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 Lent 4 B Vision of the Victory of Jesus Christ. April 2, 2000 - Page one. The link to page two is at the bottom of this page.


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.

Numbers 21:4-9
Lent 4 (Year B)


4Then they moved from Mount Hor, following the road that goes to the Red Sea, in order to get around Edom. The people became impatient on the trip 5and criticized God and Moses. They said, ďWhy did you make us leave Egyptójust to let us die in the desert? Thereís no bread or water, and we canít stand this awful food!Ē 6So the LORD sent poisonous snakes among the people. They bit the people, and many of the Israelites died. 7The people came to Moses and said, ďWe sinned when we criticized the LORD and you. Pray to the LORD so that he will take the snakes away from us.Ē So Moses prayed for the people. 8The LORD said to Moses, ďMake a snake, and put it on a pole. Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.Ē 9So Moses made a bronze snake and put it on a pole. People looked at the bronze snake after they were bitten, and they lived.£

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

Psalm 107

1 Response: Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his mercy endures forever.

2 Let the people the LORD defended repeat these words.
They are the people he defended from the power of their enemies
3 and gathered from other countries,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
4 They wandered around the desert on a deserted road
without finding an inhabited city.
5 They were hungry and thirsty.
They began to lose hope.
6 In their distress they cried out to the LORD.
He rescued them from their troubles.
7 He led them on a road that went straight to an inhabited city.
8 Let them give thanks to the LORD because of his mercy.
He performed his miracles for Adamís descendants.
9 He gave plenty to drink to those who were thirsty.
He filled those who were hungry with good food.
Response: Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his mercy endures forever.

10 Those who lived in the dark, in deathís shadow
were prisoners in misery.
They were held in iron chains
11 because they had rebelled against Godís words
and had despised the advice given by the Most High
. 12 So he humbled them with hard work.
They fell down, but no one was there to help them.
13 In their distress they cried out to the LORD.
He saved them from their troubles.
14 He brought them out of the dark, out of deathís shadow.
He broke apart their chains.
15 Let them give thanks to the LORD because of his mercy.
He performed his miracles for Adamís descendants.
16 He shattered bronze gates and cut iron bars in two.
Response: Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his mercy endures forever.

17 Fools suffered because of their disobedience and because of their crimes.
18 All food was disgusting to them,
and they came near deathís gates.
19 In their distress they cried out to the LORD.
He saved them from their troubles.
20 He sent his message and healed them.
He rescued them from the grave.
21 Let them give thanks to the LORD because of his mercy.
He performed his miracles for Adamís descendants.
22 Let them bring songs of thanksgiving as their sacrifice.
Let them tell in joyful songs what he has done.
Response: Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his mercy endures forever.

23 Those who sail on the sea in ships,
who do business on the high seas,
24 have seen what the LORD can do,
the miracles he performed in the depths of the sea.
25 He spoke, and a storm began to blow,
and it made the waves rise high.
26 The sailors aboard ship rose toward the sky.
They plunged into the depths.
Their courage melted in the face of disaster.
27 They reeled and staggered like drunks,
and all their skills as sailors became useless.
28 In their distress they cried out to the LORD.
He led them from their troubles.
29 He made the storm calm down,
and the waves became still.
30 The sailors were glad that the storm was quiet.
He guided them to the harbor they had longed for.
31 Let them give thanks to the LORD because of his mercy.
He performed his miracles for Adamís descendants.
32 Let them glorify him when the people are gathered for worship.
Let them praise him in the company of respected leaders.
Response: Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his mercy endures forever.

33 He changes rivers into a desert,
springs into thirsty ground,
34 and fertile ground into a layer of salt
because of the wickedness of the people living there.
35 He changes deserts into lakes
and dry ground into springs.
36 There he settles those who are hungry,
and they build cities to live in.
37 They plant in fields and vineyards that produce crops.
38 He blesses them, and their numbers multiply,
and he does not allow a shortage of cattle.
39 They became few in number and were humiliated
because of oppression, disaster, and sorrow.
40 He poured contempt on their influential people
and made them stumble around in a pathless desert.
41 But now he lifts needy people high above suffering
and makes their families like flocks.
42 Decent people will see this and rejoice,
but all the wicked people will shut their mouths.
43 Let those who think they are wise pay attention to these things
so that they may understand the LORDís blessings.
Response: Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his mercy endures forever.

Lent 4 (Year B)
Ephesians 2:1-10

1You were once dead because of your failures and sins. 2You followed the ways of this present world and its spiritual ruler. This ruler continues to work in people who refuse to obey God. 3All of us once lived among these people, and followed the desires of our corrupt nature. We did what our corrupt desires and thoughts wanted us to do. So, because of our nature, we deserved Godís anger just like everyone else.

