Verse of the Day

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Second Sunday in Advent

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!

Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
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. 

The Second Sunday in Advent
The Collect.

B
LESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The First Sunday in Advent
The Collect.

A
LMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be repeated every day, after the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas Day.

The Collect and the Epistle and the Gospel all tell us we are to learn from Scripture and to place our hope and trust in God, not man. They tell us God provided Scripture so that we might learn from the history of old believers in the Old and New testament. As the saying goes, if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it. It is the same with Scripture; for much of Scripture is history.

We are to use Scripture for our learning so we might become wiser through the Holy Spirit, whose guidance as we read and study Scripture will allow us to come to a fuller understanding of the meaning it should have in our daily lives. The guidance of the Holy Spirit is necessary to help us implement the concepts found in Scripture in our day to day lives.

If we try to live our lives, or for that matter write our sermons, without the guidance of the Holy Ghost, we will be for naught. We have to understand what we are preaching; to live what we are preaching, in order for our faith to have any meaning.  We have to live what we preach, other wise we become hypocrites. There are too many preachers out there who preach a nice message but ultimately they do not live that message which they preach.

If we do not have understanding or act upon our preaching, how can we ask others to follow God, when we ourselves are not?  We must strive to avoid hypocrisy, to live a geniune live following His commandments He has set for us and to be a beacon to guide others to Him. We are not an icon or image of Him, but merely pathfinders, and once we have found the path, we guide others to Him. We do not posess any special powers as ministers of the Lord, except as we have the Holy Ghost within us, directing us. And that special power is not of our own to claim, but He who sent Him. We are merely being allowed to have Him within us and we should not boast of any deeds done with His Inspiration, but must simply point back to the source who sent Him. He works not only in ministers, but in each and every member of the church.  For, each of us is an emissary of Christ to the world.

He gives each of us in His Church special talents, so members of the Church may use these talents in conjunction with one another to bring people to Christ. As in a professional workplace, each member of the Church has a special talent, that used in conjunction with other people with each of their own talents, can be used together to bring people to Christ. If we all work together, with the help of the Holy Spirit, there is not much beyond our capability. We become an unstoppable spiritual force, with the Holy Ghost within each and every one of us, working for the glory of the Father here on Earth. For the Church is a team, each and everyone in it, the clergy and the lay people all having the common goals of spreading the Gospel to those who are in need of it and tending to those who need help. This is all done with reading and applying the precepts of Scripture with the help of the Holy Ghost.

We must act upon the words of Scripture and the sermons we hear, so our faith will be manifest to all of those watching us.  We will make mistakes and sin, as we are imperfect beings; if we admit our wrongdoings to God, and come back to Him, all shall be forgiven and we shall have another fresh slate, on which to start anew.

In the Epistle, Paul tells us Scripture was written that we might have hope, even in times of darkness.  Times like these with unbelievers in high places doing their best to defile and ridicule our faith can try our souls.  We must treat others as Christ taught us, with respect and humility, no matter our personal feelings/opinion on them and how they conduct their lives. If we are kind to them, we may plant a seed in their lives for the better, causing perhaps a change for the better in them. We do not know what impact our actions may have in the future; we can only hope they may influence an individual for the better. It takes a while for seeds to germinate and grow into  large and wondrous trees, it is the same with the seeds we plant spiritually. We have no idea what our actions will inspire others to do. That is also why we need to be extremely careful in how our actions influence others. We want to be a positive influence, rather than a negative one.

This is where applying the love thy neighbor as thyself concept plays a big part. For if we follow Christ’s Summary of the Law, then our actions are more likely to cause a positive impact on others around us, rather than if we follow ourselves instead of the Holy Ghost, wherein we are more likely to cause a negative impact to others around us.

Turning to the Gospel, Saint Luke describes the signs of the Second Coming and how we are to prepare for it.  We are not to be caught unaware of the signs; if we read the signs, then we shall be prepared to meet our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  At the same time remember Christ’s words in Matthew 24:36 - But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.  This means every day we have to be active in our faith, and not brain and faith dead like so many around us today. We have to be spritually aware of our spiritual surroundings, much as a good and safe driver/motorcyclist must be aware of the cars around him and possible hazards in the road at all times.

