Verse of the Day

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Second Sunday in Lent

 



 

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:

 


… we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul …

 

In the Collect, we acknowledge to God that we cannot direct our own lives; if we listen to our own selves we are without guidance.  Consider the airplane flying, it orders its movements according to Polaris, the Pole Star of True North.  If a pilot flies guided by his “inner self” he soon knows only where he is: at the controls, and little else.  Like the pilot who needs to know where the True North is so he can orient himself, we need God’s guidance to move towards our goal of eternal life with Him. While flying my aircraft in instrument meteorological conditions or IMC , I have to rely on the aircraft instruments as our bodily senses lie to us about our aircrafts true altitude. So too do we have to rely on Scriptures for our guidance on the path towards heaven as our natural inclinations will also lie to us on our true performance. And we also need the help of the Holy Ghost to be our infalliable co pilot and help guide us on the narrow uphill path towards heaven.

 

We have to let Him into our hearts in order to let Him guide us. If we do not do this, then how can we expect to have Him guide us, if we are not open and ready to receive Him and His Guidance? We have to be willing and ready in order to receive His Guidance, then we have to act upon the information His Guidance gives us.

 

Thus, when Paul tells us to keep our bodies under control of our minds and our minds to be guided by God only, He helps move us on course. This ties in very well with the collect’s request for God to keep us outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls. It links the theme of both spiritual and physical moderation extremely well.  We are to be true and honest in all our dealings, both physical and fiscal and to live our faith.  His Epistle ties in well with the theme of the collect to keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls. To do this, we must live the faith. Living the faith requires us to restrain our bodies and our minds from doing foolish/evil actions which hinder our walk towards heaven. This is a very difficult task, one we will slip up from time to time on, but as long as we repent and return back to the course God has set, all will be well.

 

Being honest with others and especially ourselves is one of the most important things we can do. If we are not honest with ourselves to start, how can we be honest with others?  For only by living our faith can we demonstrate that we in fact have faith.  For professed faith with no action when you are able to act is not real.  You must actualize what you claim to believe. We are called to be as God wants us to be, not as we would be without His guidance and help.  God does this, not that we would miss fun, but rather that we would enjoy true happiness.

 

Keeping evil thoughts under control can be a difficult task, but we do not have to face it alone, we have the Holy Ghost in our lives and other Christians and friends that support us and guide us, that can help us battle evil thoughts.  Of course we need to be willing to talk to our good friends within the Church about our problems and evil thoughts and listen to their advice, and more importantly to the Holy Ghost’s advice to combat these evil thoughts and drive away the temptations of the devil.  As we have discussed before, Christianity is not a hermitic religion, but a social one. Christianity did not flourish because its followers were hermits, it flourished because its followers evangelized the religion throughout the known world. It is an active religion and it requires its followers to actively participate in it by spreading the Good news. 

 

Matthew gives us a fine example of faith that demonstrates how we must be guided by faith in our Lord.  The woman who cries unto Jesus is a Gentile, just like us.  Just like us she longs for His Mercy.  In her case, she asks only for the mercy rejected by others, the crumbs of the Master’s Table[1].  This is the essence of our faith, we are not worthy to dine at His Table, no more than dogs are meet to dine at our table.  Yet, what is left over is more than enough for us.  And we are content with that, knowing what miserable creatures we are.  And, even more important, even knowing what miserable creatures we are, Jesus offers to share His Table with us.  He is not content for us to grovel for His crumbs. If He offers His love for us, should we not love Him back, by acting upon our faith?  If you truly believe, you are compelled to act upon the faith you have. Action is the key principle, the cornerstone of the faith of Christians.  Christ set this example for us by doing, that is action.  This is seen throughout Scripture, but nowhere is it as clear as His Action of sacrificing Himself for our sins on the Cross. This is the prime example of action not just diction. Action is far more important than diction only. Diction is nice, but it needs to be paired with Action in order for it to have any sort of meaning.

 

It is also important to understand if one loves God, He still has the exact same amount of love available for any other person or group.  His love is infinite, even if it wasn’t, love multiplies in use! We do not have to worry about God running out of love at all. There is more than enough to go around!

 

Recognize how poorly you do with your own guidance, accept His Guidance, stay on course and accept the fruits of that action.

