Tag Archives: redemption

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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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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Good Friday

Painting by homilist

 

He Opened Not His Mouth

What price did Jesus pay for our salvation? He paid with everything in his being. He paid it all. From Isaiah we read:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.   (Isaiah 53:7-8)

By his own volition, Jesus allowed himself to be crushed like grapes to that we might have new wine. He was brought before Pilate by the Jewish authorities, having been cleared by the high priest Caiaphas. From today’s Gospel reading:

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews replied, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.”   (John 18:28-31)

The authorities were asking Pilate for one of the cruelest forms of execution ever devised. But Pilate realized that they had no real case against Jesus. He was reluctant to proceed beyond a certain point:

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”   (John 19:1-7)

As we can see, Pilate did not want to do what they asked. He suspected that the charges were trumped up. That is what lying people do to cover their own iniquity. He was shocked by the demand for crucifixion:

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”   (John 19:8-11)

The courts have become rubber stamps. They are manipulated and controlled by evil people with evil intents. Nothing has changed down to this day. God the Father allows this to expose this great evil.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.

When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;

through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;

he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;

because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;

yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.   (Isaiah 53:13-12)

The crushing had to take place. There is no redemption of our sins without the cross. Yet, some churches want to rush to the resurrection narrative. But there is no resurrection without the crucifixion:

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.'” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”   (John 19:16-22)

The execution was carried out only because God the Father required it and only because Jesus was obedient to the Father, even to death upon a cross. This terrible execution had to be done to atone for all of our sins:

After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.   (John 19:28-30)

It was finished. The price for sin was paid. The opening of heaven was complete for all who would believe. Reading from Hebrews:

The Holy Spirit testifies saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:

I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds,”

he also adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.   (Hebrews 10:16-18)

We have looked towards the cross today. What is our response? The psalmist wrote:

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

For kingship belongs to the Lord;
he rules over the nations.

To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;
all who go down to the dust fall before him.

My soul shall live for him;
my descendants shall serve him;
they shall be known as the Lord‘s for ever.

They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn
the saving deeds that he has done.   (Psalm 22:26-30)

Our response to the cross determines whether or not this Friday is good. Such a high price was paid. Unless we are willing to reap the benefits, Jesus died in vain for us. He was crushed for us so that we might also be crushed. We can no longer live for ourselves. Our confidence before the judgment seat of God cannot be based on anything that we are or can do.

Satan is still our accuser. Who is defending us against this accuser? Are we still defending ourselves? Or are our mouths closed so that the Lord Jesus Christ can defend us? Mazy it be said about us in the courts of heaven: “They opened not their mouths.”

If we allow Jesus to defend us, then a whole new world is opened up to us. Reading from 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 10:10-25)

Amen! Amen! Thanks be to God who gives us our victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Tuesday in Holy Week

A Child of the Light

Holy Week reminds us of the contrast between darkness and light. Darkness was all around Jesus but He continued to radiate the light and love of God. The message that He wanted to convey to His disciples was that they should choose the light over darkness:

Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.”  (John 12:35-36)

We have been called  by Jesus to walk as children of the light. Young children are often open and trusting, particularly if they are raised in a loving environment. When we get older we become more aware of our shortcomings and we may be tempted to hide them. We may want others to see through us because we know that we are not altogether pure. The Pharisees made it a practice of diverting the gaze of others from them by compounding rules that others would not be able to keep. They created darkness to obscure that fact that they were not walking in the light themselves.

While we have Jesus we should walk in Him. He extends His hand to us but we must grasp it. Though He warned the Pharisees they would not listen. All anyone can do without Jesus is a coverup. Yet darkness is only a temporary covering. Ultimately, it is no solution at all. Why should we depend upon deception when we can depend upon the truth of God? The truth of God is that he loves us and our sin has been covered by the blood of Jesus.

God’s light does not come by our good deeds. Our light is a gift and a promise which God made through the Prophet Isaiah:

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”   (Isaiah 49:6)

Jesus was and is that light. Are we will to walk with as children of the light? The psalmist wrote:

For you are my hope, O Lord God,
my confidence since I was young.

I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;
from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;
my praise shall be always of you.

I have become a portent to many;
but you are my refuge and my strength.

Let my mouth be full of your praise
and your glory all the day long.   (Psalm 71:5-8)

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