Verse of the Day

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Todays sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction and are all tied together.  Todays propers really put to lie the concept of the hermit Christian.  When we talk about them, look how the Collect talks about the Household of God, what Bishop Cranmer styles as the Church, and how Paul speaks of the benefits of fellowship and joint prayer.  If that were not enough, see how Jesus reminds us of the need for forgiveness and patience, things you only need if you interface with others.

Consider these words from the Collect:

… keep thy household the Church in continual godliness; that through thy protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to serve thee in good works, to the glory of thy Name …

In the Collect we ask the Lord to keep His household (that would be us) in continual godliness (that is to keep Him as our leader and follow Him), so that with His Help we can have as smooth a path as practical and serve Him in happiness.

Saint Paul follows this same thought in his Epistle when he thanks the Philippians for their fellowship and talks about how they in the bond through Christ have strengthened his faith as a result which enabled him to continue doing his good works for the Lord. In this same way our friends in the AOC strengthen our faith as we tell others about the good news of our Lord and the faith in which we all share.  The more we love the Lord, the more it will show through in our actions and our judgment.  So, let us keep loving the Lord, so our actions and judgment will align His!

Which brings us to the point of the Gospel, in which Christ tells Peter about forgiveness and how we must be ever patient with our fellow humans, and if they are repentant grant them that forgiveness, no matter how many times they might err and vex us.  It doesn’t matter if we want to or not, if they are repentant then we must forgive them, regardless of how we want to do otherwise. If they are truly sorry for their sins, then God will forgive them, so must we forgive.  For if we hold the evil of non-forgiveness in our hearts, it is to our own detriment. 

Holding non-forgiveness in our hearts is as bad for us as holding a grudge against an individual, it hurts our hearts souls and minds. It also goes against Jesus’ words of never let the sun go down on our anger. If we hold non-forgiveness against an individual that is clearly penitent, then we are not acting like a Christian, but like our old unsaved selves. So clearly the message is to forgive those who are penitent, regardless if you like them or not, for if you do not forgive, then it will only hurt you in the end.

We can only forgive those sins against us, for those that are against God, only God can forgive.  When one sins against a fellow creature, they sin against God also.  When we say we forgive them, we are not forgiving them ourselves only, but informing them God has forgiven them for their sins.   Remember, we can forgive them for personal trespasses against us, but through God’s power, only He can grant absolution of our sins, not us.  I do not see anywhere in Scripture where Christ tells Peter humans have the power to forgive sins, like the Roman Catholics claim they have, but rather God must forgive sins, but we can tell others God has forgiven them. In the concept of priests not having special powers, this is one of those powers we do not have. We can only pronounce God’s forgiveness. We don’t have God’s power of forgiving, but God has done the actual acting of forgiveness, but it falls upon us to tell people about it.

The parable illustrates what happens to those who are forgiven, but yet turn around and do not forgive their neighbor (in this case, a debtee) for their sins and have thus abused their forgiveness from Our Lord. If we follow this person’s path, we will find ourselves in a poor spot in eternal life. Let us not be like that fellow, but let us forgive our neighbor, if he is truly sorry and willing to repent and re-start the friendship, and turning a new leaf so to speak. 

If God has been so good to forgive us, why should we not inform others God can and will forgive them of any sins against Him or us for that matter? It would be truly selfish not to do so and to go against what He has commanded us to do, in spreading the Word to all nations. This is why the Gospel is called the Good News, because God has forgiven us for our sins and sent His Son to die for us, that we might have eternal life instead of eternal damnation. This is the ultimate forgiveness, accounting us as perfect, when we are anything but.  The lessons today speak of the power of Our Lord in forgiveness and how we must remember our bond with our fellow Christians in Christ, especially in times of great sorrow or trouble and use that to strengthen us in our day to day lives. We must always remember there are others in our heavenly family who are struggling along with us, stuck together with the mighty ultimate, stronger than Gorilla Glue, glue of Jesus Christ and God the Father. With the help of the Holy Ghost and our bond with Christ, we shall not fail.

