Twenty Second Sunday After Trinity

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Following the celebration of All Saints Day at the beginning of November, our Trinity-tide lessons begin to examine the four last things – death, judgment, heaven and hell, and direct us to a more particular examination of those things we have done and those things we have left undone.

 

This morning’s Gospel lesson opens with St. Peter asking Jesus, how many times do you have to forgive someone who has sinned against you? The short answer to St. Peter, and by extension to us as well, is that we must always forgive others. It is one of God’s non-negotiables.

 

Jesus then illustrates this short answer by teaching a parable of a King and his servants. The King represents God and the servants represent humanity; all those who have been created in the image of God. Jesus next fast-forwards the parable to a future day of reckoning – a day of judgment. We find a servant brought to account for his debts – sins committed against the King. 

 

There is of course, Original Sin inherited from Adam, as well as the myriad of sins we chose to commit over the course of our lifetime. This should come as no surprise as St. Paul reminds us, (Rom. 3:23) “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 

 

The Scriptures teach us that sin is a debt that we are incapable of paying and reminds us that (Rom. 6:23) “the wages of sin is death.” It is not a situation from which we can extricate ourselves. The first sin recorded in the Bible, that of Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, occurs in the third chapter of Genesis. In the same chapter, we have the first promise of God, that the seed of the woman, the Messiah, will crush the serpent, sin, and death. This promise is called the ‘Proto-evangelium,” the very beginning of the good news of the Gospel. All creation patiently awaited this redemption (Rom. 8:22).

 

“When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son.” (Gal. 4:4) Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, became man. He lived a perfect and sinless life. Upon the Cross, He took upon Himself, every sin that had been or would be committed in the history of the world. Jesus has paid the debt of our sins in full. It is only through faith in Him that that we receive mercy and forgiveness from God.

 

The first servant in the parable received the grace of his enormous debt being forgiven by the king but was still incapable of forgiving a fellow servant who owed him a mere pittance. The living out of our faith within our families, our church, and our community is never an easy task. 

 

How does forgiveness work in our relationship with others? Are there guidelines we should follow in attempting to extend mercy to those who have wronged us? Pop psychologists and talk radio would have us believe that forgiveness should not be extended unless the awareness of fault exists, guilt is admitted, and responsibility taken to make amends. Following these guidelines, mercy and forgiveness is proffered in a business-like contractual manner. Would that life were always that simple and straightforward!

 

How would God want us to deal with those who wound us deeply and then go blithely along on their merry way unaware or uncaring? Worse yet, how do we respond to someone who deliberately does us wrong and plans to inflict the worst scenario possible? To take a phrase from many Christian youth, “What would Jesus do?”

 

For answers, our faith instructs us to look at the Cross and our Lord’s Passion which preceded it. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus readily engaged in dialogue when the person might potentially grow in his understanding of God’s purposes, as with Pilate. But Jesus remained silent in the presence of Herod who had already hardened his heart toward God.

 

When someone hurts us, there may be times when they are open to discussions about what happened. At other times, dialogue is useless. We need to pray for discernment and guidance in how to approach each opportunity for reconciliation. Sometimes we are called to unilaterally forgive, regardless of the response or lack of it from another.

 

Jesus ultimately forgave his oppressors from the Cross. Quote, (Luke 23:34) “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.” This did not happen at the beginning of the Passion, but only at the end, after enduring much suffering, solitude, and repeated acts of cruelty.

 

We are all too aware of the violence and brutality in our country and the world, but see too few instances of what forgiveness looks like in real life.

 

Recently in the news, in a small western Pennsylvania rust-belt community, adjacent to where I went to seminary, a heinous crime was committed. One morning last December, an eighty-five year old nun was severely beaten and sexually assaulted behind her Church. 

 

At the sentencing hearing of the young perpetrator earlier this month, one of the sisters in the victim’s religious order read a statement to the court, prepared by this innocent elderly nun.

 

In part, it read, “You are my brother, and you, like me, are a beloved child of our heavenly Father. And our Father asks of his children to love one another and forgive one another. And this I do, by God’s merciful grace. I pray that one day both of us can look back upon what happened and understand more truly, that as Scripture says: ‘All things work together unto good for those who love God.’”

 

Despite her very real pain, this nun continues to live her faith and teach by example what forgiveness should look like in our lives.

 

Forgiveness is an act of the will. It is not a one time decision, but an ongoing and continuous commitment as we process through our pain, our anger, and occasional thoughts of revenge. Our willingness to continue the struggle, our hope in the healing power of God’s love, and our efforts to grow more “Christ-like”, is the mark of a true Christian.

 

May each of us respond to the challenge of God’s calling to us – His explicit commandment that we forgive those who have offended us from our heart today, as we remember how much He has forgiven us.  

 

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Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity

Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity 

The Reverend David A. Brounstein

St. Matthew’s Church

12 October 2014 

 

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In this morning’s Gospel, St. Luke gives us a behind the scenes view of a Sabbath day meal at the home of one of the chief Pharisees. This was not an impromptu or casual invitation to a simple luncheon repast, but a well planned and meticulously orchestrated event. In attendance were many of the high powered movers and shakers of first century Israel. Through the Gospel narrative, St. Luke invites us, as it were, to become invisible guests, observing all that is transpiring as the meal gets underway. The intent of the chief Pharisees and those on the well connected “A” list was not to celebrate the Sabbath, but to critically examine and informally judge an itinerant preacher from Nazareth who was gathering a following and dared to infringe upon their teaching turf.

 

Jesus was fully cognizant of their desire to entrap him through the words he spoke and the deeds he performed, but nonetheless, accepted the invitation and challenge. The King James translation tells us that Jesus was being “watched,” but the Greek construct of that word is much more ominous, indicating that they were ‘lurking’ as they watched him.