We have to use the tools given to us by God; Scripture, our faith and our friends in the faith to combat the evils of this world.  We must do our best to make this world the best place we can.  If we study, digest and use Scripture in faith, we will have hope in these times of darkness; we will go forth and spread Good News, which will give us satisfaction and hope for people, therefore renewing our spirit and vigor and the knowledge that in the end we will triumph, will fill our hungry spirits. It will renew our sense of purpose and redirect our focus outward instead of inward.

Our hungry spirits will be satisified by God’s Goodness and His Word and His Love, of which He has infinite capacity; nobody is stealing anybody else’s share, as God has more than plenty to go around for all of us!  In fact, the more of God’s Love you take, the more there is for others!  So we must concentrate then on sharing the Gospel and God’s love, so others might finally find true happiness, as we find ours, in serving the Lord for the rest of our days. We also have to concentrate on living a genuine Christian life and not a shallow Christian life; showing the way to Christ for others to see and follow.

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 them in 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!

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, November 27, 2016

First Sunday in Advent


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
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together because as is always the case there is a unifying message in the Scripture for this Sunday. 

The First Sunday in Advent
The Collect.

A
LMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be repeated every day, after the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas Day.

Today’s Collect, like almost all of them, starts out asking God’s Grace, His Help, His intervention to allow us to turn our backs on evil and our own desires that we might make His Desire our desire.  If you will understand how much we fall short in our “natural” desire, you will understand that to cast off the works of darkness and don the armour of light, we must turn to Christ, who came to visit us, born in a simple and humble inn in Bethlehem.  As His manner of birth, we must be humble as well, not boastful and proud like the rich[1], but meek and lowly, to embrace light and cast off the works of darkness.  Though He came in a rather humble manner, He shall return in a glorious and majestic manner, a rather stark contrast to His original incarnation, leaving no doubt who has come to lead us.

We must embrace the lightness and reject the darkness. We do this by allowing the Holy Ghost into our hearts, to shine the light in our hearts and expel the darkness. Only then can we truly don the armor of light. We need to train our brains and minds and souls in this way, so that we can act for Christ. We have been called to do these things, as sons and daughters of God, but only with a conscious effort on our part to accept Him and more importantly to listen to Him, can we do these things. To do these things we have to live it. 

This point brings us straight to the Epistle. Paul tells us that we need to live the life we aspire to.  He cautions us to not borrow for what we do not need that we might owe others nothing but our love.  That way we will not have a worldly obligation to any who might hold that over us to influence our path away from that Christ set out for us. We ideally owe no man anything but that of our love.  Paul asks us to love our neighbors, by love he means to take care for them as we would for ourselves or our own close relations.  Not necessarily to “give” them money, but to help them in self-sufficiency that they might prosper both in soul and body. 

This takes us right into the Gospel according to Saint Matthew.  We must not be for God in speech only, but in deed.  When Jesus came into this world, He came knowing the true purpose of His coming, He came knowing how He would leave, He came knowing the cost at which our souls would be accounted at perfect.  The story of Palm Sunday is the same as that of the Nativity.   For on Palm Sunday, there was joy in the crowd at the arrival of the Savior, much as there was in the stable at the arrival of the Child Jesus.  Yet, many in the very same crowd who cried “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday were there early on Good Friday.  For what did they cry then?

“Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”

Pilate asked for them to cry for mercy, they cried for vengeance on their Lord and Savior!

A swift 180° turn from “Hosanna to the Son of David.”  How quick are men to turn upon that of a good thing. As Charles Spurgeon said "It is an astounding thing and a proof of human depravity that men do not themselves seek salvation. They even deny the necessity of it and would sooner run away than be partakers of it."  This is due to our natural inclination to choose the fruit of death rather than the bread of life, which comes from the Baker of Life, Jesus Christ. 