4But God is rich in mercy because of his great love for us. 5We were dead because of our failures, but he made us alive together with Christ. (It is Godís kindness£ that saved you.) 6God has brought us back to life together with Christ Jesus and has given us a position in heaven with him. 7He did this through Christ Jesus out of his generosity to us in order to show his extremely rich kindness in the world to come. 8God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. 9Itís not the result of anything youíve done, so no one can brag about it. 10God has made us what we are. He has created us in Christ Jesus to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do.

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

John 3:14-21
Lent 4 (Year B)



14ďAs Moses lifted up the snake on a pole in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. 15Then everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.Ē 16God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. 17God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world. 18Those who believe in him wonít be condemned. But those who donít believe are already condemned because they donít believe in Godís only Son. 19This is why people are condemned: The light came into the world. Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil. 20People who do what is wrong hate the light and donít come to the light. They donít want their actions to be exposed. 21But people who do what is true come to the light so that the things they do for God may be clearly seen.


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




Brother Benedict, Sermon 213

Lent 4 Year B The Vision Of The Victory Of Jesus Christ. April 2, 2000



In the Christian Church we are always celebrating time. Everything God does happens in God's time. Perhaps you have never worshipped with a church that places such awareness on the concept of where we are in time as we do at Ray Of Hope Church. We celebrate our faith in time because while God is physically outside of space and time, God is very much involved in the process of redeeming space and time within God's creation.

At the beginning of Lent we started using a Lenten Cross. It looks much like the Advent wreathe in that there is a candle for each of the Sundays in Lent, six candles, however it is shaped like a cross. Each week we have lit the next candle, three purple ones for the first three weeks of Lent. The fourth one is pink and falls in the middle of the season. The pink candle in Lent is for a "pink" Sunday, this time called Laetare Sunday from the Latin word which means "Rejoice." It is similar to Gaudete Sunday on the third week of the season of Advent. This is Ray Of Hope Church's first year celebrating Laetare Sunday. What are we rejoicing in, you may wonder.

If you attend Ray Of Hope Church for any period of time you will notice that practically every week of the Church year we are celebrating something very important. There hardly seems to be a Sunday that I could honestly classify as ordinary time! In fact, every week the Lectionary readings are covering vital and desperately needed topics for people's salvation.

What we have noticed about the worship year, also called the Liturgical year, is the Word Of God is constantly showing us that God helps us to remember what God has done and celebrate God's great acts of mercy and forgiveness in the past. That process of remembering redeems our present life circumstances because everything God has done in the past is continuing to be done in the present. God does this because God is outside the constrictions of space and time. So, we could say God continues to part the Red Sea today and this would apply to how God finds a path for us through every difficulty of our lives. God continues to raise people from the dead "in Christ" every day the power of resurrection continues, etc. Further, as we recall the great historical acts of redemption and allow the power of those events to transform our lived experience today, our remembering and receiving present redemption also calls us beyond ourselves as we are compelled to anticipate the future fulfillment of all God's promises. So the sequence is "remember" the past and bring it to the present so it can "redeem" the present circumstances and call us to "anticipate" and celebrate the realities that we know will happen in the future when God is ready for us. "Remember" "Redeem" "Anticipate" Time!!!

We see a wonderful example of this in today's readings. Moses lifted up the serpent at God's command in the desert and all that looked upon the serpent were instantly healed. John's Gospel tells us: 14"As Moses lifted up the snake on a pole in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. 15Then everyone who believes in him will have eternal life." (John 3:14-15) So in a very real way the power of love that God extended the people of Israel in the desert who expressed unreserved faith in the power of God to save them, continues today in that everyone who looks up to the cross with unreserved faith in the power of God to save them will receive the very thing they are expecting, salvation.

You may have noticed when Pope John Paul II went to Mount Hor recently to the monastery that is at the very place where this miracle happened for Moses and the Israelites, there is a huge work of art there which is a pole with a serpent on it. This is an example of remembering and allowing the act of remembering to redeem the present moment and allowing it to call us to anticipate the future fulfillment. Some might say the New Testament Christian need not pay attention to what happened to the Israelites in the Old Testament, what was theirs is theirs and Christ is ours. However, the Church has never, and I stress never taken that position. We see One God who has One agenda for all, Salvation! In Christ God continues the saving work began moments after the sins of Adam and Eve. Each act of the salvific story in the Hebrew Scriptures is a continuation of God's unending love, and that love continues to our day and beyond us for ever in that God never changes. As our psalm response today clearly proclaimed: "Give thanks to the LORD because he is good, because his mercy endures forever."

Before moving on from the story of our first reading, we need to discuss the wisdom that is there for the modern Christian Community. What happened? The people grew impatient with wandering in the desert because they couldn't see the conclusion to their trip. They also were not able to understand their sinful and doubting behavior was the exact reason the trip was lengthened either! They grew angry with God and with God's pastor, Moses. They complained and said life was much easier back their in Egypt. They said they didn't want to be out in this desert starving and being so different than everyone else. In short they wanted to go back to their old ways.

