Monthly Archives: August 2021

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17

Track 1: Loving God with All Your Heart

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Reading from today’s Gospel:

So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;

in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”   ()

How did the scribes and Pharisees get so far away from the commandments of God with their rituals and traditions? What was missing? They really did not know or understand God. The Apostle John understood who Jesus was and what he was about. Reading from his First Epistle:

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.   (1 John 4:7-11)

The scribes and Pharisees did not know the love of God. Thus, they did not know God because God is love. Why should rules, doctrines, and traditions take the place of love?

The Pharisees must have known deep down that they did not measure up to what God required. Thus, they laid heavy burdens on others. In that way, they could at least say to themselves that they were better than other people. Why? Because they followed the rules better? In fact, they made up the rules, but Jesus told them that they did not even follow their own rules.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.   (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

For the rules keepers, perhaps it it time to get to know God. The psalmist wrote:

You are the fairest of men;
grace flows from your lips,
because God has blessed you for ever.

Your throne, O God, endures for ever and ever,
a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom;
you love righteousness and hate iniquity.   (Psalm 45:2,7)

And the Book of James:

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.   (James 1:17-18)

God made us to shower his love upon us. Can we simply accept his love and love him back? God is wooing us.He wants fellowship with us. Jesus is the bridegroom and we are his bride. Jesus speaks to us: these words:

“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.”   (Song of Solomon 2:13)

 

Track 2: Suggestion

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9
Psalm 15
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Mose cautions the Israelites not to add to or distract anything from God’s commandments:

Moses said: So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you.   ()

This is exactly what the Pharisees did. Jesus said of them:

“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’[b]

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”   (Mark 7:6-8)

Do we do that today?

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St Bartholomew, Apostle

saint-bartholomewAn Israelite in Whom There Is No Deceit

Today we celebrate the life and ministry of the Apostle Bartholomew, also called Nathanael. Little is know of him. We do know that he recognized Jesus as the Son of God from the beginning and that Jesus testified to his good character. Reading from today’s Gospel of John:

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”   (John 1:45-51)

Bartholomew was a person of integrity. He was able to deal openly and honestly. He was willing to follow Jesus without a great deal of persuasion, no matter the cost. For these reasons, Jesus was able to prophecy that extraordinary things would take place in his life and ministry.

Nevertheless, there was a cost for Bartholomew for having been chosen. The Apostle Paul spells out some of this cost in his First Epistle to the Corinthians:

I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.   (1 Corinthians 4:9-13)
God gave to Bartholomew the grace to believe and to preach His Word under all circumstances. He travelled extensively as a missionary. Many miracles were attributed to his ministry. Tradition has it that Bartholomew was martyred for the Faith. Our prayer for the Church today is that we may recognize the Messiah, as Bartholomew did, and follow through on our calling. As Bartholomew, are we willing to pay any price?

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 16

Track 1: The Glory of the Lord 

1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11], 22-30, 41-43
Psalm 84
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

Today we read about Solomon dedicating the temple he constructed to God. From 1 Kings:

Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.   (1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11)

And reading from 2 Chronicles:

It was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord,

“For he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever,”

the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, 14 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.   (2 Chronicles 5:13-14)

You know when the weight of glory has filled the house of God when nobody can remain standing. The Azusa Street Revival, beginning in the spring of 1906, largely spawned the worldwide Pentecostal movement. People who attended has a taste of God’s glory. Many could only move by crawling on their hands and knees as they experienced the weight of the glory cloud.

Solomon administered under the law of Moses when he came under the weight and  power of God. The Apostle compared this glory with an even greater glory under the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!   (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)

The Prophet Joel wrote of this permanent glory:

Then afterward
    I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    your old men shall dream dreams,
    and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
    in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.   (Joel 2:28-31)

That day is fast approaching. What will it be like? Will we experience this glory? Yes, God is going to pour it out on all flesh. Will we be prepared for it? Will our churches be prepared for it?

That is the question. It depends under whether or not Christ is our head. Many Christians attend churches where the headship of Christ is not honored. The Gospel has been watered down. For what reason?

When Jesus was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum he said:

 “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”   (John 6:56-69)

He teaching was misunderstood by many. We read:

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”   (John 6:56-69)

Reading from the Book of Hebrews:

We do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower[g] than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God[h] he might taste death for everyone.

It was fitting that God,[i] for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.   (Hebrews 2:9-10)

We must follow Jesus. He alone is the Lord of G;Glory. Seeker churches will not do. Churches who do not recognize the presence of the Lord in Communion service will not do. Those who rule out supernatural miracles and healings will not be prepared for the glory. Nominal Christianity will not prepare one for the glory. Will we say like Peter:“Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God?”

 

Track 2: Suggestions

Joshua 24:1-2a,14-18
Psalm 34:15-22
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

The Old Testament and Gospel readings speak of choices. Joshua challenged the tribes of Israel: “Choose this day who you will serve.” Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods.” But they did what they said they would not do.

In the Gospel, after Jesu taught about Holy Communion, many of his disciples left him. Serving God requires us to follow his commandments and his teachings. What are some of the things that may stand in way?

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Saint Mary the Virgin

Trusting in God’s Promises

The prophets of old foretold the Messiah and His ministry, but who could grasp all that they were saying? From Isaiah:

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  (Isaiah 53:1-3)

Mary understood that God had made promises to Abraham and she believed that He would keep them. She lived through terrible circumstances but never gave up her hope and trust in the Lord. Her God was full of love and mercy. Her reverence and humility before God are without question.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”   (Luke 1:46-55)

Mary did not always understand the ministry of her son, however. There was a time in the early ministry of Jesus when Mary was asking her son to come home.Like a good mother, she was concerned for the wellbeing of her son. She had not yet grasped how his ministry was unfolding and how it was fulfilling the promises of God.

We cannot fault Mary for her concern. There was no one ever like Jesus, either before or since. Again, from Isaiah:

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)

As the prophet Simeon foretold, her heart would be pierced and she would gain a greater understanding.

“Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed— and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  (Luke 2:34-35)

Our hearts must be pierced also if we are to understand the ministry and message of Jesus. How closely we follow Jesus in our lives will telegraph what we truly believe. Will we go the distance with Him as did His mother Mary? Mary was at the cross when most of Jesus’ disciples fled. She could not turn away. Her love for God was so great. She walked in the steps of Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his own son if that were required by God.

It was after the cross and resurrection that Mary, along with the disciples, understood the ministry of Jesus. She rejoiced along the psalmist of old:

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.   (Isaiah 61:10)

What is our witness today? We may not understand all that is going on. We may not fully grasp the miracle that God is working out. Nonetheless, we can still believe and trust in the promises of God as did Mary. Let us pray for grace to endure the pain while eagerly anticipating our Lord’s victory with patience and endurance? Mary did this and so much more. Her enduring faith and courage has inspired the Church down to this day.

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