The Beatitudes Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany Year A 1-29-2023

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Gospel

Matthew 5:1-12

1  And seeing the multitudes, he went up into the mountain: and when he had sat down, his disciples came unto him: 

2  and he opened his mouth and taught them, saying, 

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Continue reading

Posted in Latest Homily | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Saint Michael’s is looking for a few good men, and women.

Have you ever felt called to serve Christ as an ordained minister?  If so why not listen to that small inner voice, and use the contact form on our website, The Archdiocese of Saint Michael’s, to apply for Holy Orders?

Don’t feel qualified? Not to worry, we have a seminary that features free, home-study courses.

While Saint Michael’s does ordain women, we hold traditional conservative views on all other aspects of the ministry.  For more information and requirements click here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Come with me and I will make you fishers of men.

Third Sunday after the Epiphany Year A 1-22-2023

The Collect:

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

The Gospel

Matthew 4:12-23

12  Now when he heard that John was delivered up, he withdrew into Galilee; 13  and leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali: 14  that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, 15  The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, Toward the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, 16  The people that sat in darkness Saw a great light, And to them that sat in the region and shadow of death, To them did light spring up. 17  From that time began Jesus to preach, and to say, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 18  And walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brethren, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers. 19  And he saith unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20  And they straightway left the nets, and followed him. 21  And going on from thence he saw two other brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. 22  And they straightway left the boat and their father, and followed him. 23  And Jesus went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness among the people.

***

At first glance, the scripture assigned for today seems cryptic, but this seemingly strange message speaks vast volumes. Verse 12 states; “when he heard that John was delivered up, he withdrew into Galilee” John the Baptist had been arrested by King Herod, the progeny of the king who ordered all newly born male children to be executed, hoping that this horrendous act would eliminate the one child that the prophecies spoke of who would grow up to become the King of the Jews. This new King, Herod Antipas, is said to have divorced his wife and took for himself the wife of his own brother, an act that was against Jewish Law and John had spoken out publicly condemning the king. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Behold, the Lamb of God, Second Sunday after Epiphany 1-15-23

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Gospel

John 1:29-42

29  On the morrow he seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world! 30  This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man who is become before me: for he was before me. 31  And I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel, for this cause came I baptizing in water. 32  And John bare witness, saying, I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it abode upon him. 33  And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize in water, he said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit. 34  And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. 35  Again on the morrow John was standing, and two of his disciples; 36  and he looked upon Jesus as he walked, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God! 37  And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38  And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? And they said unto him, Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher), where abidest thou? 39  He saith unto them, Come, and ye shall see. They came therefore and saw where he abode; and they abode with him that day: it was about the tenth hour. 40  One of the two that heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41  He findeth first his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah (which is, being interpreted, Christ). 42  He brought him unto Jesus. Jesus looked upon him, and said, Thou art Simon the son of John: thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter). 

***

In our last several lessons we learned the importance of John the Baptist for-filling the ancient prophecy that told of the coming of a prophet who would pave the way for the promised Messiah. We compared Matthew and Luke who began their narratives with the birth of Christ with the narratives of John and Mark who both begin theirs with John the Baptist. We find that in analyzing the scriptures and the relation between the Gospels of the New Testament to the writings of the prophets four centuries earlier, the Israelite people were expecting this promised one, the savior that would establish a new kingdom.

For diverse reasons, it was important for not only the gospel writers to establish that Jesus Christ was the one, he was the promised Messiah, but it was imperative for John the Baptist to establish that he was the foretold of prophet, the one who would pave the way for the promised Messiah.

The witness of John the Baptist is crucial to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and when he sees Jesus approaching he gives witness that Jesus is the lamb of God who wakes away the sin of the world.

