Tag Archives: the cross

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

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8B

Track 1: How the Mighty Have Fallen

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

In today’s reading from 2 Samuel, King David laments the death of King Saul and his son Jonathan:

Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!

Tell it not in Gath,
proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon;

or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

You mountains of Gilboa,
let there be no dew or rain upon you,
nor bounteous fields!

For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.   (2 Samuel 1:25-27)

Saul was anointed by God to be king over Israel. He was a mighty warrior who conquered many of Israel’s enemies. Yet Saul had decided to do things on his own, without regard to the will of God. Because of this, Israel was continually being attacked by its enemies. Saul was warned but kept on rebelling against God.

How could someone be so stubborn? Does that sound like someone we might know? The psalmist wrote:

Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts;
    there is no one who does good.

God looks down from heaven on humankind
    to see if there are any who are wise,
    who seek after God.

They have all fallen away, they are all alike perverse;
    there is no one who does good,
    no, not one.   (Psalm 53:1-3)

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The psalmist wrote:

Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss,
O Lord, who could stand?

Have we not all been guilty of rebellion against God? In a time of desperation we call out to God, hoping that he will still here us. The psalmist goes on to offer this assurance:

For there is forgiveness with you;
therefore you shall be feared.

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
in his word is my hope.    (Psalm 130:1-5)

God is faithful even when we are not faithful. He is ready to forgive those who will repent of their sins and turn to him. He has been waiting patiently for us. We must learn to wait patiently on him, not losing our hope in his  word. The psalmist reminds us:

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
    he remembers that we are dust.   (Psalm 103:8-14)

We may have fallen, but we do not have to remain fallen. Saul refused to repent. Let us not be so stubbornness of heart. Out of the depths let us cry out to God. It is not too late to call upon his name.

 

 

Track 2: Your Faith Has Made You Well

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Lamentations 3:21-33
or Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

We are blessed today with quite a story of faith from the Gospel of Mark:

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”   (Mark 5:24-34)

What is so remarkable about this true story? The woman who was healed had been suffering from her illness for twelve years, but she did not lose hope that God could heal her. She tenaciously held on to that hope. Perhaps she was familiar with this passage from Lamentations:

This I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”   (Lamentations 3:21-24)

She did not give up hope in God. She did not become discouraged to the point of unbelief. Her belief is that God could heal her and that God would heal her. She understood the character of God: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” She could have given up hope in God’s love but did not because she knew that God is love and that his love never ceases.

In life we can have difficulties. We can have illnesses. That is  simply a part of life. God allows these things, but that does not mean that he wills that our trials continue. His perfect will is that we will be made whole. Again from Lamentations:

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for one to bear
    the yoke in youth,
to sit alone in silence
    when the Lord has imposed it,   (Lamentations 3:25-28)

The woman understood that she had to wait for God patiently. God would come through for her. We are armed with knowledge that this woman did not have: Healing is provided in the cross which Jesus bore. In Isaiah we read:

Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.   (Isaiah 53:4-5)

This leads us to the next and vital point about faith in God. The woman was able to touch God. She knew that if she could just touch the clothes of Jesus she would be healed. He did not have to speak to her. He had the power of God to heal. She just had to touch him with her faith.

How do we do that? How do we touch Jesus? Satan is constantly telling us that we are unworthy of his healing because of our sin. The more we have to wait on God’s healing the more Satan will make his case against us. The key to touching God is to believe in his character more than the circumstances in which we may find ourselves. The woman who was hemorrhaging strongly believed that God would heal her. She believed that he wanted to heal her because he is a loving and healing God. The psalmist wrote:

The Lord works vindication
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.   (Psalm 103:6-13)

One of the greatest obstacles of healing is our belief that we are not worthy of God’s healing. Our faith should not based on who we are but on who God is. God is not limited by our character. God is governed by his character. “He does not deal with us according to our sins, not repay us according to our iniquities” the psalmist tells us. Do we believe this? Then we have every right to reach out and touch him. As we touch him, he will  touch us and say to us: “Your faith has made you well.”

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Resurrection Sunday: Principal Service, Year B

For Whom Are You Looking?

A pall or shroud has been cast over all people. That covering weighs us down. Job of the Old Testament asked:

If mortals die, will they live again?
    All the days of my service I would wait
    until my release should come.  (Job 14:14)

We can imagine infinite life. It is something most people would want. But we cannot achieve it on this earth. We eventually die. Science is always looking for a way round death. Some are saying that our consciousness could morph into a computer somehow. Is there a way to become immortal? What is standing in our way?

God had told Adam and Eve that they could eat fruit from any tree in Garden of Eden except one tree. If they ate of that tree they would die. We remember that Satan tricked us:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”   (Genesis 3:4-5)

Satan lied when he said we would not die, because sin is what causes death. Science looks for wisdom around death. Satan promised we would have the wisdom of God. But our so-called wisdom falls short.

Only God can solve our predicament. He revealed his plan through the Prophet Isaiah:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
    of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
    the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
    the sheet that is spread over all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
    and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
    Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
    This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.  (Isaiah 25:6-9)

Salvation was coming by God’s plan. In the fullness of time, God would send his Son into the world that death and the fear of death would be eradicated, along with all sin. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord would be saved.

The Apostle Peter, by revelation from God, gained an understanding of the universality of God’s plan. When God revealed to him that even Gentiles could be saved, he proclaimed:

They put Jesus to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”   (Acts 10:39-43)

On the morning of his resurrection Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. It was his first resurrection appearance. We have the account in the Gospel of John. Mary is distraught because she believed that someone has stolen the body of Jesus from the tomb. Then she has an encounter with Jesus, whom she thought might be a gardener. Jesus asked Mary Magdalene: “Whom are you looking for?”

When Mary discovers that Jesus has risen from the dead her whole life changed. As prophesied by Isaiah: “The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.” Jesus then told Mary:

“Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”   (John 20:17)

Jesus is not the only one who is resurrected. He has gone before so that we may follow him. We, too, have been raised up with him if we receive this message by faith.

Whom are we looking for today? Does science offer us hope of immortality? Can we discover the miracle cure that extends our lives indefinitely? Many people are looking in the wrong place. Such wishful thinking is really a denial of sin.

No one can solve the problem of death who does not first solve the problem of sin. Only Jesus has solved them both:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.   (Romans 6:23)

Jesus has removed the disgrace of our sins. He has fulfilled the promise of Isaiah.

Thanks be to God, the Lord Jesus Christ is risen! The Lord has risen indeed! Are we ready to tell others this good news? It is the message which

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