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 September 12, 1999
Pentecost 15A
Annual Picnic at Upper Buttermilk Falls, Ithaca

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 14:19-31
Fifteenth Sunday of Pentecost, (Year A)

19The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. 20It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night. 21Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. 22The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. 23The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. 24At the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. 25He clogged£ their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”

The Pursuers Drowned

26Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.” 27So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the LORD tossed the Egyptians into the sea. 28The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. 29But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

30Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

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

Psalm 114

God’s Wonders at the Exodus

1 When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
2 Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
3 The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back.
4 The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.
5 Why is it, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?
6 O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?
7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the God of Jacob,
8 who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.

(Year A)

Romans 14:1-12
Romans 14

1Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. 2Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. 3Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. 4Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord£ is able to make them stand.

5Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. 6Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

7We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. 8If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

10Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

12So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

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

Matthew 18:21-35
Pentecost 16 (Year A)

21Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. 26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. 28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. 35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister£ from your heart.”

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

Brother Benedict, Sermon 190

Pentecost 15A, 1999


Exodus 14:19-31
Psalm 114
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

Did God actually part the Red Sea and produce a hard dry land for the Israelites to travel on as they escaped the Egyptians? Did the same hardened sea floor become mud and catch the wheels of the Egyptian Army and then did the same waters of the Red Sea close in over that army and kill everyone of the Egyptian soldiers? The Holy Bible, the Word Of God, says yes that is exactly what happened.

I am an ambassador of Jesus Christ. He accepted the story as true. Therefore it is my duty to also accept it as fact. On a personal note, it wouldn’t matter to me one bit if the waters actually rolled back like shown in the movie "The Ten Commandments." Theologians today spend entire semesters of seminary course work theorizing and hypothesizing how the sea may have indeed parted or reasons why it absolutely could have never done such a thing. I once took a seminary course where the entire unit was spent in a grand attempt to convince us that they didn’t cross the Red Sea at all, in fact, it was really the Reed Swamp.

After attending such a seminary I spent a few years thinking long and hard about how I was going to approach the miracle stories of the Bible. I had to face the obvious fact that over the next fifty years the powerful seminaries would likely convince the general public that much of the Holy Scriptures are compilations of religious story and myth from many cultures around the world. It was obvious to me that future preachers who would choose to believe what the Bible actually says would soon be frowned upon as uneducated and non-professional.

Then I listened and waited for guidance from the Holy Spirit. I believe I am being directed to receive the Holy Bible as an awesome gift from God to humanity. I believe God loves us so much that God has assured our security by providing us with a window right into the very mind of God by giving us the Holy Bible. Of course the Holy Spirit could teach us all we need to know to follow Christ, but we also have the very good fortune of living in a culture where we have abundant access to the printed, the spoken, the video and audio taped, the broadcast, and even the Internet cyberspace presentations of the Sacred Word Of God, the Bible. In short, the Bible is God’s Word, God’s book, God is the author. Therefore, I reverently receive what the Holy Bible says.

When I read a section of Scripture such as this one on the parting of the Red Sea, I experience a personal and very real sense of calm and deep joy. I know in my heart that God did this wonderful miracle. I am not at all conflicted and wanting to explain how it was done. This is not for me to be concerned about. If God needed me to know the physics of the miracle it would have been recorded in the Bible. To decide I cannot believe the miracles on the terms that God has recorded them in the Bible is sheer arrogance and self-pride and I have definitely decided I am not going there.

The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. (Psalm 23) The earth is the Lord’s and all that dwells in it. (Psalm 24) God can do anything God chooses to do at any time with this earth or anyone and anything that dwells here. How arrogant of anyone to think they have personal status that exempts them from the reign of God in all of it’s expressions. My place as a preacher, therefore, is not to question or in any way analyze what God has done, what God is doing , or what God will do, or how this has been proclaimed in the Holy Scriptures. My responsibility is to believe and proclaim. I am happy to do that and I have no desire to be involved in the so-called science of "higher criticism."

The inspiration of the Scriptures often operates on more than one level simultaneously. Often there is an application of an event to the historical setting in which it took place and something to say for the future and even sometimes something to say for the times preceding the event. I see a spiritual meaning or application of the Red Sea event to our own present-day lives.

Imagine the faith it took to be moving toward that sea and realizing the Egyptian army was in full pursuit. I wonder how many Israelites thought slaughter was certain. I wonder how many of them really believed they were going to be finally punished for escaping from Egypt? Moses remains obedient and God makes a way for the people to safely cross over. In our own situation we are hard-pressed on every side by people and systems of thought that declare we do not have the equal right to be alive, to claim space on this planet, or to celebrate our uniqueness as a gloriously diverse people. We hear reports almost daily about this church or that state or company that has decided we are not as valuable to our world as some others are perceived to be. With this being an election year, we are sure to hear plenty on this subject. There are certain to be times when we may individually or collectively feel the pressure is too great.

