Tag Archives: Paul of Tarsus

Sunday Sermon: On the Second Coming, don’t be fooled or frightened

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David Koresh is a recent decades example of a false prophet who made Messianic claims

 

Today’s New Testament reading comes from the apostle Paul’s second letter to the church at Thessalonica, which is the second largest city in Greece.

Paul wrote a pair of letters to this church, the second organized Christian community which he helped to form in Europe. The two letters are frequently referred to as “epistles” in some forms of the Bible.

The first of these was written approximately two decades after the death of Jesus. It was meant to reassure that Christians who had already died would share in the glory whenever Christ indeed returned. He also encouraged them to continue working quietly as they anticipate that return.

In this second letter, which may have been written shortly after the first one or sometime within the ensuing decades, Paul includes a sort of gentle yet urgent warning in following up on this idea of Christ’s return.

This warning comes as there were already false claims that Christ had already returned, and begins a process that still takes place today in which church leaders must address the concept of false claims and teachings, misinterpretation of messaging, and outright fraud.

Paul writes in what is presented as the second chapter of this letter:

We ask you, brothers and sisters, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a “spirit,” or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.

In just the last century we have seen numerous claimants to being Jesus, the Messiah, the Second Coming, or some other phrase for this same concept. Examples can often prove disastrous, such as David Koresh with the Branch Davidians during the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Paul’s phrasing urges us not to be frightened by false claims. During the course of his two letters he reminds Christians that by reading the Bible we can know that Jesus will not return unless and until certain specific circumstances have taken place. He also reminds us that what is important is to not be concerned with the “when”, but instead to always be prepared for Christ’s return.

In Matthew’s Gospel he writes that “…you do not know the day or the hour” in which Jesus will return. All we know for certain is that He has indeed promised to return.

As Paul tries to tell us, do not be misled or alarmed by anyone who claims to have received a vision, or who tries to teach you anything outside of what is provided by scripture regarding the Second Coming. There is never cause to be fooled, or a need to be frightened. Just simply keep yourself prepared.

 

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Sunday Sermon: God didn’t make you a coward

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Saint Paul in prison, writing one of the epistles

 

As most already know who follow this website, I am a Catholic. I also serve as a Lector many weeks during Mass services, which gives me the opportunity and honor of reading to our parishioners from the Word of God.

This ‘Sunday Sermon’ series dates all the way back to 2005, and is always based on a reading or sermon from the Mass on that particular Sunday.

This morning, my New Testament reading came from the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy. It is one of three known “epistles” written by Paul.

Before we get into the specific message for today, a quick vocabulary lesson.

An epistle is simply a letter or series of letters. In the New Testament, they come in the form of a book, made up of the letters from a particular apostle.

An apostle is someone who has been sent to specifically spread a message or teaching. Saint Paul, also known historically as Saul of Tarsus, was perhaps the most important apostle of the first century.

In the two decades immediately following the death of Jesus Christ, Paul underwent a personal conversion and then began to spread Jesus’ teachings throughout the Roman and Jewish world of the times.

The second letter to Timothy, a segment of which made up today’s New Testament reading, is considered by tradition to have been written just before Paul’s death, sometime in the mid-late 60’s during the first century A.D.

However, there are many scholars who now believe that it was actually the product of one of his students, writing in the decades after Paul’s death. In any event, it was certainly in keeping with his philosophy.

The letter was written to Timothy, who was one of the earliest Christian church leaders. Timothy served as the very first bishop of Ephesus, located in Egypt.

In the letter, Paul writes from prison, where the Romans are holding him for the teaching of the Gospel. He writes the following as encouragement to Timothy in the latter’s role as an early church leader:

Beloved:

I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.

So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

The phrase which jumps out at me from this letter is this: “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice…”

This letter is one of three ‘pastoral epistles’ written by Paul. They are considered as such because they were written to individuals with pastoral care and responsibility over a particular church, and cover issues of Christian living, doctrine and leadership.

While these epistles are clearly written to church leadership with them in mind, they are just as relevant to all members of the church.

God does not want us to live as cowards. He did not imbue us with a “spirit of cowardice“, as Paul writes.

Paul calls on all of us to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within each believer, the love preached by Jesus Christ himself during his life on Earth, and the self-discipline gained during our own lifetime of experiences and failures in order to help spread the Word of God.

Stop looking to others to carry a load that you have every ability to help carry yourself. You can teach your family. You can volunteer in some way at your church. You can personally set an example by regularly attending church services and participating in the sacraments.

Far too often, far too many of us point the finger at others shortfalls, be those church leaders, politicians, any of our fellow men. We are often unwilling to look in the mirror at our own sins and shortcomings.

Have the courage to not only take that hard look in the mirror at yourself, but also to actually take some positive action regarding your faith.

Even if you consider yourself a brave Christian, we all have moments or periods of life in which we falter. Whatever your present or future attitude and situation, remember, God didn’t make you a coward. Don’t act like one.

 

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Sunday Sermon: In the end, we all become one with God

Today marks the final Sunday in the liturgical year of the Catholic Church.

Next Sunday begins the season of Advent, the four-week period leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ.
As Advent begins, the readings at Mass will begin to lead us towards that most important and holy moment in the history of humanity.

Today, however, we peer into the future, to the end of time itself.

The second reading today was from the first letter, sometimes called an epistle, written by Saint Paul to the Church at Corinth.