 

As if on cue, a man then appears with what is called ‘the dropsy’ – a somewhat archaic word for a physical condition in which the body is swollen with excess fluids. It is an extreme case of what we would now call edema.

 

Rather than the Jewish leaders providing a teaching or giving a meditation on the Torah as was their customary responsibility in an intimate home setting on the Sabbath day, it was Jesus who gave the lesson. Jesus cites the Mosaic Law (Dt. 22:4) requiring aid be given to fallen livestock in distress. First century rabbinic commentaries on the Law placed this obligation above other Sabbath day requirements. While some of the more separatist communities, such as the Essenes who left us the Dead Sea Scrolls, denied this preference to animals on the Sabbath, there was no disagreement among the Pharisees that aid should always be extended to a person, even on the Sabbath. In the midst of his teaching, Jesus applies theory to practice. He embraces the man and heals him as all are watching them in complete silence.

 

Note that there were no voices rejoicing for the man who had been miraculously healed. There were no voices praising God for His compassion. There were no voices acknowledging Jesus for obediently doing the work and will of His Father. There was only the indifference of silence, as the healing evoked no change whatsoever in the hearts of the Jewish leadership in attendance that day.

 

Jesus, in observing the elite of Israel gathered around him in the home of the chief Pharisee, next tells a parable of certain guests vying for the best seats at a banquet. Absent in his listeners is any awareness that they had failed to identify and acknowledge the true guest of honor present in their midst, the Messiah of Israel. This parable is a most poignant commentary on this Sabbath day meal. 

 

I would encourage you to re-read our Gospel lesson this week. You will surprisingly find that throughout this Sabbath day controversy, Jesus is the only one who speaks and the only one who acts. In doing so, he responds to the unvoiced criticism and silent judgment of the Jewish establishment as well as their self-centered preening and their preoccupation with self- aggrandizing social standing.

 

St. Luke, through his Gospel narrative, has given us a snapshot of two kingdoms existing side-by-side in real time for all to see. First is the kingdom of God on earth. It is vibrant and alive. Through Jesus Christ, humanity continues to experience the love and compassion of God that not only heals the sick but saves us from our sins. Inhabitants of this Kingdom are commanded to integrate the two great commandments in their everyday life – “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy might and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Kingdom comes with the promise of eternal life to those who forsake all others and follow Jesus Christ. This is the ‘Good News’ or ‘Gospel’ consistently proclaimed by the Church for some two thousand years. 

 

At the same time, there is a second kingdom as portrayed in our Gospel narrative this morning. It is sterile and devoid of concern for the human need. At this Sabbath day meal, Jesus challenged the understanding of the kingdom of God as envisioned by the Pharisees. They had compartmentalized their lives and worship of God to the ideal of following the written and oral Mosaic Law and the related rabbinic commentaries. There was no practical application of their piety or concern for their neighbor. In doing so, the inhabitants of this second kingdom develop stubborn and rebellious hearts, hearts that come to cherish their coldness. They are critical and cynical while constantly criticizing others, in an effort to assure themselves of their superiority. This self imposed condition makes them blind, deaf and mute to the works of God.

 

As inheritors of the Kingdom of God, may we follow the example and great teaching of our Savior, daily integrating the love of God and our neighbor in all that we do. 

 

May the grace of God indeed go before us and continually make us to be given to all good works so that we would be aware of the needs of others and respond with kindness, compassion, and practical help, as God gives us the ability.

 

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Eleventh Sunday After Trinity

In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching a parable directed to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and yet, they despised others. He tells of two men who went up to the temple to pray and describes rather succinctly, what was in each man’s heart. The first man, a Pharisee, is presented as an example of self-righteous pride. He is acutely aware of other worshippers around him. Instead of praying, he thanks God in a litany of self praise that he is “not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. He fasts twice each week and gives tithes of all he possesses.” This is quite a resume – but one that is noticeably devoid of prayer, personal humility, and charity towards a repentant sinner praying in his immediate proximity.

In stark contrast, the second man who was a tax collector is grounded in reality. He all to well knows his sins and moral failings, but as he prays, he seeks only the mercy of God.

Like those men in the parable, we have all gathered here this morning to pray. What parallels are applicable or instructive to us today from our Gospel lesson? Where is our focus and how are we to approach God with our prayers? Where is our heart in worship this morning? Are our eyes fixed upon God or are we distracted by other people or other things?  

At St. Matthew’s, we ask that silence be kept in Church before our worship service begins. Entering into prayer requires a time of preparation to quiet both heart and mind. Someone once asked a well known sage what he did before praying. His classic response was that, “I pray, that I may be able to pray properly.”  

We begin our Eucharistic worship openly acknowledging that nothing is hid from God. He knows our heart, all of our desires, and every secret – even those we hide from ourselves. This incorporates into our time of prayer the fundamental characteristic of every Christian; that is, a spirit of humility and openness in our relationship with God.

Humility before God is a theme that permeates the Scriptures. It is often spoken of by the Psalmist and others. In Ecclesiasticus, we learn that (35:17) “the prayer of the humble pierces the clouds.” St. James, in his Epistle (4:6), reminds us that “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” A medieval Orthodox bishop beautifully wrote that “Humility is the chariot in which the ascent to God is made.”

Humility before God, rather than an attitude of entitlement or pride, is an apt summary of this parable by Jesus of two men at prayer. We also learn that God welcomes the outsiders, even notorious or public sinners, the moment they begin to repent. It is the same point Jesus made in the parable of the prodigal son a few weeks ago. As soon as the younger son turned back to his father and before confession was made, the father ran to embrace and kiss him.

It is not surprising that other social outcasts, deemed beneath the respectability of mainline 1st century Judaism, were frequently exalted by Jesus in his teachings. These include poor Lazarus at the rich man’s gate, the lepers, the blind, those suffering physical deformities, Samaritans, tax collectors, shepherds, prostitutes and the like – people that the religious elite of his day believed could be conveniently neglected. Jesus shocked the religious community of his day by reaching out to them, touching and healing them, urging them to repent, and welcoming them to the Kingdom of God.