The Collect’s prayer, Epistle and Gospel tie together, laying out, detailing and reinforcing the same message, ultimately.  We have to be willing to forgive others, tell them about God’s forgiveness, and not turn around and commit the grave error of not forgiving others as God has forgiven us for our sins. We have to act more like God each day, though we are not and never will be perfect. If we try our utmost best, that is all we can do.

Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail.  The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.

The time is now, not tomorrow.  The time has come, indeed.  How will you ACT?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Todays sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction.

Consider these words from the Collect:

… Grant … thy faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind …

We ask God to pardon our sins that we might serve Him with peace of mind.  That we might do His Work without having to worry about our fate.  It is good to have a clear mind when you go into battle, to be free of worry that you might do your best. You do not want to have a foggy mind when you are doing an action that requires your best concentration, so that is what we are asking from Him. To give us clarity of mind that we might do what is right.  

We need His pardon and peace to cleanse us from our sins, to enable us to have a mind that is quiet and focused on doing His will. It is a difficult thing to quiet our minds at times, but it must be done, so that we can focus on doing our best from Him. His pardon and peace will help us clear our minds from worrying thoughts and distressed thoughts, if we will but let Him in. The pardon and peace He gives is a perfect pardon and peace, He only asks that we go forth in the world and spread His Word, which will give the perfect pardon and peace to all that accept it.

When we mention peace, many people connect with the 1960s, peace, drugs, rock and roll.  That is not at all what the Peace of God means at all.  Not even remotely.  The peace that God gives us is the calmness in our soul when the world is crumbling around or even on us. When things are going wrong at work, school or home, peace is the feeling that God is with us and that we have nothing to fear from whatever it is that is troubling us. For whatever is troubling us be it work trouble, school trouble or home trouble, cannot be greater than Him who created us and all of creation and all the planets and all of the stars. It is the sureness that we service Him who created all things and sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for us, that we might have eternal life. It is also knowing that through His Son we have that eternal life and that we do not have to fear death unlike those who do not believe.

 It is that peace of mind and soul that comes from knowing we are currently transients or travelers in a world to which we do not belong.  The peace that comes from being a non-resident alien in a pretty strange place.  This peace will take the place of worry.  You can then concentrate on what you can do and not be concerned with what you cannot do; for if you cannot really do it, it is pointless to concern yourself.  That is the whole point of peace, having it will give you calmness and rational thinking to do what you need to do for Him. The peace gives you the confidence to perform actions, even in difficult and very trying circumstances. Once again, action, not diction, is paramount.

Not everyone will accept it though, even though all should accept the offered gift, it does not mean they will. We have to realize this, and some may not accept it at first, but it does not mean that we should give up on them, but rather let the Holy Spirit plant the seed, as He plants a seed in our hearts. As our fallen nature attests, we are not instantly transformed into a different person overnight, but rather thorough many days, weeks and years of practicing Christian beliefs, through reading Scripture and being around other believers. The transformation happens in a gradual process, that continues all of our lives. And so it will be to with some of the non-believers we encounter in our lives, that seed we plant may germinate in time to bring them to Christ.

Paul gives his clearest definition of the spiritual war between the forces of Satan and those who would follow God. It not only assures us that there is a spiritual war, but it warns us that apart from utilizing the weapons which God has provided for us, we are hopelessly underpowered. This passage tells us what our divine weapons are. Beyond this, these weapons imply the nature of the struggle which we are in. The weapons which God has provided for us are those weapons which best repel the attacks of Satan, and thus we can learn a great deal about the nature of Satan’s opposition from simply considering each of the weapons at our disposal:

                                        Clothing Truth; this our cloak, as well as our cover;
Breastplate or Armored Vest Righteousness; being at one with the One True and Triune God;
                                              Boots The Gospel; the Word of God will get you there;
                                             Shield Faith; able to not only ward off blows of evil, but quench the fiery darts hurled at us;
                                          Helmet Salvation; we are saved already, thus we cannot be harmed by any of the forces of this world, the armored helmet of the gift of salvation given to us by our Lord will protect us in the end, the only time that counts;
                                         Weapon Up to now, the equipment has been defensive or at least supporting; but to win a war, you need to be on the offense, our offensive weapon is the sword of the Holy Ghost, the Word of God!
Now, what to do?  Clearly we are commanded to take the offensive, to “ride towards the sound of gunfire.”  Where the fight is, that is where we must go.  With the help of the Holy Ghost, we should open our “mouth boldly[1], to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” You don’t play the defensive in this spiritual battle, as in tactical warfare, nobody ever won a battle by being stuck on the defensive. You must go out and preach boldly and speak the truth and not worry about the consequences of doing so. The problem with the church today is that they are afraid of offending people and just think the best way to reach the lost people is to get along with them. This will not work, this concept is basically aiding and abetting the enemy, also known as treason. We must not commit this dreadful act! 

We must not be afraid to preach the truth of the Gospel through ought the world and not worry ourselves with what the world will think. For what the world will think is not as important as what God thinks. And by the word bold, we are not to put a holier than thou air and talk down, nor are we to cruelly shout down the opposition, but with confidence in our voice, we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated by the enemy. We will do our actions and say the truth with clarity and confidence. That is what it means to preach the Word boldly.

The Word spreads “by word of mouth” and by action.  Your mouth, your actions!

Speaking of actions, Winston Churchill said, “Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”[2]

Churchill was not the first. God wants us to persist.  Consider the case of the nobleman of Capernaum.  The man asked Jesus for help for his son.  Jesus did not immediately grant the request as He needed the man to persist to make a point for those around him.  He responded as he often did to Jews, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.”  The man persisted and because Jesus saw faith in him, he said, focusing his attention on faith in God, “Go thy way; thy son liveth” or  "Be on your way. Your son is alive." In other words: "Do not worry. My Word can heal your son at a distance." The boy was healed in the very instant when Jesus spoke the Word. The father believed this Word. So did his household, wife, children and servants. More than one person was healed on that occasion.

This miracle shares characteristics with the previous healing of the Centurion’s son:

  • Jesus has just come back to Galilee.
  • Someone comes to him with a request.
  • Indirectly Jesus seems to refuse at first.
  • The person persists.
  • Jesus grants the request.
  • This leads another group of people (his disciples, the nobleman’s household) to believe in him.
Note the necessity of trusting in Jesus as the giver of life.  Of the text, Luther wrote: "Although the Lord performed miracles and signs to make Himself known and to lead people to faith in Him, the underlying purpose was to focus their attention on the Word rather than on the signs which served merely to attest the truth of His testimony. Faith must rest on the Word of God."  Another Lutheran theologian wrote: "In affliction faith is practiced and chastened. If a person can see, taste and experience the help and grace of the Lord, then that person learns to trust the Word and nothing but the Word. That is the true faith, trusting the Lord for its own sake. Such faith comes not from flesh and blood. It's the Lord to which faith clings. That almighty Word works faith."

Jesus led this nobleman from a "miracle" faith to a true faith in His Word. He does this to us also.

"Be on your way. Your son lives." This Word of Jesus was not only a prophecy. It had the power to heal the sick boy. And this Word took the nobleman's worries away. As it will take ours away if we will let it. 

As we see in the Gospel, persistence is a very important part of the Christian life, it helps build our character in bad times, and also in good as well. No matter what we are going through, the persistence in faith is what builds us up as Christians, to keep going  in times that are less than pleasant, as we continue to progress as pilgrims to Our Father above. In distressing times or late at night it is often easy to forget this, but we must remember that we need to keep going, no matter how hard it seems. It is a comforting fact that He is with us in these most distressing times. 

We are asked to let God forgive us our sins and go to battle in this world with His armor.  With Him all things are possible; when we depend on our own pitiful resources, the outcome is in doubt and the result unlikely to be favorable in the end.  When you believe in our Lord and act on that belief, victory is certain in the end.  Understand, the result here on earth may not be the one you want, but it is the one God wants for you.  God expects you to accept His help and act with His help to gain victory over the prince of this world.

Consider also that God, through our Lord, offers forgiveness.  Forgiveness lets you restart your life, regain your foothold, strengthen your soul.  If you accept the forgiveness and go forward you can do great things.  If you will not, and likewise you will not forgive, you will be bound by the prince of this world and doomed to failure.  You will never attain the greatness of which you are capable with God’s grace and help.

