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Homily for the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost – Praying properly

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

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Good morning bus riders!


I’m glad to see everyone is comfortable on the bus stop bench. I sent out the email with the link to the lectionary page, so I hope everyone had an opportunity to read all the lessons for today. There are just the normal six today; but remember, I talk about all of them, not just one, two or a catch phrase from just one.


So, with that said, let’s begin!


Rather than begin with the Old Testament reading options for today – from Esther and from Numbers – I want to start with the Epistle reading from James. James clearly presents the theme that runs through all the readings.


James asked questions, which should be heard as him asking you here today:


Are any among you suffering?


<Look for nodding heads.>


Are any cheerful?


<Look for nodding heads.>


Are any among you sick?


<Look for nodding heads.>


The answers to all questions tell everyone to pray.


When James said, “[You] should sing songs of praise if joy is in your hearts," the Psalms of David are all prayers, in the sense that they are communications flowing through Yahweh’s Spirit. Most are songs of praise; but even the songs of lament – which comes from suffering – are prayers for strength.


When James said to confess your sins, this does not mean go to a Roman Catholic church and sit in a box and talk through a screen to a priest.


Confession is a talk with God, where you voice knowledge of wrongdoings and sincerely beg for forgiveness and guidance to avoid sins in the future.


Raise your hands if you have ever gone into a confessional box.


<Look for raised hands.>


Confession is one of the “Sacraments” that is the core of the Episcopal Church. There are seven:


Baptism; Eucharist; Confession; Confirmation; Marriage; Ordination; and Last Rites.


All of those come from things written in the New Testament. What James wrote about, concerning confession, is in support of that “sacrament.”


The points made in divine Scripture, as James wrote, are not about going to another human being and thinking he or she can baptize with the Spirit of Yahweh,


or fill you with the body and blood of Jesus,


or absolve you of sins,


or give you vows that guarantee your Christianity,


or join your soul with that of another human being,


or give you more tests and vows to recite in order to be given the right to wear robes and bless water and wafers,


or to say a meaningful prayer that releases a soul to Yahweh.


Everything is a true Sacrament when it is between your soul and Yahweh.


That means prayer is the truth that is that relationship.


Raise your hand if you have ever dated someone before.


<Look at all the raised hands.>


I’ve head news of speed dating. It would seem that some felt the need to make dating a sport for busy professionals, those people who don’t have much time to take away from work and waste it on things like wining and dining a sexual partner.


Can you imagine how well a date would go if you never talked?


If sex is the only reason for ‘hooking up,’ then the people's government should legalize prostitution. The less said then the better, I guess.


In the New Testament, we read about the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray.


Raise your hand if you have memorized the “Lord’s Prayer.”


<Look at all the raised hands.>


The Jews have many prayers and psalms they recite. They have prayers for all occasions. The devout recognize times of prayer three times a day. During some times of prayer, some wear straps around their arm with prayers on them, as well as a headgear [a black box with Scriptural texts inside]. They have a book with prayers in them, to recite from.


One can see how that began long ago, so prayer was not unknown to the disciples of Jesus.


They just did not know if all the reciting of prayers worked.


Jesus did not tell them, “Write these words down that I am about to say and memorize them.”


Prayer must be heartfelt and a line of communication with Yahweh.


It begins by dating Him. It is talking to Him and listening to what He says in your thoughts. It is a relationship where two parties tell the truth and then live up to the truth.


Prayer then leads to the true Sacrament of marriage, which is when one’s soul becomes possessed by Yahweh’s Spirit. Through subservience and obedience, a soul becomes the submissive wife and Yahweh the dominant Husband. Out of deep spiritual love, soul and Yahweh speak to one another ALL THE TIME.


That is prayer. It is the marriage of Yahweh's thoughts with one's mind, so a constant flow of communication occurs.


James used the example of Elijah. Elijah’s soul was married to Yahweh. That divine marriage was the ONLY way the truth was known by James, that “[Elijah] prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.”