In this morning’s parable, although the tax collector is exhibiting repentance, he is still despised and held in contempt by the Pharisee with the mindset that – once a sinner, always a sinner. The tax collector is thought of and treated as a second class citizen – a pariah, one that should continue to be shunned and excluded from the community.

God’s perspective, as expressed by Jesus in the parable, is decidedly different. We learn from our text that the tax collector returned to his house justified.

Not surprisingly, the Church struggles with the same issue. How do we, as a Christian community, welcome and incorporate the repentant sinner who has caused great pain and anguish to individual members of a parish or the wider Body of Christ? Jesus taught us that there is joy in heaven over the sinner who repents. The reality on earth is often less enthusiastic and more problematic.

In our Epistle this morning, St. Paul recalls and confesses the persecution he inflicted upon the Church and his own unworthiness to be called an Apostle. His experience of grace on the Damascus Road where he encountered the Risen Lord, lost his sight, immediately and radically transformed him forever. He repented and became a disciple of our Lord.

The response of the 1st century Church was extremely guarded and definitely more subdued. A disciple in Damascus, Ananias by name, sincerely inquired of God as to why he was being sent to pray for Paul that his sight be restored. Paul’s reputation, known by the Church, was (Acts 9:13-14) of all “the evil he hath done to the saints in Jerusalem: and his authority to arrest all that call on the name of Jesus.” Nonetheless, Ananias was obedient and Paul’s eyesight was restored.

St. Paul subsequently journeyed to Jerusalem to join the other disciples. It is written in the Acts of the Apostles that they were afraid of him and questioned his conversion. Barnabus, in faith, brought him to the Apostles who believed him and his testimony. Following what they had learned directly from their three year apprenticeship with Jesus, the Apostles led the Early Church by example as they embraced St. Paul as their brother in Christ.

St. Paul humbly acknowledged that his new life in Christ was solely by the grace of God. So it is with all of us. None of us can change our past. With St. Paul, we come to understand and confess that “by the grace of God, I am what I am.” We can only move forward with all that God had called us to do.

St. Gregory the Great likened the Church to a hospital where sinners came to be healed and restored into the community of the faithful. A sincere examen of conscience will bring us to the unpleasant realization that each of us has offended others in time past – in thought, word or deed.

In our prayers this morning, as we humbly ask God to forgive us our sins, may we truly forgive all those who have sinned against us.

When they repent, may we welcome and restore them to full life and fellowship in the Church.

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Fifth Sunday After Easter – Sermon

The Fifth Sunday after Easter

The Reverend David A. Brounstein

St. Matthew’s Church

25 May 2014

 

The Book of Common Prayer notes that this fifth and last Sunday in Eastertide is commonly called Rogation Sunday.

The word “rogation” is derived from the Latin word “rogare” which means “to ask or to beseech” and is taken from our Gospel text, quote, (John 16:23-24) “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”  

We frequently think of seedtime, planting, and prayers for an abundant harvest as the main emphasis of rogation. Rogation Days began in fifth century France after a series of natural disasters. The Bishop instituted a solemn three-day observance where the people were to petition God for forgiveness of their sins, for protection from further calamities, and for bountiful crops. Old Ordo Kalendar’s reflected that this Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the last three days of Eastertide, were purple or penitential rather than the usual Eastertide white indicating celebratory feast days or seasons.

Over the years, the rogation days have lost most of their penitential attributes. Few of us living in Orange County pray that there will be enough rain for agriculture or to provide feed for what will eventually appear in the meat counter at the market. We assume that agricultural abundance will continue unabated and grocery shelves will always be well stocked.

If you have ever listened to the radio while driving through the Central Valley, your perspective would probably change. The mainstay of programming is a non-stop discussion of the daily crop report, current temperatures, expectations of rain, pest problems and the sale of farm equipment. For farmers, these matters are of primary importance on a daily basis. In these rural areas, some churches continue the rogation tradition of liturgical processions out to the fields to bless crops and young livestock. In doing so, it provides a tacit reminder that God and humanity cooperate in the creative process of agriculture.

This theme first appears immediately after the Creation narrative in the second chapter of Genesis. We read that (Gen 2:8,15), “The Lord planted a garden and took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress and keep it.” In effect, at the beginning, God established a unique partnership with man. As in every partnership, there are duties and expectations of both parties.

Rogation Days remind us that all agriculture, be it a garden or farming endeavor, remains a collaborative effort. To obtain a bountiful harvest, human effort is required in addition to what God provides. A field needs to be prepared, seed needs to be planted, irrigation provided, and workers to gather the crop and “separate the wheat from the chaff.”

 

In his Epistle to the Church at Corinth, St. Paul employed a similar metaphor and applied it to the preaching of the Gospel, quote, (1 Cor 3:6-8) “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor.”

 

St. James, oft maligned by numerous Reformation theologians, practically applied a similar metaphor to God’s Word that has been planted in the garden of our heart. In his Epistle, he exhorts us to, (James 1:22) “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” St. James was primarily addressing matters in his local first century worship community that, not surprisingly, continues to persist and impact the Church some twenty centuries later. Then as now, there are people who regularly come to Church each week, people who hear the Scriptures read aloud, and people who hear the homily and its application to their lives. They truly believe in their heart that Church attendance, adherence to right doctrine, a donation in the plate, and prayerful listening is sufficient to make them a faithful Christian. All of these things are good, yet, St. James calls this limited response self-deception.

 

Implicit in the Jewish worldview, assumed by every writer in both the Old and New Testament, was that there is a unity, a holistic connectedness, in each person among their body, soul and spirit. St. James teaches us that a Christian is required to incorporate God’s Word and what they have heard and learned in Church into every aspect of how they live out their life. It is putting theory into practice. It is how one becomes a “doer of the word and not a hearer only.”