I was reading Genesis 40 a while back with my parents and it struck me how the tale of the baker and the butler of the Pharaoh, with each with three days to their eventual fates, was a parallel to Christ.  Why the two had differing fates is not clear in Scripture, but for certain Christ is the Baker of Life, and who in three days arose from the dead to have conquered death. The Bread of Life is Christ’s sacrifice for us, and every time we partake of it in Holy Communion and listening to the Gospel and the Epistle, we must always remember the cost of our freedom from death. Also with the cost comes conditions, namely that we profess Christ as Our Saviour and to put Him first in our lives, love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves. We have heard this before in the Summary of the Law. This is what the Law of God condenses down to, and this is what all our laws that we set forth must be based upon, for there is no other rational or foundational base so great and solid as Christ. He must be the Chief Cornerstone in our lives, if our lives are to have any meaning. There are those who He is not chief in, and they are those who may vainly profess His name with their lips, but not in their actions. This is a great sorrow for them. They have not kept the Word of God in their hearts, though they may shallowly profess it with their lips. It is action and not diction that counts!

We must not be like them.  We must put on the great Armour of Light and to reject our former lives of sin and vanity. We must switch from our old selfish lives to a new unselfish, Christ filled life.  It is something we always struggle with, but God never gives up on us. We can be comforted by the assurance He will never give up on us. We just have to never give up on Him and do our very best to follow what He says. As long as we repent from our sin and turn back to God in our private prayers and devotion, he will wipe our slate clean. I know I have a hard time keeping on the straight and narrow path, so I am glad He left the Scriptures to guide us.

Through following His Word and Instructions, we shall be given a greater reward than anything existent on the Earth; past, present or future, that gift of immortal life, life for all eternity, that will outlast this physical world. To don the armour of light is not merely putting it on, you have to utilize it, and utilize the helmet, the buckler and sword (Scriptures and Christ’s teachings).  You need the whole complement of weaponry to go into combat with the Prince of Darkness in this fallen world. And you not only need the complement of weaponry, but we need to train with these weapons. The best way is to be reading Scriptures regularly and discussing the meaning of it with your fellow believers. This way you can ingrain the Scriptures in your heart and be ready to do battle with those who follow the Prince of this World.

Make no mistake, we are engaged in a World War with the Prince of Air, the Prince of this world for the souls of men, starting with our own, a World War which has been going on since the beginning of time. But we know the ending is in our favor for certain, for the Book of Revelations tells us so.

As individuals we may not experience victory here on earth. We may struggle with problems in this world and our own, our whole lifespan on this planet. We may not see and savor that victory here on earth; but we know in the end He will be victorious as we know the Savior.  We will win, for we are on His Side.

Cast off the dull worn robes of darkness, which lack luster, give no warmth, protect not from the heat, and put on the shining glorious armour of light.  So kitted up, we walk in light, not in darkness where we may stumble and fall.   Unlike moths, for us light is life, not the destruction of darkness.

Come, put on the Armor of Light and go forth to destroy that last enemy, death!

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



[1] It is not that worldly wealth is, in and of itself, bad, but rather the attitude it can bring, one of self-worth beyond that which is correct.  Wealth often brings to us a “better than thou” attitude, which soon turns to “Holier than thou.”  The kind of thing that was referred to when Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”  Mark 10.25

What is the “Liturgical Year”?


Today is the first Sunday in Advent, which begins the Liturgical or Church Year.  Fair enough, but just what is the Liturgical Year and why do Anglicans have it?

Liturgy based Christian churches who consider themselves catholic, or universal, use a Christian Calendar which has a pre-set annual cycle of liturgical seasons which determines when Feasts, Memorials, Commemorations, and Solemnities are to be observed and which portions of Scripture are to be read.

Distinct liturgical colors are used in connection with different seasons of the liturgical year. The dates of the festivals vary somewhat between the Western (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Protestant) churches and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, though the sequence and logic is the same.

The dates of many feasts vary from year to year (Moveable Feasts) due to the variation in the date of Easter, and all other dates follow from that. The extent to which the fasts and festivals are celebrated also varies between churches; in general Protestant churches observe far fewer of them than Catholic and Orthodox churches, and in particular are less likely to celebrate feasts of the Virgin Mary and the Saints.

The liturgical cycle divides the year into a series of seasons, each with their own mood, theological emphases, and modes of prayer, which can be signified by different ways of decorating churches, vestments for clergy, scriptural readings, themes for preaching and even different traditions and practices often observed personally or in the home.

