Verse of the Day

Sunday, February 16, 2020

AOC Sunday Report - Sexagesima


Happy Sexagesima Sunday!

The AOC Sunday Report can be downloaded RIGHT HERE!

There really good sermons today from Bishops Jerry and Roy, as well as Revs Jack and Bryan.

There are a lot of people who need your prayer, please start with Bob and Shamu and work out from there.

There is a really really great week ahead, but you are not going to find it without the help of the Holy Ghost. Open your eyes and see; open your ears and hear.

Godspeed,

Hap
Church the Faithful Centurion
Descanso, California

What is Sexagesima?
Sexagesima, or, in full, Sexagesima Sunday, is the name for the Second Sunday before Ash Wednesday in the Catholic (Universal or Whole) Church Calendar. 

The name "Sexagesima" is derived from the Latin sexagesimus, meaning "sixtieth," and appears to be a back-formation of Quinquagesima, the term formerly used to denote the last Sunday before Lent (the latter name alluding to the fact that there are fifty days between that Sunday and Easter, if one counts both days themselves in the total). Through the same process, the Sunday before Sexagesima Sunday is known as Septuagesima Sunday, and marks the start of the Pre-Lenten Season, which eventually became the time for carnival celebrations throughout Europe, this custom being later exported to places settled and/or colonized by Europeans. While Quinquagesima (50th day) is mathematically correct (allowing for the inclusive counting), Sexagesima and Septuagesima are only approximations (the exact number of days is 57 and 64 respectively). The earliest Sexagesima can occur is January 25 and the latest is February 28 (or February 29 in a leap year). 

The 17-day period beginning on Septuagesima Sunday spanning Sexuagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays was intended to be observed as a preparation for the season of Lent, which is itself a period of spiritual preparation (for Easter). In many countries, however, Septuagesima Sunday marks the start of the carnival season, culminating on Shrove Tuesday, more commonly known as Mardi Gras.

The Gospel reading for Sexagesima week is the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4).

Sexagesima


Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion
Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above. 

Consider these words from the Collect:

…put not our trust in any thing that we do; Mercifully grant that by thy power we may be defended against all adversity …

In the Collect, we tell God we put our trust for eternal life not in our actions, but in His Power.  If we do this, then we must do as He asks us.  For, to make trust in His Power rational, we must follow His Directions. We cannot trust our own sense of direction for spiritual matters; but must look to Our Heavenly Father for guidance. If we do not follow His Direction then we are surely going be just as lost as before we accepted Him into our hearts. It would be foolish to think we could guide ourselves, when in fact we need Him to guide us. The problem is in our case pride often gets in the way of seeing that we need to rely on Him for guidance.   Pride blinds our spiritual senses from seeing God’s truth and we need God’s truth to get through life and onto that narrow upward path towards heaven. We need Him as our navigator to guide us along the rocky paths of life, so we don’t crash into the rocks of Sin and Death!  We need His directions if we are to proceed upon the path to Heaven.

The Collect also goes on to explain His Power will give us defense in adversity. It explains that His Power is the only real power which can help us in times of trial and tribulation. His Power will protect our souls. Our bodies may get beaten and bruised but if we trust in Him and let Him into our hearts, our souls will be intact. The key is that we to rely on His counsel and judgement. It is the only power which will give us comfort in times of adversity and strength to get through those times. 

Recognizing that God has the power to help us overcome adversity is key. Of our own volition we can sometimes overcome physical adversity, but never spiritual. With God’s help we can overcome both. We need to internalize this into our hearts, so our first automatic reaction is to come to Him for help whenever we encounter either spiritual and physical dangers.  We have to override our natural reaction of relying on ourselves for guidance, which will do nothing for our spiritual battles and might harm us in our physical battles here on this planet. He truly is the only one who can help us.


Paul tells the Corinthians whatever they have suffered there compares nothing to what he has suffered for Christ in all of his labourings, watchings and fastings. Yet this is not his main point, which is in all of these sufferings he always drew on the power of the Holy Spirit and used the sufferings for God’s glory and not for his. He is not bragging when he tells them of what he suffered, however, he is meaning to say he got through these hard times with God’s help and also to bring glory and point the way to God and His Son Jesus Christ.   His point is if God helped him get through all of this turbulent and troubled experience, God can and will help us through these times too if we will but let Him.