 

There is a Jewish parable that tells the story of a rabbi who was coming from the house of his teacher. He was riding leisurely on his donkey and was happy and elated because he had studied much Torah, the first five books of the Bible. By chance he met an exceedingly ugly man who greeted him saying, “Peace be unto you.” The rabbi did not return his greeting but instead, said to him, “You are good for nothing. How ugly you are. Is everyone in your town as ugly as you are?” The man replied, ‘I do not know, but go and tell the craftsman who made me ‘how ugly is this vessel you have made.’ The rabbi immediately realized that he had sinned, dismounted from his donkey, and prostrated himself on the ground begging to be forgiven by both the man and by God.

 

We too, come to Church and hear the Word of God – but then, like the rabbi, when we go on our way, we begin to encounter all those people and situations in our lives we consider to be ugly. Some are family members or co-workers. There are the multitudes on our streets and freeways who provide empiric evidence that they are unable drive a vehicle, especially if they are talking or texting on their cell phone; there are people who continually aggravate or frustrate us and waste our time. They greatly test our patience. Others still, who are street corner beggars or homeless. They remind us of human needs that we would prefer to ignore.

 

We can laugh at the human foibles in the parable and at the same time be somewhat troubled. The rabbi in this tale could well be described as a hearer of the Word but not a doer of the Word. To his credit, he immediately confessed his sin and acknowledged his lack of charity. The rabbi learned that his study of Torah was not solely for his personal edification, but was something to be lived out in every aspect of his life and with his community. That is the point of the tale and why it has been preserved in rabbinic teaching.

 

The rabbi knew that there was no real way he could effectively help the ugly man, but came to the sudden realization that this person was made in the image of God, and at a minimum, deserved to be treated with dignity.

 

We cannot help all those we encounter in our lives who cause us difficulty, many of whom do not want to be helped. Still, Christ calls us to treat them with respect. In addition, we are to earnestly pray that God would begin a new work in their lives as He has done in ours so that they would be made whole. In this Eastertide season we remember that God loves us and brings the gift of healing, of redemption and the promise of resurrection to all those who come to Him. We are also to remember to look for concrete ways in our everyday lives to extend those gifts to others.

 

May God strengthen and empower us through the Holy Ghost to be doers of the word and not hearers only.    

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The Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity 2013 -Sermon

If you visit Israel today, as many Christians do, Israeli airport officials will often ask if your itinerary includes a subsequent visit to other countries in the region such as Jordan, Syria or Egypt. If it does, they may choose not to stamp your Passport but provide you with a separate official document for your stay in Israel. This is because there is a high likelihood you will be denied admission to surrounding countries in the region after visiting the Jewish State. Although you may only be bringing tourist dollars and not any particular opinion on local politics, where you are from and where you have visited, will presumptively determine if you are treated as friend or foe.

The common perception of Samaritans in the first century Israel evoked a similar visceral reaction. The Torah commanded Israel not to be hostile to strangers, reminding them (Ex 22:21)“Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” But Samaritans were in a different category, as there was a long history of animosity. Following the death of King Solomon some 900 years earlier, the nation of Israel was divided. Ten tribes broke off and formed the Northern Kingdom while the tribes of Judah and Benjamin became the Southern Kingdom with its national political structure and worship centered in Jerusalem.

The Northern Kingdom refused to worship at Jerusalem, established their own Holy Days, and their own mode of worship centered locally at Mt. Gerizim. In 722 BC, the Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians who deported most of the indigenous inhabitants throughout their empire and replaced them with foreign pagans. These pagans then intermarried with the remaining Jewish people in the land and were known as Samaritans. Theologically, they shared much in common with the Sadducees. Both accepted what we call the Pentateuch, the five Books of Moses, and they both rejected the Mosaic oral law as well as belief in the resurrection of the dead.

When Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom were conquered by the armies of Nebuchadnezzer 135 years later, many of the people were exiled to Babylon. In contrast however, they were permitted to live as Jews, retain their culture and customs, develop a vibrant expatriate community, and were not forced to intermarry. When the Babylonian exile came to an end, Ezra and Nehemiah sought to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and reinstitute Temple worship there. Their efforts were continually obstructed by the Samaritans who did not want them to return.

Against this historical perspective, this morning’s Gospel has Jesus obtaining the full attention of His audience by teaching a parable that portrays a despised Samaritan in a favorable light. A Pharisee would not be at all surprised that the priest and Levite ignored the wounded man as they were both Sadducees and rigidly adhered to ritual law. The Mosaic oral law believed and taught by the Pharisees required full human dignity and respect to every individual until the moment of death. Then they were to be given a burial. All ritual to the contrary was deemed secondary. To the Pharisees, people were more important than task. Under these circumstances, a Pharisee would expect to be the hero of this parable by Jesus. Instead, it is a Samaritan, an outsider, who holds the same ritualistic outlook on life as did the Sadducee.

Each of the Synoptic Gospels include the opening narrative of Jesus discussing with the scribes and Pharisees, one of which was a lawyer, concerning the great commandment. There were no disagreements here. In St. Mark’s Gospel, (Mk 12:29-31)“Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The usual rabbinic understanding of neighbor would be to “love your fellow Jew” – members of your immediate local community with extension to members of the greater nation. Love those who love you and are like you. “One rabbinic saying ruled that there was no need to regard heretics, informers and apostates as neighbors.”[1] Samaritans clearly fell into a group that could be excluded as neighbors.