In churches that follow the liturgical year, the scripture passages for each Sunday (and even each day of the year in the Anglican tradition) are specified by a list called a lectionary.  Anglicans and Lutherans have traditionally followed the lectionary since the days of the Protestant Reformation.  Since the 1960s, the adoption and use of lectionaries in other Protestant churches (Methodist, Reformed, United, etc.) increased. This has led to a greater awareness of the Christian year among Protestants in the later decades of the 20th century, especially among mainline denominations.

Biblical calendars are based on the cycle of the new moon. The year is from the first new moon on or after the spring equinox to the next new moon on or after the spring equinox, rather than an arbitrary starting point like the modern calendar.

Western Christian liturgical calendars are based on the cycle of the Roman or Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, including Lutheran, Anglican, and Protestant calendars since this cycle pre-dates the Reformation.

Generally, the liturgical seasons in western Christianity are:

  • Advent
  • Christmas
  • Green Season (Time after Epiphany)
  • Lent
  • Easter
  • Green Season (Time after Trinity)

Advent From the Latin adventus, "arrival" or "coming", the first season of the liturgical year begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Historically observed as a "fast", its purpose focuses on preparation for the coming Christ. 

Although often conceived as awaiting the coming of the Christ-child at Christmas it also points towards the final coming of Christ.

This period is marked by the Advent Wreath, a garland of evergreens with four candles. Traditionally, the wreath is made of four candles in a circle of evergreens. Three candles are violet and the fourth is rose. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent.  Although the main symbolism of the advent wreath is simply marking the progression of time, the church attaches themes to each candle, most often 'hope', 'faith', 'joy', and 'love'. Color: Violet or Blue. On the third Sunday of Advent, also called Gaudete Sunday, Rose/Pink is used.


Historically, the primary sanctuary color of Advent is Purple. This is the color of penitence and fasting as well as the color of royalty to welcome the Advent of the King. Purple is still used in Catholic churches. The purple of Advent is also the color of suffering used during Lent and Holy Week. This points to an important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity, the Incarnation, cannot be separated from the crucifixion. The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world, of the "Word made flesh" and dwelling among us, is to reveal God and His grace to the world through Jesus’ life and teaching, but also through his suffering, death, and resurrection.

To reflect this emphasis, originally Advent was a time of penitence and fasting, much as the Season of Lent and so shared the color of Lent. In the four weeks of Advent the third Sunday came to be a time of rejoicing that the fasting was almost over (in some traditions it is called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin word for "rejoice").   The shift from the purple of the Season to pink or rose for the third Sunday Advent candles reflected this lessening emphasis on penitence as attention turned more to celebration of the season.   Churches other than Anglican have changed colors and emphasis on the whole wreath, we remain true to tradition.  Maybe we are just slow learners or not so open to change for change’ sake.


The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival. " The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. Scripture reading for Advent will reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life. In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live "between the times" and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. So, as the church celebrates God’s entry into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which "all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption", it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to "love the Lord your God with all your heart" and to "love your neighbor as yourself. "

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Day


Sermon – Rev Hap Arnold – Time and Action

Thanksgiving Day

The Collect.

O
 MOST merciful Father, who hast blessed the labours of the husbandman in the returns of the fruits of the earth; We give thee humble and hearty thanks for this thy bounty; beseeching thee to continue thy loving-kindness to us, that our land may still yield her increase, to thy glory and our comfort; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect acknowledges in effect God hast blessed the efforts of the workers as shown by the things they produce from the natural resources God provided and that we give thanks for this great harvest of useful things, food and others, and that we pray God will continue to guide us and help us so we can stay prosperous and happy to show how great He is and for our own comfort, by the way.

In his Epistle, James tells us all good is of God and if we are of God, we will act of God.  Saint Matthew reminds us we should not worry about how things will be or what we will do.  Remember, the line of time stretches from the unknowable past to the unfathomable eternity of the future.  But, we humans here on earth live only today.  Today is where God’s finger touches that line of time.  Just do what we are supposed to now.  For yesterday will never come again and tomorrow will never get here.  If we do not act today, it will not be done. 

Few thinking people would dispute the rather obvious fact our country is in real trouble.  More than it has ever been before.  With the exception of the Civil War, in the past our threats have been external.  We were able to come together around a common core and eliminate the threat.  For many years our enemy has been among us, causing division and strife; diverting our people from their common core values.