The Yale Divinity School calls this first letter from Paul to the Corinthians “a masterpiece of pastoral theology.” Of this important and lengthy 16-chapter work, Yale further states:

“It challenges us to think about how we relate to the wider world that we fully engage even if it does not always share our values, provoking us to imitate Paul’s pastoral logic, which probes fundamental convictions to see how they apply in difficult situations.”

Corinth today lies in south-central Greece, approximately 48 miles west of Athens. But the Corinth of Paul’s time could be located about two miles southwest of today’s city.

Paul himself founded the original church in Corinth around 50 A.D., less than two decades after Christ’s death. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written during one of his stays at Ephesus. It includes a number of important teachings, and contains a handful of famous sayings that have survived through today.

The focus of my piece today comes from near the end of Paul’s letter, and relates to the end of time. Here, Paul talks of Christ’s return at the second coming, stating that he will destroy “every sovereignty and every authority and power” before finally destroying the “last enemy”, death itself.

Paul then finishes by stating that once everything has been subjected to Jesus Christ, then Christ himself will be subjected to God. This is, as Paul puts it, “that God may be all in all.” In the end, we will all become one with God, through Christ.

You can choose to interpret the exact physical and meta-physical mechanics of that merger with our Creator in a number of ways. However you choose to do so, the fact is that we don’t know when these events will take place. Will they even take place in our lifetimes?

The more important point is that, no matter when the end times come, there is something that we can all and should all be doing right now. We should all be preparing now by subjecting ourselves to Christ.

Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Clearly the most important thing that we can do right now is ensure that we are believers. That we recognize that Christ gave up his life so that we could be freed from sin.

This acceptance, this subjecting of ourselves to Christ in accepting and celebrating his role in our lives, gives us a chance to join God as one of those “all in all” at the end.

A joyous season is about to begin. The birth of your Savior is not far off. As this holy time of year approaches, remember exactly whose birth it is that we will be celebrating.

In the end, we all become one with God. That is only made possible by the one who is about to be born.

Heed the call

Jesus Christ was approximately 30 years old, and he was ready to step from the shadows of a life which to that stage had been lived in relative anonymity.

He had learned of the fate of his cousin, John ‘the Baptist’, and decided that it was time for he himself to begin a public ministry. It was what he had waited his whole life to do. It was the entire reason for his being alive.

Jesus knew as he began that he would need to start somewhere. And so he set out along the edge of the waters of the sea of Galilee, beginning to spread there a message” that the people should “repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

As he made those first tentative public speeches and teachings, he was mostly alone, and he quickly came to realize that he needed help. He needed people to help him travel, to organize, to simply be his companions on the journey.

Walking along the edge of the Galilean sea he observed two brothers named Simon and Andrew, and he began to talk with them. He talked and taught, telling the brothers “Follow me, and I will make you fisher’s of men!” His divine inspiration was so great that the brothers left behind their nets and began to follow Jesus.

The trio moved along the sea a bit and came upon the fishing ship of a man named Zebedee. Tending the nets with their father were his two sons, James and John, and Jesus again began to speak to the men and called on them to join him, which they did.

From this humble beginning has arisen the greatest church in the history of the world. The very church of the one true God Himself, founded by His only son.

The very first man he had called to follow, the brother once named Simon, had his name changed to “Peter” by Christ.

Jesus turned over the church to this man saying “You are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.”

These men were just the first to be called by Christ to his ministry. The first to be asked to hear him, to listen to the message from God, to have faith, and to lay aside all they thought that they had previously known in order to follow Jesus.

More would follow. First by the few, then by the dozens, ultimately by the hundreds and by the thousands. Over the course of human history, the same exact call would go out to billions.

A Pharisee named Saul was one that was called in those early years. It was after the crucifixtion of Jesus that his disciples were first trying to spread his word as a group which had become known as “The Way”. Saul zealously persecuted Jesus’ followers, and in the continuation of this effort was on his way from Jerusalem to Damascus.

On the road to Damascus, Jesus suddenly appeared to Saul and called to him: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asked who was speaking, and Jesus replied: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what to do.” Saul ultimately heeded the call, changed his name to ‘Paul’, and along with Peter became one of the Founding Father’s of the church.

But just as human death did not stop Jesus from calling people like Paul, neither has the passage of time stopped people from being called. You are called.

That’s right, you reading this right now.  The simple fact is that we are all called by the Lord to hear his word and to yield our lives to him. Every single person reading this has heard of Jesus Christ. Every single person reading this knows exactly what Jesus claimed to be: the Truth. The one true way.

In Jesus own words we find the single most important call that any of us have ever received in our lives, and make no mistake, we have all received this call. Jesus himself said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

You have been called. Have you heeded his call? If you have, congratulations brother or sister. Continue in your own personal journey during this life in trying to live as he would wish you to live.

You will never reach perfection. You will stumble and fall and sin many times, for you are human. But you have heeded the call, accepted the truth, and will be rewarded.

Others of you have not heeded the call. You have either hesitated, or you have outright turned away from the truth. If you are reading this, you still have time to make the single most important choice that you will make in your life here on earth. You still have the choice to heed Jesus’ call, to accept the truth, and to begin to try to follow the way as best you can.

From that first day along the sea of Galilee when Jesus called a quartet of fishermen to become fishers of men, the call has continued to ring out around the world. It has reached your ears. The next step is yours.

If you are my family member or my friend, if you in any way have impacted my life, I am reaching out to you right now, personally. Heed the call. God bless you.

NOTE: this is the continuation of the Sunday Sermon series of articles that appear regularly at the www.mattveasey.com website, all items in which can be read by clicking on that label link found below here at the website