From his beginnings as the chief persecutor of Christ’s followers to now as one of the top apostles of Christ, Paul tells us of the experience of the power of God first hand, using his life as an example. Paul wanted to show us how God’s Grace and mercy changed His life and got Him through some pretty bad times. Paul pointed out if you trust in God and follow His Instructions, you too can get through the most awful of times as well.  Thus, he counseled all to take comfort and pride in God, not themselves.  Do your best and look towards God.

This brings us right in to the well known Parable of the Sower, which might be better referred to as the Parable of the Four Soils, for the seeds were all alike.  

Like the seed sown by the sower, The Word is spread throughout the world for all to hear and act on:

  • Yet, some will not even hear The Word (Hard ground);

  • Others will hear, act quickly and abandon God’s help at the first sign of adversity (Stony ground);

  • Still others will hear The Word, but The Word is overtaken by the “pleasures” of this world and is choked out by them.  Like the line from the Bible, where your money is, that is your worldly effort, there is the evidence of your heart.  The temptation of this world is great, the reward from God is far greater, but you have to look long term;

  • Finally, we come to those who accept and act on The Word, like the one seed growing into a great plant bearing its fruit, the rewards are manifold, though the effort is also great, the end reward far greater.  For the seed to grow to full fruition and glory, with its manifold blessings, it must have the ground prepared, carefully tended against encroachment of the evil weeds, it must be continually watered by the life blood of those around it.  There is much effort required on our part, but the ultimate reward is so much greater.

While we are on the subject, consider the issue of weeding. In order for a garden to thrive, you need to consistently pull the weeds from the garden, otherwise the weeds will choke and kill the good plants. That is why we must always be wary of the world’s influence on the church and work to weed out that influence, so it does not choke the Biblical truths believed for over two millennia by Christians.  In order to do this, we need to work hand in hand with our fellow believers to weed out any worldly influence or trouble within the church.  This is why it is best that believers attend a Bible believing Church, where they can get valuable friendship and from that friendship, spiritual mentoring for their day to day lives.

So, think about this, we need to understand eternal life and indeed on a shorter term, happiness in our life here, comes not from our self-directed actions, but those of God and our action following His direction. We need to understand the implications of following our self-directed action, which if we follow, we will find death and misery awaiting us. However, if we put our trust in Him and follow His commands, all will be well with us and our souls. Understanding the difference between the two will help you prepare yourself for a happier physical and spiritual life. Do your best and look towards God for the Light to illuminate your path.  If you prepare your heart, as the farmer prepares the field, root out the forces of this world as the farmer roots out weeds, cultivate the good given by God, water your heart with His Water, your life will be manifold.

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, February 9, 2020

Septuagesima Sunday


Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion, Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and readings for this week. Consider these words from the Collect:

… we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness …

In the Collect, we ask God who knows we should be “…justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour …”  To get into heaven we need to be accounted as perfect.  Yet, we cannot be “cured” of sin nor “improved” to perfection. So how do we solve this irregularity? We know we ourselves cannot solve our dilemma.  Who can?  There is a solution for us!  Consider the words of John Newton near the end of his life, “Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior!” The answer lies in the latter part of Newton’s quote. Jesus is the answer to this great dilemma. Our sins are justly punished by eternal damnation, yet there is hope in our Lord. He brought us this hope by His Death upon the Cross and delivered it in the Resurrection. Without His Sacrifice one time for all mankind, there would be no hope for our eternal future. But Jesus is our hope for that eternal future. We just have to do our best to follow His commandments and to stay the course that He has set for us in our lives.

What Paul speaks of in his Epistle is the great reward we receive for holding steady to that course which God has set for us. For eternal salvation is the delivery promised to each of us by Jesus. This is our great hope that we can cling to whenever things on Earth look gloomy. If we remember the Hope that we have in Jesus, then whatever bad things may happen to us on Earth will seem small in comparison to the fact that Jesus has given us eternal life. This is the great reward for the race we run daily here on Earth. Make no mistake, like a marathon, this run requires frequent training in the Scriptures and acting upon the concepts in Scriptures. And like marathon runners, we receive a wonderful prize.  However, it is a prize that has value beyond anything on Earth. The prize is for the promise of an eternal, unending life, to be spent with our Lord and Savior Jesus. It is for the promise of a world unaffected by the tarnish of sin, unblackened by the sinful deeds of imperfect beings. It is an unshadowed world.  It shall be true happiness at last, to meet with our beloved family, our Christian heavenly family, friends and beloved pets. 