When James said “Elijah was a human being like us,” the “like us” part means those to whom James was writing. The “like us” meant Saints, all married to Yahweh, all reborn as Jesus, each an Anointed one of Yahweh.


Raise your hand if you could pray and cause three and a half years of drought.


<Look at people sitting on their hands.>


In the Episcopal Church there are places for books on the backs of the pews. There are no Bibles in those places. There are hymnals and prayer books in those racks. Like the Jews, the mindset is to make a book of prayers be readily available for everyone to read from, with a prayer for all occasions prepared.


Everything about an Episcopal service is scripted, except the announcements and sermons. There is great comfort that covers Episcopalians, which comes from not having to think about anything. Just follow the routine, whenever one goes to church.


That is why the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Rather than recite the prayers figured out by someone else, they wanted to know how to originate a prayer.


When one is reading prayers out of a book, one is winking at someone in a speed dating arrangement. Just say the same old lines and hope for the best.


When one takes the time to get to know Yahweh, where the conversation is not always one-sided – “Gimme this” and “I want this” and “I would like it if you did this for someone I know” – we are acting childish.


Children know to ask for everything when Christmas is coming. If they actually get more than one of the things they asked for, they are usually very happy.


Praying like children works happily, until you are no longer wishing for toys and candies. Praying to God to forgive every sin under the sun means one has become lost.


Last Sunday, James said, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.” Your “pleasures” means your adult sins.


When prayers are only for forgiveness, with no plans to stop sinning, the truth of Scripture is missed. Without the truth of meaning – which can only be realized by divine marriage of a soul to Yahweh’s Spirit – one has wandered away from Yahweh.


In that regard James said, “If anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”


Being “brought back by another” is done by prayer between true Christians, as the communication shared by the brothers in the name of Jesus Christ – which includes women and men.


By being a soul married to Yahweh, reborn as His Son [in both male and female bodies of flesh] means being the answer to the prayers of the sinful, those who seek redemption and salvation. Simply by becoming the hand of God on earth, your presence can touch someone sinking in a myriad of sins, bound for damnation. Without any need to express words of prayer, a wife of Yahweh [males and females] is the 'life preserver' the drowning need.


This is the truth of a priest holding onto the seven Sacraments, in that must mean that he or she is a soul married to Yahweh – a Saint – thereby one ordained by Yahweh into ministry.


Such a divine marriage is the truth of that Sacrament, as no priest can bring a soul into union with another soul.


One confesses sins to Yahweh directly, as only Yahweh can forgive sins committed.


Through a divine marriage, one does not retain ill-will against one whose actions have brought one persecution.


One is confirmed as a Saint through ministry by Yahweh, as His Son resurrected in the temple of one's flesh.


One shares the body and blood of Jesus through recognition of the Passover, at the Seder meals symbolically; but as Jesus reborn, being the flesh and blood of Jesus shares that with all seekers who desire to also be a Saint. That is the truth of “Christianity,” as all members are a “Christ,” by their flesh being the temples in which the soul of Jesus has resurrected and become High Priest.


As for last rites, this becomes the heavenly host all singing songs of praise that a soul married to Yahweh – a true Saint – is forever released into His hands.


With this truth about prayer seen as a statement of one’s soul making a marriage commitment to Yahweh – the Covenant written within the walls of one’s heart, not memorized – we can now look at how prayer is present in the readings accompanying this Epistle reading from James.


In the story of Esther, who had been a young woman of Jewish faith in servitude in Susa [Persia], her prayer was unstated, yet answered when King Ahasuerus chose her as his queen.


We should not see Esther as some wise woman. That would be Solomon’s queen, his soul married to the goddess Wisdom. Esther was just a pretty young virgin who danced seductively before Ahasuerus and he said, “That’s the one!”


Talk about speed dating without words uttered but plenty communicated ….


Esther became queen because the prior queen was asked to come dance and arouse Ahasuerus, only for her answer to be, “Nope. Not doing it again.”


“Next!”


