Tag Archives: the world

Day of Pentecost, Year B

Send Forth Your Spirit

The Day of Pentecost is traditionally a celebration of the birth of the Church. Perhaps the church in America needs more of a rebirth than a birthday celebration.

The nation of Israel needed a rebirth. It had fallen so low that it appeared Israel would never recover. The people were in exile with little hope of ever returning to their homeland. What was sad for them is that they remembered their homeland and how wonderful it was when they were under the protection and blessing of God. But they moved away from God just as many in our nation have done the same. When this happens there are consequences.

Fortunately, God intervened in their moment of complete despair. He spoke to his prophet Ezekiel:

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”   (Ezekiel 37:1-6)

Notice that Ezekiel did not have the answers to God’s questions. Nonetheless, God would put the answers in the prophets mouth. God was doing a new thing, but Ezekiel must declare it to make it happen. I believe that God is ready to do a new thing for America and for the church in America. Are we listening and are we ready to speak?

Apart from God we can do nothing. In fact, there is no life at all apart from God, only death. Life begins when God breathes upon us the Spirit of life. The psalmist wrote:

You hide your face, and they are terrified;
you take away their breath,
and they die and return to their dust.

You send forth your Spirit, and they are created;
and so you renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
may the Lord rejoice in all his works.   (Acts 2:30-32)

When life was first formed we read that the Spirit was hovering over the waters:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

God breathed his Spirit and  life became possible. We need him to breathe on us again. The Apostle Paul wrote:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.   (Romans 8:22-25)

Have we given up hope on our country? Have we given up hope on our church? Paul tells us that in hope we were saved. it is time to put our salvation into practice. We must not give up. Rather, we must speak out. That is what Ezekiel did:

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.   (Ezekiel 37:7-10)

The Day of Pentecost is a reminder that God started the Church. The disciples did not do it. We cannot do it. The promised Holy Spirit of God came upon the followers of Jesus and breathed into them new life. In the Old Testament, the Spirit would fall upon certain prophets. By his  death and resurrection Jesus prepared the way for everyone to receive his Spirit. In today’s Gospel Jesus is speaking to his disciples about his Spirit:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.   (John 16:7-11)

The world was wrong about three things: sin, righteousness, and judgment. This is still true today. The Church should not be governed by this false understanding. Yet much of it has been captured by the world. First, sin is real and sin brings death. We must confess it. Secondly, we are not righteous except by the blood of Jesus. Yes, we are saved by grace through faith, but without the shedding of the blood of Jesus there would be no cleansing on sin. We must still confess the blood of Jesus. And thirdly, the world is under judgment to this day. America is under judgment because it is governed by wicked leadership which the church has not challenged. We are starting to see some of our wicked leaders fall, both in the government and the church. Are we ready to move out from being under this corruption?

A great awakening is occurring. We cannot afford to be silent any longer. We must speak out and declare the new life in Christ that God is offering our nation?

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.   (Ezekiel 37:9-10)

Let us pray: “Send Forth Your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.”

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Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B

The Testimony of God

The great basketball coach John Wooden was well-known, not only for winning 10 NCAA championships, but also for his sayings on life. This was one of them:

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

There is much wisdom in what he is saying. Reputations are based on the perception of others. Often their perceptions are not very accurate. Jesus warned:

“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”   (Luke 6:26)

In his First Epistle, John writes that we have a greater testimony than human testimony:

If we receive human testimony, the testimony of God is greater; for this is the testimony of God that he has testified to his Son. Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts. Those who do not believe in God have made him a liar by not believing in the testimony that God has given concerning his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.   (1 John 5:9-12)

Are we more interested in the praise of men that the praise of God? The praise of men is fleeting at best. The public is fickle, and as we have noted, often wrong. People look at surface values and do not see the heart of a person as God does. God sees our heart and draws us to himself. He is no respecter of persons. He is not influenced about what others might think or say. What could be more comforting than the testimony of God dwelling in our heart that we are his, that he cherishes us, and that we have eternal life in him through the blood sacrifice of his Son?

Not only is human praise fleeting, but this world is passing away. In his high priestly prayer, Jesus declares that his disciples are no longer of this world, just as he is not of this world. He asks the Father that he would protect his disciples from the evil one of this world, Satan.

