Monthly Archives: July 2021

Saint James, Apostle

Guido_Reni_-_Saint_James_the_Greater_-_Google_Art_ProjectAble to Drink the Cup

Today we look at one of the “Sons of Thunder.” He was quite ambiguous, or was it his mother?

The mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”  (Matthew 20:20-23)

James and John were among the first disciples called by Jesus. They were with their father Zebedee by the seashore when Jesus called them and they immediately followed Him. Along with Peter they were chosen by Jesus to bear witness to his Transfiguration. Thus, they were significant to Jesus’ ministry.

Their mother thought they were significant enough to request a special place for them in Jesus’ kingdom, but she did not understand what this might mean. James was chosen for greatness in ways his mother did not expect, nor did James.

What was the cup to which Jesus referred in answering the mother? It was the cup that Jesus understood too well. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed this prayer:

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26:39)

James, indeed, drank the cup that Jesus drank. James is traditionally believed to be the first of the twelve apostles who was martyred for the faith. We read about it in the Book of Acts:

Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread.  (Acts 12:1-3)

The Festival of Unleavened Bread was the Jewish Passover. Jesus has become the Passover for those who believe in Him. Because James was faithful in preaching the Passover of Christ he was privileged to join his Lord in laying down his life for the Church. James went from being a big-shot to a hero of the faith by following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Where would the Christian Church be today without the faith and testimonies of the martyrs? If the Early Church were preaching today’s “Gospel” message the Church would probably not even exist. So many today are seeking a higher place and a greater prosperity for themselves. Such seeking only causes envy and division within the Church. Jesus attempted to put a stop to it with His disciples:

When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:24-28)

Having just celebrated Mary Magdalene as a true servant leader of God, we now celebrate James, the first apostle martyred for the sake of the Gospel. He was able to drink the cup. Let us pray for the grace and courage that more Church servant leaders will step forward in our day. Perhaps we may be included among them.

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Ninth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 12

Track 1:  Strengthen Your Inner Being 

2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

God referred to King David as a man after my own heart. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

When he had removed Saul, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’   (Acts 13:22)

David had a driving force to implements the commandments of God. But there was another force working within him. Reading from 2 Samuel:

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”   (2 Samuel 11:2-5)

David’s desire for Bathsheba caused grave consequences. David attempted to get Uriah, her husband, to sleep with his wife. But Uriah would not do so while he was on military duty. David’s act of adultery would lead to another crime:

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”   (2 Samuel 11:14-15)

Adultery led to murder as David tried to coverup his sin. How could this happen? How could a man after God’s own heart do these things?

Our flesh is a very powerful force.It is a desire to gratify ourselves at the expense of others. In fact, the flesh does not even consider others. Apostle Paul write::

For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  (Romans 7:18-19)

This is not Paul writing about his days as a Pharisee. As a Pharisee Paul wrote:

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.   (Philippians 3:4-6)

As Christians, we are not exempt from the temptations of the flesh. In fact, we are in a spiritual battle with the flesh. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.   (Galatians 5:16-17)

We cannot defeat the flesh on our own strength. We are no match for it. But the flesh has been defeated already at the cross, just as sin, hell, and death have been defeated. The Apostle Paul reminds us:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   (Galatians 5:22-24)

How do we crucify the flesh? We must decide to whom do we belong. We must choose the Spirit over the flesh. And we must do this daily. Jesus died for our sins on the cross once and for all. Thus he giv3w us the power to defeat sin. But we must take up our cross daily. Jesus said:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”   (Luke 9:23)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord.   (1 Corinthians 15:31)

What is our desire? Each day we must choose. The Apostle Paul prayed:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.   (Ephesians 3:16-19)

God will strengthen or inner being when we pursue him.  Once we taste God’s riches in glory we will not want to choose the flesh. Let us keep seeking Jesus. We are living in the time when God is pouring out his glory on all flesh. Let Pentecost become  our Pentecost.

