Tag Archives: Temple

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 11B

Track 1: The House of the Lord

2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Psalm 89:20-37
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

King David told Nathan the prophet that he wished to build a house for the Lord. The Ark of the Covenant was housed in a tent, while David lived in a nice cedar house, Nathan, at first gave David permission to build, but God had other plans. From 2 Samuel:

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.   (2 Samuel 7:4-11)

God turned the table on King David. David would not build God a house. God would make a house for David. The psalmist wrote:

I have found David my servant;
with my holy oil have I anointed him.

My hand will hold him fast
and my arm will make him strong.

No enemy shall deceive him,
nor any wicked man bring him down.

I will crush his foes before him
and strike down those who hate him.

My faithfulness and love shall be with him,
and he shall be victorious through my Name.

I shall make his dominion extend
from the Great Sea to the River.

He will say to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, and the rock of my salvation.’

I will make him my firstborn
and higher than the kings of the earth.

I will keep my love for him for ever,
and my covenant will stand firm for him.   (Psalm 89:20-28)

God assured David that his kingdom would be established for ever. This kingdom would become God’s kingdom through the cross of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ. David was just the forerunner.

David did not build a house for God. However, his son Solomon did. It was a magnificent temple but it did not last. As the disciples of Jesus were admiring the temple building in Jerusalem Jesus responded:

And Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”   (Mark 13:2)

Jesus came to bring a lasting temple – one that would withstand the test of time. He spoke of a temple that was not made with human hands. When he was in Jerusalem cleansing the temple of the money changers he spoke of himself as the true temple:

The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.   (John 2:18-22)

When brought before the authorities, Stephen spoke about this new temple:

“Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen, which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David, who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built Him a house.

“However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:

‘Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me? says the Lord,
Or what is the place of My rest?
Has My hand not made all these things?’   (Acts 7:44-50)

There will not be another house of God established in Jerusalem until Jesus comes again. Before his crucifixion Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; and [a]assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”   (Luke 13:34-35)

When Jesus comes again he will set up his throne in Jerusalem. Until then, we, the Church are to be his temple. The Apostle Paul wrote:

So Jesus came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.   (Ephesians 2:17-22)

We can build temples for the Lord but that does not mean that he will dwell in them. The psalmist reminds us:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it.   (Psalm 127:1)

If our house of God does not have Jesus as the cornerstone then we do not have the presence of God in our midst. We need to be in a church where Jesus is present and his Spirit is at work. Let us allow the Spirit of God to built us into the true and lasting house of the Lord. Then we will be prepared for the coming reign of Christ on the earth.

 

 

 

Track 2: Sheep Without a Shepherd

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 23
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

In this Sunday’s Gospel we pick up on the story when Jesus sent out his disciples two by two. They come back to Jesus with many success stories. Jesus then tells them that they need to rest:

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.   (Mark 6:30-34)

Pastoring the flock is often a very tiring work, even when one is successful at it. Jesus understood that the pastor needed to spend much time with God the Father in prayer. Over the years the work can take its toll. The work of pastoring can easily slip. Satan is always opposing the pastors. Jesus observes in today’s Gospel that the people he was encountering were like “sheep without a shepherd.”

Moses was like a pastor to the children of Israel. Following him were numerous priests, judges, prophets, and even kings. King David was a pastor king. Yet, over time the leadership had fallen away from the commandments of God and gone their own way which led to severe consequences.

Through the Prophet Jeremiah God gave a severe warning to those who were supposed to be shepherding his people Israel:

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.   (Jeremiah 23:1-4)

God will always provide for the remnant of his flock. If we seek the Lord we will find him. Are we seeking him in our church today? Some of our churches are saying that there are other ways to heaven besides Christ Jesus. They are saying that we all serve the same God. They are saying that there should be no distinction between Christians and muslims. We have the post modern church which wants to throw away much of the Christian faith in order to accommodate popular views and trends.