While the Jews clearly had no love for the Samaritans, it was equally true that the Samaritans had no great love or concern for the Jews either. St. Luke, in writing to a gentile church, is the only Gospel writer to include this parable of the Good Samaritan that joins together people who have little in common and generally mix as well as oil and water. Jesus teaches us that the Samaritan essentially repents of his ritualistic beliefs, responds to the need God has placed before him, and had compassion on the beaten man. In doing so, he put aside all the reasons to continue uninterrupted on his journey. By his actions, the Samaritan took quite a risk. He was a hated foreigner in uncomfortable proximity to a beaten and near dead man, easily subject to being accused as the perpetrator of the crime. Instead, he tacitly chose to be a neighbor to someone who would consciously reject him as a neighbor. Even the exacting lawyer interrogating Jesus responded that the Samaritan showed mercy – one of the attributes of God.

Perhaps the most difficult part of all is that Jesus tells the lawyer in this morning’s Gospel, and us by extension, (Lk 10:37) “Go, and do thou likewise.” This is not a one-time admonition in the New Testament. Rather, it is the heart of mission to which God has called His Church. Quote, (Mt 5:44) “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

Think how difficult it must be for the Coptic Christians in Egypt to watch mobs destroy their churches and not give in to the temptation to strike back, or how long-suffering the Christians in Syria are called to be, as their nation is torn apart in civil strife. The same could be said for Bishop Wilson in the Sudan as the believers in the south are called to forgive their persecutors in the north.

St. Paul echoes the same theme in our lessons for Evening Prayer this week. In his Epistle to the Romans (11:31), he also writes to a gentile church and teaches that by extending mercy to others, these will receive the mercy of God and salvation.

May God enable us through the Holy Spirit to truly love our neighbors as ourselves, and “Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


[1] Joachim Jeremias. The Parables of Jesus. Trans S.H. Hook SCM Press, London, 1963, rev. ed.

The Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity 2013 -Sermon

If you visit Israel today, as many Christians do, Israeli airport officials will often ask if your itinerary includes a subsequent visit to other countries in the region such as Jordan, Syria or Egypt. If it does, they may choose not to stamp your Passport but provide you with a separate official document for your stay in Israel. This is because there is a high likelihood you will be denied admission to surrounding countries in the region after visiting the Jewish State. Although you may only be bringing tourist dollars and not any particular opinion on local politics, where you are from and where you have visited, will presumptively determine if you are treated as friend or foe.

The common perception of Samaritans in the first century Israel evoked a similar visceral reaction. The Torah commanded Israel not to be hostile to strangers, reminding them (Ex 22:21)“Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” But Samaritans were in a different category, as there was a long history of animosity. Following the death of King Solomon some 900 years earlier, the nation of Israel was divided. Ten tribes broke off and formed the Northern Kingdom while the tribes of Judah and Benjamin became the Southern Kingdom with its national political structure and worship centered in Jerusalem.

The Northern Kingdom refused to worship at Jerusalem, established their own Holy Days, and their own mode of worship centered locally at Mt. Gerizim. In 722 BC, the Northern Kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians who deported most of the indigenous inhabitants throughout their empire and replaced them with foreign pagans. These pagans then intermarried with the remaining Jewish people in the land and were known as Samaritans. Theologically, they shared much in common with the Sadducees. Both accepted what we call the Pentateuch, the five Books of Moses, and they both rejected the Mosaic oral law as well as belief in the resurrection of the dead.

When Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom were conquered by the armies of Nebuchadnezzer 135 years later, many of the people were exiled to Babylon. In contrast however, they were permitted to live as Jews, retain their culture and customs, develop a vibrant expatriate community, and were not forced to intermarry. When the Babylonian exile came to an end, Ezra and Nehemiah sought to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and reinstitute Temple worship there. Their efforts were continually obstructed by the Samaritans who did not want them to return.

Against this historical perspective, this morning’s Gospel has Jesus obtaining the full attention of His audience by teaching a parable that portrays a despised Samaritan in a favorable light. A Pharisee would not be at all surprised that the priest and Levite ignored the wounded man as they were both Sadducees and rigidly adhered to ritual law. The Mosaic oral law believed and taught by the Pharisees required full human dignity and respect to every individual until the moment of death. Then they were to be given a burial. All ritual to the contrary was deemed secondary. To the Pharisees, people were more important than task. Under these circumstances, a Pharisee would expect to be the hero of this parable by Jesus. Instead, it is a Samaritan, an outsider, who holds the same ritualistic outlook on life as did the Sadducee.

Each of the Synoptic Gospels include the opening narrative of Jesus discussing with the scribes and Pharisees, one of which was a lawyer, concerning the great commandment. There were no disagreements here. In St. Mark’s Gospel, (Mk 12:29-31)“Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The usual rabbinic understanding of neighbor would be to “love your fellow Jew” – members of your immediate local community with extension to members of the greater nation. Love those who love you and are like you. “One rabbinic saying ruled that there was no need to regard heretics, informers and apostates as neighbors.”[1] Samaritans clearly fell into a group that could be excluded as neighbors.

While the Jews clearly had no love for the Samaritans, it was equally true that the Samaritans had no great love or concern for the Jews either. St. Luke, in writing to a gentile church, is the only Gospel writer to include this parable of the Good Samaritan that joins together people who have little in common and generally mix as well as oil and water. Jesus teaches us that the Samaritan essentially repents of his ritualistic beliefs, responds to the need God has placed before him, and had compassion on the beaten man. In doing so, he put aside all the reasons to continue uninterrupted on his journey. By his actions, the Samaritan took quite a risk. He was a hated foreigner in uncomfortable proximity to a beaten and near dead man, easily subject to being accused as the perpetrator of the crime. Instead, he tacitly chose to be a neighbor to someone who would consciously reject him as a neighbor. Even the exacting lawyer interrogating Jesus responded that the Samaritan showed mercy – one of the attributes of God.

Perhaps the most difficult part of all is that Jesus tells the lawyer in this morning’s Gospel, and us by extension, (Lk 10:37) “Go, and do thou likewise.” This is not a one-time admonition in the New Testament. Rather, it is the heart of mission to which God has called His Church. Quote, (Mt 5:44) “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

Think how difficult it must be for the Coptic Christians in Egypt to watch mobs destroy their churches and not give in to the temptation to strike back, or how long-suffering the Christians in Syria are called to be, as their nation is torn apart in civil strife. The same could be said for Bishop Wilson in the Sudan as the believers in the south are called to forgive their persecutors in the north.