Do what is right, I would say no matter if there is no one looking; but He is always looking.  It is not that hard.  Believe, take His help, act on the belief you profess, never ever give up.  

Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail.  The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.

The time is now, not tomorrow.  The time has come, indeed.  How will you ACT?

The time to act is NOW.  Will you act?  For whom will you act?  Will you count the cost before you act?

Action, not diction, is what counts.  It is by your actions you are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

[1] Note the word is boldly, not cruelly or thoughtlessly or superciliously.
[2] Sir Winston Churchill, Speech, 1941, Harrow School

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Todays sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction.

Consider the words of the Collect, “…God … keep us, … from all things that may hurt us; that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things which thou commandest …”

The Collect asks God to keep us from the things that are bad for us and make our hearts ready so we can do the things He wants us to do; this ties perfectly with the Epistle and Gospel as almost always it does. Thomas Cramner was one smart man is all I have to say; how he managed to theme the collects around the unifying message of the Epistle and the Gospel is nothing short of brilliant.

One word that intrigues me from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is “circumspectly”; which when I looked it up meant “wary and unwilling to take risks.”  I believe Paul meant that today we should not be taking risks with our faith, but walking in that which has been tried and true for over two thousand years. He means we should not compromise our belief in the Gospel. We cannot risk comprising the integrity of the faith, with newfangled New Age spirituality, as some of the liberal mega churches are wont to do. See the Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Churches of today for an example of this. If God has not changed over the millennia, why would we change what we believe? 

Indeed, we should not change our position, if it is truly derived from His Holy Word, then it should never change. Any sermon or talk from a minister or bishop must be scrutinized by how it matches up with the concepts in Holy Scripture.  It must be reviewed to ensure it is in compliance with the Holy Word. If it conflicts with Scripture, then you know that minister is not in line with His Word and is not a fellow believer. We must all strive to be in congruence with His Word, be it bishop, priest, deacon or layperson. We are all working together in His Church to further His Cause. If we are not all on the same page, then we are not furthering His Work. We have to all work together to spread the Gospel, each person contributes to the much larger picture of spreading the Gospel. 

Paul warns us against the dangers of drunkenness, but he does not mean never to drink wine, as some, (Puritans and certain Baptists, among others) would take, but rather have “moderation in all things”; which is a similar idea to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.  Just because you can do something, like drinking or eating, does not mean you should do it to excess where it can cause you harm. He is warning against excesses in everything, and that we should do everything in a health dose of moderation. Eating too much can cause you stomach problems, something we want to avoid. Drinking too much can cause serious issues, not the least of which is hangovers. The worst is drinking to death.

Our Lord wants us to be moderate in our celebrations, not celebrating to the point of excess where bad things can happen to our bodies and our minds; but celebrating to where we are thankful to Him for all things, and for His Love.

This seems to be the unifying theme of both the Epistle and the Gospel for today.  Rather than turn to the excesses of this world, Paul says we must turn to God and be filled with His Grace of the Holy Spirit. Making joyful noises to the Lord, be it in prayer or in song, and giving thanks always for all things to God. 

Giving thanks always to God should be one of our top priorities. More often than not we seem to forget who made us, who created the world we dwell in, who created the fantastic beasts on land and on the sea. It seems very strange we forget to thank God for all of these things, but we do. Making a joyful noise unto the Lord is part of how we can do this, besides prayer and thanksgiving. Be it through songs, happy declarations to the Lord or joyful worship, these are all ways we can send our joy unto our Lord.  This is part of the reason it is important to say prayers like the Gloria in the prayer book with “liveliness”, we are expressing our praise and thanksgiving unto God, for having sent His Son down to save us from our wicked selves. This goes with the collects reminding we should do all things he has commanded us to do cheerfully.

In our lives, we should be grateful to God more than we are.  At least, I know I am often not thankful to Him, when I should be. I think we all suffer from that issue. That is the troublesome aspect of having free will, we so often exercise it, not to the Glory of God, but for our own means.  We have to turn away from that temptation, and let the Holy Spirit in and guide us to thanking God for what He has done for us in our lives. 

