Christian teaching on a variety of topics. I am an Anglican priest in Asheville, NC who has a deep appreciation for the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, a love of the Word of God written but more the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. I believe the entire Bible teaches one message and points to Him. I focus much of my teaching on merging the Old and New Testaments to show this very thing and bring new life to both testaments.
6th Sunday after Epiphany 2020
1 Corinthians 3.1-9
Paul sees a problem in the early church. They have a preferred preacher, Apollos, and it isn't jealousy that motivates Paul to speak into the situation. It was Paul who first preached the Gospel to the Corinthians and then they found someone whose style was more pleasing to them. Paul sees the danger in factions based on the preacher, an issue I have seen at close hand to divide a church. If that guy is preaching I will stay home, I prefer the other person's style. I also see people who follow a TV preacher to the exclusion of everyone else and then judge everyone else based on their opinion of their guy. We are to have a hunger for the Word of God, both the word written and the Word made flesh. No one preacher has everything we need and it shouldn't start with the preacher and it certainly shouldn't end there. We are to have a passionate desire to read the Word for ourselves if we are Protestants that was what our forebears fought for, but too often we only get the word from another man who digests it for us and then regurgitates it for our consumption. If you aren't in the word you are in a dangerous situation where you can easily be led astray. More than that, you are missing out on great blessings, the opportunity to spend time with Him and allow Him to speak directly to you. If you leave it to the preacher occasionally you will get a blessing of feeling God is speaking to you, if you are in the Word you'll have that experience more and more often.
5th Sunday after Epiphany
Psalm 27.1-7, Habakkuk 3:2-6,17-19, 1 Corinthians 2:1-11, Matthew 5:13-20
Jesus says unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees we won't enter the kingdom of heaven. Thankfully, it is His righteousness that gets us into the kingdom of heaven, but... Obviously from the rest of the sermon on the mount our righteousness, our lives, have kingdom meaning.
In this episode we first watched the first 7 minutes of this video as we focus a little on how Jesus changed the understanding of Torah commandments in a way that causes our Jewish brothers and sisters even today to cringe and say, no. It's worth a watch if you want to get a feel for how radically Jesus pushes His listeners that day and all the way to today. He wasn't just teaching what the rabbis of His day were teaching, He expanded the meaning and the scope of the commandments dramatically, in a way that is impossible except He sent the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us and then to comfort us when we fail.
The way we live matters, just as it mattered that Jesus lived out this radical way. If we take His name, we take up our cross and accept that way for our own lives and, calling yourself a Christian invites others to examine your way of life and evaluate it. Let's commit ourselves to taking that seriously this year.
Today's lessons are Psalm 37:1-6, Micah 6:1-8, I Corinthians 1:18-31 and Matthew 5:1-12
The Beatitudes point us in another direction from the world. They tell us our values are wrong in some ways and validate the best of who we are. They ground us in the world we live in, Christianity is not escapism, it isn't your best life now, it re-connects us with the world around us. We tend to get into our isolation chambers of self seeking and what Jesus says is that, as Jacob Marley told Ebenezer Scrooge, my business was mankind. We are to be pointed towards the rewards Jesus promises here but the path is directly into the pain and suffering of the world, meeting it head on, not seeking to rise above it. He immersed Himself in the messiness of humanity and the Father was always enough for Him. Our task is to do the same, we must always challenge ourselves to fall deeply in love with Him and His mission and say, It is enough.
Epiphany is the season immediately following Christmas and it means revealing or manifestation. During this season we look at several vignettes from the life of Jesus beginning with His baptism by John that reveal His identity. We have been talking lately here about the Christian understanding of satan versus the Jewish understanding and the differences are significant. I love the Jewish roots of the faith but the reality is that if Jesus gives us a new revelation on something, I have to let go of that previous notion and resolve the difference via His words. How did that come up today? The reading from Acts ends, "He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him." Jesus referred to the devil quite often and so do the other writers of the New Testament. We need to be aware who is our enemy.
Jesus told us to wait but that doesn't mean waiting and doing nothing. He gave us the Holy Spirit so we can long for the fullness of the Kingdom of God. That groaning Paul speaks of in Romans 8. He gave us a picture of what it will look like in the healing miracles, the restoration of what was broken in the lives of His people. We should long for that in our lives, wholeness. We should also long for a world where there is no longer brokenness, the world that will be new again after the final judgment. We need to know what we're waiting for and it isn't living in heaven for eternity, it is life on the new earth. This is the life and the world you were actually created for, the longing in your heart is for that world to come. The healing miracles of Jesus and the miracles He works now are meant to give us vision and hope for that future. Do you really want that world or are you satisfied with this one? Pray the Lord's Prayer with hope and desire, it's coming!
Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he. That's what most of us think of when we hear that name and that is a shame. Zacchaeus is an important person in the story of Jesus. On the way to Jerusalem to be crucified Jesus is passing through Jericho, Zacchaeus' home. Zacchaeus is a short man, a rich man and a despised man by the Jews of the region, with good reason. He is an important man in Rome though but he realizes a far greater person, Jesus, is in town and he is desperate to see him desperate enough to check his dignity at the door and run and climb a tree to see HIm. What happens next is scandalous and life changing not just for Zacchaeus but for everyone in Jericho and everyone who will pass through that place. Listen and you will see how important this story actually is. It is a story of extraordinary grace changing not just one life but many lives.
Hesed is the Hebrew word translated in the King James Version of the Bible as "lovingkindness." The word refers to the steadfast, covenant keeping love of God. In Judaism it is perhaps the most important concept, that when God makes a covenant there is no reason to ever doubt it is as eternal as He is. Jewish scholars and mystics see the hesed (or chesed) love of God as the active and operative force in creation. God pre-determined all things prior to actually creating the universe and knew already how that would work out. He knew that those created in His image would do all things we have done to His creation. Because of that hesed love He created anyway. He loves those created in His image and continues to forebear with us as a species and as individuals because He predetermined to love us. Jesus is the greatest expression of that love and the cross the supreme act of hesed.
We looked at where we find the 13 Attributes of Divine Mercy last week, Exodus 34.6-7: The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” That revelation was given to a nation who had just committed terrible sin against the God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. A sinful nation needed a merciful God if they were to co-exist and fulfill their destiny of being a kingdom of priests and living in the Promised Land.
The Jewish sages see this as a second covenant if you will rather than a renewal of the first covenant when the 10 Commandments were given at Mt Sinai in Exodus 20. There is a difference between the two because of the new revelation of God as not only great and good to His people but merciful above all else. He isn't just a jealous God who punishes, that isn't even His primary characteristic, but until they understand who they are, a stiff necked people prone to sin, they can't understand why it is vitally important that He is, above all, merciful. That God can even dwell in the midst of a stiff necked nation and in Him all His promises are fulfilled for those who love Him and confess their sin. That's the Good News Jesus came to bring not to a nation only but to all mankind.
That is the reason all heaven sings a new song when Jesus appears before the throne, as a lamb standing, as though it had been slain in Revelation 5. Whereas before the nation of Israel was a kingdom and priests, listen to the new song:
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
The 13 Attributes of Mercy are found after the incident of the Golden Calf, when God threatened to destroy the people of Israel rather than forgive them (Exod. 32:10). According to the Talmud, Moses felt that Israel’s sin was so serious that there was no possibility of intercession on their behalf
At this point, God appeared to Moses and taught him the 13 Attributes, saying: “Whenever Israel sins, let them recite this [the Thirteen Attributes] in its proper order and I will forgive them.” Thus this appeal to God’s mercy reassures us that repentance is always possible and that God always awaits our return.”
The 13 Attributes of Mercy are based on two verses in Exodus: “The Lord! The Lord! God, Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to anger and Abundant in Kindness and Truth, Preserver of kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of iniquity, willful sin, and error, and Who Cleanses (but does not cleanse completely, recalling the iniquity of parents upon children and grandchildren, to the third and fourth generations)” (34:6-7).
The 13 Attributes of Mercy, according to the generally accepted opinions of Rabbenu Tam and Abudraham, are as follows:
– The Lord! (Adonai)–God is merciful before a person sins! Even though aware that future evil lies dormant within him.
– The Lord! (Adonai)–God is merciful after the sinner has gone astray.
– God (El)–a name that denotes power as ruler over nature and humankind, indicating that God’s mercy sometimes surpasses even the degree indicated by this name.
– Compassionate (rahum)–God is filled with loving sympathy for human frailty does not put people into situations of extreme temptation, and eases the punishment of the guilty.
– Gracious (v’hanun)–God shows mercy even to those who do not deserve it consoling the afflicted and raising up the oppressed.
– Slow to anger (ereh apayim)–God gives the sinner ample time to reflect, improve, and repent.
– Abundant in Kindness (v’rav hesed)–God is kind toward those who lack personal merits, providing more gifts and blessings than they deserve; if one’s personal behavior is evenly balanced between virtue and sin, God tips the scales of justice toward the good.
– Truth (v’emet)–God never reneges on His word to reward those who serve Him.
– Preserver of kindness for thousands of generations (notzeir hesed la-alafim)–God remembers the deeds of the righteous for thebenefit of their less virtuous generations of offspring (thus we constantly invoke the merit of the Patriarchs).
– Forgiver of iniquity (nosei avon)–God forgives intentional sin resulting from an evil disposition, as long as the sinner repents.
– Forgiver of willful sin (pesha)–God allows even those who commit a sin with the malicious intent of rebelling against and angering Him the opportunity to repent.
– Forgiver of error (v’hata’ah)–God forgives a sin committed out of carelessness, thoughtlessness, or apathy.
– Who cleanses (v’nakeh)–God is merciful, gracious, and forgiving, wiping away the sins of those who truly repent; however, if one does not repent, God does not cleanse.