Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc.
The Church in Central New York founded and consistently fostered by the GLBTQIS community. October 31, 2018 was the 35th Anniversary in our 36th year in Ministry.
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Sermon for June 5 and 6, 1999
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Pentecost 2, Year A


The following are the Scripture readings as scheduled in the "Revised Common Lectionary," an ecumenical schedule of readings of Holy Scripture. Our sermons are based on these readings.



Genesis 12:1-9
Proper 5 (10), Second Sunday after Pentecost, (Year A)



12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.

12:2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.

12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

12:4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.  Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

12:5 Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother's son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan,

12:6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.

12:7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, "To your offspring I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

12:8 From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord.

12:9 And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb. .

This is the Word Of The Lord; Thanks Be To God.





Romans 4:13-25
Proper 5 (10), (Second Sunday after Pentecost), (Year A)

  4:13 For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

4:14 If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void.

4:15 For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

4:16 For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us,

4:17 as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations")-- in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

4:18 Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become "the father of many nations," according to what was said, "So numerous shall your descendants be."

4:19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb.

4:20 No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,

4:21 being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

4:22 Therefore his faith "was reckoned to him as righteousness."

4:23 Now the words, "it was reckoned to him," were written not for his sake alone,

4:24 but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead,

4:25 who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification. .


This is the Word Of The Lord; Thanks Be To God.


Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
Proper 5 (10), (Pentecost 2 Year A)



9:9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him.

9:10 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples.

9:11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"

9:12 But when he heard this, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

9:13 Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."

9:18 While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live."

9:19 And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples.

9:20 Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak,

9:21 for she said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well."

9:22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." and instantly the woman was made well.

9:23 When Jesus came to the leader's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion,

9:24 he said, "Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping."  And they laughed at him.

9:25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl got up.

9:26 And the report of this spread throughout that district.

Reader: This is the Gospel of the Lord; Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.




Brother Benedict, Sermon 177

Pentecost 2A, 1999



Genesis 12:1-9
Psalm 33:1-12
Romans 4:13-25
Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

What is the value of our faith? Our readings this weekend attempt to impress upon us the eternal value of our faith. Wait! Donít tune me out thinking, Ďokay here we go again with more eternal life stuff..í

Faith is powerful. The power that I am speaking of is that "dunamis" power, that Holy Spirit power that came to the Church on Pentecost. Real faith functions in union with that same power all the time. Real, active faith is present to that Holy Spirit dunamis power all the time. Real faith functions in cooperation with dunamis power in the present moment eternally.

Faith is not the lame excuse for those things which Science, Psychology, or History cannot explain. That approach would be the definition of a cop-out, or an irresponsible way to avoid being accountable for religious myth. Christianity has nothing in common with religious myth. Religious myth is false religionís way of trying to imitate the Christian reality of Divine presence. There is a sickness that is growing in the church world wide where so-called intelligent "Christians" have begun explaining the works of God recorded in the Bible, as "myth." There are no myths in the Bible with the exception of the places it refers to other false gods and goddesses and their religions. Every word in the Bible that describes the reality and the mighty works of God is concrete and true. Faith has no partnership with "myth." Faith isnít the white flag of surrender, or the default button, or the escape clause to be used when we cannot understand something. Faith isnít about explaining something that is lacking concrete evidence.

Faith is the experience of living with Godís real presence, in the present moment, with the confident expectation that every word God has promised, every anticipated event God has prophesied, every lesson God has presented as truth will in fact be literally fulfilled. Faith is about fully expecting, fully anticipating, and actively believing that all that God has said is true and will come to pass exactly as God said it would.

When Abram left his home land he was following a God he did not know. Abram was at least one hundred years old and his wife Sari was also past child-bearing age. God told them they would be the parents of a whole and great nation! This word "nation" could also be translated a whole "race" or a whole "ethnic nationality." Imagine what the average person would say to this today who was around one-hundred years old and we told them they were going to start a family, well, start a whole nation, they would probably say; "Yeah, right, you got a years supply of Viagra???" This is what God was telling Abram and Sarai. Further, imagine telling a modern couple well into their nineties they need to move off their own property and become nomads and set up in a new, yet unknown land, and it is presently occupied by other nations who wonít like the idea that they are being kick off their land, but letís go there anyway? Today we would wonder if the person who would do such a thing wasnít suffering from a severe case of Dementia.