The Gospel’s story troubled me for a long time, wondering why the King cast out a man, whose only error appeared to be that of the wrong clothes. When I thought about it more, and in many discussions, I found in days of old, wedding garments were furnished by the host.  Thus, if one did not appear properly clothed it was because they intentionally chose not to be.  This brought me to the realization the wrong clothes was Jesus’ metaphor for one who is not prepared for heaven, not walking in God, not filled with the Holy Spirit, and that is why he was cast out of the wedding (Implied to be heaven. And the King stands in for God in the tale.) He was not prepared to enter the great feast of heaven. His incorrect clothing is a metaphor for many in our lifetime who are not in a prepared state to enter heaven, as they have neither confessed nor repented of their sins to our Lord and have not accepted Him as our savior.

This man is very much like Esau, when he sold his birthright to Jacob. Esau did not care enough for his birthright, he wanted food more than the permanent status of the birthright which seemed so far off at the time. It is the same with this man and many others in the world. Through Christ, we have a birthright of our own, the Kingdom of God, as God’s adopted children. However, some will gladly trade away this birthright for a bauble or trinket in the present, not knowing what a foolish mistake they are making. People will trade away this birthright when they reject the Gospel, not seemingly caring their choice is leading them to an eternity of misery. This is why we should not take risks with our faith but remain steadfast in our faith and working to spread the Gospel cheerfully. 

The Collect, Epistle and Gospel tie together, laying out, detailing and reinforcing the same message ultimately.  We have to be ready and willing to listen to God, and walk in God, and act with the Holy Spirit in us, in order to have the right “clothes” to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail.  The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.

The time is now, not tomorrow.  The time has come, indeed.  How will you ACT?

The time to act is NOW.  Will you act?  For whom will you act?  Will you count the cost before you act?

Action, not diction, is what counts.  It is by your actions you are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
Sermon  Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Todays sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction.

Consider the words of the Collect, “…without thee we are not able to please thee; Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts …”

The collect continues on the theme from last week, that without God’s mighty help through the Holy Spirit, we are not able to understand what we need to do to be one with God, to follow His Will; we need Him, through the Holy Ghost, to direct us in our endeavors, beliefs and understanding.  

This trend is evident in the Epistle, where Paul writes to the Ephesians, Chapter 4, Verse 17. Yet henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened and alienated from the life of the God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.

Paul basically is saying we should not do as the world does and look into ourselves for guidance for our spiritual lives. If you look into your inner self, you will find blood, guts and bodily fluids.  Looking there for guidance is a bad idea, and we would find this out when we die and wake up from our death to find we are not only physically dead but have died a spiritual death, a permanent separation from God, as we are on the other side of that “fixed gulf.” There is a reason that Jesus illustrated this concept of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. To illustrate that without God’s help and guidance, we will be separated from Him for all eternity. Make no mistake, that fixed gulf is very real. There is a way to avoid this fixed gulf, and that is to accept His spiritual help and guidance and to let the Holy Ghost into our lives. 

To do that, we must openly accept Him into our hearts and let Him guide our thoughts and actions. This begins by allowing His guidance to enter into our actions and to make His Way our way, so that we are in alignment with what He wants us to do here on Earth. St. Paul tells us that we must begin to live our lives anew, to leave off the old sinful ways and thoughts of our old lives, to reboot as it were, and to start afresh by being honest, not prone to anger, to work hard, and think, speak and act kindness and to forgive as you would have God forgive you.  The saying of do unto others as you would have them do unto you comes in mind here. We must work to clean our slate, and the Holy Ghost can help with that, then we can began to minister effectively to others. 

In short, we are to act on His Instructions and our lives will change as the natural result of doing what we are supposed to be doing.  Simply saying you believe changes nothing.  Change your actions and your heart must in the end follow, with the help of the Holy Ghost.  Your heart will be renewed through the entrance of the Holy Ghost.  This will show up a little later on, but it is an important message that bears repeating. It is the same with many changes you will need to make in your life, you have to make them, not just say that you are going to make them. In other words, to perform the action and not just say you are going to. Many people never get past the stage of saying they will perform the action, but we need to go farther than that and actually do the action. To be a better person, to grow in the Spirit, you have to perform actions that are consistent and that the Holy Spirit guides you to do.