St. Paul echoes the same theme in our lessons for Evening Prayer this week. In his Epistle to the Romans (11:31), he also writes to a gentile church and teaches that by extending mercy to others, these will receive the mercy of God and salvation.

May God enable us through the Holy Spirit to truly love our neighbors as ourselves, and “Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



[1] Joachim Jeremias. The Parables of Jesus. Trans S.H. Hook SCM Press, London, 1963, rev. ed.

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The Sixth Sunday After Trinity 2013 – Sermon

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“Jesus said to his disciples, Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Our Gospel lesson from St. Matthew this morning is from the Sermon on the Mount. When reading a narrative from Scripture, it is often difficult to envision the response of those listening and hearing it for the first time. This pronouncement by Jesus undoubtedly caused a considerable amount of angst and perplexity to the disciples and the gathered multitudes in attendance. In response to a similar statement concerning the difficulty of a rich man entering into the kingdom of God, the disciples (Mt. 19:25) “Were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?”

Scribes were men who spent their lives studying, teaching, and explaining the Law; they were the great authorities on the oral tradition handed down from generation to generation. They were historians who had committed to memory the collective teaching and commentary on every nuance of the Law. These men also meticulously copied and preserved the sacred texts exercising great care as they did so.

The Pharisees were the political descendents of the Maccabees who had effectively defeated the Greek political and cultural dominance of Israel some 200 year earlier. These men were known for their unquestioned holiness and sanctity. The word ‘Pharisee’ means ‘separatist.’ They were people who set themselves apart by their careful observance of rules and regulations, many of which they had established for themselves, to build what is often called, “a fence around the Law.” Their zealousness had a twofold purpose: first, to protect the law: second, to prevent themselves from even coming close to breaking the Law.

To an ordinary Israelite of the first century, scribes and Pharisees were considered to be the most righteous people around. They appeared to be meticulously orthodox and incorporated their understanding of the Law into every area of their life. The Gospel tells us that they even tithed on their small amount of herbs and spices grown for personal use. They attended synagogue worship on every Sabbath and comprised the leadership of their local congregations. Yet Jesus taught that their righteousness had fallen short and missed the mark.

Righteousness is a word that repeatedly appears throughout the Old and New Testament as well as the Daily Offices and Eucharistic Liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer. It is a translation of the Jewish word “tzedakah” and originally encompassed the literary sense of deliverance and salvation. The Rabbinic application of what it meant to live a righteous life became narrower over time. Righteousness morphed solely into the practice of almsgiving, prayer and fasting. This should sound quite familiar as these are the classic disciplines we adopt each Lent.

To be sure, Jesus is not chastising the scribes and Pharisees for supporting the poor, praying or fasting – just that their outward observable actions were narcissistic and lacked humility and a right heart attitude towards God.

A few verses beyond today’s lesson, beginning at the 6th chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus systematically comments on each of these three attributes of righteousness as practiced by the scribes and Pharisees – specifically noting the hypocrisy they exhibit.

Concerning almsgiving, Jesus teaches that when you give alms, do it simply. Trumpets or public displays were not necessary so that everyone noticed their generosity. Elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus took special note of (Lk 21:1-3) a poor widow putting the few coins she possessed into the treasury as an example of an almost invisible sacrificial offering from her heart. Almsgiving is an act of worship between you and God. If you give in this manner, Jesus tells us that God will notice and reward this type of faithfulness.

Concerning prayer, Jesus teaches that one should pray with God as our exclusive audience. None were to make a spectacle of themselves in either the synagogue or the street corner. Rather, he says, go into a closet and shut the door. In the Old Testament, we read how (1 Sam 1:13-17) Hannah went to the temple of the Lord and poured her heart out to God – her lips moved but her voice could not be heard. As an example and encouragement for us, we are told that God heard her prayer and rewarded her faithfulness.

Concerning fasting, again Jesus teaches that God alone is to be our focus. No one should be able to discern from physical appearance that they were denying themselves food or other pleasures for a season of time. Other than perhaps immediate family members who might have a need to know, personal fasting was a time for increased prayer and seeking God. It still is today. We read of notable fasts in Scripture concerning Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, all in the wilderness, and observe that God always sustained and ministered unto them.

In the Old Testament, Jeremiah prophesied about the coming Messiah, writing, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth…and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.[1]

Our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees because theirs was a minimalist understanding flowing exclusively from their own works. Jesus is telling his first century audience and us today, that the starting point for true and complete righteousness begins with deliverance and salvation that can come from God alone. Moreover, on the Cross, He would become that (BCP 80) “full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.” As St. Paul wrote, “21 he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.[2]

The grace of God towards us and His gift of salvation and deliverance are not the end of the Christian life. Rather, these are just the beginning. All of our almsgiving, fasting, prayers, (BCP 83) “and all other such good works that He has prepared for us to walk in” are the heartfelt response expected by God. Our gratitude and thanksgiving for the precious gift we have received is to permeate every relationship and all that we do with our family, friends and neighbors.

May the Lord our Righteousness strengthen us to (BCP 33) “walk before Him in holiness and righteousness all our days.”

It is only then that our righteousness will exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.

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[1] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (1995). (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version., Je 23:5–6). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] The Holy Bible: King James Version. (1995). (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version., 2 Co 5:21). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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The Third Sunday After Trinity 2013 – Sermon

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(Lk. 15:2) “The scribes and the Pharisees murmured, saying, this man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”

The word “murmur” is alternatively translated as grumbling or complaining. In Scripture, it is used pejoratively and often relates to food, drink, and a disbelief in the purpose and plan of God. Not surprisingly, those who murmur receive much attention and they are usually wrong.