Eternal salvation is a far more valuable prize than anything we could possibly acquire here on Earth.  It is in fact a priceless treasure, truly priceless, except for the death of our Saviour and resurrection. That is the only price involved with our eternal freedom.  As the saying goes, there is no free lunch. Eternal life does not come to us without cost. The cost was Jesus’ one time sacrifice for all time for all mankind. Keep the eyes on the prize, as it were!  And realize that that prize does not come free. We have to run the race set before us and follow Jesus in order to receive our prize of eternal life. We have to be constantly focusing on this fact. 

When times get really hard, and it is tempting to give up sometimes; that is when we must redouble our efforts and focus our end goal, remaining on the path towards Heaven.. In order to stay focused on the path, we must always remember the end, the arrival in Heaven will outweigh all of the sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears we shed in this life. If we but stay the course, our time after this will be unfathomably wonderful.

Our eyes should be focused on the finish line, not our “competition.”  The only thing which counts is that we each cross the finish line.  It does not matter who our competition is, as we are not competing with anyone for our destination. We have only to concern ourselves with God’s will and focusing on getting ourselves towards the right destination.  For only you have an input in which area you will go. Not the final input, but an input nonetheless. 

So how do we run the race?  

With our eyes focused tightly on the finish line, not on those around us, wondering are they doing better than we are?  That is not a useful question.  Christianity is not about competition, about being other people to the finish line. In fact, it is about helping others around us to the finish line to the best of our abilities and if they are willing to let us help them.  

The useful question is, “Am I doing the best I can?”  And we have to answer that question; if we are not doing our best, then we need to change it. And, remember this is a Team Effort. We have to want to win, and in order to win the race set before us; we have to perform actions. We need to act upon the Word of Scripture, the message, which is to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ and preach it to all nations as Christ commanded.  We must first start with our neighbors and work our way outward. It must be a team effort, we cannot all do it alone.  Each person in God’s Army has a specific talent and task assigned to them to complete their assigned mission here on Earth. We need support along the way, especially when things get tough, we need our Christian buddies to give us moral support and encouragement from the Word.   We want the Christian Team to win.  We need to give each team member all the help we can. And we need to be welcoming to each outsider who join the team, and treat them like the lifelong members of the Team. So, with that in mind, we must DO our best and not just say it, and we do that by acting upon the Word, not just reading it, but acting.

We are all so far from perfect that Holier than Thou is pretty damning praise.  Don’t even go there.  The best you can really do is not to be as evil as another, even that is pretty doubtful. But, we can do our best for our Lord; that is what really matters.

The Gospel for today, the very important parable of the vineyard, also gives us very good advice on the conduct of our daily lives and contains a crucial key to happiness.  There is the lesson that the deathbed conversion gains the same prize of eternal life as the lifelong follower, but there is a lot more in it for everyday life.  A person who comes to Christ late in life receives the same eternal benefits as a person who followed Christ from the age of reason.

It is a fine lesson in “buyer’s remorse” or coveting of jobs or similar concepts.  If you got a good deal, it does not change because someone else got a “better” deal.  Take what you got, go forth and be happy.  Don’t complain because somebody else got the same deal as you did sooner. One meaning of this parable is that “cradle” Christians are no more likely to go to heaven than this morning’s convert.  They just get to enjoy the Christian experience longer. However, you should not wait until the last minute to join the gang, your time here might end before you get around to it.   So, don’t wait until tomorrow to act, do it today while you still have time!

Sometimes people act like being a Christian is an unpleasant experience that they will do when they get a round TUIT.  It is not.  Christians aren’t perfect, they just have more fun being imperfect and imperfectly trying to improve!

Christ gave us eternal life.  But, we have to accept it.  Once you accept it, start living as if you will live forever.  You will and you will have to live with your actions forever!  So, Act early and Act often! 

There is but one way to heaven.

That easy to find, easy to follow, easy to hike path does not lead to the summit where eternal life in the real world awaits.  Open your heart to the Holy Ghost, use His Power to follow our Lord to God who awaits in 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?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Presentation of Christ in the Temple, commonly called The Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin. [February 2.]


Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion, Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above.  

