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Sermon for Lent 5 B Jesus Is Our High Priest of the order of Melchizedek. April 10, 2000


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.

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Lent 5 (Year B)



31The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,£ says the LORD. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

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

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After the first reading insert the following homily before the psalm. Say to the Congregation:

Please wait and do not close your Bibles. Who is the subject of this reading of Jeremiah 31:31-34? The House of Israel and the House of Judah! "The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah." (Jeremiah 31:31) The subject is clearly Israel, the Chosen People. Who then are we, the modern Israel or are we the Church? We are the Church. You may be thinking "big deal, what is the point Brother Benedict?" Since from at least the time of St. Augustine, that is the fifth century AD, many theologians have said all the promises made to Israel are now relegated by God to the modern Church. Modern theologians and clergy who teach this way of thinking are known today as "mainline Christianity." The so-called "mainline Churches" do not believe that modern Israel has any significance in God’s plan for the Last Days. We object, and name this line of thinking false and prejudiced.

At first consideration it is easy to explain how theology followed this path since shortly after the time following 70 AD when there was no physical land of Israel. The Christian Theology of both the Eastern and Western Church developed through the better part of 1900 years without a physical land of Israel on Earth. Consequently all prophesies written for Israel’s future were assumed to belong to the Christian Church which was understood as the New Covenant People, since the People of the Old Covenant had ceased to have a homeland. Thus language such as Old and New Testaments. This was a very mistaken way of thinking because while the Jews had no homeland of their own, there is nothing anywhere in the Scriptures to indicate God in anyway changed their status as the Chosen People.

To the surprise of many modern Christian theologians Israel became a nation again in 1948 and the Church has had fifty-two years make corrections where theologians simply handed over the Scripture’s treatment of Israel, and specifically Israel’s future events of the Last Days, to the Church. However, the so-called "mainline Churches" march on as though God did not begin to fulfill each of the Last Days prophecies beginning with the home-gathering of the Jewish People after World War Two. They continue to say even the New Covenant of Jeremiah chapter thirty-one belongs to Christians and is in fact a prophecy foretelling the Eucharist. This is what has happened here in this selection of readings in the Common Lectionary where Jeremiah 31:31-34 is placed with readings that show Jesus in His final preparation days before He went to the cross as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.

It is true that the cross brought a new covenant into force, in that after the cross all sin is forgiven through the blood of Christ Jesus, no one denies that. However, clearly, the House Of Israel did not participate in the benefits of Grace of the Cross, or shall we say at least yet they have not. Many of us have been raised to think Israel is eternally lost then. However, I stopped the Liturgy for a short Homily after the first reading to show you what the actual covenant that will be made in the future with the House of Israel actually is.

Israel’s future Day of Covenant with God through Christ is described throughout the entire book of Zechariah in the Hebrew Testament. For brevity, please open to Zechariah chapter 14. Verses one through three describe the Battle of Armageddon that will take place when Christ returns to physically rule on planet Earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, from Jerusalem. This Millennial Kingdom is the subject of much of this book in the Bible.

For brevity, verse 4: "And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.... Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You......verse 9; And the Lord shall be King over all the Earth, In that day is shall be - ‘The Lord is one,’ And His name one." Now add to this Chapter Twelve, starting at verse seven: "The Lord will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall not become great than that of Judah. In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the Lord before them. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pout on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves the family of the house of Nathan by itself,..... 13:1 In that day a fountain shall be opened to the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness." The Book of Zechariah was written at least 600 years before Jesus was born, lived and crucified! Here in this prophecy He personally returns to the Mt. Of Olives, which is confirmed in Acts 1:11 where two angels say to those who are watching Jesus physically ascend to Heaven: "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up in to Heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken from you into Heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into Heaven." Where were they? The Mount of Olives and the Zechariah prophecy of the Messiah who is pierced shall come to His "brethren" on that same mountain.

Doesn’t this make you want to shout Alleluia? It sure has the shouting effect on me! I will say much more about this in the sermon for next Sunday, Palm Sunday. For now, I want to remove this first reading from the implied direct connection the moderns are trying to imply by placing with these others. At the same time, we indeed take a moment to celebrate that Israel will be saved through Jesus Christ in the future glorious Day Of The Lord, when He shall return to Earth as He promised, when He shall resurrect all of the Chosen People and they shall mourn in contrition, but He shall forgive them. Remember, when they are forgiven, their sin of rejection will be completely forgotten. We will never remember it either, it will never again be talked about as though it never happened. This is the New Covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31:31-34. What better psalm to respond to this truth with than psalm 150? Please turn in your psalm books, then to Psalm 150 and celebrate the day of Salvation when the House of Israel will be in the New Covenant through Jesus who indeed is the brother who was pierced for their sake.



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Continue with Psalm 150, the second reading, the Gospel and the remaining part of the sermon appears below:

Psalm 150

1 Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament!£ 2 Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness! 3 Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! 4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! 5 Praise him with clanging cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 6 Let everything that breathes praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!

Lent 5 (Year B)
Hebrews 5:5-10

5 So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,

"You are my Son, today I have begotten you";


6 as he says also in another place,

"You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek."


7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus£ offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

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

John 12:20-33
Lent 5 (Year B)



20 Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." 22 Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor."

Jesus Speaks about His Death

27 "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say; ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." 29 The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." 30 Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." 33 He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.


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




Brother Benedict, Sermon 214

Lent 5 B Jesus Is Our High Priest of the order of Melchizedek. April 10, 2000



Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-12 (we will use Psalm 150)
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33

Today, the second reading and the Gospel are teaching another essential Doctrine of the Church, Jesus is our High Priest. What is His ministry as High Priest? Do we need a High Priest, and what for? How did Jesus become a High Priest? What does it mean that Jesus is a priest of the order of Melchizedek of old?