All of the history that put young Esther in the position to have horny Ahasuerus say to her, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request?” … Yahweh knew she needed to be in that position, at that moment, to answer the prayers of the faithful … prayers never uttered because few knew what was planned to come their way.


When Esther said, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me-- that is my petition-- and the lives of my people-- that is my request.”


That was her prayer.


It was not a prayer to Yahweh, but a prayer to someone in power to make that happen.


You have to hear the youthful innocence come from Esther.


Esther then said, “If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.”


That was the truth coming from her lips. The Persians had defeated the Babylonians. The Jews in captivity had been allowed to live and go where they wanted. Mordechai and Esther and many other Jews chose to go to Susa and serve the one who had liberated them. The king benefited from that willing sacrifice of themselves. Killing devoted slaves would do greater harm to the king, than killing them because they still were free to worship their personal God.


For Esther to be so young and say those words, it was Yahweh speaking through her. Those words held the power of prayer in them, as they spoke truth of great wisdom.


See the difference in young Queen Esther and young King Solomon, when Solomon had acted wickedly and the voice of Yahweh came to him in a dream, asking, “What can I give you?”


Solomon asked for the forbidden fruit, that which gave him the power of knowing good from evil, but that which prevented his soul from entrance into heaven.


Esther asked for the fruit of the tree of life. Sure life comes with servitude; but what’s a little honest work, when the reward is eternal life?


Now, as the companion Psalm to this reading from Esther, verses two and three seem to be singing about the strength of David’s Israel, as a prayer that rejoices the strength amid enemies. Those verses say, “If Yahweh had not been on our side, when enemies rose up against us; Then would they have swallowed us up alive in their fierce anger toward us.”


While that works when looking at David’s Israel, Esther was the reality of a collapsed and ruined Judah and Jerusalem, “sold merely as slaves, men and women.”


In my looking deeply into the Hebrew of David, the words written that have been translated to say, “by our side” actually speak of a “our being committed to Yahweh.” That is singing of a strength that comes from divine marriage.


That which has been translated to say, “enemies rose up against us,” instead says, “when rise over us men.” To see that as what David sang, he said no matter where in the world a soul married to Yahweh is, the power of Yahweh is greater than anything man can bring.


That gives this Psalm great impact in what happened in the Esther story.


The metaphor of an uncontrollable flow that is the Spirit of Yahweh through His wives [males and females] goes outward as a presence affecting all that surrounds. It affected Haman's anger [the bad guy in Esther], but it also affected King Ahasuerus with the anger of justice.


David’s song of praise – his prayer of rejoicing – says “We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken, and we have escaped.” That was the same prayer offered by Esther: The freedom to live.


The symbolism of a bird having escaped a fowler’s snare is an angelic soul flying away from the trap of the material realm, the cycle of reincarnation broken. A soul is free to live forevermore.


Now, when the Numbers reading is examined from a prayer perspective, it is easy to see all the selfishness in prayers that angered Yahweh and displeased Moses. They were begging God, saying “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”


That is a prime example of James saying, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.”


Still, because the Israelites led by Moses were (in essence) newborn babies that only knew how to cry when they were not getting their way, their prayers were going to be answered. Moses was just asking Yahweh, is it time to feed them or is it time to clean them?


The answer to the prayer was to show them what needed to come from “nothing at all but this manna to look at.”


The manna from heaven was spiritual food that appeared in physical form. By eating that daily, the brains of the Israelites were able to gain enough divine insight to understand why they were where they were, following Moses, Aaron, and Joshua, and not back where they had been, in Egypt.


This needs to be seen as a preview of where the Israelites would be hundreds of years later, when “sold merely as slaves, men and women.” The manna was a ‘baby food’ version of the Spirit, which freed the souls of the Israelites, so the lusts of the world no longer clouded their brains.


When we read, “Then Yahweh came down in the cloud and spoke to [Moses], and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.” That needs to be seen as what happened to young Queen Esther.


The seventy elders, plus Eldad and Medad, offered the truth in prayer. Just like Esther stated the truth as her prayer to King Ahasuerus, and that prayer was answered – once only – so too did the elders go about telling everyone in their tribes, “let my life be given me-- that is my petition-- and the lives of my people-- that is my request.”