Why John the Baptist used this particular analogy, the lamb of God, we do not know, but the analogy seems eerily prophetic as three years later Jesus was crucified just prior to Passover, in effect becoming as the Passover lamb. Indeed throughout the bible we find references to a sacrificial lamb, beginning with Genesis 22:8 when God tested Abraham by telling to offer his beloved son Isaac as a offering. In Leviticus 4:32-35 we see instructions for sacrificing a ewe as a sin offering, and again in leviticus 16 21-22 Aaron is given instructions for sacrificing a goat to take away the sins of the people on the Day of Atonement. The fact that it is the sin of the world that is taken away continues the theme of the universal scope of Jesus’ ministry and John the Baptist’s witness. This is the only instance in the writings of Saint John that we see a reference to taking away sins.

The Baptist’s next statement seems cryptic, he said; “This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man who is become before me: for he was before me.”

Some have tried to explain this statement as John the Baptist, thinking, he was preparing the way for the return of the Prophet Elijah, who lived 900 years before John; it seems many of the people in that time were expecting Elijah to return. However this statement clearly indicates the preexistence of Christ, this statement by John The Baptist is the emergence, the foundation of the doctrine that Christ had existed as God. Before his incarnation, he always was, one with the Father, and the Holy spirit since before the beginning of time.

This witness, this testimony of John the Baptist is so important that all four of the Gospel writers used it as the foundation of their narratives.

John the Baptist then continues his testimony, detailing what he had seen and heard:

I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it abode upon him. 33  And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize in water, he said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit.

Here Saint John relates how John the Baptist, testified that he saw the Holy spirit descend from out of heaven and upon Christ. Mark 1:10, Matthew 3:16, and Luke 3:32 all make the same observation.

The Baptist then states that he was told by God that while he John baptized people in the water, he that came after him would baptize in the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist then makes another foundational statement; “I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” Having been told by God, that whoever the Holy Spirit descended upon was the promised one, John the Baptist establishes and announces to the world that Jesus is indeed the Son of God.

Throughout the past several Sundays, we have explored how the coming of Christ was prophesied, how the Angels of God told Joseph and Mary of the child, how the unborn John in the womb reacted when the pregnant Mary came near Johns mother, how Angels of God announced the birth of the Christ Child, and how Christ told John the Baptist that they must for fill prophecy. Finally we have compared how all four of the Gospel writers stressed the importance of the baptism of Christ and the Holy spirit in the form of a dove, descending upon Christ signifying that he was indeed the promised one and was indeed the son of God.

While the remainder of today’s assigned reading details how Jesus began to choose his disciples, the important part, in my opinion is this testimony of John the Baptist. All four of the Gospel writers, Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, in essence, tell the same story, albeit with subtle differences. These events that they wrote about two millennia ago, are the cornerstone, the foundation, these events set the stage, for the ministry of Christ. The events establish that it was prophesied that he would come, that he indeed was the promised one, and witnesses saw evidence and some heard evidence that confirmed Christ was the Son of God. Therefore not only were these events the foundation of Christ’s ministry, but a cornerstone of the church as well. A foundational event that has made a vast difference in the lives of untold millions.

If you have not as yet accepted Christ, please consider doing so as soon as possible, tomorrow might be too late.

The Bible texts of the Gospel lessons are from the American Standard Version, Published in 1901, Public Domain.

The Collects, are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. as found on lectionarypage.net

This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.. It is believed that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

Posted in Latest Homily | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

First Sunday after the Epiphany The Baptism of our Lord Year A 1-8-2023

The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The Gospel

Matthew 3:13-17

13  Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.14  But John would have hindered him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15  But Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffereth him. 16  And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him; 17  and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 

***

Over the last several weeks, we have examined the differences in how that, the four Gospels begin in two different manners, both Saints John and Mark, begin their narratives with John the Baptist, paving the way for the Messiah as predicted by the ancient Prophets; while Saints Matthew and Luke begin with the birth of Christ. Luke first tells of the childless couple, Zacharias and Elizabeth who would give birth to the child who would grow up to become John the Baptist, then Luke connects the Annunciation of Christ when the Angel appeared to Mary and told her she was with child, with Mary going to Elizabeth and how the child in Elizabeth’s womb reacted.