Is this new church the way of the future or is it the way of destruction? The Apostle Paul makes it very clear that Jesus must be the foundation of the Church. From Ephesians we read:

Jesus came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually[e] into a dwelling place for God.   (Ephesians 2:17-22)

Jesus is the cornerstone. Any other stone will not lead to a holy temple of the Lord. The Lord must be the shepherd. We are all undersheperds at different levels. Nevertheless, there can only be one shepherd – the Good Shepherd. We remember the well known shepherd psalm of David:

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.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I shall fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;
you have anointed my head with oil,
and my cup is running over.

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.   (Psalm 23)

Only goodness and mercy follows those who follow Jesus. Only in Christ do we have the promise of everlasting life with God the Father. The Church needs a reformation. The warning from Jeremiah is still applicable today. Woe be to those shepherds who lead God’s people away. Your judgement is coming.

In the meantime, let us not become people without a shepherd. Let us return to Christ with all our hearts. He alone is the shepherd of our souls. Amen.

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

Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 4B

Track 1: The Calling of God

1 Samuel 3:1-10(11-20)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23-3:6

Today we read about the calling of Samuel. He served in the temple under Eli the priest. During this time the temple was in great need of spiritual renewal. From 1 Samuel we read:

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”   (1 Samuel 3:1-10)

New leadership was needed in the Temple. Notice the expression: “the lamp of God had not yet gone out.” Although Eli’s eyesight was growing dim, this expression was not about his eyesight. New leadership is always needed in the service of God because this world is continually falling into decay. And Satan is constantly attacking the servants of God. For this reason God plans ahead.

God called Samuel at an early age. Samuel was ust a young boy. He was just beginning to hear the voice of God. He was in a position near God so that he might listen to God. God is calling everyone of us today. Are we in a position to listen? Are we attentive to his voice?

It may be easier for the young to hear the call of God. The world has not yet overwhelmed them. God calls us when we are very young indeed. The psalmist wrote:

For you yourself created my inmost parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will thank you because I am marvelously made;
your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

My body was not hidden from you,
while I was being made in secret
and woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;
all of them were written in your book;
they were fashioned day by day,
when as yet there was none of them.   (Psalm 139:13-15)

God has a plan for our lives. From the very beginning he has ordained us and is forming us for that plan. All human life is precious to him. No life is by accident. How many prophets and priest have we killed in the womb through abortions? It is our national disgrace.

If we study the life of Samuel we see that he was a very humble and selfless man who became a great prophet. Our calling by God is not about ourselves. It is about serving the will of God the Father. The Apostle Paul wrote:

 We do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)

Can we ignore our calling of God any longer? Let us put selfish matters aside. The harvest of souls is ready. We have been given various gifts and talents, and we are all called by God. Are we listening? Are we ready for him to equip us for his service? We are not too old. God still has a plan for us. We are not too young. All the better to listen to the voice of God. He is speaking to us as he spoke to Samuel. Our answer should be: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

 

 

Track 2: A Holy Sabbath

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Psalm 81:1-10
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23-3:6

When I was young we did not have the internet, smart phones, or even television. We played a lot of board games and card games. My brother and I liked to play cards, especially with our grandmother. But there was a rule about cards we had to follow. We could not play cards on Sunday. That would disrespect the day.

At least in those days their was a mindset to observe the Sabbath. Stores were closed. There was supposed to be something different about the Sabbath. We were  supposed to at least acknowledge its existence.

God gave the children of Israel this command about the sabbath while they were encamped in the wilderness:

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.   (Deuteronomy 5:12-15)

It would seem that God was saying: “Do not be distracted by so many things on the sabbath. Remember what I have done for you and use the time to honor me.”

As I have said, there were rules about the sabbath which I did not understand as a child. The Pharisees specialized in rules, particularly rules about the sabbath. During his earthly ministry, Jesus was constantly confronted about these rules. From today’s Gospel we read:

One sabbath Jesus and his disciples were going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”   (Mark 2:23-28)

Jesus was telling the Pharisees that they had lost all perspective concerning the sabbath. They did not understand why it was given by God. The sabbath was made for humankind. It was given so that his people could spend time with God. We are to use the day to honor God and give thanks to him. God would use the day to refresh us. A time of refreshment from God can only come when we give our time to him.