God sent serpents! Now some listeners and some readers of this sermon immediately shout, "there! I told you God was mean and vengeful! Imagine, what kind of God would send poisonous snakes to kill the people! The God of the Old Testament was nothing but mean and cruel!" To that I must respond, "slow down! and wait just a minute, you didn't hear the rest of the story!" Yes the snakes came and showed the people death. Consequently the people asked Moses, their pastor, to pray for them that God would take the snakes away. God wasn't forcing them into repentance. God was showing them that death is real and it is out there and available to devour our souls in a moment's notice. Further, God was showing them that they didn't have to follow God's Will at all, but alone and on their own they would face all the realities of the "prince of the powers of the air." (Ephesians 2:2) Further, God was showing how seriously God expects us to follow the pastors and leaders God appoints to guide us to the promise of eternity with God. Complaining against God and God's pastors is arrogant and sinful, unless of course the pastor is sinful and then that pastor isn't representing God anyway. This was also a test for Moses. Moses could have joined their angry song against God. Moses could have question God's wisdom in sending the snakes. Moses could have been like the modern theologians today and accused God of being mean, vengeful, and horrible. To be sure, seeing all the people Moses led out of Egypt die, one by one as they wandered in the desert for forty years was not a pleasant way to spend the bulk of one's life. Moses trusted God. God allowed that first generation of persons who escaped through the Exodus to kill themselves, and it was their offspring that entered the Promised Land.

What wisdom is there in this for us? Like the Israelites we certainly cannot see the full scope of God's plans and God's wisdom for our immediate place in salvific Godstory. Sometimes I look at Ray Of Hope Church and I wonder how all of this fits into what God is doing fifty, seventy, one hundred years down the line for Central New York State. I have a strong sense of some of God's plans, but there are times when it seems we are in a pothole along that road!!! Through it all, I must say I have never been angry with God. In fact, I have never had a sense of any desire to question what God is doing. All I know is this is my place, our place, in God's larger plans for this area of Central New York State.

Along with this, we should learn from this story not to grumble against the pastors, teachers, evangelists, prophets, and apostles God gives the Church. We must pray for them. Pray that they listen to the voice of the Lord God and follow God's commands. If they are faithful to God we are obligated to follow them in every decision and act of leadership they tell us is "in the Name of the Lord." God has set a structure of leading and following. Modern society may have serious reservations with that model, but God is greater than anything society can come up with to imitate God's structure plan for leadership. God's structure is eternal and the very best. We should learn from the fact that all but three persons who left Egypt in the Exodus died before they reached the shores of the Promised Land. Why did they die? Rebellion against God's pastors and God's plans.

This brings us to our second reading for this week. Please turn and open your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 2.

The first verse: "You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world....." Everyone of us has sin in our life story. What are the effects of sin. There is absolutely no way a person can be in the presence of the Eternal Only One and Only Good God, the Creator of all. Why? because sin is totally against the nature and substance of God. If we choose sin we are choosing to seperate ourselves from God forever. Having sinned then we need some way to be received to God's presence. This is the salvific action of Christ Jesus. Just as those Israelites were doomed to the powers of the poisonous snakes, so too are we doomed to the power of sin. Just as God crushed the power of death in the desert by providing healing through faith, so too did "God send the only begotten Son so that who ever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) "God's love endures forever!" as our psalm said. This promise of "whoever believes in Him" continues on until Jesus Christ comes again in glory. God loves us that much. God doesn't want a single one of us to be lost. God wants all of us to come to God on the road of Jesus Christ, through Christ's sacrifice for our sins. So Paul is saying to the Christians at Ephesus, you "were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived...." The key word for them is "WERE" dead. Now, they are alive and in Christ, and today in the year 2,000 those original Ephesian Christians are seated at the right hand of God IN CHRIST, and they are with Christ now. This is offered to all of us as well, but there is a condition, we must look upon the cross and see the victim whose death reconciled us to the Father and believe in Him and follow His teachings and His road to Eternal Salvation.

The next part of the first verse of Ephesians 2 makes it clear who is presently in charge of the secular world we are living in: ".... following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of the flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else."