 

Track 2:

2 Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-19
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

Both the Old Testament and Gospel reading involve miraculous healings. What do they have in common? Both involve skepticism. The task of feeding so many people seemed impossible. Yet the people followed the instructions that Elisha and Jesus gave. It took an act of obedience as well as faith for God to do his miracle.

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Saint Mary Magdalene

First Witness to the Resurrection

The Gospel of Luke made it clear that the roles of women in the ministry of Jesus Christ were significant:

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.  (Luke 8:1-3)

When we think of Jesus’ disciples we may primarily be thinking of the twelve that Jesus personally chose to follow Him. They were not alone, however. They were supported by many faithful women of which Mary Magdalene was included. She was not only included, she was prominent. She was the courageous and faithful one. When Jesus’ disciples deserted Him at the cross she was there:

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  (John 19:25)

Jesus could have chosen any one of the twelve disciples to reveal Himself to after His resurrection. But he chose a woman – Mary Magdalene:

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.  (Mark 16:9-10)

Why did Jesus choose her? The testimonies of women were often considered unreliable. In fact, the disciples did not believer Mary’s testimony. Reading from Luke’s Gospel:

It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  (Luke 24:10-11)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ changed the order of things. Jesus attempted to explain this new order to His disciples before His crucifixion, but they had trouble understanding what He was telling them:

But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.  (Mark 9:34-35)

Mary Magdalene was a primary example of the servant leader who was faithful in her duties, following in the footsteps of her LORD. We remember her today as the resurrection’s first witness.

Will we follow the example of Mary Magdalene? Will be a servant of others? Will we boldly proclaim the resurrection in our day, no matter what others may say or think? And will we standby Jesus under difficult circumstances? We will when we put our whole trust in Jesus as did Mary Magdalene.

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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 11

Track 1: The Cornerstone of a Spiritual House

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

David looked at his splendid palace and wondered why he had not built a house for God. In his mind, God was still housed in a tent. So he proposed what he wanted to do to the prophet Nathan, Nathan initially agreed to his plan, but God had other plans. Thus, he spoke to the prophet Nathan:

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. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.   (2 Samuel 7:8-13)

David wanted to build a house for God, but God declared that he would make David a house. He was referring to the David’s dynasty as ruler of Israel. But he also alluded to a spiritual house that would transcend any worldly one.

God spoke through the Prophet Isiah:

Thus says the Lord:
Heaven is my throne
    and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
    and what is my resting place?
All these things my hand has made,
    and so all these things are mine,
says the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look,
    to the humble and contrite in spirit,
    who trembles at my word.   (Isaiah 66:1-2)

Jesus came to prepare for us a spiritual house. In today’s Gospel lesson we read that the house of God made by human hands would be cast down:

As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”   (Mark 13:1-3)

The temple would be replaced by a new temple for both God and humankind. The Apostle Paul wrote about this temple:

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)

Paul was saying that both Jew and Gentile would be joined together. They would be built into a spiritual house which would become a holy temple in the Lord. We are part of the new temple. The Apostle Peter tells us that we are  part of the structure.

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”

and

“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.   (1 Peter 2;4-9)

I our church a part of this temple. That depends on whether Jesus is the cornerstone or not. For some churches abd people, this cornerstone is offensive. It is believed that a compromise with the world would be more inviting. Perhaps so, but that church is dead, not alive.

Are we, as individuals, a part of this spiritual house? Are we living stones? The house of God is living and not dead. Our life comes from God by Christ Jesus.

We cannot do anything apart from Christ. We cannot build God a house. He is building us a house. He needs and wants us to be dwelling with him. His invitation has been has. been offered.to us. What is our response? Do we wish to remain in darkness? God is calling us to his marvelous light.

 

Track 2: Suggestions

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

The readings of Track 2 suggest a comparison between shepherds. The first shepherds did not attend the sheep.

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 had to step in. He did that through his Son, the Good Shepherd.

Jesus 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 6:31-34)

The key to shepherding must be compassion. Many of us serve as shepherds in one form or another. Does compassion describe us?

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