Make no mistake, this has been a Judeo-Christian country since it was first inhabited, read General Washington’s proclamation regarding Thanksgiving.  From the beginning, people came here to worship in freedom, the greater part of them serious Christians, almost all nominal Christians owing their heart’s allegiance to our Lord.  But, almost all in the end feeling their world would be best served with freedom of religion.  None looked for freedom from religion.  Even the very few agnostics valued the Christian religion as the only one suited for a Republic.

Christians are exhorted to pray hard, love hard, work hard and yes, play hard.  We are not to be slothful in any thing, but moderate in all things.  To be respectful, conservative and happy.  We are not to be a burden on others, if possible. “…if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3) 

But, what do we find today?  People being exhorted to do what feels good, accept all behavior as deserving of equal consideration and respect, to take it easy, to accept the handouts instead of working.  To be slothful, disrespectful, immoral and illiterate.  All this by our government and its minions. 

With what result?

Record levels with regard to:

·      Our country’s respect level at its lowest since 1776;
·      Increased crime;
·      Inflation;
·      Poverty;
·      Unemployment;
·      Suicides;
·      Illegitimate Births;
·      Cohabitation and Serial Habitation;
·      Unhappiness!

So, what is the cure?  Follow God’s instructions.

What can you do?

Act!  Action, not diction is the key!

Act on those right next to you.  Spread the Gospel to the person next to you.  It is your job!  It is God’s commandment.  Start with yourself and work outward.

Accept nothing less than your best from you.  Maintain a positive attitude, encourage your family to maintain a positive attitude.  Attend church, so you can be around people with the right ideas at least once a week.  Work with members of your church to stabilize their lives.  Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.  Remember, we all die.  There are none so poor as cannot purchase a noble death.  Act like today is your last day.  Do what must be done.  Accept nothing less from yourself.  Encourage your friends and family.

God gave us a job to do.  We must not fail.  The country may survive, it may not.  That is not our concern.  Our concern is the battle at hand.  I took an oath of office well over forty-five years ago agreeing “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”  Now is not the time to stop.

The oath of office I took lays out our job pretty clearly.  We must do what we can to insure our country is here for the future.  That means bring people around to the side of God.  We need to be on His Side.  God is never on our side, He expect us to come to His Side.  The country’s problems all stem from a failure to follow His Directions.  So, one person at a time, we need to bring people over to His Side.  Start with you and work outward.  If one out of a hundred of us brings one person to His Side, things will be different soon.

Start today!  Read Scripture every day.  Figure out what at least one verse means.  It will take a while, but you have the rest of your life to complete your study.  Figure out what God wants you to do and do it.  Try to pay your own way everywhere.  If someone must owe, let others owe you.  Do your part.  Be part of the economic solution, not the problem.  Remember, debt is not your friend.  Be vigilant in protecting your civil rights.  Do not surrender civil rights for temporary and illusory security.  Take the time to talk to others and try to help them understand how much more freedom and hard work can bring compared to “free things” from a plantation government.  Support free enterprise and this country.  Remember you are free because of the blood shed on your behalf by those who have gone to war to protect you.  Do not give up the freedom they died for.

Do not despair!  All is not lost.  And, if all were lost, there would still be no room for despair, rather one last charge. There is a lot to be done.  Go forth and do His Work. 

This is a great country; not because God was on our side, but rather because it has always been on God’s Side.  


Let it return to that path!

Thanksgiving Day


Thanksgiving Day

Thursday brought us Thanksgiving Day; a day known primarily for the excess consumption of food in the company of all available family members.  Sometimes we forget the origin of the thanksgiving in Thanksgiving Day.  While we are, or certainly should be, grateful to God every day for the wonderful world, country and family He has given us, this is the day our country has set aside to give thanks to God.  Not thanks in general, but thanks to God.  If you look at other countries and other times, you cannot be but thankful to God we live here and now.  The list of things to be thankful to God is endless.  If nothing else, give thanks you are here now and able to praise Him.   Here is the start of our family list of things for which we are fortunate and give thanks for:

·      God's love for us;
·      God sent His Son that we might have eternal life with Him;
·      Our great country;
·      Our families;
·      Our military who protect our freedom at great cost to themselves and their families;
·      Our church;
·      Our friends (that would be each of you)
·      Our health;
·      Our earthly great fortune;

Surely your list is similar.