"Life" means eternal salvation of a soul. The people heard that message and trembled with fear.


Maybe that was heard by the other Israelites as asking, “Please shut up if you want your souls to go live eternally in heaven, because Yahweh hears your prayers before you cry them out loud.”


Now the Psalm that accompanies the Numbers reading is the same song of praise we read just two Sundays past. Today we only read the second half, beginning with the three verses that each name Yahweh twice.


We read the whole song before, as a counter to Solomon’s Proverb that praised wisdom as a woman to listen to. Now, we read it as a counter to the selfishness that comes when a brain is left alone to listen to the calls of such wisdom.


Verse seven sings, “the testimony of Yahweh is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.” That is a poor translation, as it better states, “testimony Yahweh confirm, making wise simple.” The elders were as simple-minded as all the crybabies in their camps; but when the Spirit of Moses was passed onto them, they became most wise. The spoke the “testimony of Yahweh” by “prophesying.”


They knew the anger of Yahweh and they knew the displeasure of Moses, up close and personal.


David was singing a prayer about divine marriage in Psalm 19, not the knowledge that leads to selfish behaviors.


While the version translated into English does not show this, verse thirteen sings, “moreover from insolence refrain your servant, not let them have rule over me then I shall be blameless; and then I shall be empty of transgression much.” That is a prayer of confession, which requests righteousness replace one’s sinful selfishness.


Then, verse fourteen literally sings, “become present goodwill speaking from my mouth and be the meditation of my heart in your eyes; Yahweh my strength and my redeemer.” That admits the need to be divinely possessed, as were the Israelites who complained constantly to Moses. It sings of the love that leads to marriage being in their hearts [metaphor for souls], so they can see the truth, gain the strength of Yahweh’s presence and be forever saved in His name.


All of this leads to the Gospel reading from Mark. It seems to begin by John of Zebedee coming to Jesus, telling him he and the others saw some stranger casting out demons in Jesus’ name; and, they tried to stop him.


What is missed by this reading being presented like it is, is it is actually a continuation of the reading from last Sunday, when Jesus rounded up the twelve lead disciples and told them they needed to welcome a child [a boy] in his name.


In verse thirty-seven was Jesus saying, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” We need to realize that it was Jesus saying that, which caused John to think for a moment and then say, “That reminds me, Jesus. You’re saying “in your name” makes me remember how just last week we saw this guy saying he was in your name.”


What we all need to realize, reading this portion of Mark’s ninth chapter, is Esther was in the name of Jesus, just as were seventy elders of the Israelite tribes. James, and those to whom he wrote were all in the name of Jesus. Even Eldad and Medad became – a one-time happening – in the name of Jesus.


The name “Jesus” means “Yah[weh] Saves.” That means “in the name of Jesus” means “in the name of Yahweh.” That is what Jesus meant when he said, “whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”


Jesus then told his disciples, “Do not stop [one in my name]; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.” That says announcing being “in the name of Jesus” means one’s soul has married Yahweh, so it will be impossible to abuse that power. That power means one has become a servant of Yahweh and works as He directs.


That is why Jesus said, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Those who are demonically possessed work against true Christians, whereas those in between are typically seeking help or completely ignorant of Yahweh [thus Jesus too].


By adding, “whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward,” that says the emotional help and assistance that comes from loving a brother [regardless of what human gender one possesses] will aid one’s soul.


That supports James’ saying, “if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” A “cup of water to drink because you bear the name of the Anointed one of Yahweh” says you do not try to stop another in Jesus' name, but encourage him or her onward in ministry.


Jesus then stated a scenario that began by proposing, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me.” Here, it is important to remember that Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve. While Judas would betray Jesus and end his life afterwards, he represents the one who “wandered from the truth,” destined to be a “sinner’s soul” that faced the “death” of reincarnation [or worse].