And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

If we are true Christians the world will hate us. This is becoming increasingly more obvious each day. This hate, however, cannot separate us from the love of God, nor can it take away the peace we have in our hearts. God is preparing us for a better world. In the meantime, Jesus wants his joy to be made complete in us, praying that we are one in him with the Father.

Each day, let us pause and listen to the inner testimony of God in our hearts. It is stronger than any human testimony. And it is truthful and lasting. All other testimonies are empty words from empty people. Let us remember to pray to God that they, too, might be filled with the knowledge of the love of God in Christ Jesus.

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Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year B


The Victory that Overcomes the World

The covenant which God made with Abraham, that was extended to the children of Israel, was based on an agreement. God chose a people set apart for himself so that he might bless them. Receiving that blessing, however, required an obedience to God’s Commandments. Keeping their end of the agreement was such a struggle for Israel, as history testifies.

In today’s reading from the Book of Acts, the Apostle Peter is surprised that God would accept Gentiles into his kingdom who had never been part of such a struggle. He had Been told by God to preach the Gospel to a group of Gentiles, but it does not appear that Peter was fully prepared for the response to his sermon:

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.   (Acts 10:44-48)

Although Peter had received teaching directly from Jesus for three years he still lacked an important understanding concerning the Gospel. What had Peter missed? A key element to the Gospel that we might also miss today, if we are not careful. God stepped in and accomplished what Israel or anyone else, for that matter, was powerless to do.

The psalmist wrote:

Sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm
has he won for himself the victory.

The Lord has made known his victory;
his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

What is this victory? God won a victory over sin and death through his Son Jesus Christ. His victory is for all humankind. Sin leads to death, both spiritual and, ultimately, physical death. Despite their best efforts, Israel was not able to overcome sin. They failed to keep God’s Commandments just as we have failed. Therefore, death still reigned. But Jesus defeated sin and death through his atoning sacrifice on the cross and by resurrection from the dead.

God had invited the Gentiles to participate in his victory over sin and death. What must have surprising to Peter is that God seemed to offer such an easy way out of their alienation from God. And they responded so quickly.

The intent of God was to make our salvation easy. We can be victorious because Jesus was victorious. The Apostle Paul wrote:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God —  not the result of works, so that no one may boast   (Ephesians 2:8-9)

For those of us who still want to earn our way, however, receiving God’s grace is not so easy. We must admit that, apart from Jesus, we can do nothing.

Yet there is still something that we can do, and must do. Jesus’s victory must become our victory. We are to participate in his victory. What that means is not so easily understood. It has not been preached all that well. The Apostle Paul goes a long way in explaining it. Paul writes:

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.   (Philippians 3:12-14)

Jesus has already made Paul his own, Paul writes. That is vitally important. Jesus has already made each one of us his own. Will we make him our own? Paul writes that he wants to press into Jesus. He wants to fully embrace what God has provided. He wants to have a part in Christ’s victory over sin and death.

The Apostle John makes this same point in his First Epistle:

And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?   (1 John 5:4-5)

Faith and trust in Jesus is our response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul writes:

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.   (Philippians 2:11-13)

God is doing a work in us, We want cooperate with God in this process of spiritual growth. Paul deals with this matter throughout the entire Book of Romans. But if we are looking for a simple explanation, we have nothing better that the words of our Lord. Jesus was asked:

“What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”   (John 6:28-29)

Belief is something we must exercise everyday. Some may confuse it with a work. It is not a work, but it is required by, God. God is accomplishing all the work on our hearts and minds. Our part is to remain in fellowship with him and allow him to have free access to our hearts and minds.

Satan understands the Gospel very well so his purpose is to interrupt our fellowship with God. He discourages us. He attempts to make us blame God for all our problems. There will be problems. Jesus did say:

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 16:33)

It is too bad that the feel good gospel, “your best life now,” is supported in many of our churches. It is a deception which Satan loves to use for his advantage and our confusion.

Jesus has conquered the world. He has overcome sin. He has overcome hell and the grave. We are over-comers as well when we put our trust in him. Paul writes:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   (Romans 8:37-39)

Are we ready to overcome the world? Then, reborn in Christ, we are well on the way. We will cross the finish line because we will stay in the race no matter what. We will keep our faith and trust in Jesus every step of the way.

For everyone born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that has overcomes the world, even our faith.  (1 John 5:4)

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