The propers for Thanksgiving Day are found on pages 265-266:

Thanksgiving Day

The Collect.

O
 MOST merciful Father, who hast blessed the labours of the husbandman in the returns of the fruits of the earth; We give thee humble and hearty thanks for this thy bounty; beseeching thee to continue thy loving-kindness to us, that our land may still yield her increase, to thy glory and our comfort; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle for Thanksgiving Day uses one of our favorite phrases “superfluity of naughtiness” and comes from the Epistle of St. James, the First Chapter, beginning at the Sixteenth Verse.  James counsels us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”  God is the perfect source of good.  What is good is of God.  Through His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, we have been given instructions on how to act.  Many of us have listened and claim to be followers of Christ.  But James warns us, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man be-holding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”  With so much about us, we need ask, what is it to do the work of the Lord?  The answer is simple, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

Being able to fluently and glibly talk the talk is meaningless, if you will not walk the walk.  Your body must fulfill the promises your mouth made.

D
o not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man be-holding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

The Thanksgiving Day Holy Gospel came from the Sixth Chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew beginning at the Twenty-Fifth Verse.  Jesus tell us to “Trust in God and Dread Naught”.  He reminds us that by worrying, none of us can add even one cubit, or one second for that matter, to the span of our life here on earth.  In a very graphic example He points out that not even the raiment of Solomon, the most glorious of all kings, could approach the beauty of a lily, who toiled not at all. Do as God asks, put your faith in Him and all you need will come to you.  Understand, this means doing as He asks, not just sitting by and watching the world go by.  Note the words of James in the Epistle.

J
esus said, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? And why are ye anxious for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore be not anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sunday next before Advent

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Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together because as is always the case there is a unifying message in the Scripture for this Sunday.

The Sunday next before Advent
The Collect.
S
TIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

As is oft the case, today’s propers are all tied together.  As is usual, they call for action not just thoughts.  In fact the collect is among the most direct, asking God to stir our hearts that we might ACT in a manner which will result in good things!  Jeremiah prophesies the coming of Jesus out of the branch of David that He might unite God’s people as one under a New Covenant.  Christ is the key piece to the puzzle of the Old Testament Prophecies. John tells us Jesus not only comes to fill our hunger, literal in that if we follow Him we will do much better here on earth than if we do not, and figurative only He can fill the hunger in our hearts for God. In the Collect, we ask God to stir up the will of us that we might be concentrating on performing good works for Him and that through those actions will be plenteously rewarded.

This means that we need to ask God into our hearts to stir our wills towards Him and that we might listen to Him and His guidance and then act upon that said guidance. Then through these actions we will truly get our just reward. Our wills are naturally inclined towards not following Him, but we need to have our wills reset towards following Him.

We have to put asides our thoughts and excuses that would not have us follow Him and ask the Holy Ghost to enter into our heats, cleanse us of the darkness that is impairing our spiritual vision and put our new destination of following Him into our spiritual GPS. For without the Holy Ghost’s influence, we cannot truly be able to willing follow Him and act for Him on our own intuition. For our natural intuition is corrupted, by the disease of sin eating away at our very souls. Only the great doctor, God himself can cure us of this otherwise incurable disease.


We are spiritually starving creatures who need His love, and our spiritual hunger can only be sated by seeking His love, by acting upon His Words and filling our hearts with His Word.  This is the only possible way we can truly be satisfied, everything else is a shadow of true happiness and satisfaction. God is the only way we in which we can truly be happy, for everything else is worthless to our wellbeing, except for the joy of following Him.

If we follow our own heart and guidance, we seek the things of this world.  There can be no true happiness or satisfaction.   Seeking material superiority results in coveting, that is the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others.  Notice both the insatiable part and the part about what rightfully belongs to others.  The word can also be described as "ruthless self-seeking," the kind of attitude the arrogant and callous person has, assuming others and their things exist for his own benefit.  It has also been described as finding morally acceptable the taking of things from others rather than earning or purchasing them. These are all things whick if you look at the Ten Commandments, violate God’s laws. Thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not steal and thou shalt not bear false witness, are just a few of laws that this type of individual breaks.

