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 August 21/22, 1999
Pentecost 13A

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.

Exodus 1:8-2:10
Thirteenth Sunday of Pentecost, (Year A)

Exodus 1:8-2:10
1:1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household:
1:2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah,
1:3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin,
1:4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher.
1:5 The total number of people born to Jacob was seventy. Joseph was already in Egypt.
1:6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers, and that whole generation.
1:7 But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.
1:8 Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
1:9 He said to his people, "Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we.
1:10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land."
1:11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh.
1:12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.
1:13 The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites,
1:14 and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
1:15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,
1:16 "When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live."
1:17 But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live.
1:18 So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, "Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?"
1:19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them."
1:20 So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong.
1:21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.
1:22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, "Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live."
2:1 Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman.
2:2 The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months.
2:3 When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river.
2:4 His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.
2:5 The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it.
2:6 When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, "This must be one of the Hebrews' children," she said.
2:7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?"
2:8 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Yes." So the girl went and called the child's mother.
2:9 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed it.
2:10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, "because," she said, "I drew him out of the water."

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

Psalm 124 Proper 13 (21), (Year A)

124:1 If it had not been the LORD who was on our side--let Israel now say--
124:2 if it had not been the LORD who was on our side, when our enemies attacked us,
124:3 then they would have swallowed us up alive, when their anger was kindled against us;
124:4 then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us;
124:5 then over us would have gone the raging waters.
124:6 Blessed be the LORD, who has not given us as prey to their teeth.
124:7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped.
124:8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

(Year A)

Romans 12:1-8
12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect. 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 12:5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 12:6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 12:7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 12:8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

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

Matthew 16:13-20
Pentecost 13 (Year A)

16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
16:14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
16:15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
16:16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
16:17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
16:20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

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

Brother Benedict, Sermon 188

Pentecost 13A, 1999

Exodus 1:8-2:10
Psalm 124
Romans 12:1-8
Matthew 16:13-20

Was it fate or faith in action? In the Hebrew Testament our story of the Chosen People of God continues. There is a passage of time between the end of the Book of Genesis and the beginning of the Book of Exodus. The Scriptures do not specify how much time passes between the two books. Genesis 50:23 says Joseph lived long enough to see Ephriam's children to the third generation. As he was dying, Joseph prophesied saying; "I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, 'God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here. So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt." (Genesis 50:23-26) This is the end of the Book of Genesis.

When the Book of Exodus begins, the Hebrew People have grown strong and are numerous and prosperous in the Egyptian land of Goshen. The reading opens by saying a new king had come to the Egyptian throne, and this king did not know Joseph and so the king didn't trust these foreigners. He was actually concerned that they had become so numerous and healthy that they might threaten the security of the people born in Egypt.

Notice we see the new king full of pride, envy, and fear. He said; "Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we." Here sin has entered the picture again. The results of sin are always death, and this was no acceptation to that. The king decides to enslave the Hebrew People as a way to oppress their continued growth, a way to weaken their obvious strength, and a way to use them and get as much work out of them as possible as he weakened them. Exodus reads; "Therefore he set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and en every kind of field labor." (Exodus 1:11-14)

If the religions of Egypt had been worth anything at all, their religious leaders would have discerned there was something super-human that was causing the Hebrews to not only endure the hardships but to continue to grow in numbers in spite of the oppression. This is a telling moment as far as noting the total worthlessness of false religion. Was it fate or faith in action that the Chosen People were in the land of Egypt, being observed by one of the greatest empires on the earth at the time, and prospering under the hand of Yahweh? How much easier the later story of the Egyptians would have been if they had discerned the efforts and support of the One true God of the Universe before God was forced to impose those ten awful plagues to help them know God.

I feel compelled to draw a parallel here to our own situation today. First, let me say we have in way ever suffered even a portion of the cruelty the Jewish People or the African American People have suffered. However, isn't it interesting that in spite of hundreds of years of concerted effort to completely oppress, suppress and depress Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Supportive Heterosexual friends and family, God has seen to it that we steadily prosper. A church like this one would have been unthinkable fifty years ago. Yet, we live in a country that has been working out religious freedom for over 200 years. Would that be fate or faith in action? Further, the church reform that has brought churches like ours into being has now spread to other countries after people there have had time to observe our being blessed by God. In other words, our "religious freedom" has allowed other persons like ourselves to observe the working of God in our churches and this has inspired many of them to get the appropriate permissions to open churches like our in their countries. Would that be fate or faith in action? Just like the Israelites in Egypt, we have grown under the blessing hand of God. The oppression increases on a daily level, and so does the number of people who are coming out and being honest with themselves and those around them. God sustains us and provides for us even in the sight of our enemies.

For the Israelites in Egypt oppression increased to such a level that Pharaoh called for the death of all male Jewish babies. One baby was saved. He was set adrift in the Nile. The daughter of Pharaoh found the child in the basket. Was that fate of faith in action? Pharaoh's daughter agrees to having a Hebrew woman brought to nurse the babe. Was that fate of faith in action? The Book of Exodus says his real mother was selected; "So the girl went and called the child's mother. Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.' So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, 'because,' she said, 'I drew him out of the water.'" (Exodus 2:7-10) Was it fate or was it faith in action?

Modern scholastic theologians insist that this is a sacred myth that parallels mythical stories from many other cultures. Why would they take that position? For one reason, modern so-called theology gives no credence to the Sacred Inspiration of the Scriptures. These non-spiritual scholars undermine every example of divine interaction in humanity when it shows up in the Holy Bible. Worse, they teach others to preach and take the same position. Once again we see the constant agenda of Satan, to deceive the creation into thinking God is nothing more than a myth and a creation of the human imagination.

