Tag Archives: witness

Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles

the-apostles-st-peter-and-st-paul-xx-el-grecoThe Founding Apostles of the Church

The Apostles who have had the most profound impact on the Church are, without a doubt, Peter and Paul. One was an ordinary, uneducated fisherman who became the central leader of a movement and faith that has reverberated down through the ages. The other was the outstanding student of Judaism in his day who became a great theologian and missionary extraordinaire, writing a large part of the New Testament. Which one was more important? We cannot say. I believe that they both were needed by the Early Church and they are needed today.

Peter and Paul needed each other as well. Their messages played off one another. Without the leadership of either one we would not have had the fullness of the Gospel preached to the world. Nonetheless, Peter and Paul did not always see eye to eye. We read in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:11-16)

Peter and Paul resolved their differences and came to a common understanding of the Gospel. With the help of James, the brothers of Jesus, they mapped out what they considered the essential tenets of the Faith. This opened the door for people of all nations to enter into the Kingdom of God.

Here is how Peter described Paul’s writings:

But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:13-16)

Each apostle started his ministry in the Church from a position of weakness. We remember that Peter had denied his Lord three times before Jesus endured the cross:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”   (John 21:15-19)

In the flesh, Peter was weak. As a pharisee, Paul was persecuting the Church, thinking that he was saving Judaism from heresy. Without the intervention of Jesus he would not have become the great missionary that he was.

In looking back on his ministry, Paul wrote to Timothy:

As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.   (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

What is significant about both Peter and Paul is that, against all odds, they taught and preached the Gospel with boldness and perseverance. Although they both became martyrs for the faith, they did not shrink back from the great commission which the Lord Jesus had entrusted to them. The commonality in their leadership is that they did not rely on themselves but on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

They both emphasized that the Kingdom was not of this world. Christian believers could look forward to a life to come with great hope. In the meantime, believers were to advance in purity and holiness.

Let us summon the courage to persevere in our own day. By the grace of God and the guidance of his Holy Spirit, may we boldly witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We need to remember that all the apostles were ordinary men with extraordinary callings. We, also, have our own callings. Let us follow the example of these two great apostles.

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Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A

Why Do You Stand Here Looking Up?

The last words of Jesus spoken to his disciples before being taken up to heaven are extremely significant. In John we read:

When the apostles had come together, they asked Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”   (Acts 1:6-11)

What is significant? Is it that Jesus said that we would be his witnesses. Yes! And the assurance from the angels that Jesus would return the same way he left. Yes! But the angels also said this: “Why do you stand here looking up?”

So many events and signs today point to the fact that we are living in the last days. It is right that we should be anticipating Jesus’s return. Even the Early Church did that. But they did much more than that. Because of their courageous witness the Gospel was spread throughout the world.

How are we doing today in terms of our witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Are we telling others about the good news of salvation by faith in his saving act upon the cross? Or are re we just looking up and waiting? Do we have a bunker mentality or are we ready to take new ground for the Kingdom of God?

Our example is the Lord Jesus Christ. He lived through very difficult times. Yet his primary concern was to reveal the love of God the Father, whatever the cost. In John we read:

”I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.   (John 17:6-8)

The Early Church followed the example of our Lord. They were willing to go the distance, even to the point of death. The Greek word for witness in today’s reading from Acts is “Martus.” From this Greek word we get the word “martyr.” The dictionary defines the word martyr as a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle.

Jesus gave his life for us. Many of the early believers gave their life for us as well. What are we willing to give today?

Are we waiting on God? Are we waiting on His return? He is waiting on us. He is counting on our witness to the Gospel. Has the Gospel impacted our lives? If so, others should that it has.

What keeps many of us from witnessing today is the threat of persecution. This is increasing more and more throughout the world. Now we are experiencing it in America. Such persecution is promise. The Apostle Peter wrote:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.   (1 Peter 4:12-14)

The key is that God is with us. We are not alone. God is pouring out this glory through us when we boldly step out for him

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Ascension Day, Year A

You Shall Receive Power

From today’s scriptural readings it is also impossible not to miss this message: You shall receive power. From Acts we read:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.  (Acts 1:6-10)

In Luke we read the final words of Jesus to his disciples:

Jesus said to his disciples, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”  (Luke 24:44-49)

Are we clothed with power from on high? If not, how can we be effective witnesses for Christ? The Apostle Paul prayed for the Church in Ephesus:

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.  (Ephesians 1:15-19)

Paul speaks about  “the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.” Are we believers? Then Paul is speaking to us!

The Church is the Body of Christ on the earth until Jesus comes again. But we are not powerless. In fact, Jesus said that we would continue the work he was doing and do even greater work. However, this work can be accomplished only through the Holy Spirit for those who believe in Jesus and the promise he made to the Church.

The primary work of the church is evangelism. The power of God is a large part of effective evangelism. Paul wrote the church in Thessalonica:

For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.   (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5)

What are we accomplishing in his name? Are we powerless? If we do not believe in his promise, then we are without his power. The enemy wants to keep us in the dark.

A revival in the Church is coming for those who believe and pray. Do we want to sit around and curse the darkness? Or do we want to fulfill the promise made to the Body of Christ by our Lord Jesus. It is up to us. Jesus has poured out his power. We must receive it by faith.