Laws could be enacted at any time that would make us feel as if we too were backed up against the sea with nowhere to turn for safety. For example, it has taken six years for the FBI to be exposed as indeed having fired pyrotechnic devices on the religious community in Waco, Texas. If this happened to one religious community, it could happen to any religious community. Recently, a decision was made by a judge forbidding a woman from taking her child to an MCC Church because the judge believed exposing her child to the homosexual lifestyle would endanger the child’s moral welfare and development, so the judge claims. That decision will be appealed of course, but hear and realize it happened. Our religious freedoms are fragile and we must be watchful and vigilant. I am aware of a pastor who took his life in the last two weeks because he could not face the homosexuality of his college age son. There are many other stories and examples we could all share wherein we have perceived our situation as being pressed up against a wall.

Through it all, though, God promises to bring the way, the truth and the life in Christ. Christ has promised to be with us even to the end of this age. Christ being in us is aware of the situations we find ourselves in. Christ knows the way, which means road, to safety for any situation. What we must do is ask for direction and submit to God’s Will so that Christ can indeed bring us safely through life’s challenges.

Moses and Aaron had to remember they were being observed by all for proof the faith in God was in fact something grounded in reality. Think how differently the story may have turned out if Moses didn’t believe God would save them. Likewise, in our second reading today, Paul is reminding the congregation that new Christians are watching the experienced Christians for cues and guidance on how the life in Christ is lived.

Paul instructs the church to receive people at all levels of faith. Paul goes on to remind us that people will come here with many different backgrounds in religious experience. Those diverse backgrounds in the Christian religion will definitely cause differing emphasis’s on teachings, dogmas, and practices. Paul urges the church to be patient with these differing emphasis’s. We often see this at Ray Of Hope Church. Some people come to us with a sense of certain holy days, or devotions and religious practices. The 14th chapter of Romans calls us to respect people’s various expressions of love and devotion for God. The whole idea is summarized in verse eight: "For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s"

Let that sink in for a minute. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. This is the entire reason Ray Of Hope Church exists. We want to bring hundreds of people to this understanding and perspective on life: whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. What marvelous good news this is for anyone who will listen. Being the Lord’s own people means Christ will certainly take care of us. We are not going to be destroyed by evil either in this life or in eternity. The Lord will completely guard and keep us and brig us to the fullness of God’s eternal Kingdom.

Once we realize we are in this beautiful and secure relationship with Christ, we want to respond accordingly. This isn’t a one way relationship. One way action wouldn’t be a relationship, it might be more like slavery or captivity. We are in a love relationship with God and that reality calls us to bring Christ’s standards of care to the very world we live in. This is the subject of today’s Gospel.

Christ came to reconcile creation to God. Reconciliation is based on forgiveness. Even from the cross Christ had the desire to forgive his killers and to hear a confession and save the man on his side. What Christ is showing us in these events is that in all situations we must forgive those who sin against us.

Last week Zara reminded all of us what Christ went through in the Passion and Death. Her description was vivid and thought provoking. Add to that vision of those final hours the desire to forgive His killers and betrayers, and the desire to forgive the sins of even a criminal hanging next to Him and promising that man Eternal Life. Jesus was able to be who He was right up to the last breath. If we are Ambassadors for Christ, then we must represent His interests and His ways of doing all things.

At the top of the list and at every step of the list of priorities is forgiveness. Today’s Gospel makes it perfectly clear that forgiving a person their faults is not an option, it is a requirement. Why? Simply because Christ forgives anyone who asks and He has called us to be His representatives, therefore we must do the same.

Forgiveness is the crux of Christ’s work. Salvation requires forgiveness. Anyone with unfinished business in regards to restitution for sins needs to hear Christ tell us we must forgive and make the situation as right as we possibly can. Jesus closes this reading saying: "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses." (Matt. 18:35) Now once again we could rationalize all the reasons to not have to listen to this old fashioned approaching 1999 because we have come a long way baby!

We the Christians of Ray Of Hope Church want to go on record as believing these words of Christ’s are as valid today as the first day he taught the doctrine of mandatory forgiveness. Forgiving someone something they have done may seem as impossible as the parting of the Red Sea, but God will supply the miraculous ability to forgive as Jesus forgives if we simply ask for that assistance.

Let us continue on our journey then, listening and believing the Word Of God and taking all of its commands seriously so that we can continue to evolve as better ambassadors for Christ. To His Name be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

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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