 Consider these words from the Collect:

… as thy only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts …

In the Collect, we are asking God to look at us in our Judgment Day as He looked at His Son that day in the temple.  We cannot be perfect, nor can we have truly pure and clean hearts, for we are imperfect creatures with free will.  But, through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, we can be accounted as such.  That day in the temple, Jesus was presented to God, with a pure and clean heart.  We need Him to make us accounted so. 

We need Him to be our link between Heaven and Earth, for without Him, we cannot ascend to Heaven, but with Him we can. The purification was the beginning of His presentation to God as a clean and acceptable sacrifice, and the cross was the carrying out of His sacrifice to God, which cleaned our slate. This was the beginning of His plan to free us from the servitude of sin.

Likewise in the Collect for the Fourth Sunday after The Epiphany, we ask God for His Help, acknowledging our imperfection:

… by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright; Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations …

This is why He sent the Holy Ghost to be our inspiration, comfort, strength, understanding.    With Him all things are possible, without Him, we fail. While Christ is not physically present on this Earth, He is spiritually, through the Holy Ghost, He is still giving us guidance on how to conduct ourselves and if we will listen to Him, we will find that we will be a lot happier following his advice.

The prophet Malachi reminds us that Jesus was sent to fulfill the Law, not to continue it; to call men to perfection, not to hide them from it.  Jesus was sent to call men to God’s standard[1], not to give them ways to seem like they were following Him.  These are all concepts that the Pharisees refused to understand. The Pharisees wanted the Law to continue so that they could grow their power here on Earth. Jesus’s fulfillment of the law was an attack on their power base. They could not see that Jesus’s way was truly the only Way. They only saw He was cutting into their livelihoods of getting people around the law. This was the reason that they sought to put Him to death, to end a perceived threat to their way of life. 

 Malachi goes on to tell us what God expects from us.  We are to be His followers, but also His Hands, to act on His behalf.  We are to be considered as ambassadors of God on Earth, we must conduct ourselves as such then. As any good ambassador, we need to be honest in our dealings with men, to take positive action to help those who cannot help themselves, to be a friend of all in need, to help those who need help.  This does not mean encouraging slothfulness, but rather encouraging industriousness.  This is what God wants for us, to work hard to the best of our ability, to help our fellow people in need, and to love our neighbor as ourselves and to love Him.  This is what Jesus talks about in The Summary of the Law. If we follow the Summary of the Law, we will find that it is what He wants for us, and if we follow Him and do these things, we will find that it actually makes our lives easier and happier than if we did what we want.

We must overcome our natural temptation to listen to ourselves, but we must turn to the Holy Ghost and listen to Him. He will give us all the solutions we need to get out of whatever adversity we are in, if we will but listen to Him. 

In the Gospel, we learn of Jesus’ presentation in the temple, pure and clean before God, as we will be accounted through Him.  The presentation was to bring the new child to the Lord in thanksgiving for a safe childbirth, no small thing, in particular for a first born in those days before the medical advancements of today, back when the infant mortality rate was super high.  All the more reason for thanksgiving and the dedication of the firstborn to the Lord.  Imagine the joy that was in his heart to see the Lord’s Christ when you hear Simeon’s words that are found in our Evening Prayer service on Page 28 of the Book of Common Prayer:

Nunc dimittis. St. Luke ii. 29

L
ORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, * according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen * thy salvation, 
Which thou hast prepared * before the face of all people; 
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, * and to be the glory of thy people Israel. 

Simeon goes on to foretell the effect Jesus will have on Israel and those who live there, both good and bad.  He tells Mary of the pain she will bear at the loss of her son, though in time she will understand. And she did understand it as Jesus carried out the ultimate sacrifice upon the Cross, she finally knew what Simeon meant in his words to her.

The prophetess Anna also near the end of her time here on earth likewise tells the parents of things to come.  Imagine how difficult it was for them to understand all this, yet it would in their minds as time went on.

After the presentation, the family went back home to Galilee, and Jesus grew strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.  This is what we must all strive for in our hearts, souls minds and bodies. We must strive to grow in spirit and be filled with that Holy Wisdom.

We must look to God for the strength and guidance we need to follow Him.  We must welcome the Holy Ghost into our hearts to have the courage to follow Him.