Matthew gives the genealogy of Christ through Joseph who would raise the child, he briefly details the nativity then the flight to Egypt and the return of the holy family to Israel. Then in today’s lesson Matthew has moved directly to the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

Saint Matthew tells us that Jesus had traveled from Galilee to the Jordon river seeking John so that he might be Baptized. Knowing who Jesus was, John said; “ I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? ”

John the Baptist, knew full well who Jesus was, he knew that he was the son of God, he knew that Jesus was the Messiah that had been prophesied. John also knew that he himself was fore filling prophecy, because as the prophets had promised, John was preparing the way for the Messiah, he was in the wilderness preaching about the one who would come after him, and now that day had arrived. John was telling Jesus that Jesus should baptize him, not John Baptizing Jesus. Can you imagine how you would feel if you were a minister and the Son of God came to you, seeking you out so that you could baptize him? John said, “comest thou to me?” He is saying to Jesus, “You are the Son God, the promised one, the Messiah, and you are asking me to Baptize you? It is you who should be Baptizing me!”

 

But then Saint Matthew writes: “But Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” Here we find Jesus speaking of Righteousness, in this Gospel, righteousness is doing the will of God. While that entails observing Torah law, in those times, Jesus makes it clear in the Sermon on the Mount that true righteousness involves more than rote observance. It requires moving beyond the letter of the law to honor the spirit behind it, to abide by the word of God. Here, Saint Matthew wants us to know that Jesus sees his submission to John’s baptism as God’s will. He is fulfilling all righteousness by faithful obedience to his role in God’s plan of salvation. But at this moment—the moment at which Jesus begins his public ministry—the plan requires Jesus to submit himself to John for baptism so that he might receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit and God’s word-from-on-high announcing Jesus’ unique sonship. Given that Jesus is John’s superior, this requires Jesus to humble himself—just as he humbled himself in the Incarnation and as he will humble himself at the cross.

The next passage reads: “ And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him; 17  and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

All four Gospels report the descent of the Spirit, which will empower Jesus throughout his ministry.

Jesus takes the moment to teach an important lesson, not just in humility by humbling himself and asking John to baptize him, but he seeks to demonstrate the importance of abiding by God’s word, to seek righteousness by honoring, by doing that which God has instructed us to do.

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” These words come from Psalm 2:7 –“You are my son. Today I have become your father” and Isaiah 42:1 –“Behold, my servant… in whom my soul delights.” They validate the person of Jesus and the ministry that begins with his baptism. Any parent whose son or daughter has made them proud can identify with the Father’s pride in the Son. Any son or daughter who has received a parent’s praise knows the power of such praise.

Saint Mark reports the voice as speaking to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son.’ However Saint Matthew’s wording, “This is my beloved Son,” suggests a very public proclamation, heard by John and, presumably, others. The voice makes it clear that Jesus is the one who was promised. This Son of David, one descended from the line of David as promised in prophecy is also the Son of God.

At the Transfiguration, on the only other occasion in the synoptic Gospels where God speaks directly to people, God speaks similar words, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” A similar validation took place at the birth of Jesus, when the angel told the shepherds, “to you, this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

As we have found in these last several lessons, all four of the Gospel authors, went out of their way to demonstrate that prophecy, that Gods promise of a Messiah has been for filled. Here we find that people who were there that day heard God say that Jesus was his son. All this serves to remind us, that Jesus was the Son of God, he was the promised Messiah, and on the first day of his ministry, Jesus is teaching us the importance of humility and righteousness, the importance of keeping of God’s instructions.

Therefore, it behooves us to, as often as necessary, reflect on our own actions, our own lives, and ask ourselves this very important question; “Am I following a path of righteousness, am I honoring God’s Holy Word?” This seems like such a simple exercise, just another platitude, but the hard part for each of us, you and me, is to examine our own actions and then answer that question, “Am I following a path of righteousness” with absolute candor, with absolute truth, because if you lie to yourself, you have already left that straight and narrow path that leads to everlasting life.

