Pentecost 7

Posted by Fr. Tere on 07/08/2018

Collect of the Day: Grant us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.                                                  Amen.

Today we deal with three forms of prophets – one from the Old Testament, one from the Epistles, one from the Gospels. Jesus’ words to those in the synagogue in his hometown were prophetic. As he often did, Jesus took Scriptures with which they were all familiar and turned them right-side-up, making them new and fresh and catching out those who had defined them to their own advantage. Not only did he upend their universe with his words, he also performed ‘mighty acts’ in their synagogue. How dare he!

Isn’t he the son of Mary (and remember, she got pregnant before she was married, and told this wild story about how that came about!)? Don’t his brothers and sisters still live among us? And what are they? Just carpenters or manual laborers; certainly not educated in the Torah.

And Jesus! He was raised to be a carpenter before he left home with all those crazy ideas. His social status is certainly below ours! His education is less than ours! How dare he put himself out as a Teacher, as Healer?

Jesus calls himself a prophet, saying, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” While he marveled at their unbelief, he knew this was how prophets were usually received, especially if they were prophesying anything different or controversial.

Before Jesus Ezekiel was anointed prophet, the Spirit entering him, so he could hear God, and be given the message he was to speak. Talk about saying something different or controversial! Ezekiel was told to tell the people of Israel the truth – that they had rebelled against God, transgressed against him, were impudent and stubborn. I’m sure Ezekiel knew his message wasn’t going to go over well; in fact, God said that clearly – “whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), you shall speak my words.”

Knowing all that God told him, and knowing the people of Israel, Ezekiel certainly would have had a few qualms about his mission. He was assured, however, that he should not be afraid of them, of their words, or dismayed at their looks. God would protect Ezekiel, so his word was heard, whether they heard or refused to hear. Their reaction was not up to God – his message was. So, like Billy Graham, Ezekiel went forth and preached the word he had been given. And Israel knew for a fact there had been a prophet among them.

Following both Ezekiel and Jesus, Paul the Apostle is given prophetic messages. In fact, he is taken up to the highest heaven, hearing and seeing things he cannot tell, cannot utter. His experience certainly informed his teaching and, I’m sure, his zeal, but he did not talk about the actual experience, or anything he had seen or heard.

Now the Corinthians, who were always quite full of themselves and their spirituality were challenging him and his authority with stories of visions and revelations. Leaders in the church were trying to one-up Paul, to gain more authority and power because of all the wonderful things they were (or were not) seeing in visions and revelations. Responding, Paul tells of his experience being taken into heaven. He does so reluctantly (anyone who thinks Paul is always boasting needs to read this passage carefully), knowing this doesn’t forward the kingdom at all, but his authority over the rebellious church at Corinth is necessary.

Paul warns the Corinthians that visions and revelations carry a price. In his case, he is given a thorn (stake) in the flesh, and a messenger of Satan to harass him. We don’t know what this thorn was, but it certainly was uncomfortable, if not very painful. It is so irritating he begs God three times to take it away, but he is told that God’s “grace is sufficient.” That’s probably not a message he was hoping to hear. When we ask for healing, we want healing – now.

As Ezekiel learned, as Jesus knew, as Paul learned, “when I am weak, then I am strong.” God told him that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness.”

This is a message for all of us to learn, isn’t it? We pray for strength to deal with our problems, so that we can handle the situation. We say that “God never gives us more than we can bear.” We miss the point. God often gives us more than we can bear, just as he did Paul, Ezekiel, Jesus. If we are weak we must rely on him. If we have more problems than we can bear, we must rely on him. And that’s what God wants – our total dependence on him. He will not force that dependence; we must choose it.

Remember

The old saying, “Let go and let God,” is true, as trite as it has become. Only when we let go can God truly work in our lives. Our journey into Christ is learning to live in our weaknesses, to go where God sends us and to speak his words when we are scared nearly to death, when we are rejected by our relatives and households and those in our hometowns. Only then will we, in our weakness, rely on God, so the “power of Christ may rest upon [us].”

 

, please how our brothers and sisters in Christ must live in their weakness, relying solely on the power of Christ. The Archbishop of Jos (Nigeria) and General Secretary of the GAFCON movement, the Most Rev. Benjamin Kwashi’ s farm was attacked by nomadic tribesmen (Muslim), who killed a neighbor. Last year at least 549 farmers were killed, and thousands driven from their homes. There is a concerted effort to drive out, kill, or convert to Islam, all Christians in Nigeria (and throughout Africa and the Middle East). Pray for them, please, and give what you can financially. Most of the clergy, bishops, and even archbishops are unpaid and live in terrible poverty. There just is no money.

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