To be successful, Paul says we need to fix ourselves upon the waypoint of Christ and God and not use ourselves for a moral compass. For if we use our sense of direction, we shall not get far and indeed we will be in much distress, though we would not think of it otherwise due to our easily corruptible minds. However, if we rely on Christ as our navigator, He shall never fail us in His directions, if we will but listen to him. He, unlike us, will never let us down or withhold anything that we need to know, but the catch is that we have to be willing to listen to him. We have to know that He truly knows the way, and that without following His guidance, we cannot have any hope of finding the way on our own. We have to be willing and able to listen to Him and then willing and able to act on what He tells us to do.

Paul also gives very practical and simple, though hard to follow, directions on living our lives:

·      Be honest;
·      Avoid anger;
·      Do not let anger linger over night;
·      Follow not the guidance of the devil;
·      Quit stealing;
·      Work hard;
·      Think kindness;
·      Speak kindness;
·      Act kindness;
·      Forgive as you would have God forgive you, which He hath done in Jesus Christ!

These are all fairly common sense concepts that when applied are the recipe for a successful and wonderful life here. While there may be hardships here, if we but hold fast to these prinicples that St. Paul gives, we will find that they not only benefit ourselves, but they will help the people around us. And that is what the Gospel is about, spreading the Good News and helping the people around us to become better people and followers of God. 
We move on to the Gospel, where Jesus, attending to a sick man, picks up on the evil thoughts of the temple scribes, who think to themselves Jesus blasphemed. However, if they realized who truly the Son of God was, Jesus, they would be shocked if they realized they had just accused God of being a liar and blasphemer. However, their darkness in their hearts, like the vanity of the Gentiles minds that Paul talked about, prevents them from seeing the truth of the person of Christ.  Then he asks them, which is easier, to say that the sins are forgiven, or to actually say “Arise and walk”, or in other words, the command or the actual physical action of the healing, of which is more important? 

The command is important, but we find Jesus doesn’t just talk to hear himself talk, unlike some of the more modern “Christian” televised preachers who do.  He talks to make a point and acts in accordance with the point He makes. If we believe His commandments, we will keep them, which means our behavior, our actions, will match His Words.  The book Acts of the Apostles, isn’t “Meditations”, “Philosophies” of the Apostles, but Acts.  Jesus puts forth emphasis on “Actions speak louder than words” through his actions. Actions truly show where a person’s heart is set. He may profess to be a member of Our Lord’s church, but if his actions do not match his profession then we shall clearly know he is not truly our Christian brother. We must make sure our actions match our claimed beliefs in Scripture. If our actions do not match the Scriptures, we are not truly following Christ. We will all struggle with this from time to time, but as long as we return to Christ with true repentant hearts, all will be fine with our souls.

If we profess to be Christians, then we need to act like Christians, not just say that we are Christians.  The ending sentence at the end of the sermons I have given thus far goes, “Be of God”, “Live of God” and finally, last but especially not least “Act of God.” We have to Be of God, and Live of God, to live our lives in a Godly and Christian way, which means as Paul said “Henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk”, so should we not walk in the ways of the world but that of God and His Heavenly Kingdom. Our actions which make up our lives need to be in alignment with the principles of Scripture and it needs to be clearly seen. If our lives are not in alignment with Scripture, then we are not living the faith as God has called us to do.  Though originally, the term Gentile meant non-Jews (Ephesus was an early Gentile Christian church), nowadays Gentiles are those who conform to the world’s philosophies, including Christians that are Christians in name only and not in deed/actions, who do not follow “Be of God, Live of God and Act of God.”

To Act of God, we must follow the commandments of Christ and act according to them, loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. If we do the three step process “Be of God”, “Act of God” and “Live of God”, we will find ourselves in a much better position than walking in the ways of the World. 

The time to act is NOW.  Will you act?  For whom will you act?  Will you count the cost before you act?

Action, not diction, is what counts.  It is by your actions you are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is in an
easy to read and print READER format RIGHT HERE!
Sermon Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Todays sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction.