Then God promised Abram land where this new people were to settle. God even went on to promise that through this new ethnic family all nations of the earth would be blessed. Try to imagine the courage it had to have taken to trust this unknown voice, convince his entire household, meaning his relatives and a very large staff of servants, to go with him because he was certain that these promises were true.

Abraham was saved and given eternal life because he believed Godís promises. This is what Paul is teaching in our second reading when he writes: "For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith." (Romans 4:13) Remember, Paul was teaching in a time when Jewish People understood salvation to be the result of fulfilling the requirements of Sacred Law. What they generally missed was the Law was not given by God to be the end in itself, rather the Law was given to raise the hearts of its adherents to love God and worship God with their whole hearts. That this didnít happen is not the fault of God or of the Law. Rather, people always have the gift of free agency and therefore are totally responsible for the quality of their individual response to the helps God provides such as the Bible.

The reason Paul tries to make the point that Abraham was saved by his faith is Abraham lived before the dispensation of Law. Abraham responded to Godís call approximately 430 years before the Law was given at Mt. Sinai. The Jewish People listening to Paul revered Abraham and understood well the importance of his place in their own history. What Paul was trying to raise out of their memories was Abraham was saved without the Law, before the Law existed, before Moses, the Red Sea, the burning bush and stone tablets. Paul is trying to awaken in them an understanding that the reason they didnít recognize the Messiah was they were following the form of religious laws without an expectant Faith. Paul called this "..having a form of godliness but denying its power." (2 Timothy 3:5)

Forms of religion do not ever create faith. Religious forms cannot sustain and support Faith either. While many people in Paulís day were diligently following six hundred - some laws of Judaism to the last detail, they still missed the heart of the message, Faith in the Messiah. Jesus made this point when he said to the Jews; "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they that testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life." (John 5:39-40)

Knowing their respect for Abraham, then, Paul tries to show the people that Abraham believed even without the Law to guide him. Why did Abraham believe? Abraham came to God with a listening heart. Abraham was willing to hear God out and trust the message God had for him, though most of the promises were not fulfilled in his lifetime. Although Abraham had been raised in a family that worshipped false gods and goddesses, the fact remained that his heart was fashioned in the hands of God. Though the mind of Abraham did not know the heart of God, the heart and soul of Abraham recognized the voice of the Creator. The soul of Abraham recognized the source of true eternal peace when it heard the voice of God calling Abraham to follow. Fortunately, the mind of Abraham followed his heart. The heart led the way to the heart of God. Though Abraham did not know or understand what was concretely ahead for him, his family, and his household, his heart clearly told him this was the voice of God, the only source of life.

When Paul says the promises rested on grace after faith (Romans 4:15) he means Abraham did nothing to earn the fulfillment of these promises after believing. These promises are an unconditional covenant between God and the Hebrew People and all people who come to God by Faith. Remember, "grace" is the word "charis" in Greek and means love, care, caring, careful, charism, etc. So, after believing in God and Godís promises God began a campaign of fulfilling every last detail of these promises out of love, care, and faithfulness.

The specific part of this campaign to build that holy nation, that nation of priests to serve God was that Abraham would have a son as the first new born of this nation. Paul says; "Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become Ďthe father of many nations,í according to what was said, ĎSo numerous shall your descendants be.í He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarahís womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised." (Romans 4:18-21)

The second point Paul is teaching is since Abraham was the father of the appointed new nation, or people of Faith, the people of holiness, the priestly people, the special people of God, and since this people would be formed by Faith, all of us may be adopted into the family of Abraham. Paul wrote; "For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the Law but also to those who share the Faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, ĎI made you the father of many nationsí) - in the presence of the God in whom Abraham believed, the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist." (Romans 4:16-17) Picking up at verse 22 we read; "Therefore his faith Ďwas reckoned to him as righteousness.í Now the words, Ďit was reckoned to him,í were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification." (Romans 4:23-25)

Friends, see in these words that it is Faith which is necessary for us to be a member of the family of God. There is no particular denomination of Christianity that saves anyone by its modern laws of religion just as the laws of religion were not able to save even one person during the Dispensation of Law.