However, with the eyes of the Holy Spirit, we can clearly see the entire Hebrew Scriptures is the story of God preserving the blood line, the family of people who lived by belief and faith, from Seth to Jesus. Many times in the Hebrew Testament we find the Chosen People reduced to a handful of people who are remaining faithful to God and God's Will. Many times God takes that remnant and forges on, fighting for the salvation of all creation. None of the details in any of these narratives are the result of fate; they are all God in action, faith alive and well.

The psalm for today, Psalm 124 is a celebration of the fact that God has a plan for creation, and God will see the Chosen People through to the completion of that plan. The psalm beautifully recounts many great moments when the hand of God came through and rescued the Chosen People from certain destruction if they had been left to their own natural selves for their protection. Verses 7 and 8 celebrate God's power over all their circumstances; "We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth." (Psalm 124: 7-8)

These verses of Psalm 124 should be taken on as our daily praise song of victory. God is watching over us with the same protection and the same care, I truly believe this.

This week in Bible Study we noted the revelation of God in the Holy Scripture is accumulative. While certain responsibilities are added and others concluded with the passing of each dispensation, we continue to understand more about God by taking into account all that has been revealed thus far. It would seem then that each age would hold a higher reverence for Christ and God. This would include our generation. We have more revelation about God in Christ than any other generation.

Look at today's Gospel, for example. Here we have the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ in writing so we can turn to it and re-read it as many times as we need to in our lives. "Who do you say that I am?" That is the question Jesus asks each and every one of us. The same question He asked his followers in this Gospel reading. When Peter said; "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Jesus said, "correct" and on this rock I will build my church. What rock? The knowing Christ as the Saviour, the one sent to reconcile humanity to God. When you believe this, you are like a spiritual stone being built into the universal home of God, where Christ Jesus is the foundation stone. This is the necessary revelation for our day. While we have the benefit of the entire Hebrew Testament as a prelude to the wonderful free Gospel of Jesus. You would think there would be absolutely no problem with people responding to Christ… right?

Perhaps this is partly what is behind Paul's "appeal" that we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1) What does this mean? Well, for one thing we live in a society that places a great deal of stress on what our bodies look like the state of their health, etc. We seem to be naturally concerned about such things. Into this picture comes the idea of presenting our bodies as holy, that would be separate, living sacrifices to God. Many Christians have thought this means to live without sexual experiences. Others have thought this means to not use cosmetics, dyes, tattoos, jewelry, and to wear only "modest" clothing. What experience has taught the church is we can insist on any number of external rules and regulations but as our Gospel last weekend clearly told us, it is "..what comes out of the mouth [that] proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.' (Matt. 15:18)

Perhaps it is fairly easy to dress a certain way and call it "Christian," or to restrict one's social contacts to certain people and places and call it "Christian." However, God is looking and listening in the heart. If we are truly trying to present our bodies as a living sacrifice of holy praise to God, then, we must start from the place God starts, the heart.

Actually, if we only meditate on the revelation of God in Christ that we do have, with all its riches and benefits, we would immediately be overcome with the desire to serve God faithfully and completely. For when one considers the awesome realities God has placed in our lives we should find ourselves involuntarily lost in ecstasy and thanksgiving. For truly, the presence of God in our lives calls forth in us a most awesome response. It calls forth such a response that I am at a total loss to select powerful and beautiful enough words to accurately describe how deep that response should be.

When Paul says "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect…." (Romans 12:7), he is giving us very wise counsel. All of us are now clear that satan is the god of this world system. We all understand quite well the origins of sin. Therefore if we allow this world system to be the formation agent of our minds we will adapt the standards and values of the god of this world, satan. What God has given us instead is the choice to be formed by God's own Holy Spirit. This formation by the Holy Spirit is truly a transformation. It is a transformation because we become a new creation in Christ from the inside of our hearts outward. The transformation the natural person needs to be a son or daughter of God in Christ is a spiritual one, one that happens at the deepest levels of our souls and hearts.

Christ wants to give us the rebirth into His own self so that He may personally journey with us through life. If we move through this life with the eyes, heart, and mind of Christ to transform us more and more into the likeness of His image, then we will not be conformed to the rebellious world system.

As God has always made a way for the safe journey of the Chosen People, the Jews, so too Christ makes a way for those who truly want to be His body the Church in the world. Christ will guide the Church through all the perils of life and bring us safely out of this Egypt and into the promised land of the Eternal Kingdom of God.

This is not some silly and optimistic pie in the sky philosophy. This is the Will Of God and deserves our undivided attention. God will provide everything we need if we allow that to happen. It seems too amazing to have to keep stressing the fact that God is waiting to give us eternity and total peace of mind. We as a 21st century people run from that reality.

So, today lets ponder the question we have been asking for the last three weeks; are we living by fate or by Faith in action? With the aid of the Holy Scriptures and the wisdom of the saints who have gone before us, our reverence and awe for the real presence of God in our lives should be increasing daily, even hourly. As we become more aware of the truth of Christ with us, our lives will be transformed and we too shall cross through this long night of exile into the promised inheritance prepared for us in God's Kingdom since before the foundations of the world were laid.

Let us go forth in Christ.

May almighty God bless you, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

TOTUS TUUS! Totally Yours, Lord Jesus Christ.

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

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