 

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.

 

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] Sound familiar?  Check out the Prayer of Humble Access, Holy Communion, BCP Page 82.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

First Sunday in Lent



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:


 

… Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honour and glory …

 

In the Collect, we ask God to help us change our natural evil tendencies so we can live life here His way and honor His wishes so we can be truly happy.  Without His help, we end up with what we want, not what we need.  Lent is the time in which we focus on fighting our sinful selves and working with the Holy Ghost to reconcile us with what God wants for us. What we want is not the same as what we need. We are asking him to help us fight our human nature and follow His divine nature, we are attempting to replace our nature with that of God’s. It is a long and difficult road we must travel, doing this, but we are going to be much happier in the long run if we at least do our best. Do or do not, there is no try, Yoda is quoted as saying, and I find it applicable here and in my own life. We have to act, not just say we are going to act, but we must physically perform ACTIONS!

                                 

Want and Need; two words, used interchangeably in both our speech and thought that do not mean the same thing.  Think about that!

 

Following the thought of the Collect, Paul asks us to be worthy of the grace God has given us.  He tells the people when they needed him, He was there.  Following his example, we need to be there for those around us.  We must not frustrate God’s work by showing up late, or not at all. It all goes back to Jesus’ saying, No man can serve two masters. We have to allow  our hearts to be opened to the Holy Ghost, so we can make that decision to serve our true and best master God Himself.  Paul advises us that we need to hold fast to God and the Holy Spirit in times good and bad. It all goes back to my sermon tagline, actions and not just diction are what counts in the end.

 

Our actions will reflect whom we truly serve,  God or the Forces of Satan. Which side will you serve? You in the end have to choose one side or another. Pick the winning side now, which is the Forces of God, and you will have a rich everlasting life. The key to winning this battle for souls is to never ever ever give up and to trust in God and Dread Naught. 

 

 

When the Devil attempted to tempt Christ, he showed how little he knows of Him.  If we emulate our Lord, it shows how little the Devil will be able to tempt us with his deceit. If we follow Him we will be able to withstand any temptation that arises as our Lord showed for us in the desert 2,000 years ago. 

 

Consider how little the Devil really offers you and how much Christ offers, the temptation is ever so much less.  The Devil is often referred to as the Deceiver or Dissimulator.  His forte is deception; he seems to be one thing, but is another.  He offers what he has no intention or ability to deliver. He actually has zero ability to deliver on his large promises, he has no right to give away what is not his! 

 

The Devil clearly knows Jesus is the Son of God.  There is no doubt in his mind.  So, having understood that, consider what he offers Jesus in temptation.  

 

Remember, Jesus has fasted 40 days OF HIS OWN CHOICE; now comes the devil daring Him to show His Power by turning the stone into bread.  This to the Son of He who delivered manna daily to the Jews in the wilderness for 40 years.  

 

Cast thyself down and let angels catch thee; this to He who walked on water.

 

Up to the mountain lookout – Here is it all yours if you worship me.  This to He, who as it says in Psalm 95:

 

I

N his hand are all the corners of the earth; * and the strength of the hills is his also.

 

The sea is his, and he made it; * and his hands prepared the dry land.

 

O come, let us worship and fall down, * and kneel before the Lord our Maker.

 

For he is the Lord our God; * and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

 

The devil promised Jesus nothing that was his to give, nothing that would help Jesus in the real world beyond the Shadowlands.  He never does.  The devil is all about shortcuts.  Remember, if the shortcut was the best way, it would not be a shortcut. The devil will not help us at all in the long run, if you look at things from the eternal perspective. That is what we need to keep in mind every time he tempts us. 

 

The temptation of Jesus is no different than the Devil’s attempt to tempt us!  The Devil never delivers what we need, only what we, in our imperfection, want.  He can’t understand what we really need, he only knows what we want. This is an advantage we have over him. We understand what we truly need; if we remember it, then holding off against the temptations is easier. Remember as little as the Devil understands of Christ, the same way, as we are in God, so he understands little of us.  He will never offer you real help.  Remember that and the temptation is ever so much less.

 

Or, as my grandfather said, “Keep your eye on the donut, not on the hole”

 

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.