Today, we need to understand that all the denominational laws such as boys cannot wear earrings or dye their hair, girls cannot have tattoos, or wear pants, people of the same gender may not hold hands in church (or in Budlight advertisements), high school seniors may not take someone of their gender to the prom, etc., etc., will not bring any of their subjects to salvation! Following the good religious behavior of oneís church absolutely will not give a person salvation in God.

It is essential that the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and Enlightened Heterosexual peoples hear this message loud and clear. The religious laws coming out of the so-called Christian churches regarding our sexual orientations and condemning our behavior toward one another are being falsely presented as having an effect upon our salvation. This is a lie, I declare in the Name of Jesus Christ. All lies are from Satan, the father of lies.

Religious rule playing is not the source of salvation. Faith in Jesus Christ, Faith in God is the source of salvation. Aside from this, we do not want to be "saved" to avoid punishment. Avoiding punishment is totally the wrong motivation for seeking salvation, and isnít salvation anyway. The only beneficial reason for seeking salvation is to live in love, to live in relationship to God and Godís people.

Faith in Christ is more than a simple ascent to a list of doctrines. Giving approval to a list of doctrines is a head exercise. True Faith is a heart experience that drives our mind to choose God. As it was for Abraham, his heart led his mind to the correct decision to rise and follow.

In our Gospel reading we see Matthew having the same "hear - rise- and follow" experience. Matthew simply says: "As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ĎFollow me.í And Matthew got up and followed Jesus." (Matthew 9:9) Stop and realize how this one sentence just minimized the realities around that decision. How many men do you know who would be so taken by a man who walked passed their place of employment and said "follow me" that they would get up, walk off the job, leave family, friends, associates, and religion to be with a guy! Not to many, or so the statistics say it is less than 10% of men, those who are gay, who might do such a thing. That is what it looked like to Matthewís associates, some guy came along swept Matt off his feet and Matt left everything to go with this guy and stayed with him. Remember, the people around Matthew who were observing this were not Spirit-filled, born-again believers. They were unaware of the divinity of Christ that had swept Matthew off his feet.

Jesus went all around the region and gathered to himself quite a group of men who all left their families and lives to follow him. What was that drawing power??

It was the same dunamis power that drew Abraham from his land and family. It was the same dunamis power that God poured out on the church at Pentecost. It is the same dunamis power that is absolutely essential for their to be any authentic ministry in the Church today.

We often hear that this or that church is "dead", or "boring," etc. When I hear comments like that I am aware that the persons involved are not in touch with the power of God.

Faith, expectant Faith, is united with "dunamis" power of the Holy Spirit. If one is filled with the Holy Spirit, they are walking in God, in Christ every minute of their existence. The only power that can be in a ministry is the power of God, the dunamis power of the Holy Spirit. What good is Divine Power if one doesnít expect any change or results from such power? It is essential that we seek the Power of the Holy Spirit for our ministry. It is only in this power that we will ever accomplish anything as Ray Of Hope Church. Further, you must never sit there as "lay people" and expect all the "power" to be in the clergy or even worse in the sacraments and rituals. No, the clergy and the sacraments are not the vessels of the power of God. The power of God must be in the heart and hands of everyone in this Church. Then, and only then will we be an effective voice for God in this desperate world we live in.

Let us pray and ask God to send the power of the Holy Spirit into every heart here so that we can begin the work of Christ here in Central New York in a new way in the way of Expectant Faith, dunamis power Holy Spirit faith. Then we will be ready to do as Abraham and Matthew and thousands of faithful people have done since them, we will be able to "hear - rise up- and follow."


May Almighty God bless all of us, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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