Consider the words of the Collect, “…grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee, the only God …”

When you hear the word GRACE, what do you think of? 
·      Help;
·      Heavenly dispensation;
·      A gift freely granted;
·      The free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
The word can be any of these, it comes from Middle English: via Old French from Latin gratia, from gratus ‘pleasing, thankful’ and is related to grateful.

In this case we are asking God’s help, for which He charges nothing, except our faith and loyalty to Him, to withstand the temptations of this world.  We ask for help to withstand what?  Actually, what we are looking for is help to not follow our own devices and desires.  We are asking for help to withstand temptations that not only come from external sources, but also from internal sources, namely our hearts and minds. This seems like an odd request, until one considers the fact that our own devices and desires are the root of all of our troubles. We are naturally inclined to the sinful things which separate us from Our Lord. We are simply requesting help in combating the evil desires of our heart that would separate us for all eternity if they were left unchecked. We are simply asking for help to make His Will our will.  To help us to do what will make us happy and not just what we think fun, but to be permanently happy, which boils down to following His Word. For we know that we ourselves will not do what His Will is on our own volition, but rather we must ask that God plant the seed of His Will on our hearts so that we will do it.
Paradoxically, we are asking for help to do not what we want, but what is best for us. There is a difference between what we want, and what is best for us, as there is a difference between the words want and need. What we want and what is best for us are not necessarily interchangeable. We often confuse wanting something with needing something, when that something we want is not something we truly need and or is good for us.  We are asking God’s Help to make us want to do what He wants us to do, so that not only will we have “fun”, but be happy!  We are also asking His help to discern what is good and needed for us, to help us clarify the difference between things that are needed and those we want, and to see what is bad and not helpful.

We are in short asking for His guidance to guide us to the path of being truly happy and not just having a fun time.  For, being happy is far more important and helps our spiritual lives more than the temporary state of fun. Fun will only last a few moments, happiness will last forever. There is a distinct difference between the two states of being. Fun is short lived while happiness can carry on through periods of time be it days, months or years.  On the surface, it does not really seem all that reasonable, but here we are imperfect creatures with free will! The free will sometimes, or rather most of the time, seems more like a curse than a blessing, at least to me. 

Using it properly to follow God’s will is what free will was intended by God to lead us to. He intended for us to follow Him willingly without any coercion whatsoever. He wants each and every one of us to come to His throne willingly and with all of our heart souls and mind for Him. He will give us the tool of the Holy Spirit, His guidance to withstand all the trials and temptations this world throws our way. We have to have confidence in Him and be able and willing to listen to that guidance to help us through these periods of temptation and difficulty in our lives.
So, when Paul writes the people of Corinth, it is not just them, but us for whom he thanks God we have been the beneficiaries of His Grace, that through Jesus we might have salvation, that through Jesus our sins would in the end be forgiven.  We are not made perfect by Jesus.  That is a common misconception among non-Christians.  It would be convenient if we were made perfect.  This is an issue which sorely needs addressing in today’s church, to combat the misperceptions of the non-Christians. The common complaint most non-Christians have of Christians is that we have a holier than thou attitude. There may be some indeed that have this attitude.

People who have the misconception that Christians are made perfect are shocked when Christians act less than perfectly, so they just presume the faith is false. But this is not so. They fail to realize Christians are no more perfect than non-believers, as we are all human and all are sinful creatures. They fail to consider although we are not perfect, our faith is in the One who is perfect and we seek guidance from Him. We may fail from time to time, but as long as we keep returning to Him, it will be all right. They fail to realize we are just trying to be perfect the best we can, but we won’t be perfect, but that does not mean we can’t give up. They are blinded by not having the Holy Ghost’s guidance in their heart.

The world confuses our righteous judgment of the world’s behavior with a holier than thou attitude. But they do not see we realize we are not perfect, but we are striving for perfection.  And there would be no point behind Christianity if that we had been made perfect. Would we have to have a “New Testament” if we were molded into cookie cutter perfection? If this was so, then there would be no need for the letters of Saints Paul, James, Peter and John to the early church, for they as us, would have no need of them. If we were made perfect, then there would be no strife in the word today I believe; thus no reason to even have any of the parables that Jesus gave.  This is simply not so! While we are accounted as perfect before God in the final judgment, we are not perfect at all.  If anything, we are more conscious of our imperfection. 