All of the scenarios then following, involving hands, feet and eyes, all involved the punishment Judas would receive. In that, the “hand” better cut off is the one that causes one to stumble by not offering help, instead offering harm. The “feet” reflect one refusing to walk a path of righteousness that comes when one is in the name of Jesus; and, the eye better plucked out is one that rejects the divine insight of Yahweh that allows one to see the truth of Scripture.

Rejecting Yahweh in marriage and choosing the sterility of a soul alone, one who is not reborn as Jesus, means drowning one’s soul into death. The millstone is a large, heavy stone used to grind the grain into flour, so it can be used for making food. Millstones are not good flotation devices. To have such weight around one’s neck, the symbolism is the weight of sin, meaning to reject being in the name of Jesus is to gladly placed a stone of death around one’s soul.


When Jesus said, “Everyone will be salted with fire,” salt must be seen as metaphor for life.


This is what Esther prayed for.


To be given “life with fire” is then the metaphor of the Spirit descending upon the tongues of the Apostles, like “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them.”


When Jesus then asked, “Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?”


In chemistry, salt [NaCl – sodium chloride] is such a stable ionic compound that it never ceases to taste like salt. Therefore, “to lose its saltiness” metaphorically means to die.


The question is then, “If life is lost, how can life be returned after death?”


The only answers are: A. reincarnation; or, B. “to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.”


Therefore, Jesus suggested, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Live and share life through love born of the Spirit.


The prayer of this lesson taught by Jesus is the same prayer made by Esther. “Let me and my people live.” It is the same answer given to those who selfishly prayed for worldly things, which is give them a one-time chance to see the truth of life.


James said it when he wrote, “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”


This is when it is important to realize that when James truly meant when he asked, “Are any among you sick?”


The Greek word translated as “sick” is “asthenei.” It is a word that implies “diseased,” which should be seen as something incurable. In today’s society, where all kinds of poisons are deemed profitable for pharmaceutical companies and doctors and hospitals, disease has become a way for some to get rich, while many suffer and die.


When James wrote, “[The diseased] should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord,” the use of “ekklēsias” should be seen as a statement of an “assembly” of true Christians. That word was chosen, as opposed to using “sunagógé.”


The “elders” need to be read as those fully “in the name of Jesus Christ." James said Saints would be those “anointing [the diseased] with oil,” so both the "sick" and "the elders" were all of the same "name" that gathered – Christians. This is the Sacramental rite of “unction,” which is typically called “last rites.”


James’ focus, when death is nearing a Saint “in the name of Jesus Christ,” was for other Saints to offer prayers of life for that Saint’s soul, that about to cross from the physical plane to the spiritual.


It must be realized that all souls will stand before Yahweh after death – thereby “the Lord will raise them up” – so prayers are not last minute prayers recited from a book of prayers. Unction is not to forgive a sinner, who selfishly held onto self-identity in life, rejecting all those who were in the name of Jesus.


That must be seen as the meaning, when James wrote, “anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven,” because all those sins occurred before one’s soul married Yahweh and welcomed the boy Jesus into their flesh.


With that, I see it is time for the bus to arrive. So, I will end with this note. Realize that prayer is less about selfishly asking for things not deserved. Pray to Yahweh so a line of communication is begun and turns into regular talks. When love has sparked one’s soul, one will yearn for the next time when Yahweh can talk to you and you to Him. This love leads one to do what pleases Yahweh; and, after a serious relationship has been established, then divine marriage can take place.


You do not know when your bridegroom will come; so, always keep the oil of faith in your lamps. Falling into sleep in darkness means your soul was only teasing Yahweh.


For those soul being called to the marriage altar, the next step is then pregnancy. The soul of Jesus is resurrected within one’s flesh, with one’s own soul taking a submissive state that welcomes that divine possession. Prayer is then conversations between your soul and the soul of Jesus, who speaks for the Father.


Prayer has to be for your soul to have life. Then prayer is for others in the name of Jesus to also have life.


Learn to reach that state of prayer.


Until next week, I wish all the best. Ponder what I have said until we meet again.


Amen

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