Tag Archives: the cross

Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 24B

Track 1: Approaching God

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)
Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

How do we approach God in our prayers? Job prayed to God. When God answered him, he discovered that he was not on the same footing with God:

The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.   (Job 38:1-4)

The psalmist praised of God for his splendor and majesty:

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
O Lord my God, how excellent is your greatness!
you are clothed with majesty and splendor.

You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak
and spread out the heavens like a curtain.   (Psalm 104:1-2)

God is creator and we are his creation. As we approach God, perhaps we should keep this in mind and show him great reverence and respect.

James and John approached Jesus. From today’s Gospel reading:

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”   (Mark 10:35-38)

Did James and John really know who Jesus is? They approached him as their friend. Later, John, in the preamble to his Gospel wrote this:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.   (John 1:1-4)

If we are to approach God the Father we will do well to understand the cup which God the Son drank for us. From today’s reading from Hebrews:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.   (Hebrews 5:)

Our high priest is the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father is too Holy to look upon sin. Therefore, he has offered up his Son to take our sins from us. Those sins were placed on him who bore them on a cruel cross. He bore them once and for all. But what about the sins we continue to commit, unwittingly and, in many cases, on purpose? That is where we need a high priest who continually intercedes for us.

Let us read further in Hebrews. From chapter 10;

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 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 10:19-27

How do we approach God the Father? We approach him through Jesus. If we CONTINUE to sin, we must confess our sins. That is paramount in our prayers before God. The Apostle of John wrote:

 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 1:6-9)

 

 

 

венецTrack 2: Bound to Jesus in Love

Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 91:9-16
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

Who is Jesus to us? Is he our Lord? Yes, he is. He is Lord of all. But is he our servant? From Mark’s Gospel we read:

Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”   (Mark 10:42-45)

To receive the lordship of Jesus we must receive his servanthood.

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.

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 53:4-12)

Jesus was and is the suffering servant of Isaiah. How we respond to his suffering defines us as Christian disciples. Do we love him for what he did? If so, we must be devoted to him. We must be bound to him. The psalmist wrote:

Because he is bound to me in love,
therefore will I deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my Name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;
I am with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

With long life will I satisfy him,
and show him my salvation.   (Psalm 91:14-16)

If we are bound to this world we cannot be bound to Jesus. If we are bound to our things we cannot be bound to Jesus. If we are bound to proving ourselves as worthy of anything we cannot be bound to Jesus. Now is the time of deliverance. Though great trouble lies ahead, Jesus will protect us. Though Satan has set many traps for us, Jesus will deliver us. Though many in the Church are falling away, Jesus will rescue us. He will do all these things when we are bound to him in love.

Where do we stand today? It has little to do with our past actions. It has little to do with our past declarations. Today, are we bound to Jesus in love? Jesus said:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”   (John 14:16)

Are we able to love the one, and follow the one, who loved us and gave himself entirely to us?

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)

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Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 23B

Track 1: Why Have You Forsaken Me?

Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Psalm 22:1-15
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

Job had a complaint against God. He felt like God had abandoned him. From Job we read:

“Today also my complaint is bitter;
his hand is heavy despite my groaning.

Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
that I might come even to his dwelling!

I would lay my case before him,
and fill my mouth with arguments.

I would learn what he would answer me,
and understand what he would say to me.

Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?
No; but he would give heed to me.

There an upright person could reason with him,
and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.   (Job 23::2-7)

There may be times in our lives when feel that God has abandoned us. But has he? King David wrote this famous psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff —
    they comfort me.   (Psalm 23:1-4)

We remember the many challenges that David had in his life. King Saul tried to kill him on more than one occasion. Yet, David never gave up on God. He put his whole trust in God alone. The enemy wants to defeat us and destroy. One of his primary ways is through discouragement. That is when we need to trust the word of God perhaps the most. From Hebrews we read:

Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper;
    I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?”   (Hebrews 13:5-6)

The Apostle Paul writes:

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. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   (Romans 8:31-35, 37)

There was only one time when God ever abandoned anyone. It was when Jesus cried out from the cross:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?  (Psalm 22:1)

Some have said that Jesus was just quoting from the Twenty-second Psalm. This is one interpretation, but I believe that much more was going on here. The Twenty-second Psalm was prophetic. It described a crucifixion in detail when such punishment was not yet invented by the Romans. Rather, was it not that God did actually abandon his Son when his Son bore all the sins of the world upon himself? The ultimate punishment for sin is separation from God. The is what Jesus bore for us so that we might never be abandoned by God. And because Jesus did this for us we are able to call upon him in times of need.

From Hebrews:

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.   (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Great is the mercy of God. Great is the sacrifice of his Son. Can we not exercise our faith in such a great God? Can we not put our whole trust in him? In life there will be tests and trials. Jesus said:

The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”   (John 16:32-33)

 

 

 

christ-rich-young-ruler-hofmann-1020802-gallery-noticeTrack 2: The Rich Young Man

Amos 5:6-7,10-15
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

What does it mean to be a seeker of God and his kingdom? Today, we have the illustration of the right young man. From Mark:

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.   (Mark 10:17-22)

The young man was sincere in his quest for the kingdom. He tried to keep the commandments of God. Jesus realized that and he love him for it. (He love us all, but he has a special love tor those who seek to do God’s will). But Jesus required him to do something that was unexpected. He had to go and sell all that he had. The young man’s response was very telling. He could not so what Jesus had asked him even though he wanted to do so.