As a side point, none of us is perfect, none of us is better than others; however, some of us are clearly worse than others. We certainly know more than those who do not believe that we are fallen far short of the goal that He expects from us, being in our fallen state, and we know how far we have to go to as get close to perfection as we possibly can.  We need the help of the Almighty to travel on this path!
Which takes us to Paul’s next point; if we follow Christ in both out words and deeds, as the testimony of Christ is confirmed in them, through our actions, we will be “In every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge…” For by acting on Christ’s words, we not only gain eternal salvation, but are far more likely to prosper here on earth.  This prosperity is not the mega wealth sometimes associated with “prospering”, but rather the surplus of resources over our worldly desires and the true happiness that comes from loving and helping others.  It will make us far more happy than say for instance people like Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, etc, who have far more money than even they know what to do with, and money cannot provide true happiness. Only God and Jesus can step in and fill that role, if we let him into our hearts.
But, not everyone is content to take Jesus at His Word.  After the Sadducees lost their round with Jesus, the Pharisees, feeling they were superior to the Sadducees, came together to trip Him up. However, as we know ourselves, one cannot trick God, and if you try, you will come out looking the fool. An expert in The Law, of which Pharisees were very fond, asked Him a question, trying to trick Him, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Thus, He provided the Summary of the Law we hear every Holy Communion. 
The Pharisees made their earthly living by providing guidance on how to get around the 613 Mosaic Laws with as little inconvenience as possible.  They were astounded when Jesus boiled the intent of those laws down to two sentences.  They were much more comfortable getting around laws than complying with ones which might inconvenience them. They could be closely compared to lawyers today as a matter of fact, in the striking amount of dishonesty that is in their profession (no offense to the good lawyers!).

Boiling down the intent of the laws into those two sentences, gave the Pharisees a hard fast law that for once, they could not find a loophole in. There is no way to get around the basic intent of the Summary of the Law, Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. The Pharisees would much rather follow the complicated system of the 613 laws than the simple, basic Summary of the Law. They could or would not see that it was far better to follow the Summary of the Law than try to get around all 613 laws.
Apparently tiring of the game with the Pharisees and wishing to confound them instead, Jesus asked them, saying, “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He?” They say unto him, “The son of David.”  For the scripture is clear that He should be of the House of David.  As God, Jesus has been from the beginning, so he queried them, “How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?”  Not grasping the concept that God was, is and always will be, they could not answer and “from that day forth” no one would “ask him any more questions.” Like I mentioned earlier, the result of their attempt to trick the Son of God made them look like absolute fools.
There have always been and always will be people who want to pick nits with the intent of avoiding doing what should be done, thus making it seems acceptable to do what they want to do.  You can see people every day who fill the shoes of the Pharisees, insisting on complying with arcane and useless rules and regulations while studiously avoiding doing what God so clearly asks, that is to be a Christian and do as Christ asks us to do.  People are always going to avoid doing what God wants us to do, that is in our nature. You can see this as the government attempts to replace the Rule of God with the rule of man. When a group of men believe that they have the right to control other humans with the rule of man and disregard the rule of God, you know that a society is in trouble. Ask Sodom, Gomorrah, Rome, Nazi Germany, and Imperial Japan how that worked out for them in the end. No country has ever fared well when it replaces God with the rule of Man. We are to be Christians, not “good”, to do what God asks, not Go with the Flow!  When you think about being a Christian, think a bit about these quotes from GK Chesterton:
·      Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.

·      The word good has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.

·      The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.

·      Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.

·      A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.

 G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
We are called to a new and different life, we ask the Lord, in His Grace, to lead us and follow us, to keep us always.  Our goal is to do the Lord’s will, not to avoid 613 laws or to replace Him altogether.  To do what is right, no matter how hard that may be and be humble. This is the summary of what the Christian life should be all about.

Action, not diction, is what counts.  It is by your actions you are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God