 

 

 


The Bible texts of the Gospel lessons are from the American Standard Version, Published in 1901, Public Domain.

The Collects, are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. as found on lectionarypage.net

This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.. It is believed that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

Posted in Latest Homily | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Feast of The Holy Name of Jesus Year A 1-1-2023

The Collect:

Eternal Father, you gave to your incarnate Son the holy name of Jesus to be the sign of our salvation: Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The Gospel

Luke 2:15-21

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. 21  And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 

***

For those of you who are not entirely familiar with the celebrations of liturgical churches, a feast day (or festival) is the date a saint, a holy event, or a holy object is commemorated.

The feast of the Holy Name of Jesus has been celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church, at least at local levels, since the end of Continue reading

Posted in Latest Homily | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Feast of Christmas Day, The Twenty-Fifth of December 2023

The Collect:

O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Gospel

Luke 2:1-20

 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8  And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  12  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  13  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,  14  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  15  And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  16  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17  And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.  18  And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.  19  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  :20  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

***

My friends, from all of the Saint Michael’s family to all of you, we pray that God will be with you and bless you on this, Christmas day two thousand twenty two and throughout the New Year. May the Peace of the Lord be with you now and always. Amen


The Bible texts of the Gospel lessons are from the American Standard Version, Published in 1901, Public Domain.

The Collects, are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. as found on lectionarypage.net

This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.. It is believed that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fourth Sunday of Advent Year A 12-18-2022

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Gospel

Matthew 1:18-25

18  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19  And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. 20  But when he thought on these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21  And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name JESUS; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins. 22  Now all this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, 23  Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, And they shall call his name Immanuel; which is, being interpreted, God with us. 24  And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took unto him his wife; 25  and knew her not till she had brought forth a son: and he called his name JESUS. 

***

The four Gospels begin in two different manners, both Saints John and Mark, begin their narratives with John the Baptist, paving the way for the Messiah as predicted by the ancient Prophets; while Saints Matthew and Luke begin with the birth of Christ. Luke begins with the childless couple, Zacharias and Elizabeth who would give birth to the child who would grow up to become John the Baptist, then Luke moves on to the Annunciation of Christ when the Angel appeared to Mary and saying this:

Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee.  Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.  He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Mary. Being obviously curious as to how this was to take place, asked the angel how she could birth because although she was engaged to Joseph, she was still yet a virgin.

The angel answered and said unto her, “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God. And behold, Elisabeth thy kinswoman, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that was called barren. For no word from God shall be void of power.”

Saint Luke goes on to tell of Mary visiting Elizabeth and how the as yet unborn John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb when he heard Mary’s voice. Luke doesn’t begin the nativity story until the second chapter of his gospel after finishing the first chapter with the telling of the birth of the child who would become John the Baptist.

Saint Matthew begins his gospel, the first seventeen verses with a family tree spanning fourteen generations, from Abraham to Joseph who would be the Earthly step-father of Jesus Christ. This brings us to the passages assigned for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, two thousand and twenty two. In the first two verses, eighteen and nineteen, Saint Matthew tells us:

18  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19  And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

In those days, marriages arranged by the parents were the acceptable norm, and usually such arrangements were made when the couple were very young. Around a year or so before the wedding ceremony was to take place, the couple would begin a period of betrothal, a time that was not unlike the process of dating we know of today. Saint Matthew writes, “before they came together” meaning that they, Mary and Joseph, had not been intimate.

Reading between the lines, it becomes apparent that Mary went to Joseph and told him she was pregnant because Matthew tells us that Joseph “being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

The Hebraic law at the time, based on Deuteronomy chapter 22, prescribed death by stoning for those caught having illicit intercourse, especially in the case of someone who was betrothed, as was Mary. However at the time of Christ’s birth, the Romans would not allow the Jews to impose the death penalty. Nevertheless, penalties for illicit pregnancy are serious. The man is expected to divorce the woman. The man would also reclaim the bride price paid to the young woman’s Father, which was probably a substantial sum. But Matthew tells us that Joseph was a Righteous Man who was willing to ignore the traditions and quietly divorce Mary.

