Category Archives: Lent

The Annunciation

Trusting in the Promises of God

Today we read about the greatest announcement ever:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”   (Luke 1:26-37)

Mary had been selected by God the Father to become the mother of Jesus. She believed and received the gift promised to her by the angel Gabriel. Mary’s reply to the angel demonstrated her faith and trust in the Lord:

Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.   (Luke 1:38)

The blessing is in the receiving. This was not the case for King Ahaz in today’s Old Testament reading who refused to do what God asked of him.

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.  (Isaiah 7:10-14)

The message from God was not only for Mary. It is a message of hope and salvation for the entire world. Believing and receiving this message brings to each of us the greatest blessing from God. We are destined to participate in the eternal kingdom of God under the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Are we an Ahaz or a Mary? King Ahaz said that he did not want to trouble God. He did not want to Bill Johnson Ministries from God. He did not want to listen to His Word.  The reason for all his objections is that he did bot want to obey God.

The Season of Lent is a time to open up to God and not be so busy or distracted. This is not so easily done by people who are full of this world. We need to empty ourselves before our maker and hearken unto His Word. Jesus has set the example for us. We read in Hebrews:

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body you have prepared for me;

in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.

Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’
(in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”   (Hebrews 10:4-7)

The sacrifice that God requires is the sacrifice of our will to his will. He fulfilled his mission that God the Father had divinely established. In so doing, Jesus provided atonement for our sins and eternal life for all who believe.

God has written about each one of us in his book. He has a plan for us. What is our response? In today’s readings two people heard from God. One was a king and one was a peasant. God made promises to them both. One refused to listen and one welcomed the promise of God. We give thanks to God for Mary and for her example. What will be our example?

Leave a comment

Filed under Eucharist, Feast Day, Gospel, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, Lent, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, The Annunciation, Year B

Fifth Sunday in Lent

I Will Write My Law on their Hearts

Do we seek the Lord with all our hearts? God seeks us with all his heart, to place his commandments within our hearts. He spoke through the Prophet Jeremiah:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.   (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Those days have come. Do we know the Lord? The psalmist wrote:

How shall a young man cleanse his way?
By keeping to your words.

With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not stray from your commandments.

I treasure your promise in my heart,
that I may not sin against you.

Blessed are you, O Lord;
instruct me in your statutes.

With my lips will I recite
all the judgments of your mouth.

I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees
than in all manner of riches.

I will meditate on your commandments
and give attention to your ways.

My delight is in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.   (Psalm 119:9-16)

The psalmist knew how we should open up our hearts to God. Jeremiah shared the path we should take

Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.   (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

God wants to pour his Word into our hearts. Jesus has paid a great price so that he may be able to do that. He speaks to us today:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”   (John 12:23-26)

If we are to seek God with all our hearts, we must be willing to die to ourselves. This means different things to different people. Most of us know what we are still holding back. It is time to let go. The Apostle wrote:

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.   (Romans 6:1-4)

It is not so hard to let go of something when we realize how much more we gain. Jesus told his disciples:

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?”   (Matthew 16:24-26)

Our life is on the line, both now and eternally. We can have an abundant life right now, but not by the standards of the world. We can live in the kingdom of  God now. The Apostle Paul tells us that mean: righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). God will write his laws on our heart and they will be easy to follow. We will still be living in the world, but will not be of the world. This world is passing away. The new world, God’s world, will never end.

Leave a comment

Filed under Eucharist, Gospel, homily, Jesus, Lent, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year B

Saint Joseph

Faithful Stewardship

King David wanted to build a permanent house for God. By the Prophet Samuel, God promised David that through David’s offspring he would, himself, build David a permanent 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. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.  (2 Samuel 7:12-16)

This house would be a lasting kingdom on the earth in which God would rule. God is the builder of this house. It is build upon the rock, Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, Nonetheless, faithful people would be needed to be the building blocks.

Joseph was a carpenter. He was not a rich man. He was a husband and a father. He was known in his village, but his recognition probably did not extend much beyond it. He was devout as many good Jews were in his day. He cared for his family and was a faithful in following the Jewish traditions and customs. He lived for a season and then he passed away. Yet Joseph had a great deal to do with the building of the permanent house of David.