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A

262017884xGMKlo_phThe Spirit of Truth

We live in a pluralist society. It is becoming ever more difficult to talk about our Christian faith. Persecutions of Christians are on the rise, even in America. Moreover, there are alternative messages to the Gospel that spew out on the airways and over the internet. False doctrines have supplanted Biblical truths. Deception, misinformation, disinformation, and down right lies are the order of the day. Some might even say psyops, brainwashing, and group think. Satan has taken over the culture of today.

We are living in a very dark time indeed. Who is telling the truth? What is truth? People are begging for the truth, rather they realize it or not. That is where Christian comes in. Are we prepared to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

The Apostle Peter laid down this challenge:

Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.   (1 Peter 3:15-16)

God has done great things for us. Will we boldly share with others what he has done? The psalmist wrote:

Come and listen, all you who fear God,
and I will tell you what he has done for me.

I called out to him with my mouth,
and his praise was on my tongue.   (Psalm 66:14-15)

If we are to give witness to the Christian way of life, then we must be living the Christian way of life. We must be different from the world. This is no time for shallow or nominal Christians. We must be walking with Jesus on a daily basis. We cannot truly witness the Christian faith without his help. The good news is that he has promised to help us. We read in today’s Gospel:

Jesus said, ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.   (John 14:15-17)

Jesus has given us supernatural help by way of the Parakletos, which is a Greek word often translated as “helper.” The Holy Spirit is our helper and guide who leads us to the truth. He is the Spirit of Aletheia, in the Greek, which means standing against corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth.

The Spirit of truth helps us to understand and interpret God’s Word and relate it to our lives. With the Spirit we are not in the dark. Without the Spirit we are part of the darkness.

Jesus promised:

I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”   (John 14:18-21)

Have we received the Spirit? He is continually available to us. But we must ask for him. We must ask for his help. And we must also seek to keep the commandments of God. Deliberate sin is not compatible with the Spirit because this type of living is not truthful. It does not show the world what God has done for us. To speak the truth we need the Spirit of truth and we need to live in truth daily.

We are living in critical times. God is bringing the Church age to the close. Are we ready for that day when God judges the earth? How about our families and loved ones? The Apostle Paul wrote:

While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”   (Acts 17:30-31)

Jesus has risen from the dead and sits on the right hand of God the Father. He is calling us to live out our faith that the world may know that we have risen with him. We are not longer subject to this world and its compromised. We must live in the truth by the Spirit of truth to demonstrate to the world what is real and lasting. This present age is passing away. Even unbelievers sense it. Where can they go for answers? We who are living in Christ are the answer for them. Jesus is Lord of this age and in the age to come. Amen.

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Second Sunday of Easter, Year A

Seeing is Believing or Believing is Seeing?

We remember the story of doubting Thomas. He could not believe in the resurrection without physical evidence, even though others had testified that they had seen the risen Lord. Thomas got his chance to believe when Jesus appeared to his disciples a second time:

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  (John 20:26-29)

We should not be too hard on Thomas. His attitude represents for us a certain human skepticism that most of us share. Where does it come from? Perhaps it goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Satan tricked humankind to believe that we could be like God through a secret wisdom alone. It was just a matter of going around God who, supposedly, was keeping important information from us. Is that not the quest of science today? In fact, for some of today’s scientist,  their quest is an effort to disprove God altogether.

In reality, when it comes to God, physical proof does not work. The children of Israel saw more signs and wonders from God than anyone has ever seen. Yet, within a generation, they almost lost their belief in the God who brought them out of Egypt and nourished them in the wilderness. “Seeing is believing” did not seem to work for them, nor will it work in our day as well.

On the Day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter testified, in part:

David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,

‘He was not abandoned to Hades,
nor did his flesh experience corruption.’

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.”   (Acts 2:31)

The Apostles witness the resurrection of Jesus Christ first hand. Only a select few of people actually did. But their testimony has helped spread the Gospel around the world. Peter remarked:

Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.   (1 Peter 1:8-9)

Personal testimonies are what touch people’s hearts. The risen Christ is very real to those who believe. They do not just have head knowledge. They have heart knowledge which is no less important. It may be even more important. This does not make Jesus any less real. It is just the God the Father has ordained faith as a required element in the conversion of souls. The Apostle Paul writes:

“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)

Paul tells us what it means to be saved. We received the word of God. We received the testimony and we believed. John Wesley said that his hearts was strangely warmed. Faith changes us.

We did not see the resurrected Lord as did the early apostles, but Jesus has called us blessed:

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

We have experienced Jesus within our hearts. Because we believed we have salvation in the name of Jesus. He can never be taken away from us if we hold him there. His life within us is transforming us more and more into his likeness. That transformation is our primary testimony and that is what changes the world. Many early Christian believers would not give up their testimony and were martyred for the Faith. Faith is all important because it guarantees an eternal inheritance with the Saints of light.

Let us go boldly into the world, as did Peter and the other apostles, and praise the glorious name of Jesus. “Believing is seeing.” May our belief help others to see.

Alleluia! He is risen!

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