Matthew continues with his narrative, writing; “But when he thought on these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21  And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name JESUS; for it is he that shall save his people from their sins.”

Matthew has gone out of his was here to tell us that

one; Joseph, who was chosen by God to be Jesus’ step-father was descended from David,

two; Mary was a virgin but none the less pregnant, and

three an Angel had appeared to Joseph to tell him that he was to take Mary as his wife, the child was conceived of the Holy Spirit and that he would name the child Jesus, and the child would be a savior for the people.

Why did Matthew feel it was necessary to include all these things?

The Old Testament, introduces the concept of a messiah, an anointed one of God who will come to usher in an era where all people of earth will live together harmoniously and righteously. We know Jesus was of Jewish descent and therefore was the seed of Abraham. In Genesis 22:18 we are told that through Abraham’s offspring “all nations on earth will be blessed.” Christians believe Jesus is the fulfillment of this promise.

We also know that He is from the line of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson. Numbers 24:17: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.”

From Isaiah 11:1 we know He is from the line of Jesse, the father of King David: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a branch will bear fruit. The spirit of the Lord will rest on him.

From Jeremiah 23:5-6 we know He is from the line of King David: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land … This is the name by which he will be called: the Lord our righteous savior.

Reaffirming that Jesus is from the line of King David, we have this prophecy from second Samuel 7:12-13, which was actually spoken by Samuel to King David: “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”

From the prophecy of Micah, 5:2 we know He was born into the tribe of Judah in the region of Ephrathah, in the town of Bethlehem: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.

From Isaiah 7:14 we know that He was born from a virgin: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel.” The name Immanuel means “God with us” and indicates the divinity of Jesus.

This explains why Matthew felt it was necessary to tell this background to the birth of Christ, as he would later explain how John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness, was also prophesied.

Matthew wrote: “Now all this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet,

Saint Matthew is telling us that God has kept his promise, the savior, the Messiah has been born of a Virgin in the city of Bethlehem, all the prophecies have been fulfilled, God is with us in the form of his son.

Next Saturday, the twenty-fourth, will be the final day of this advent season. Christmas day will be on Sunday this year and not again on a Sunday until two thousand and thirty-three, due to how the leap years fall between now and then.

Many of us fail to attend church regularly, often only twice a year at Easter and Christmas all things considered, this year might be a really good year in which to attend Sunday services. As Advent is about remembering Christ’s birth as well as about reflecting on his second coming, you never know, this year might be the last time you get to attend church on Christmas day.

 

 

 


The Bible texts of the Gospel lessons are from the American Standard Version, Published in 1901, Public Domain.

The Collects, are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. as found on lectionarypage.net

This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.. It is believed that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Third Sunday of Advent Year A 11 December 2022

Listen to this Homily on our Podcast [CLICK HERE]

 

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever . Amen.

The Gospel

Matthew 11:2-11

2  Now when John heard in the prison the works of the Christ, he sent by his disciples 3  and said unto him, Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? 4  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and tell John the things which ye hear and see: 5  the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached to them. 6  And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me. 7  And as these went their way, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to behold? a reed shaken with the wind? 8  But what went ye out to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. 9  But wherefore went ye out? to see a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. 10  This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, Who shall prepare thy way before thee. 11  Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is but little in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 

***

Now when John heard in the prison the works of the Christ” This passage begins with an interesting setting. John has been imprisoned by King Herod, but even in the darkest dungeons of ancient Israel, the good news of Christ’s ministry has been heard, no matter how hard the King’s men and the religious leaders, the Sadducee and the Pharisees, try to censor the news of Christ’s works, the story gets out anyway. Being incarcerated, John was unable himself to go to Christ so he sends his own messengers, disciples of John the Baptist, to inquire if Christ was indeed the promised one, the messiah that the prophets has said would come someday.

Christ answered: “Go and tell John the things which ye hear and see: 5  the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached to them. 6  And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me.