Joseph was a descendant of David. He was part of a very significant chain of events. He was given a commission by God the Father to be the earthly father and guardian of His beloved Son. Not fully understanding what God was asking him, Joseph accepted this commission. He accepted it under what, for him, were difficulty circumstances. Mary was already pregnant before Joseph married her. This would have been a disgrace in Judaism. He was asked to believe that her pregnancy was an act of God, something that was unheard. Joseph believed God and faithfully carried out his commission.

We, too, are part of an ongoing chain of events. We, too, have been given a commission by God. We, like Joseph, are often required to make difficult choices. Faith, courage, and a trust in God are required. Life will test us. There will be obstacles and distractions. We will prevail only with God’s help.

What God asks us to do has great significance. We are part of an eternal plan of God. What we do now may seem fleeting or temporary. Nonetheless, God has established a permanent Kingdom that will not pass away. Our life and ministry are very much apart of that Kingdom. What we do now is recorded in heaven. We may not understand the significance of what might seem like unimportant events, but we will when all is revealed to us. In the meantime, God needs us to be faithful. Let us take courage and follow the example of Joseph.

The psalmist wrote:

Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing;
from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.
For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;
you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn an oath to David my servant:
‘I will establish your line for ever,
and preserve your throne for all generations.'”  (Psalm 89:1-4)

Joseph was an ordinary carpenter. But no one is insignificant in the eternal plan of God. Let us step into the ministry to which God has called us. One of our greatest ministries is watching over our children and bringing them up in the knowledge of the Lord. We are reminded of this injunction from the Old Testament:

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.   (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

Joseph was given the high assignment of becoming that earthly guardian of our Lord Jesus Christ. This he did faithfully.

Lord, help us to follow the faithful example of Joseph in our day. The house of God is still being built. Will we be one of those faithful building blocks and will our children who follow us?

Leave a comment

Filed under Eucharist, Feast Day, Gospel, Holy Day, homily, Jesus, lectionary, Lent, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, Saint Joseph, sermon, sermon development, Year B

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Homily: Grumbling Against God

When the children of Israel freed from bondage in Egypt, they witnessed more signs and wonders from God than anyone has ever seen, down to this day. Yet they did not trust God. They did not seem to appreciate what he was doing for them. They did not respect him. In fact, they grumbled against him. Reading from Numbers:

The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.   ()

We may wonder how the children of Israel could have put themselves in such a precarious position. What can we read from this? Obviously, grumbling against God is a serious sin. And forgetting the great things God has done because of an inconvenience or some perceived lack of support seems ludicrous, does it not? But how does this situation apply to us? Do we grumble against God? Do we blame him for difficult circumstances?

Surely God has done great things in our lives. Do we so easily forget them when we are faced with new challenges? If so, what is the remedy: For the children of Israel it was a bronze serpent put up on a pole.

what is our remedy, if we need one? Reading from today’s Gospel:

Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.   (John 3:14-16)

This is the plan for our salavation. It also might be the prescription for our attitude toward God. The children of Israel needed to continually look at the serpent lifted up if they wanted to save their lives. Do we not need to do the same? What we take our eyes off of Jesus, bearing our sins on a cruel cross, that is when we are ripe for the enemy to give us an attitude, a bad attitude.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.   (Philippians 4:4-5)

And to the Church in Thessalonica he wrote:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.   (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Can anything we may face on this earth compare to the cross that Jesus bore for us. When we want to grumble against God, let us remember how much he loves us, enough to die for us while we were sinners. If we grumble against him now we are still sinners. Time to look up to the cross.

 

Teaching: Good Works

What is the place of “good works” in the Christian Faith? In John’s Gospel we read:

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”   (John 3:19-21)

There are deeds done in the flesh and there are deed done in God. The Apostle Paul writes:

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. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.   (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Our good works do not save us. Our salvation comes by the grace of God alone, provided we accept it in faith. Notice, however, that good works are very much a part of salvation. Paul tells us that we have been created for good works. Those works have been prepared for us beforehand,

We have no good works and can do no good works on our own. When we are dependent on good works to please God we tend to hide in darkness. Jesus tells us that our good deeds are done only in God. But before that happens we must first come to the light of Christ. Only in his light can our Lord empower us for ministry.

In the Book of James we read:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.   (James 2:14-18)

Thus, we see that grace does not rule out good works. Grace prepares us for good works. They are not our good works, but rather God working within us.

Leave a comment

Filed under Eucharist, Gospel, homily, Jesus, lectionary, Lent, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, sermon, sermon development, Year B