Following the Exodus from Egypt, we read that the Children of Israel constantly murmured. They complained about being hungry and not having leeks, onions, and garlic. They complained that freedom in the Wilderness was worse than the bondage of slavery in Egypt. They complained about being thirsty and having no water. Above all, they  complained about Moses who gave them God’s commandments.

In St. John’s Gospel (6:35), Jesus taught that he was the Bread of Life – he that cometh to me shall never hunger – he that believes on me shall never thirst. In response, we read that the people murmured.

At its heart, murmuring is a form of narcissism disguised with a religious venire. Murmuring is a petulant attitude about my food, my drink, my understanding of who God is and what he should be doing. In sharp contrast to murmuring, St. Peter in this morning’s Epistle exhorts us to humility before God, (1 Pet 5:7) to “cast all your care upon him: for he careth for you.”

(Lk. 15:2) But “The scribes and the Pharisees murmured, saying, this man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”

It is not difficult to make an argument from Scripture that one should not associate with people of poor character. The Psalmist tells us (Ps 1) that “Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners.” Similarly in Proverbs (1:10), “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” Indeed, this is the wisdom we teach our vulnerable children as they are growing to maturity – that they should not associate with those who will be a bad influence upon them and potentially lead them astray. We protect them and ourselves by developing a fortress like mentality to shut out “sinners” and other undesirables. Very few of us want to socialize with them, share a meal with them, or invite them into our home.

The secular religion of our culture embraces the same theology – a tacit understanding that people cannot and do not change. No doubt you have heard that “a leopard cannot change its spots” or “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” In stark contrast, an enduring symbol of Christianity is the butterfly. The ugly caterpillar is transformed into a new creature.

As Christians, we are called to reach out to those in this world who are in darkness and bring them into the light of God’s love, forgiveness and restoration.

“Jesus makes this same point in this morning’s Gospel. According to the writings of Edersheim, the Parable of the woman who made anxious search for her lost coin is almost a literal parallel from the Jewish Midrash that the scribes and Pharisees murmuring at Jesus would have been well acquainted.b In the Jewish Parable, the moral is that a man ought to take much greater pains in the study of the Torah than in the search for the coin, since the former procures an eternal reward, while the coin would, if found, at most only procure temporary enjoyment. Jesus, and the Gospel that he gave us, proclaims a worldview that shifts the focus from the benefits of inward study to the requirement of actively seeking out the lost, and the eternal joy of Heaven in their recovery. [1]

To be sure, there is nothing wrong in the study of Torah or participating in the Bible studies of our day to learn more about God and draw closer to Him. Jesus is teaching the scribes and Pharisees, as well as all generations to follow, that the missiological component of the faith must not be ignored. Those who follow Christ are called to reach out and draw in those separated from God.

Repentance and reconciliation requires involvement with people who might not respond to an invitation the first time it is offered. That does not mean we are to stop trying. Following the sin of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, God did not walk away from humanity. The Scriptures chronicle God continually reaching out to His creation. He made covenants and promises first to Noah and then to Abraham and his descendents. God sent Israel his prophets. The prophet Ezekiel (34) wrote that God sent shepherds to search and seek after the flock of his people scattered throughout the mountains and every high hill. But these shepherds served themselves and abused the sheep.

God continued to reach out extending the invitation to repent and be reconciled with God. He sent his Son to be that good shepherd who would search out and find His lost sheep. And as He taught us, (Jn. 10:11) the “good shepherd will lay down his own life for the sheep.”

Sometimes there are members of our own family or community, who do not want the lost to return. Perhaps they are still in need of healing over past hurts the lost one has caused, or they refuse to believe the other person can or may have actually changed. They may have experienced many false starts, or failed attempts at reconciliation. But God never gives up on any of us. And he wishes us to continue to extend that invitation to others.

At each Eucharist, we are reminded that (1 Tim 1:15) “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Restoration is a work of mercy in which God allows us to participate. We are not responsible for the outcome of each individual attempt, but we are responsible to cooperate with His grace and continue to reach out to those who need assurance of His love and forgiveness.

May the Lord strengthen us in our witness to those in need of repentance and reconciliation with God. For (Lk. 15:10) “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

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[1] Edersheim, A. (1896). Vol. 1: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (581). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

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Good Friday 2013 – Sermon

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Why in the world would we call this Friday “Good”? In our lesson from the prophet Isaiah, we are told of a person despised and rejected by men. A man severely beaten, whose back, in the words of the Psalmist (129:3), resembled a plowed field. A man whose face was so marred, he was barely recognizable, so that Pilate would have to tell the crowd, “Ecce Homo” – behold the man.

Holy Week began last Sunday with the Liturgy of the Palms and our procession into Church commemorating the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. We then participated in the Passion narrative from St. Matthew’s Gospel. Today we read together another version of the Passion, that of St. John.

Passion is the word we use to describe the sufferings of Jesus following the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday until his crucifixion.

We remember Jesus being betrayed by a kiss from Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane. We remember most of the disciples scattering, running and hiding because of fear. One even ran away naked into the night. We remember the violation of Jewish law with an illegal midnight trial held by Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest and some Sadducees of the Sanhedrin. We remember St. Peter denying Jesus three times. We remember the abuse of Jesus – the scourging, the spitting, the crown of thorns. We remember Jesus being dragged off to Herod and then Pilate and being mocked. We remember the crowds calling for the release of Barabbas and that Jesus be crucified. We remember Jesus carrying his cross, being stripped of his garments and nailed to the cross by the soldiers of Rome.

At the same time, the Passion evokes in us intense emotions as the events of two thousand years ago are brought into the present. Unfortunately, our passions can be misdirected. For centuries, Good Friday became an opportunity to avenge the death of Jesus by killing Jewish people wherever they might be found.