Jesus told John’s disciples to go and tell John, about the things they had witnessed.

Saint Matthew, in chapters 5 and 7 tells us of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount when he gave the Beautitudes, saying blessed are the poor, those that morn, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those that have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Christ told those there tha day that they were the salt of the Earth, how came to fore-fill the old covenant not destroy it. He taught on anger, lust, divorce, Oaths, retaliation, and told them to love their enemies.

In Chapter eight and nine, he healed the servant of the Roman Centurion, Peter’s Mother-in-law, he calmed a storm and cast out demons. These were the things John’s disciples had witnessed.

However we wonder why John even asked to begin with? Perhaps it was to demonstrate to his own disciples and the world, the magnitude of Christ’s works. Jesus would have had good reason to criticize John for what appears to be a doubt; John had instructed his people to ask Christ if he was indeed the one that had been promised by the prophets to come. It appears that he even had the audacity to ask Christ if they should look for someone else. But instead of a rebuke, Jesus gave him a blessing.

Jesus said “blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me” The word translated as stumbling, in the original texts, was a word more associated with the concept we think of as stumbling block. He is saying that anyone is blessed who does take offense or find Jesus and his ministry a stumbling block. Jesus offers this blessing to everyone, those that were within earshot that day as well as readers of Saint Matthew’s Gospel today; not just John.

The disciples of John the Baptist, took their leave and departed, Jesus then begin to speak to the crowd gathered there; “What went ye out into the wilderness to behold? a reed shaken with the wind? 8  But what went ye out to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. ” At first glance, it would appear that Jesus is rebuking the crowd, asking what was it that you sent out to the wilderness to see. No this is not a rebuke of the crowd, but a veiled reference to King Herod. Jesus said, “a reed shaken with the wind” all ancient Kings were vain enough to mint their own coinage, Herod was no exception. Not being a true king, but rather a puppet king of the Romans, Herod was only allowed by his masters to use bronze for his coins and on one variant he had the representation of a reed. Speaking rhetorically, Jesus is asking if they went out to see a puppet king, a reed blown by the wind. Then he doubles down on this analogy by asking, “what went ye out to see? a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses.” John the Baptist was said to be clothed in a coat weaved from the hair of a camel, a coat even more course and rough than wool, so Jesus is asking if they went out to see a man in soft raiment, soft clothing, which in those days only the rich and powerful could afford, and Jesus points out this fact by saying, “Behold, they that wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses.” Jesus is telling them and us, that John was no puppet king, but the promised prophet.

In last Sunday’s lesson, we find Saint Matthew proclaiming “For this is he that was spoken of through Isaiah the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight.” Last week we learned that John the Baptist was the one the Prophet Isaiah had said would come and cry out in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Messiah. Here we see Jesus Christ proclaiming the same thing, the Lord said, “9  But wherefore went ye out? to see a prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. 10  This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, Who shall prepare thy way before thee.

There has been no prophet in Israel for four centuries, and people are anxious to hear a prophet. John fit the bill, and the masses ran out into the wilderness to hear a modern day prophet. Christ says that John is indeed a prophet, but a very special one, the very one the ancients had said would come to prepare the way.

Jesus praised John, saying, “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist:” Jesus is saying that John is the greatest of all prophets, even the greatest of all people, then and now, simply due to the fact that God the Father chose John to be one that would prepare the way for the Messiah, a privilege greater any another that has ever been given to a human.

But yet in the next breath, our Lord and Savior was quick to add, “yet he that is but little in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” In this he is saying that even the least person in the kingdom of heaven is “greater” than John the Baptist. Heaven’s kingdom will be filled with those declared righteous before God by His grace and because of their faith in Jesus. In Christ, their sins will be forgiven and God will give them credit for the righteous life that Jesus lived. Anyone forgiven for all sin and is declared righteous before God through faith in Christ will be better—”greater”—than John the Baptist standing only in his own righteousness.