Look back on history and see how much evil action can be laid to coveting by not only persons, but nations. We can look at the examples of the early wars in Europe, and of late, of the wars started by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan as more recent examples. We can also look to the religion of Islam as a key reason for conquest in the Middle East, a religion built on deceitful lies and covetousness.

This shows we cannot satisfy us our own desires, but rather only God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit can fill the hole. This is why we need the Holy Ghost to enter into our hearts and purify us of the dark trap of seeking material things above heavenly things. Without the Holy Ghost, we cannot solve this grave issue that is a spiritual malady. We desperately need the influence the Trinity provides in our life. Our life will be so much more rewarding and happier if we have them involved in our lives, versus those who do not have them in their life.

As we come on Advent, think ahead to the joy of Christmas, the birth of Christ, His entry into this world, the joy of Epiphany, His revealing to the world.  Then, shift gears and think ahead to the horror, pain and sadness of Good Friday.  So, you must understand everything has a price which must be paid.  The happiness of Christmas and Easter did not come without the cost of Good Friday. Jesus gave his own life and soul that we might be free of the darkness. This is the cost. There is no free lunch, as it were. Salvation is not free; it was paid with the price of Jesus dying on the Cross and going down into hell to battle with the devil. From our eternal life which was paid for by Jesus’ one time sacrifice made for all mankind for all time to a simple meal.  It has been said there is no free lunch.  That is true, it is better said that everything has a price.  There are some things are worth paying for, some are not.  Not one thing is worth coveting or stealing in the Ten Commandments sense.  Take nothing that has not been paid for.  If you don’t want to pay the price, don’t take it. You can accept gifts, but take nothing that has not been purchased. Do not partake or acquire stolen goods.

The inordinate desire for more money can lead to theft; the desire for more prestige, to evil ambition; the desire for more power, to tyranny; the desire for a person's body, to fornication and adultery. Paul identifies covetousness as idolatry because it puts things in the place of God.  When we put things over God’s Will, we no longer worship Him, but avoid Him.

When people serve idols, they place things above God.  When you covet, you are willing to set aside God for things.  In the end, that never works.  And, near the end it gets pretty unpleasant.  We find idols easier to deal with than God.  You can make an idol; God made you.  If you don’t like the idol’s rules, you change the rules; we can’t change Gods rules so we seek to change Him to an idol so we can change the rules.  There are some pretty big differences there.

We shall never be satisfied with the riches and the cares of this world.  If we let the Holy Ghost into our hearts, we will find happiness and satisfaction in His Word. It will be more satisfying than the riches of this world could ever be.

If we keep on learning the Word and acting upon it every day, something everybody in some way needs to work on, not least myself, we will become more like Him and that is what He asks of us. He asks of us nothing special, but to do our very best and not just say it. It is a hard concept for many of us to follow, including myself, but we must all strive more and more every day to do our very best. If we study the Scriptures diligently and work hard to follow them to the best of our abilities, then we will, with the Holy Spirit’s help, be charted on an excellent course.

Interestingly, He tells the disciples to “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”  It seems He is talking about the sheep that He tends to, He wishes to “gather up the fragments that remain”, meaning the people apart from His flock, that “nothing be lost”, meaning that their souls may not be lost for eternity. Think about that and take what it is offered before it is no longer on the menu! And be thankful for All His Blessings in our lives, for our friends and our family that He has placed in our lives.  

We are blessed and should be grateful we are in a spiritually rich group (The Anglican Orthodox Church) and in communion with some very good men and women across the Earth in the AOC Worldwide Church, who hold true to the principles of Scripture. God has blessed us all by bringing us together. I am thankful for each and every person in the AOC Church and my family and friends. As we near Thanksgiving, we should be thankful most of all for God sending His Son to die for us, that we might have eternal life and happiness instead of the eternal misery which comes from separation from God.

Actions speak louder than words, but when we actually use that inspiration of the Holy Ghost and couple well thought out words with actions, we can do many marvelous things in the lives of people around us, through His Spirit and Word; we will help to fill people’s spiritual hunger, through acting through His Word, in thought, word and deed.

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