Obviously this isn't talking about the Holy Spirit!! This spirit is the motivator of disobedience to God's Will and the father of all the "children of wrath." There is an extremely important lesson here for us to hear and understand. The world is made of two kinds of people: Those who follow God living as children of God and goodness; and those who are disobedient and are children of wrath, the children of satan and evil. It is imperative that you make no gray area here for friends. Either they are listening to God's Will or they are not. This is especially important within the Church. It is imperative that we keep the Church pure. There is enough Church history where the Church has been anything but pure. When we are trying to call former participants in our congregation back to the Will of God and they are being disobedient to the voice of God and continue to act as "children of wrath" and disobedience there comes a time when we have to cut off our efforts. Recently the Council sent a letter to one of these persons as the Congregation had requested through our Council meetings. The letter was an attempt to set a plan of reconciliation, one that was simple and could have easily been accomplished. Instead it was returned to us, unopened, with "return to sender" and the person's initials written across the front. This is a sin against the Church of Jesus Christ. Here was Christ reaching out through His Body, the Church with love and mercy, but the recipient was full of disobedience and wrath. The story of the people complaining against Moses and God's plan continues right here today at Ray Of Hope Church, the story of the people of Ephesus being formerly children of wrath and disobedience continues here today.

I hope persons who have been disobedient to God's Will, have sinned against God's Church, and God's Appointed and Ordained leaders will someday come to their senses and realize all sin leads to eternal death. For those who have sinned against Ray Of Hope Church and its Ministry, there is only one place they can have these sins forgiven, right here at Ray Of Hope Church where they were and continue to be committed. Going to another ministry, priest in confession, etc. and confessing these sins will not bring forgiveness because the people sinned against are alive and well and right here where we were sinned against and we are seeking their sorrow, confession, repair and repentance. Those sins can only be dealt with and forgiven right here in the assembly of believers in which they were committed. God is not mocked and tricked into slipping in forgiveness and not holding the offenders responsible when the Congregation they sinned against is seeking their reconciliation in person so the sins can be truly forgiven and forgotten. We are holding those sins up before the Lord Jesus until the sorrow, confession, repair and repentance take place for the good of the souls of the offenders, so they can hope to have their sins forgiven and hope to be restored to God's Kingdom of Salvation.

Verse four and continuing says: "But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved - and raised us up and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:4-7) God so loved the world, Alleluia! God, knowing our race was infected with a propensity and desire to sin sacrificed His only son for us. This was total gift, total debt forgiveness, total clemency, a total "presidential pardon." When I was preaching this sermon on Saturday April 1, 2000 in Elmira, New York I was deeply inspired by the sentence; "[God] raised us up and seated us with Him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."

As I meditated on this verse I clearly had a beautiful vision given to me from God. It relates to what I said at the beginning of this sermon; God having us remember the past so it can redeem the present and push us on to anticipate the future. We are the evidence of the immeasurable love of God, the evidence of God's unending rich mercy and grace. Revelation 22:12 says: 12 "See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14 says; 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. Matthew 25:31 says: 31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. From these three verses I understand that when Jesus returns He will have all who have died in his care, and all the Holy Angels. These are indeed His reward. Reward for what? His reward for following the Will of God to the point of dying on the Cross for our salvation and for restoring the kingdom to God. In 1 Corinthians 15:28 we read; 28 "When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all." With these verses flooding my mind I saw what I believe to be an actual prophetic vision of this very event. I wish to describe it for you here.

The time seemed to be after the Millennial Kingdom, after the Great White Throne Judgment, just before God recreates the Earth and moves the very throne of God to Earth. There was a grand bowl shaped stadium with banked seating on every side. The bowl ascended outward in every direction further than my mind could comprehend. I saw millions of billions of beings, angelic beings, and present spirits in splendid light, in a presence of praise and joy. At the opposite end of the stadium the entire space was taken by a gigantic moving, spinning circular rainbow with light emanating from it in all directions, the light was coming from another dimension within the center of the circular rainbow. The light was filling the entire universe and all the angelic beings were feeding and basking in its energy. God was seated on a throne in the light. As one would expect, I did not see even the likeness of God's face, but clearly the throne was one of authority, and God was there as the One who rules the Universe. God's robes were somewhat visible, as were sandaled feet and hands resting on arm rests on the throne. The love and light and energy coming from this the Holy Sacred Throne of God are beyond my best ability to describe it. Suddenly God said: "Enter My Son, and bring your Reward with you!" The noise of praise and worship that suddenly welled up at the announcement of the moment of victory was so beautiful. It made our largest sports stadium applause sound like popcorn! There was music of every style, every language, and every mood all coordinated with this and happening simultaneously, something human musicians are not capable of. Every language was praising and yet it was all coordinated into a beautiful sound such as I have never heard made possible by human standards.

Then Jesus entered the stadium on a beautiful white horse. The roar of praise and victory grew at least 100 times louder as He entered and stopped on His horse. He looked brilliant! On His head were all those crowns of reward, which He had given the Church and they had returned to him on the Glassy sea. The crowns did not appear heavy, nor did they appear all at once. It was as if they were moving, appearing and disappearing as though there were millions of them each taking turns appearing in groups and fading into other groups of crowns, something I have never seen before.

Behind Jesus came millions of Saints from the world since Adam and Eve. All those who believed

 

 

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