Be of God Live of God Act of God


[1] By standard, one can mean God’s flag or side, or one could mean the level expected; here we mean both!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Third Sunday after the Epiphany


Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion, Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and readings for this week. Consider these words from the Collect:

… mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us …


In the Collect, we are asking God to set aside our failures and protect and aid us in all we do with His strong hand.  God is perfect, thus so is His counsel.  When we acknowledge our imperfection and ask Him for help, we should look to the written record of His Son, our Savior; the ultimate example of perfection and we should be doing do our best to follow Him, by being honest, hard working, peaceful and helpful.  When we do this, we will prosper; not only in this world, but in our hearts. And not only our hearts, but doing these things will make things better for those around us, too.  When we pray for His Help, we need to listen for the answer, then act on it, not ignore it because it is not the answer we wanted. This is a very common theme throughout the collects and by extension, the Bible. As we have always the same problems, we have the same need, which is to turn to God for help! 

Why are we always continually emphasizing action?  There is a simple reason for this.  In the space of time where we exist, where we are is Today. Where God’s finger touches the line of time. Not tomorrow nor the past, but today. We can’t go back in the past or go forward to the future and act there, our actions have to be done in the present.  And actions are how we live out our faith. That is why worrying does nothing productive. Therefore, let us not worry about the past or the future but think about what we can do and act within the present time. We can, however, learn from our past actions and improve on areas where we fell short. Let us keep ourselves busy doing God’s work, so that we have no time at all to worry or fret, but act. The time we spend worrying or fretting is time taken away from possible actions we could perform in the present.

God, our God, is a God of Action.  No less is His Son one of action.  All throughout the Bible, you find Jesus doing things, not just talking about them.  His faith, shown in the action of His giving His Life that we might live, speaks through His actions. His whole ministry can be summed up in one word, action.  No matter where you turn while reading the Bible, what you find is Action, not Diction.  Recall the second half of the Book of Luke.  It is known as the Acts of the Apostles, not thoughts, not prayers, not meditations, not wishes or anything else; The ACTS.  He expects us to act in our lives, not just talk.   If we want to follow Christ, then we need to strive be be like Him and perform actions to live out our faith. Talking is nice, but acting shows people where your heart clearly lies. 

The Gospel provides a great example of how our God is a God of Action.  In the Gospel we see Jesus performing His first documented earthly miracle, turning water into wine at Cana.  He was at first apparently reluctant to perform it, telling his earthly mother that it was not the right time for Him to perform miracles. Mary chose to ignore this and instead placed great faith in her son by instructing the servants, “Whatsoever he saith to you do it.”

She had great faith in Him that He would perform a miraculous action. Mary truly had the faith Jesus talked about which could “move mountains.” When He referred to this, He was not talking about moving mountains in the physical sense of sorts, but obstacles which get in our way in life.  That is the faith we need to have in Him and God. We need to have faith that He will help us overcome those mountainous obstacles, we just have to let him into our hearts.

His actions created a wine so good, it caused the governor to remark that usually they set out the best wine first, then when the partygoers get more drunk they bring out the worst wine. But the wine that Jesus created was so good, he said, “You have saved the best for last” in effect.

The whole point behind the Gospel is that Jesus, and God, is a person of action not just diction. Jesus could have chosen not to do anything or tell the servants anything. But He chose to honor His mother’s request and perform a miracle that set off His earthly ministry. When faced with the opportunity to act He always acted. This was the first of those times when He was faced with a decision point. You will note in all of his miracles He chose to act.

This shows that if we are to become like Christ, we are also to be men and women of action and not just diction.  There are too many in this world who to paraphrase President Trumps’ inaugural address “They talk the good talk and sit around on their hands and do nothing.” It is all too easy to say the right words at the right time; however it is harder to perform the right actions at the right time.

Actions truly show our character more than words ever could.  So, it is important we pray for the Holy Ghost’s guidance to craft our actions that the light of Christ might show forth through us and when we reach critical decision points, we might make the right choice and action at the right time.

So, when we act, how should we act?  To the extent you are able, attempt to do good to all.  Always do the right thing when you are faced with that choice. Sometimes that choice is harder than others to be made, but it must be made all the same. We are not Christ, but if we do our best emulate His earthly actions, we do well.  If you treat your enemies with respect and kindness, you oft make them your friends, by treating them with respect and kindness. Like many other things Jesus taught it is easy to say and hard to do. 