John was the last of the prophets to point forward to the kingdom of heaven. This gave him greater status and knowledge than any who came before. Yet he is not greater in either status or knowledge, than those who will stand in the kingdom itself.

During this season of Advent, while we celebrate the first coming of Christ, his birth and life, and we contemplate on his second coming, please take time to pray and contemplate on this question: “Will I be among those who will be declared righteous before God through faith in Christ?”


The Bible texts of the Gospel lessons are from the American Standard Version, Published in 1901, Public Domain.

The Collects, are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. as found on lectionarypage.net

This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.. It is believed that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Second Sunday of Advent Year A 12-4-2022

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Gospel

Matthew 3: 1-12

1And in those days cometh John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, saying, 2Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

3For this is he that was spoken of through Isaiah the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight.

4Now John himself had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then went out unto him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about the Jordan; 6and they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said unto them, Ye offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance: 9and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10And even now the axe lieth at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

11I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire: 12whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing-floor; and he will gather his wheat into the garner, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.

 

***

And in those days cometh—John the Baptist,”

Saint Matthew begins his Gospel telling of the genealogy, the birth of the baby Jesus, the Wise Men, the flight to Egypt to avoid the decree of King Herod to kill all male children two years and younger and finally the return of the Holy family to Nazareth.

Years go by and finally we have the arrival of John the Baptist and his ministry.

The phrase, “In those days,” suggests that a kairos moment has arrived. Kairos is an Ancient Greek word meaning the right, critical, or opportune moment. Saint Matthew seems to suggest that this, juncture in time, there was a profound shift in our history that changed the lives of humans forever.

While only Matthew and Luke begin their accounts with the birth of Jesus, the fact that all four Gospel include the story of John the Baptist, illustrates the great importance that the Gospel authors placed on this event.

Matthew refers to the ancient prophecies when he cites Isaiah chapter 40:3 which reads, “The voice of one that crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jehovah; make level in the desert a highway for our God.” when Matthew wrote”

For this is he that was spoken of through Isaiah the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight.”

You see hundreds of years had passed by and here was this wild man, clothed in a rough robe spun from camel’s hair, a belt of leather around his waist, and sustaining himself on wild honey and locusts. John was preaching in the wilderness, a region of rugged gorges and bad lands in the eastern part of Judah where the land slopes off toward the Jordan Valley. In ancient times, this area was infested with wild animals.

Except for a brief time during the spring rains the wilderness is arid, a place where few humans choose to live. But yet, Matthew writes in verse five and six;

Then went out unto him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about the Jordan; and they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”

So here we have a man, by all appearances a wild man of the desert, preaching repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.

There has been no prophet in Israel for four centuries, and people are anxious to hear a prophet. John fits the bill, calling the people to repentance in preparation for the coming of God’s kingdom—as prophesied centuries earlier:

for the day of Jehovah is at hand (Isaiah 13:6)—

for a day when “… the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low; and Jehovah alone shall be exalted in that day. ” (Isaiah 2:17)—

for a day when the Lord will come “Behold, the day of Jehovah cometh, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger; to make the land a desolation, and to destroy the sinners thereof out of it. ” (Isaiah 13:9)—

for the day of Jehovah is great (Joel 2:11).

After all those years the children of Israel again have a prophet in their midst and they run out to the desert to hear him.

 

John has the habit of denouncing evil wherever he finds it, in this instance it is the Pharisees and Sadducees he saw coming to his baptism. Later on he calls out the evil of King Herod which results in Herod having John separated from his head, but that is a story for another time.

It is interesting that here we find Pharisees and Sadducees lumped together. They represent two very different viewpoints, and are often at odds with each other. Pharisees are known for their adherence to the law and resistance to pagan culture. Sadducees are more likely to be wealthy and friendly to the Romans. Sadducees dominate the priesthood, and most members of the Sanhedrin are Sadducees

John called them “offspring of vipers” and demanded to know who it was that had warned them to flee from the wrath to come. He is comparing these men to snakes, squirming away from the fires of righteousness.

