Tag Archives: faith

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 18

Track 1: Favoritism

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Psalm 125
James 2:1-10, [11-13], 14-17
Mark 7:24-37

Today we are blessed with wisdom writings from both the Old and New Testaments. We will start with the New Testament. Reading from the Book of James:

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?   (James 2:1-7)

How does what James writes apply to the way we greet new people in church?

Let us look at an apparent act of favoritism on the part of Jesus in today’s Gospel reading:

Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.   (Mark 7:24-30)

Was Jesus saying to the Syrophoenician woman that he only came to save the Israelites? Not when we read other texts in the New Testament. From the First Epistle of John:

And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.   (1 John 4:14)

Notice that the Syrophoenician woman was not discouraged by what Jesus said to her. She had faith in him or she would not have pursued him. She must have have understood his mission because, by her remarks, she humbly included herself as one to whom he would minister.

Jesus tested he faith and she passed. The Apostle Peter wrote:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.   (1 Peter 1:3-7)

This much we knew. God shows no favoritism. Reading from Matthews Gospel:

What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.   (Matthew 18:12-14)

God desire is to save the whole world. Is it our desire that he do so? If so, then all favoritism on our part is ruled out. Let us celebrate with God the saving of each soul.

 

Track2: Suggestion

Isaiah 35:4-7a
Psalm 146
James 2:1-10, [11-13], 14-17
Mark 7:24-37

Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy from Isaiah:

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear!

Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,

with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;   (Isaiah 35:4-7)

In the NewTestament reading Jesus heals the deaf man with the speech impediment Those who witnessed this miracle said:

“He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”   (Mark 7:37)

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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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Fifth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8

Track 1: Reaching out in  Faith

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

In today’s Gospel reading a leader of a synagogue named Jairus had asked Jesus to come and pray for his daughter who was at the p0int of death. Along the way something remarkable happened:

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”   (Mark 5:24-34)

What is so remarkable about this woman? She had been ill for a lengthy time and nothing seemed to help. No doubt her faith had been tested. She may have lost hope in a conventional cure. She was desperate, but she had not given up on God. The psalmist wrote:

Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss,
O Lord, who could stand?

For there is forgiveness with you;
therefore you shall be feared.

I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him;
in his word is my hope.

My soul waits for the Lord,
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, wait for the Lord,
for with the Lord there is mercy;

With him there is plenteous redemption,
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.   (Psalm 130:1-7)

She believed that God could and would heal her. She could have easily blamed God for all of her troubles, but she did not, The enemy loves to tempt us in this way. “Why doesn’t God help me?”

There is another temptation that Satin uses. He tells us that we are not worthy. This woman must have believed in God’s mercy and redemption. She believed in the goodness of God. She believed that healing was her God-given birthright.and she was not going to let anything get in her way of seeking his help..

Did this woman know that Jesus was God? We do not know. But apparently she knew there was something in Jesus that would bring her back to health. She said: “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” She must have believed that there was a life-giving power in Jesus.

Sometimes it takes despair to grasp both our need and desire for God.  Many of us have been touched by God. But have we reached out in faith to touch hm?

Today, are we ready to touch the hem of his garment? God has more for us. He has healing for us.

O Israel, wait for the Lord,
for with the Lord there is mercy;

With him there is plenteous redemption,
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.   (Psalm 130:6-7)

 

Track 2; Suggestions

Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Lamentations 3:21-33
or Psalm 30
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

The readings seem to focus on death and the resurrection. From the Wisdom of Solomon we learn that God did not make death. He created us for incorruption.

“but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.”

Our lives have to do with whom we identify. This has to do with the age old struggle. Part of that struggle if often the question of whether or not we see God as good. Do we see him as good? How about absolutely good?

What caused the devil to envy? What causes us to follow him? There are two worlds. One has death and the other has life, eternal life. Which one will we choose. For this world the resurrection of Jesus is required.

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Third Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 6

Track 1: Faith and Patience

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Psalm 20
2 Corinthians 5:6-10,[11-13],14-17
Mark 4:26-34

God had rejected Saul as king fro his disobedience, yet Saul was still the nominal king. Samuel lamented what had happened to Saul. Often we become stuck in a place of emotions, but God had moved on. Reading from 1 Samuel:

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”   (1 Samuel 16:1)

Jesse brought out his sons for Samuel to choose which one would be the new king. Samuel was considering them based on their appearances. But looks can be deceiving:

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.   (1 Samuel 16:6-13)

It was over forty years before David actually became king. David had to endure many hardships, even threats to his life by Saul. Yet David put his full trust in God and did not lose hope.

God’s ways are not our ways and his timing is not our timing. He is planning and positioning things for our future which we may not aware of for a season. This is often the way God works. From today’s Gospel we read:

Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”   (Mark 4:26-32)

What is Jesus saying? He is talking about thye advancement of the kingdom of God on the earth. He was speaking of the kingdom of God advancing in us. This advancement is taken place, much of it hidden at first. When seed is sown it takes some time to germinate. But later the growth is evident. What is our stance when we wait for the growth? Do we ever get so frustrated that we get angry with God for making us wait?

Is our confidence must be in God. He sows the seed, but then he waters it and nurtures it. He knows how to bring it to harvest ad he does for those who trust in him.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

We are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord– for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.   (2 Corinthians 5:6-10)

Satin attempts to steal away our confidence in the promises  of God.  Reading from the Book of James:

My brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.   (James 1:2-4)

Marten Luther did nt like the Book of James. He said it distracted from the doctrine of faith alone. But we need the wisdom of James in order to understand and apply faith. Our faith in God must be continuous. Paul wrote:

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.   (Romans 8:24-25)

Patience and faith are our keys to our growth in the kingdom of God. Today, let us reaffirm our faith before God. Satin will not steal our joy. He will not steal our hope. We are standing on God’s Word. All his promises are yes and Amen. Without patience we may miss out on some of God’s greatest blessings.

 

Track 2: Suggestions

Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm 92:1-4,11-14
2 Corinthians 5:6-10,[11-13],14-17
Mark 4:26-34

Looking at the appointed Old Testament Lesson from Ezekiel and Psalm 92 together a theme seems to emerge. Both speak of a planting of the Lord. The nation of Israel is his tender plant. It is planted on a “mountain height” which is Jerusalem.

“All the trees of the field shall know
that I am the Lord.”   (Ezekiel 17:24a)

All the nations of the earth will know the Lord through Israel.

We are also a planting of the Lord. We do not take the place of Israel. Rather, we are in ingrafted branches of Israel. The promises of God for Israel also apply to us.

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