Like Jesus at the well, we must remember that our purpose is to help bring people to salvation. We are not called to do any action that would push people always from salvation, but rather to lead them by example towards that salvation.  We are called to be like Christ as much as possible. So with that in mind we must strive to influence the people around us for good. Any step you take today may have future consequence.  Your witness, your testimony, your actions can bring people to the point they accept the Holy Spirit or not.  Your interface may only be one small step; but do your best to make it a step towards God, not away. Therefore, let us think about our actions and the possible consequences they could have for people turning to or away from Him.

Error is error, wrong is not right.  But, a person’s final destination is up to God, not us.  Fortunate for each of us, it should be considered.  During the journey of life through the time space continuum, we need to do our best to keep ourselves and those around us moving towards God, not away from Him.  The direction is always clear, sometimes we just do not want to read the signs. That is why we need the Holy Ghost’s help to read those signs and keep on moving in the consistent direction towards heaven.

If we understand we are less than perfect, actually far less than imperfect, we have a good start.  We know we need God in our lives to give us direction.  We need His guidance to direct our ACTION.

The common theme through the Collect, Epistle and Gospel is that if we have hope and trust in God, we must dread naught, and carry on, empowered through our daily lives here on Earth until we are called to our heavenly home.   These are actions we must take not mere thoughts or words, actual actions!

Read the Bible, find out what He wants you to do, then Do It.  What can you do today to carry out His Will?  There are a multitude of things you can DO to carry out His Will, but the question is, “Will you?”

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, January 19, 2020

Second Sunday after the Epiphany



Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion, Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and readings for this week. Consider these words from the Collect:

… God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth; Mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life …


In the Collect, first we acknowledge God’s place in the universe, that is He is the ultimate ruler of all things.  Thus, the civil authorities of each country, state, county and locality govern with His Authority, so long as they do His Will, whether they be Christian or not.  It is His Authority that is the source their powers and not their own determination. They do not have the power to grant themselves the power that God grants them.  And also this power that God gives is not to be abused for self profit or their own means, but to better the country and the people within it. Our Constitution, which serves as the skeleton or foundation of all our laws gets its authority from the Declaration of Independence.  Where, pray tell, does the Declaration of Independence get its authority?  From our Creator.  Acknowledged right there in plain English.  It needs no explanation, merely a grade school reading ability!  We go on to ask God to listen to us and give us His peace in our hearts.  God is perfect.  His hearing is perfect.  It is not His hearing that is in need of help; it is ours. He hears us clearly when we pray; God always hears us when we call Him.  What we learn from this Collect is that when we pray to Him, we need to listen to Him.  We need to establish two-way communication. In order to act upon His Word, we need to first listen to what He tells us and understand what He is telling us. It is our hearing which is need of help, not His and the help we need can only come from Him!  The question is not, Does God hear our supplications?  Rather the question is, Do we hear His answer and abide by it?  Do we listen when His answer is not what we want, but what we need? He always answers, but do we always listen? We need to always be listening when He responds back and then act upon what He responds with. 

To truly follow Him, we need to truly listen and take His Guidance to heart. Without following His Guidance we cannot truly say that we are His Followers. We need to listen to His Guidance and then act upon it. The key word being ACT. We need His Guidance to transform ourselves from evil to good.. Without His Guidance, we cannot hope to be transformed to be good to serve Him. His Guidance comes in the form of the Holy Ghost. Without His Guidance, we cannot ever hope to be good and righteous. To do that, we must open our hearts and minds; and let Him in. He will not force His way in.  It takes action on our part to let Him in.  If we open our hearts and minds, then we will hear Him. Will we let him in to our hearts for this to happen? It has to start with us letting Him in, and then we will hear His answer loud and clear.  That is why the Holy Ghost is here, to help us and guide us upon the rocky narrow and uphill path towards heaven. He is there, always there, we merely need to let Him in!  Without Him, Scripture is so much foolishness, with His Insight, it is perfectly clear.

In the Epistle Paul reminds us that each of us have of individual talents that are important help the Church further its cause. And that it is equally important that we all work together. To work together in the church, each of us need to utilize our unique talents according to the needs of the church, not somebody else’s talents, but their talents. Each and every one of us has a talent of some sort, be it musical, talking (being good with communication), sweeping, taking out the trash, there is no end to the need. Almost anything else can be used for His Glory, to further His Work, His Goals, is a talent. Each and everyone has a unique talent and or gift that can be used to further His Will on Earth. Sometimes, we fail to remember for the team to be successful, each person needs to do the job they do best to the best of their ability; not necessarily the one they like best the way they want to do it at the pace they enjoy.  In the end, knowing you that did your best is what really counts, not just getting recognition from others, but the satisfaction in your heart of knowing that with God’s Help you accomplished a large task, is one of the best feelings in the world.  This feeling can exist whether you did a great job working at church or in the office. The same principle applies throughout life. That the satisfaction of a job well done for God be it in the office or work is more gratifying than any compliments or money.  It does not matter to God who gets the credit, what matters to Him is we get the job done and to do it right! 