 

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 14, 2021

Quinquagesima




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:

 

… that all our doings without charity are nothing worth; Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity …

 

In the Collect, we acknowledge to God that if we have not charity, nothing we do is worth 


anything; we then ask Him to send the Holy Ghost into our hearts with the precious gift of charity.  Webster tells us that Charity is love; universal benevolence; good will; the word which properly denotes love. What it really means is Love in Action! Like many areas of our Christian development, we will never fully get there. But if we never try to put Love into action, we will never even get close to getting there. The key words are in action. Meaning we just can’t think about loving people, we actually have to go out and do actions showing that we really do love them, not just say it. This is the common theme of the principles of Christian living. In order to make progress, we have to continually put these principles, namely charity or love, into practice each and every day. We may not do it perfectly, but we shall make progress so long as we do not give up! As Winston Churchill once said “Never, never, never, never EVER GIVE UP”.  So, should we never give up in our Christian development. We may stumble and fall at times, but if we get up and keep going and return to our Lord, then all will be well in time.[1]  It might be slow going, but as long as the progress is constant, that is all that matters. Properly understood charity is the Love of God, that perfect love, to which man should aspire. Charity is not giving oodles of money away to an organization, hoping to make yourself look better, like many modern “philanthropists.” 

 

Charity is the purest form of love there is and derives from God’s love for us. Without God’s love in us, we cannot hope to have any form of charity towards our fellow humans. God has given us love to enable us to act on His behalf here on this Earth. Love is not selfish or wasteful, but kind and abundant. We are to be agents of good change, not bad; with Charity, we will act with love towards one another.  These are qualities that are not naturally part of our sinful nature. This is why we need to have God’s help, to have that pure and unselfish love in our hearts. If we do not have love in our hearts towards one another, how can we expect to be able to effect positive change on the world around us?

 

In connection with the Collect which talks about one who is brought before God without love in his heart is a dead person. And not just in eternity but in life, a person with no love is a dead person walking.  Paul makes this very point in his Epistle, saying that no matter what talents we have, without the Love of God in our hearts, it is all for naught.  We cannot do anything for God without that Love in our hearts. We must have the Love in us, brought to us by the Holy Spirit, in order to be effective in our ministerial efforts. He is the reason we are here in this life and He is the one we must act for.   It must be clear to us our understanding here on earth is limited, while here we will never see the fullness of God’s Plan; yet the part most clear is the love we are to have one for another, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, for no reason other than we know it is right so to do. 

 

Having Love in our hearts is a must if we are to perform actions for Him here in this world. In order to have love in our hearts, we must be open to the Holy Spirit. Only then can we truly receive His Love to spread around. And do not fret, there is an unlimited supply of love for everyone. When Paul talks about God’s great plans, he uses the phraseology “through a glass, darkly”, which is very interesting inasmuch as CS Lewis uses a variation to describe earth as compared to heaven.  He calls earth The Shadowlands and says in heaven all is clear and bright, not dark and muddled as here on earth.  So, here our understanding is limited, it will not always be so. That will be fulfilled when we pass those Pearly Gates into heaven, and in order to do that, we have to have faith, and act in good works with charity. 

 

As they were coming in to Jericho, Jesus told the disciples of what was to come, yet they could not grasp their leader would submit to such treatment on their behalf.  He was the Conqueror; in a sense they were right, He came to conquer death for us, not the Roman Empire. He had the Love of God with Him and He loved us so much that He would die a painful method of execution and go into Satan’s realm in order to free us from the terrible wages of sin, that of death. As they went along, they encountered the blind man who was, like many of us are, blind.  His blindness was of eye, not heart, he knew the power of God and of love. The blind man who wanted his sight and knew Jesus had The Power.  He cried unto the Lord and was rebuffed by His People. This is the key and it applies to us as well. Did he give up?  No, he cried the more.  As we should not let others discourage us from following the Lord, indeed we should increase our prayers and serving fervently.  Knowing what we want, we should not let others in this life rebuff us and hinder us from following Him. This is one of many lessons we can take from the blind man.

 

When Jesus heard him, he turned and asked what the man wanted.  MY SIGHT!  No generalizations, no beating about.  The blind man asked of Him what he truly wanted.  Ask and it shall be given unto you.  He lacked sight, not vision.  Nor, it might be added, did he lack faith. We should ask God to have to sight and hearing that we might see, hear and act upon the Word. To some, the faith he had might seem a blind faith, but it was one he acted on and gained what he lacked.  Will we have the faith to act?

