Category Archives: Eucharist

Saint Andrew, Apostle

José_de_Ribera_San_AndrésThe Word is Near You

The Gospel of John states that Andrew was first a disciple of John the Baptist:

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).   (John 1:35-41)

What is remarkable about Andrew is that he recognized Jesus as the Messiah almost at once. Andrew was excited to tell his brother Simon Peter. He started his career as a disciple by becoming an evangelist.

He was a very ordinary man – a fisherman along with his brother. Yet his testimony as an apostle of Jesus Christ helped to change the whole world. The Apostle Paul writes:

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”   (Romans 10:18)

God calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things in His name. We have also been called to be disciples of Jesus and evangelists. We have been given power and authority to do so.

Where do we start? We start with the Word as did Andrew and all the apostles. Moses explained the power of God’s Word:

Moses said to the people of Israel: Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.   (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

We have been given a powerful Word from God – Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. He has been placed within our hearts. The Apostle Paul elaborates on what Moses said

“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)

Are we ready to proclaim the Word that changes the hearts of people? We may be ridiculed for doing so, but we will probable not have to endure the suffering and ultimate death by crucifixion as did Andrew. We owe him and all the apostles a great debt of gratitude.

Let us remember that in our day  great number of people are dependent upon us to share the good news. Jesus said:

I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.   (Luke 12:8-9)

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First Sunday of Advent

A Righteous Branch Will Spring Up

Are we living in day where righteous living seems to be a thing of the past? An apparent lack of fairness and justice only seems to compound the problem. Many have said that things are so bad that only God can solve our problems.

The nation of Israel was experiencing such a time. The people had not heard a prophetic word from God for over four hundred years. Rome had overtaken the country and taxes were burdensome. Judaism had been corrupted by mandates imposed upon the people by certain elites who had reduced it to a system of and rules. The people were required to follow them but these elites did not. Does this sound familiar? For those who sought to true Judaism, only God could rescue them.

Fortunately, God had made promises through his prophets that he was about to keep. Reading from Jeremiah:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”   (Jeremiah 33:14-16)

In the Season of Advent, we celebrate a solemn act of God that brought restoration, not only to Israel, but to the entire world. God acted where no one else could. He is still acting.

In today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus seems to be talking about his second coming:

Jesus told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.   (Luke 21:29-33)

Is not Advent more about the first coming of Jesus? Yes, but the first and second coming are a part of the same Advent. Adven is a continuum.  God was and is moving into the world to establish his residence with us. It may seem imperceptible at times, but God is still moving. Jesus said: “Look at the fig tree.” Israel is the fig tree. We are the  fig tree. That righteous Branch is still sprouting. The kingdom of God is very near.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Thessalonica:

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.   (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13)

We want God to move in our day. He is still moving; He is still coming into the world. He wants to come in to us. He wants to come in through us. The psalmist wrote:

Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
in you have I trusted all the day long.

Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love,
for they are from everlasting.

Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;
remember me according to your love
and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.

Gracious and upright is the Lord;
therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

He guides the humble in doing right
and teaches his way to the lowly.   (Psalm 25:4-8)

Advent is a time of anticipation. It is a time of great expectation. Are we open to the coming of the Lord? Are we desiring for God to move upon us and through us? If so, his righteousness and justice will spread throughout our land. Revival will come. Let us open our hearts to Goed. Only then can he strengthen our hearts in holiness. Only then can we be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus.

Some may be caught by surprise at the close od the age. They did not see the fig tree. They did not see the righteous Branch. They did not see God’s power alive in us. Reading from the Book of Revelation:

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him.   (Revelation 1:5-7)

But we see by faith, today, and each new day. His righteous Branch still grows. It is growing in us.

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Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King

Track 1: My Kingdom Is Not from this World

2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-13 (14-19)
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

Today we celebrate “Christ the King.”” He is King of King and Lord of Lords. Do we see Jesus as our King and Lord? What does that mean?

During the earthly ministry of Jesus there was great misunderstanding about his kingship, however. In today’s Gospel reading we are given a glimpse of this misunderstanding:

Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”   (John 18:33-37)

We can understand why Pilate was confused about Jesus’ kingship. He was not a Jew. But as we read John’s Gospel we begin to see that Pilates was actually attempting to understand what Jesus was saying. In some ways, he was more inquisitive than the Jewish authorities. They had rejected Jesus as their king. He did not fit their preconceives expectation.

In their religious minds, they believed that they fully understood Judaism. They did not ned any teaching from Jesus. Their concern was to rid themselves of Roman rule.