Some might say that they do not need to go to church. They can commune with God on the golf course. To be sure, God is there. He is there even when we curse him and throw our golf club into the lake. God wants to be with us. And he wants to bless us. Will we let him? Or we will run from him on this day as we often do during the other days of the week?

The dangers of rules for the sabbath is that, by keeping them, we may think that we are a more holy people. We are not holy by any effort on our part. Only God can make us holy. A holy day is a holy time to be with a holy God. Then God can make us more into his image. He can mold us. He is the potter, we are the clay.

I am afraid that in some of our churches, we have allowed other spirits to come in and take the place of God’s Holy Spirit. We need a holy time with a right spirit.

The psalmist wrote:

Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you:
O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not worship a foreign god.

I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said,
“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”   (Psalm 81:8-10)

Have we let strange gods and strange spirits to come into our churches? The church in America is in great need of a revival. I am sure that most of us will agree with that. We need God to come in and cleanse us. He needs to do some housecleaning. We cannot do it. Let us pray to a holy God and ask him to make us holy once again, or maybe for the first time. Remembering God and imploring him to help us is a large part of what the sabbath is all about.

Jesus understood the sabbath. He observed it, but he did not give up any opportunity to do good by the power of the Holy Spirit. From today’s Gospel we continue reading:

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.   (Mark 3:1-6)

Are going to be Spirit filled and do the work Jesus has asked us to do, or are we going to be gatekeepers like the Pharisee and spend our time making rules so that others can obey them?

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The Presentation

bellini2Purification

Today we celebrate The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Joseph and Mary. From the Gospel of Luke we read:

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, the parents of Jesus brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”  (Luke 2:22-24)

Let us look at this event as if it were part of a three act play. This was the first act of purification – a ceremonial purification. Mary was considered unclean on the birth of her child, according to Jewish law. After a waiting period of about forty days, she and Joseph were required to offer up their son to God. Mary would then be considered pure and her child would be declared holy before God.

A ritual of ceremonial purification was not without meaning or significance. It was a rehearsal of a spiritual purification which was to come. Today, in many churches, parents present their children to God with the expectation that these children will be raised in the Christian Faith.

At the time of Jesus’ presentation the prophet Simeon blessed the family of Jesus and said to Mary:

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)

This prophecy foretold the second act of purification – a purification of the Law of God. Simeon prophesied that Jesus will bring about major changes in Judaism. Jesus said that he did not come to set aside the law but to fulfill it. The essence of the Law had to do with loving God and neighbor, but it had become merely an elaborate set of rules to follow. As the Word made flesh Jesus demonstrating by his life the true righteous requirements of the law. God requires transparency and truth. We cannot cover up our sins by our works.

Joseph and Mary were presenting Jesus to God in the Temple. Jesus would soon change the whole temple worship by becoming the temple himself. He would become the new Temple by satisfying all the requirements of the old Temple. His blood, spilled on the cross, would become the atoning sacrifice for all our sins once and for all.

From Hebrews we read:

Since God’s children share flesh and blood, Jesus himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.   (Hebrews 2:14-15)

The last act of purification has to do with the purification of the saints. We read in Malachi:

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.   (Malachi 3:3-4)

The Apostle Paul writes that Jesus, by his atoning sacrifice, is able to present us pure before the Father:

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him — provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.   (Colossians 1:21-23)

Paul makes it clear that we must continue in the Faith. Jesus makes this promise for those who do:

“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)

Mary and Joseph presented Jesus holy to God. Jesus turned the tables. He presents Mary and Joseph and all saints as holy to God. Mary and Joseph offered up their son before God. God, the Father, offered His Son as a sacrifice to us all that we may be made holy before him. The Presentation of Jesus is our presentation as well.

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