 

True love is Faith, Hope, Charity[2].

 

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.

 

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] To quote Winston Churchill, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”  (29 October 1941)

[2] The three Gloster Gladiator fighters FaithHope and Charity defended Malta against the Italian Air Force during the early part of the siege of Malta in World War II.  Legend has it all three persisted and of the three, Charity never failed.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

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.  He can help us with whatever adversities we are facing, but only if we let Him into our hearts.

 

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. He cannot help us if we do not let Him, so let us make sure we are opening our hearts to His Guidance. We will be a much happier people if we do this.

 

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, January 31, 2021

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[1] 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 would be 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 He has set for 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 the great hope we can cling to whenever things on Earth look gloomy and this is the great reward for the race we run daily here on Earth. When things get hard here, we must always remember the Hope we have in Jesus and the reward we gain when we compete the race that is set before us. God does not promise us an easy life here on Earth, there will be many trials and tribulations set before us. But the reward in the end will make undergoing all the trials and tribulations worth it.

 

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 priceless treasure than anything we could acquire on Earth, 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 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 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, if they are willing to let us help them.  

 

The useful question is, “Am I doing the best I can?”  We have to answer that question; if we are not doing our best, then we need to change it.  Think of how we can do our best and then set our course to do that. And, we must 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. Action must first start with our neighbors and work our way outward. We cannot affect the whole world, but if we each work together on our part of the world and work for their, we can change the world. However, it must be a team effort, we cannot all do it alone.  Each person in God’s Army has a specific talent and task for 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 downhill 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



[1] John Newton; 4 August 1725 – 21 December 1807) was an English Anglican cleric, a captain of slave ships who later became an abolitionist, and an investor of trade. He served as a sailor in the Royal Navy for a period after forced recruitment.

 

Newton went to sea at a young age and worked on slave ships in the slave trade for several years. In 1745, he himself became a slave of Princess Peye, a woman of the Sherbro people. He was rescued, returned to sea and the trade, becoming Captain of several slave ships. After retiring from active sea-faring, he continued to invest in the slave trade. Some years after experiencing a conversion to Christianity, Newton later renounced his trade and became a prominent supporter of abolitionism. Now an evangelical, he was ordained as a Church of England cleric and served as parish priest at Olney, Buckinghamshire, for two decades. He also wrote hymns, the most well known beng "Amazing Grace"

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The 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 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.  Actions are how we live out our faith. That is why worrying does nothing productive. We should focus on what we can do in the present, rather in the past we cannot change nor the future which is unknown. Acting in the present is far more productive than worrying about places we cannot act in like the past or unknown like the future. 

 

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.  This is why we emphasize action. To truly follow Christ requires us to be like Him within the best our abilities and with the Help of the Holy Ghost, perform actions. He has also commanded us to action through the Great Commission to spread the Word to all nations.  No matter where you turn 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 to 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 in 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 literally moving mountains, 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 they usually set out the best wine first, then when the partygoers get more drunk they bring out the worst wine. But the wine Jesus created was so good, he said in effect, “You have saved the best for last.”

 

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.  How should we act to show the best of our character?  To the extent you are able, attempt to do good to all.  Always do the right thing when you are faced with a choice. Sometimes that choice is harder than others to be made, but it must be made all the same. It is possible if we have the Holy Ghost in our hearts to do the right thing. 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. 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 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.  A good reason to think before you open your mouth. Think is what I am about to say going to lead this person to or from Christ. If it will lead them away, think of how you can phrase it so it will lead them to Christ. 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 17, 2021

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.  The power 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 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, we will hear Him. Then after we hear Him, there is still more action to be done. After we hear Him, we then have to act on what He tells us to do. Action, not just diction, is what counts in the end.

 

In the Epistle Paul reminds us that each of us have of individual talents important help the Church further its cause. And 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 did your best for God is what really counts 

 

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. Encouragement is the best way to help the team grow the Church. Encouragement helps other Christians to grow in their talents.  The more we encourage our fellow Christians, the better off the team as a whole will be. That which is rewarded most is what 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.