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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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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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Day of Pentecost

I Will Pour out My Spirit on All Flesh

The disciples were waiting on God. Before his ascension, Jesus has told them to wait in 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 24:48-49)

They had to learn about what they might do for God could not compare with what God could do for them if they waited and devoted themselves to prayer. God is in control. Can we let go and let God:

Reading from Acts 2:

When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

It is the Spirit of God that breathes life to us, God spoke to the Prophet Ezekiel:

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”   (Ezekiel 37:1-6)

Jesus spoke to Nicodemus:

You must be born from above.’The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”   (John 3:7-8)

The wind that Jesus speaks about is the Holy Spirit. We cannot control him. If we are reborn in the Spirit, then we will allow the wind to blow us in the direction he desires. He not only directs us, he empowers us. This is what was  happening on the Day of Pentecost. Reading again from Acts 2:

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs– in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”   ()

The disciples were filled with new wine, the wined of the Spirit. Jesus  taught:

No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”   ()

If we are to receive this new wine we will need new wineskins. We need to let go of the old ones.

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.”   (Mark 7:6-8)

Human traditions must not take the place of the commandment of God. Must the Spirit of Pentecost conform to our church doctrine?

Peter set the record straight. This new wine was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit:: 

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

`In the last days it will be, God declares,

that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.

Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.

We are to be more than just spectators of Pentecost. Reading from today’s Gospel of John:

Jesus said to his disciples, ”When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.   (John 15:26-27)

Are we ready to spread the Spirit of truth? The glory of God is now invading the Church. God is calling us to join him and be a part ofd that invasion.

The psalmist wrote:

You send forth your Spirit, and they are created;
and so you renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
may the Lord rejoice in all his works.   (Psalm 104:31-32)

It is not the time to play church anymore. Tne Day of Pentecost is not just some historical date marking the birth of the Church. It is time for a rebirth from above. A rebirth of the Spirit.

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Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Homily 1: Formed by God’s Hand

Let us explore two servants today who were called by God. The first one is Samuel, a young b0y serving God in the sanctuary. Reading from 1 Samuel:

Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”    (1 Samuel 3:4-10)

Samuel, the son of Elkanah (of Ephraim) and Hannah, was born in answer to the prayer of his previously childless mother. In gratitude she dedicated him to the service of the chief sanctuary of Shiloh, in the charge of the priest Eli.

The second servant is Nathanael. Reading from the Gospel of John:

Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”   (John 1:43-49)

Samuel and Nathanael had some things in common. When Samuel was called, scripture tells us:

The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.   (1 Samuel 3:1)

In the case of Nathanael, God has not spoken to Israel through a prophet for over four hundred years. But suddenly, John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, as prophesied by Malachi:

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?   (Malachi 3:1-2)

Things were about to change. God had chosen both of these two men to serve him in momentous times. Samuel was the last of the Old Testament judges and the prophet who help usher in the Davidic Kingdom which led to birth of Jesus. Nathanael would help establish the Church and prepare it for the Millennial Reign of Christ.

Perhaps there were differences in the way these two men were selected for service. We remember that Samuel’s mother Hannah had dedicated her son to God. She had prayed for a son and promised God that she would offer her son to God in gratitude. Thus, God had a hand in selecting her son.

On the other hand, it would appear that Jesus may have just picked Nathanael. But not so fast. The psalmist wrote:

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
    My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
    all the days that were formed for me,
    when none of them as yet existed.   (Psalm 139:13-16)

Perhaps Nathanael was chosen like Jeremiah:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.   (Jeremiah 1:5)

Jesus told Nathanael that he was Israelite in whom there is no deceit, how did he know that about Nathanael? He had never met him before. But he knew him before he was in his mother’s womb. He formed him by his own hands, Reading from John’s Gospel

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.   (John 1:1-3)

Like Samuel, Nathanael was called for a specific purpose. He was born in a specific time. We have something in common with both of them. We are living in a momentous time. God ordained it. And he is inspiring us to serve him in special ways that only we can do.

Our book has already been written in heaven. He formed us so that we might be ready for this day. Will we listen, like Samuel, to his voice. Will we be as open and transparent as Nathanael? Will we be willing? Many of you have already accepted your call to ministry.

We need to discover our true life and identity in Christ. Jesus said:

Jesus said to him, “I am the wayand the truthand the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.   (John 14:6)

Jesus is our life. We find our true value and calling through him. From John’s Gospel:

What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.   (John 1:4-5)

The Apostle Paul adds a very important footnote:

Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.   (1 Corinthians 6:16-20)

Does this sound like a “woman’s right to choose” or a man’s right to require a mother to have an abortion? From John’s Gospel:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.   (John 10:9-10)

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