It is easier to be enflamed by the people and events of long ago than it is to realize that they were all small bit players that appear momentarily on the stage of world history in God’s plan for our redemption.

The inconvenient truth we remember today is expressed succinctly in a few words from the Nicene Creed – “And He was crucified also for us.” It was not the very real betrayals, the failures, the cruelty, cowardice and villainy of others long ago, but our present day real life personal culpability for the many times (1928 BCP p 6) “We have left undone those things we ought to have done; And done those things which we ought not to have done. Truly, there is no health in us,” or in the words of the prophet Isaiah read earlier, (Is 53:6) “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

That last part, “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” is why we are here today. Today, we remember Jesus, true man and true God. (Is 53:5) It was He who “was wounded for our transgressions, was bruised for our iniquities…and with his stripes we are healed.”

The Passion is also about the mental agony of Jesus as he takes upon himself every sin from each person individually – from the sin of the disobedience of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, to the sin of Cain the first murderer, to those who were presently abusing him, whom he forgives from the Cross, as well as every future person yet unborn. That includes each of us here today. As St. Paul wrote, (2 Cor 5:21), “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

Spiritual writers have often expounded that it was not the nails which held Jesus on the Cross, but his great love for us. Our every sin and our every weakness is known to God and yet he still loves us. (Jn 3:16) Indeed, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The crucifixion of Jesus makes the Cross the focal point of all history. The Old Testament saints looked forward in faith to that long promised day (Gen 3:15) when the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, and with it, sin and hell and death were destroyed. As the Jewish people were commanded to remember at each Passover their deliverance from slavery and bondage in Egypt, today, let us remember that our sins have been forgiven and that we have been reconciled to God through this ultimate act of love. Because of Jesus being crucified for us, we have been redeemed from slavery and bondage to the world, the flesh and the devil. Because of the Cross, we too, like the good thief, have the hope of being with Jesus for all eternity.

Be thankful.  It is a very Good Friday indeed.

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First Sunday After Christmas 2012 – Sermon

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A few years ago, our son called and excitedly told us that they were expecting the birth of their third child, their first son, and that they had decided to name him Joseph. Diane and I immediately thought of Joseph in the Old Testament.  We thought a baby quilt of many colors might make an appropriate gift.

We were then informed that our grandson was being named in honor of St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus. As you might suspect, other than some child-sized woodworking tools, nothing immediately came to mind. We perused several Christian internet sites for something associated with Joseph and eventually found a St. Joseph tee-shirt that read, “Not your average Joe.”

Neither St. Mark nor St. John wrote about Joseph in their Gospels. St. Luke, in his Infancy Narrative, wrote extensively about many persons involved in the coming of the Messiah. He mentions Zacharias and Elisabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, as well as Simeon and Anna at the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. However, St. Luke has almost nothing to say about Joseph other than making an occasional reference of his physical presence at selected events in a few passages. Quote, “…and Joseph was there…” It certainly makes for a good start, but is that really all that’s expected of a father – just show up? Just be there?

God did not think it wise or prudent that a father be merely a bystander in the life of a family. A child needs the love and active involvement of both a father and a mother. With as much care and thought as Mary was selected to be the Mother of our Lord, God prepared Joseph for his important role as a father.

St. Matthew describes Joseph as a “Just Man” meaning that he conformed his life to faithfully and conscientiously observing the commandments of God. The Law forbade a man to marry a woman who had been guilty of fornication with another man during the time of their betrothal. It provided two remedies. Joseph could opt for a public divorce stating charges and possibly subjecting Mary to death by stoning or he could divorce her “quietly” without providing a cause for the action. His intent was to do the latter and spare her public shame. The virtue of Justice applies the requirements of the God’s Law with compassion and mercy. Joseph was indeed “just”.

Joseph also lived the virtue of Obedience. This morning’s Gospel tells us that while Joseph thought on these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream telling him that the child was from the Holy Ghost and that he should take Mary as his wife. This was the first of three dreams Joseph received and he humbly and obediently responded to each one in faith.  To obey requires listening, accepting what is said, and following through in action, even when it is difficult or challenging. Joseph was obedient and as such he modeled obedience for the child Jesus as he grew towards manhood and the Cross.

Following God can be inconvenient and require a change in thinking. Being asked to be a foster father and human role model for the Messiah was not a job one would normally volunteer for. Joseph the husband had to be helpful, caring, sensitive and reliable. He took full responsibility, caring for a very pregnant wife on an arduous three or four day journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. As protector of his wife and child, he had to endure rejection, accept lodging in a lowly stable, welcome strangers and live among animals – and that was just the beginning!

Later on, Joseph the family man had to endure fleeing his ancestral home, becoming a refugee and reestablishing himself in an expatriate community.  He knew what it was like to search for a job and to provide for his family’s needs. Joseph the worker was a “tekton”, which in Greek refers to being a craftsman or artisan, one who works with wood, stone or metal. He labored hard physically, on a daily basis, to provide for the needs of his family.

Nonetheless, Joseph was faithful to the call of God upon his life. After a time, when it seemed the danger was over, there appeared to be nothing to keep Joseph in Egypt.  But Joseph the patient remained in Egypt without complaint, continuing his work as though he would never leave. He stayed there for no other reason than that of being faithful to the Angel’s instruction to remain (Mt. 2:13) “there until I bring thee word.” He resisted the temptation to get ahead of God’s will and timing, exercising trust and endurance.

Scripture does not record one word uttered by Joseph. It only tells us of what Joseph the silent did in his life. However, as Jesus teaches us, quote, (Mt 7:16) “By their fruits you will know them.”

Twenty centuries later, Joseph still provides us with an example of what it means to live as a godly man. We learn from Scripture that Joseph was faithful and obedient to all that God asked of him. He was a protective husband and father who placed the well being of his wife and child above his own wants and desires.

He was certainly “Not your average Joe.”

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