What was wrong? Was the man’s wealth a problem? Again, from Mark:

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”   (Mark 10:23-27)

It would seem that the disciples of Jesus might have had a “prosperity gospel.” No, in the case of the young man and in any case, money is not the problem. It was something more. The young man had many possessions. Whether or not we are rich or poor, we can all have too many possessions. The danger is that we become possessed by our possessions. Rather than owning them, they own us! In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus warned:

Do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.   (Matthew 6:31-33)

Notice that in today’s reading from Mark, Jesus did not say it is impossible for the rich alone to enter the kingdom of God. He said:  “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Whether rich or poor we need God’s help and grace. But we need to make a step in his direction. We cannot allow our possessions to be all important. We must understand that God is the true treasure. He is the one we seek. From Jeremiah we read:

When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,   (Jeremiah 29:13)

Jesus understands our worldly distractions. He understands our temptations. He alone can help prepare us for the kingdom of God.

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.   (Hebrews 4:14-16)

How much do we seek the kingdom of God? Do we seek it more than our possessions? All we have to do, if that is so, is to be honest with God about it. He is more than capable of doing the rest for us.

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through ourLord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

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Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 19B

Track 1: Wisdom Calls Us

Proverbs 1:20-33
Psalm 19
James 3:1-12
Mark 8:27-38

Today we look at the wisdom of God. One of the first things we should notice from reading in Proverbs is that God wants to impart his wisdom to us:

Wisdom cries out in the street;
in the squares she raises her voice.

At the busiest corner she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:

“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?

How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?

Give heed to my reproof;

I will pour out my thoughts to you;
I will make my words known to you.

The wisdom of God cries out to us. Do we cry out to the wisdom of God? We do if we understand that we need his wisdom. The author of the Book of 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.   (James 1:5)

One of the ways in which God implants his wisdom in us is by our reading of the scriptures. The psalmist writes:

The law of the Lord is perfect
and revives the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the Lord are just
and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear
and gives light to the eyes.   (Psalm 19:7-8)

When I was in seminary I asked the Lord for a mentor. I felt that I needed someone to help me understand and interpret God’s word. I had a certain minister in mind, but he did not seem all that interested in helping me. I complained to the Lord about this. Several years later I realized that this esteemed pastor and preacher had turned away from the truth of God’s word.

James warned us about some teachers:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.   (James 3:1)

If we had to say who is the best teacher of the word of God, who would that be? Perhaps the wisdom of God itself is our best teacher. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt — a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.   (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

If we are open to the Holy Spirit of God, he alone can lead us into all truth. Jesus said:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.   (John 16:12-14)

The wisdom of God has made provision for us. Are we ready to receive all the wonderful lessons which he wants to teach us. Wisdom is our primary source of understanding God’s word. He will give us that understanding through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Having a human mentor is not necessarily a bad idea, however. But we must choose very carefully. We must examine the fruit of their ministry. James writes:

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 the pure wisdom of God. Let us always pray that we receive this wisdom. If we seek this wisdom we will find it. God has given us his promise.

 

 

Track 2: Man and Ministry

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 116:1-8
James 3:1-12
Mark 8:27-38

Today we once more examine the question for the ages. Jesus brings it up in today’s Gospel reading, From Marks Gospel:

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.   (Mark 8:27-30)

What other people say about Jesus is not as critical to us as what we say about Jesus. God is looking for a declaration from us about who Jesus is to us. Not only that, he also wants us to understand what that might mean. Jesus explained to his disciples:

The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”   (Mark 8:31-33)

What was Peter missing? He correctly identified who Jesus was and is, but he failed to understand what that might mean. Our Christology must include both the person and purpose of Jesus. The Apostle wrote to the Church in Rome:

But what does it say?

“The word is near you,
    on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.   (Romans 10:8-10

In today’s Gospel reading Peter does declare that “Jesus is Lord.” Paul implies that, not only must we declare who Jesus is, we must understand in our hearts what his ministry is about. Peter failed to understand the part about the cross and resurrection which Jesus was attempting to explain to his disciples. Later, Peter would understand after the resurrection.

The psalmist had an understand of the underlying ministry of God, even in his day. For that reason he called upon the name of the Lord:

The cords of death entangled me;
the grip of the grave took hold of me;
I came to grief and sorrow.

Then I called upon the Name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I pray you, save my life.”

Gracious is the Lord and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.

The Lord watches over the innocent;
I was brought very low, and he helped me.

Turn again to your rest, O my soul,
for the Lord has treated you well.

For you have rescued my life from death,
my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling.

I will walk in the presence of the Lord
in the land of the living.   (Psalm 116:2-8)

Have we called upon the Lord Jesus? Can we say, as did the psalmist?:

I will walk in the presence of the Lord
in the land of the living.   (Psalm 116:8)

Jesus’ ministry is about life and life eternal. Let us live continually in the presence of the Lord. His blood washes away all of our sins. He is the only way to God the Father. That is the confession which we must make and that is the confession in which we must live. Jesus said:

Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”   (Mark 8:38)

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