On the other hand we should not look for praise for our own work (though we may appreciate it, we should not dwell on it too long, lest we have to start shopping for size fourteen hats for our swollen heads!) However, we should look for reasons to praise and encourage others. This is a way we can assist other Christians in their development and help them along the narrow uphill trail.  We need to recognize hard work, sacrifice, thoughtfulness and talent in others, remark on it and praise the use thereof!  That which is rewarded most is that which grows. And this is how we can encourage our fellow Christians and our other friends to grow and learn, by the encouragement. This encouragement will help sprout the seed for more of the good work around us to flourish.

Look at John the Baptist, out in the wilderness; not in the fancy building, the gold-plated temple, but out where he could prepare straight the way for the Lord. He was out where the people were, he came to them, rather than wait for them to come to him in a fancy building. He was on a mission to pave the way for Jesus to come and preach and ultimately for His Death and Resurrection. Smoothing the path so to speak, making ready the hearts and souls of the people for the coming of the Lord.  He did not point at himself, rather he pointed the way towards God incarnate[1]!

By the way, how necessary is praise to miserable human beings?  God Himself, looking on His Son’s baptism remarked for all to hear, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

How oft do we praise the actions of others?  Too often we are quick to criticize the failings of others and over analyze their failings. Sometimes when we think of people we know, all we can think of is their failings and forget everyone has their good parts as well, for each of us has been created by God. It is in our nature, part of our human nature, our free will condition that we must fight against with His help. We must understand while it is valuable to know when we fall short, people strive the hardest for praise of those whose opinion they value.

When you hear those words, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, remember to use them yourself.  Lead others to God, don’t just point the way.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God


[1] Incarnate, literally in the flesh.  Carne being a Latin derivative meaning flesh.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

First Sunday after the Epiphany


Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion, Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and readings for this week. Consider these words from the Collect:

…grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same…

As imperfect creatures with free will, we will never figure out what we should be doing, let alone do it, on our own.  We are confused beings who get into trouble left to our own devices. Without an external source of help, we will never be able to follow God on our own.  God sent the Holy Ghost that we might listen to Him and understand. He will give us the ability to figure out and know what and how we are to do the things we need to do here on Earth for Him. Not just understand The Word spoken to us through Jesus and the Scriptures, but to understand what we should do; hence the prayer to figure out what we need to do, then give us the power or strength to do what we are supposed to do.  He will help us to understand how to implement the concepts found in Scripture in our day to day lives and live the Word. We might have some difficulties, some nervousness, some stumbling; but in the end as long as we act and do our best to follow His will, and not worry, things shall be ok. The key word is act.

To live the Word requires action and self-improvement each and every day of our lives. We need to ask ourselves at the end of each day, what did I do to act for God and what did I  right today and what did I not do right? And figure out with the help of the Holy Ghost how to correct our wrongs and go on to the next day and do our best to do better.

The first thing tsunami watchers would tell people, is at the first sign of a tsunami approaching[1], go to higher ground. That same principle applies to our lives. At the first sign of any sort of evil, temptation or sin, head to the higher ground in which God lives and seek Him out, rather than wait for the wave of evil to envelop us and get over our heads. We also have to recognize the signs we are in trouble and immediately consult Him and His Word and figure out an action plan according to the principles in Scripture.

We are asking God to help us know what we should do and then help us to do it right.  Seems pretty simple, but is the root of almost all our problems. It is harder to do what is right than what seems easy to us.  First, even if we ask God what He wants us to do, “There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.”  Then, if we hear what He wants us to do, and hear it correctly, we often find it “too hard.”  Do you recall this quote from GK Chesterton:

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”


So, once we find out what God wants, we often try to rationalize our way around it. Note the word try. There is no good way to rationalize our way around what God wants in the end. It is impossible to rationally get around the concepts found in the Summary of the Law. Think about the 613 Mosaic laws and the Pharisees who made a good living telling people how to comply with them to the letter and still do just what they wanted to do.  So, then even if we find out what God wants and decide to actually do it instead of avoid it, we are faced with the often huge problem of where do we get the strength to accomplish this task?  The answer is circular, from God.  He never asks us to do anything we cannot do good enough for Him if we rely on Him.  Never.  End of that discussion. 