Let’s begin with this last question. Did you hear it said twice in the second reading that Jesus is a priest in the order of Melchizedek of old? Most of were raised knowing at some level of understanding that Jesus is a priest, but I think many of us assumed if there was any order to which he belonged it would be according to the order of Jesus Christ! So, why Melchizedek, and who was he anyway?

Please open your Bibles to Hebrews chapter 7 for there we find an explanation in the context of the same book that explains how Jesus became a priest of the order of Melchizedek.

7:1; "For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, (2) to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated ‘king of righteousness,’ and then also long of Salem, meaning ‘king of peace,’ (3) without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually. (4) Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils...... (6) be he [Melchizedek] whose genealogy is not derived from then [the tribe of Levites] received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. (7) Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. (8) Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. ..." (Hebrews 7:4-8)

What this is pointing out is Melchizedek seems to be a theophany. First, understand Abraham had the promises of the covenant in that the children he would give birth to would be beginning of the Chosen People. However, Abraham paid tithes to one whom Abraham obviously recognized as greater than himself. Further, when Melchizedek made a bread and wine sacrifice. Turn in your Bibles to Genesis 14:7; "Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was the priest of God Most High." Of course the bread and wine were a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.... Jesus made the bread and wine sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving we know as the Eucharist. For most people who study the Scriptures, Melchizedek may have been Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures. At any rate that is all we know about him, we wish we knew more. Into the order of Melchizedek’s priesthood, Jesus is ordained, for Jesus is truly the priest of "God Most High, ....‘king of righteousness,’ .....and then also king of Salem,..... meaning ‘king of peace." (Hebrews 7:2)

Jesus was appointed to His priesthood by God because Jesus was totally obedient to God’s Will. In fact, in today’s Gospel we have still yet another theophany where the voice of God is heard saying celebrating how Christ’s obedience gave glory to God’s Name. God said: "I have glorified it, [meaning God’s own name] and I will glorify it again." This meant God’s name would be glorified by the death and resurrection of Jesus. (John 12:28) God’s name was glorified in Christ when Jesus successfully completed the sacrifice for all sin and crushed the satanic hold that was over every soul. Through the victory of the blood sacrifice of the cross every soul could now come under the protection, under the benefit of that sacrifice and be eternally saved.

In the sacrifice that Christ made for us by dying on the cross He served us as our High Priest, and as our sacrificial victim. He entered the very presence of God, called the holy of holies for us and presented His own spotless or sin-free blood as the payment for the sin of the human race. He continues to daily presents the sacrifice to God on our behalf. In this way Jesus is our High Priest.

It is because of this total submission to the Will of God, even to the point of losing His earthly life in physical death, that Jesus was appointed the High Priest of God, the Shepherd of Souls, the Bishop Of Souls, (1 Peter 2:25) the Chief Cornerstone of the Church, (Ephesians 2:20) and it is through the many aspects of these various ministries He became the source of eternal salvation (Luke 1:69, John 3:16, etc.) for all who obey Him.

What is Jesus waiting for from us? Jesus is waiting for us to give total, unreserved submission to His Will which He has for each of us. We live in a world where even though we participate in the Church, it is very easy to keep both feet firmly planted in the security of the world, and not ever become totally dedicated to Christ. For example, let’s be honest, none of us would give to the ministry at such a level that it would put our own security, such as our own housing, in threat. Let’s be honest, none of us would spend so much time evangelizing and telling others of the Gospel that we didn’t go to work, didn’t pay our bills, no, in fact we take care to keep our worldly security firmly in place.

Whatever time is left over, whatever energy is left after our work is done, whatever finances are left after every other interest is taken care of, that is what we give to the ministry of Jesus. We give our leftovers after all our worldly needs are taken care of.

Of course, this seems like the only right and proper thing to do. Who would put their care of their house, care, interests, food, and such at risk because they were giving so much of themselves to the work of the Gospel? Yet, this is what Jesus did. God’s Will was first, even to the point of submitting to death not for Himself but for people and to glorify God. We would all have asked, just a minute, what is in this for me!

What can we do? How do we consider this and make an application? As we enter Holy Week, I would like us to ask the Holy Spirit to show us how we can better serve Christ in every aspect of our lives. I would like us to begin thinking of our Christian lives as much more than going to Church twice a week, and start living for God’s sake. I would like us to take the High Priesthood of Jesus very seriously.

We need to realize Jesus intercedes for us at the right hand of God every minute of every minute of all time. Jesus wants us to participate in His prayers as our High Priest. We have the only High Priest in the whole Universe, and His office is never closed, His rectory is always open, His confessional is always available, and He never makes us leave a message on an answer machine. Therefore, we need to daily ask Jesus to pray for us to God, and to communicate to us God’s Will for us individually. Christ is serving us at the altar of His own sacrifice even as we speak. He is serving as High Priest twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. We need to meditate on this and realize what an awesome reality this is.

Our High Priest will never deny us, He will never abuse us with malpractice in ministry. We have the perfect High Priest of all time at our service just for asking and just waiting for our prayers. As we enter Holy Week I ask you to observe the events of Holy Week through the filter of watching Christ as He transitioned from His earthly ministry to His Eternal High Priesthood.

He came as prophet-messiah, He is now serving as High Priest, He will come again as King Of Kings, the King of Peace, and Lord of Lords. Let us prepare our hearts. Meditate on these realities. Call on our High Priest, He is waiting for our prayers which He will join to His own prayers which are before God at all times. For Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Let us Give God all the glory and honor for all the great things that have been done for us out of this eternal love. To God be the glory, forever, amen.

 

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