Again it is interesting that John deliberately attacked these men calling the offspring of snakes, invoking the imagery of serpents which—in the bible—are equated to Satan. Normally, religious leaders are granted a certain degree of respect, even if we do not always agree with them. But here, John calls these esteemed clerics a “offspring of vipers.” These are the people that maintain the temple and perform the required rituals, but their religious observance has calcified and their hearts have grown hard. And many of these are from the same groups that persecuted Jesus and had him nailed to the cross.

Wherever the gospel is heard in its depths it is preceded by the law in its seriousness. Without law there is no gospel…. John is the law of God in person; Jesus is the gospel of God in person.

So here we have a record of an august event, the arrival of a contemporary prophet as promised by the ancient prophets.

Matthew tells us of John the Baptist preaching for the people to repent, and prophesying, that Kingdom of Heaven is at hand; Mark and Luke use the phrase “kingdom of God,” which means the same as the phrase Matthew used; “Kingdom of Heaven”

Matthew was writing to Jewish Christians, and he uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven” to honor their reluctance to use God’s holy name lest they somehow profane it. The kingdom of God/kingdom of heaven is that realm in which God is king.

Repentance involves turning around—a new direction—a change of heart—a new commitment. John calls for people to repent, because only when we face sin squarely and renounce it can we be freed from it. Today, we are sorely tempted to call sin by other names and to blame other people for our problems rather than accepting responsibility for our sins. Such an attitude denies the reality of sin, and thus offers no escape from it.

John justifies his call to repentance by announcing that the kingdom of heaven has come near. John is calling them to turn away from the world that they have known so that they might see the Kingdom of Heaven in their midst.

John warned the Sadducees and Pharisees not to think that by the labors of Abraham and his agreements with God that they would escape the Lord’s wraith.

Pride and presumption are the downfalls of the Sadducees and Pharisees, who think that they are safe due to the covenant between God and his chosen people. They are the religious elite, the crème de la crème, but John warns them that their Abramhamic heritage will not save them.

John is using a play on words when he told them, “I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” you see, in the Aramaic language, the words for “stones” and “children” sound very familiar, so he does this stylistic word play to make a point, perhaps, that the Sadducees and Pharisees, are not worth any more in the eyes of God—due to their arrogance—than a common stone.

John said, “even now the axe lieth at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” The Baptist uses strong and fearsome imagery to verbally paint a picture that any who do not, as he put it–Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance—will suffer the consequences.

Then the Baptist reveals a prophecy, that which was revealed to him, he said; “but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire”

Next he again reverts to colorful metaphor to illustrate how Christ will separate the wheat from the chaff, taking the wheat to his realm and sending the chaff to the fire. The Baptist told them; “whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing-floor; and he will gather his wheat into the garner, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.

Some interpretations use a different phrase other than “whose fan is in his hand” such as “His winnowing fork is in his hand.”

In ancient times they used to throw grain into the air, where the wind can carry away the lighter chaff while the heavier grain settles back to the floor, while the meaning of GARNER is to gather into storage. John uses this imagery to warn them of the upcoming judgment when Christ will receive his and the others will be cast into the lake of fire.

Later on in Chapter 7, Saint Matthew recounts the words of Christ who said;

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Although many of us at Saint Michael’s originated in Protestant backgrounds before embracing a more catholic point of view. We agree with our Catholic friends that the Protestant understanding of the Grace of God alone being the requirement for salvation, if this doctrine is true, then why did Christ make this statement; “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

In this season of Advent, when we look both at the birth of Christ and that time when he will return to separate the wheat from the chaff, we humbly ask that everyone take a moment to reflect upon their own conscience and ask themselves; “Am I sure, that I am going to heaven based upon the doctrine of grace and grace alone, or is there other thing I must do so that I am not one of those Christ spoke of?”

 

 


The Bible texts of the Gospel lessons are from the American Standard Version, Published in 1901, Public Domain.

The Collects, are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. as found on lectionarypage.net

This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific, and social justice issues, etc.. It is believed that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment