how to deal with it:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   (1 John 1:8-9)

Jesus is ready to rescue us from our body of death. Are we ready for him to perform his skilled surgical work? Now is the time to come to him with all our hearts, putting our full trust and confidence in him. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly he will renew us day by day. Amen.

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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8A

Track 1: Obedience from the Heart

Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm 13
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

In today’s Old Testament reading from Genesis, God, seemingly, asked Abraham to do the unthinkable:

God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”   (Genesis 22:1-2)

Incredibly, Abraham obeyed God. He had to go a great distance and to great lengths to follow God’s instructions. Can we imagine how he must have felt while on this journey with his son Isaac? There is no other test in all the Bible like this one! Isaac was the son of great promise. God has told Abraham that he would make him the father of many nations through Isaac. Isaac’s very conception was miraculous, considering the age of Abraham and his wife Sarah. Now God was telling Abraham that he must kill his son.

Let us follow this remarkable account to its conclusion:

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”   (Genesis 22:9-12)

Abraham loved God and trusted him. He did so to the point of sacrificing his own son if need be. How many of us would have been willing to follow God’s commandments to this extreme? Abraham demonstrated his love for God by his obedience. Even undergoing an extreme test, he kept his faith and trust in God. He believed that God would keep his promise that he would be the father of many nations. Thus he was willing to do all that God asked of him.

The Apostle Paul wrote about obedience to God’s commandments from the heart:

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.   (Romans 6:16-18)

Love leads to obedience. Jesus also spoke about the importance of obedience in the Gospel of John:

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.   (John 14:23-24)

Abraham demonstrated a love for God that was not dependent on circumstances. He was willing, if necessary, to sacrifice his own son Isaac. His unconditional love mirrors the love of God. The Apostle Paul helps put this love in context:

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.   (Romans 8:31-33)

Since God has given ups his all should we not respond with our whole heart. One of the best ways to respond is through obedience from the heart.

 

 

Track 2: Court Prophets

Jeremiah 28:5-9
Psalm 89:1-4,15-18
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

In the Old Testament there were prophets and there were “court prophets.” The course prophets worked for the king and were in charge of giving him good news about his kingdom and rule. Natural, to gain favor with the king one did not want to bring him bad news. In today’s Old Testament reading, the Prophet Jeremiah spoke out against such “prophets:”

The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord; and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”   (Jeremiah 28:5-9)

The problem was more than the prophecy given by these were in many cases untrue. This false prophecy was given in the name of the Lord. God had something to say about it. Again, in Jeremiah we read:

See, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who use their own tongues and say, “Says the Lord.” See, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, says the Lord, and who tell them, and who lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or appoint them; so they do not profit this people at all, says the Lord.

When this people, or a prophet, or a priest asks you, “What is the burden of the Lord?” you shall say to them, “You are the burden, and I will cast you off, says the Lord.”   (Jeremiah 23:31-33)

Do we have court prophets in the Church today? They were in the Church in the Apostle Paul’s day he warned Timothy concerning false prophecy. Paul warned his young protege Timothy:

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.   (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

Jesus also warned against false prophets. In Matthew we read:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?   (Matthew 7:15-16)

Who are the court prophets trying to please today? Do people go to prophecy conferences to pay the seers to give them a rosy picture about their future? Of course, the situation can be a little more subtle than that. Rosy sermons about prosperity and financial blessings are all very common today. The promise of a great ministry on the way is very exciting. But where is the message about holy living and self-sacrifice?

Not all of us are going to be wealthy. Not all of us will have great recognizable ministries. In today’s Gospel we read:

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple– truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”   (Matthew 10:40-42)

Faithful service is the key. The Gospel does not need to be embellished. God will determine our rewards. The greatest reward is our eternal salvation through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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