In his testimony before Pilate, Jesus talked about two kingdoms – two very different kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. Which one is real?

Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”   (John  18:38) That is the question. Which kingdom is real? There is so much untruth in the world today. There is so much untruthful being reported. But God’s Word is truth.

From the Gospel of Luke:

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among y0u.”   (Luke 17:20-21)

Jesus’ answer was that the kingdom of God was not coming in the manner the Pharisees were expecting. There would be no great and magnificent leader who staked out a geographical claim and routed the Romans; rather, the kingdom would come silently and unseen, much as leaven works in a batch of dough. In fact, Jesus said, the kingdom had already begun, right under the Pharisees’ noses. God was ruling in the hearts of some people, and the King Himself was standing among them, although the Pharisees were oblivious to that fact.

Jesus was telling the Pharisees that He brought the kingdom of God to earth. His presence in their midst gave them a taste of the kingdom life, as attested by the miracles that Jesus performed. Jesus was inaugurating the kingdom as He changed the hearts of men, one at a time.

For the time being, Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. One day, however, the it will be manifest on the earth, and Jesus Christ will rule a physical kingdom from David’s throne with Jerusalem as His capital – his millennial reign.

The Apostle wrote:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.   (Revelation 1:4-8)

Have we been freed from our sins by his blood? That is the only requirement for entering the kingdom of God. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day to give praise and thanksgiving to our King.

 

Track 2: Suggestion

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

Perhaps we could compare the prophecies of Daniel and John, the Revelator. First from Daniel:

As I watched,

thrones were set in place,
and an Ancient One took his throne,

his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;

his throne was fiery flames,
and its wheels were burning fire.

A stream of fire issued
and flowed out from his presence.

A thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.

The court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.   (Daniel 7:9-10)

And from Revelation:

To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Look! He is coming with the clouds;
every eye will see him,

even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.

So it is to be. Amen.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.  (Revelation 1:4-8)

How does it compare with the two Apocalyptic visions?  Daniel writes about a heavenly court which sits in judgement. In Revelation, we read:

even those who pierced him;
and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.

There will be an accounting of the lives of every person, before an awesome God. For Christians, that accounting was done on the cross. That is our only hope to stand before God with Jesus as our intercessor.

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Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 28

Track 1: The Greatness of God

1 Samuel 1:4-20
1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25
Mark 13:1-8

The temple in Jerusalem was a magnificent building. It was central to the Jewish faith. Reading from today’s appointed Gospel:

As Jesus 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 13:1-2)

Jesus statement was a shock to his disciples. He would soon replace the temple. Reading from John’s Gospel:

The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.   (John 2:19-22)

How big is our God? Is he bigger than our church, our denomination? For Hannah, God was everything. She exalted him with praise. Reading from 1 Samuel:

“My heart exults in the Lord;
my strength is exalted in my God.

My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.

“There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;

for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.   (1 Samuel 2:1-4)

Hannah had been barren. She prayed to God for a son:

She made this vow: “O Lord of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”   )1 Samuel 1:11)

When the priest Eli assured her that God would grant her prayer, she believed him, despite the fact that she had struggled for many years to have children.

God answered her prayer. Again, from 1 Samuel:

Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the Lord.”    )1 Samuel 1:19-20)

Eli assured Hannah that her prayer would be answered. We have greater assurance. Heading from the Book of Hebrews:

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.   (Hebrews 10:19-25)

Hannah went through difficult times. We are going through difficult times. Are we given to despair or do we encourage one another? That may depend on how big our God is and our confidence in the blood of Jesus. Through Jesus, our great high priest, we have access to the throne of God.

It is time to exalt our God with the highest praise. Praise should always be in season, but especially in difficult and trying times as these. Let us follow the example of Hannah.

“There is no Holy One like the Lord,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.”

God is greater than our problems. He is stronger than our enemies. Hannah concluded her high praise of God:

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness;
for not by might does one prevail.

The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered;
the Most High will thunder in heaven.

The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king,
and exalt the power of his anointed.”   (1 Samuel 2:9-10)

 

Track 2: Suggestion

Daniel 12:1-3
Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25
Mark 13:1-8

Both the Old Testament and Gospel readings focus on the end times. In Mark, Jesus warns about the false “christ’s” who will lead people astray:

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.”   (Mark 13:3-8)

In Daniel, we also have a warning:

The Lord spoke to Daniel in a vision and said, “At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”   (Daniel 12:1-3)

Daniel speaks about two categories of people: those who are prepared for this time and those   who aren’t. Which category are we in?

 

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