What we need to do next is we need to turn ourselves outward.  Not be self centered, but we must think of God and our fellow Christians.  Speaking of that, one of the tools God gives us to get things done is a Team; that Team is fellow Christians.  So, we need to work together as a Team.  Think not of your glory, but that of God.  President Reagan had a sign on his desk which read:

“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit.”

Paul tells us not to concentrate on our status, position or grandeur, but to see what we can do to help.  Just like our body would not function if all parts were brains, neither will Christ’s Team function if everyone is concerned about their position.

When we look at the Gospel today, aside from the historical function telling us that Jesus was in the temple bringing the light of the gospel to the rabbis, we can find that there are other lessons.  We do not want to micromanage your life, but it is a good idea keep your friends and family informed of what you are doing and where you are going.   Jesus’ earthly parents risked life and limb going back up the road to Jerusalem at night.  But, that was their duty as parents.  A duty must be done, no matter the cost. The lesson here is to keep your family and friends well informed of what you are doing, rather than going off on your own, figuring you can handle it.  If we get into emergencies or serious trouble then we will have wished we had informed others of where we are going. That is why it is good to keep your family and friends informed of where you are going and what time you are expected to be back.

Except most times, we cannot, as we are not like Jesus, we are not the Son of God, but rather mortals adopted into God’s Family. There are some things we cannot do on our own without His Help and without the help of our family and friends. They are in our lives as a valuable support system that we need to utilize in order to stay on course towards heaven.

Duty means to do what you are supposed to do, then count the cost.  There is no sense of duty if you are merely doing what is easiest for you at the time.  While doing your duty will in the end be the right thing, thus the easiest thing, it may not seem so at the time.  Doing one’s duty can result in one’s temporal death, the end of their time here on earth.  Not an easy way on the surface.  But, recall that what seems like that easy downhill path leads to The Pit, it does not lead to the summit.  Our country is where it is today because of those who preceded us, those who did their duty.  It will not keep going up if, as a country, we stroll down that wide smooth downhill boulevard.  We must struggle to stay on the narrow path, which leads to the summit.  

Look back at those who stepped forward when the country called, Concord, Veracruz, Gettysburg, San Juan Hill, Chateau Thierry, Pearl Harbor, Normandy, Peleliu, Bastogne, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Chosin Reservoir, Ia Drang Valley, Khe Sanh, Hanoi, Laos, Cambodia, Basra, Kabul, Bagdad and countless unfamiliar names in Southwest Asia.  In them, you find a unifying theme of Duty, doing what you have to do, no matter what it takes, then count the cost.  Those who fought for our country did it out of duty to their country and God and to protect their family. We must emulate their purpose and serve God dutifully. Christ is the ultimate example of this, the only begotten Son of God, yet doing His duty to die for us, which is what God needed Him to do, to save us from eternal hellfire.  So, it was His Duty and He did it with honor. 

Through duty, we too might have a noble death and welcoming in heaven.  We must do our duty to God, to Honor, to Country and Family.  Sometimes we will fall short, for we are imperfect creatures with that darn free will.  Thus, at times we choose the wrong path or our strength falls short or we just cannot do what is needed of us.  Then, we need to reset and restart towards the goal God has set for us.

But, back to the Gospel and the parents’ arrival at the temple, where lo, they found him.  He was among the learned men “both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.”  His parents were amazed and confounded.  He asked them why they worried and why they did not understand that he was about his Father’s business[2].  It is noteworthy to see Jesus at twelve was able to “hold his own” with the learned scholars of Judah.  He was able to out reason those who lived to dissect the Law.  “A little child shall lead them,” (Isaiah 11:1-10)

He comes!
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God


[1] This, by the way, is the tide going out at an abnormal time, rate and distance.
[2] Note also the tremendous advantage that God has over the Devil.  Not only did God make both man and the Devil, but He has actually been a man, the Devil only read about men and thought about men and contemplated men. In Jesus, God has been a man.  Note - in this instance, He learned about the compassion, worry and duty of parents towards their Son!  The Devil, not so much.