Verse of the Day

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

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 and is partly contained in the forewords above. 

 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 failure 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.  We should do our best to follow His example, to be honest, hard working, peaceful and helpful.  When we do this, we will prosper, not only in this world, but in our hearts.  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! Therefore, the theme will be similar, asking God to open our hearts, souls and minds to Him, that in Him, we might get the help for our sinful bodies and souls.

Why the continuous emphasis on action?  Simple.  The line of time stretches from the far distant and unknown past to the far distant and unknowable future.  Yet, God is there, He has always been there and He will always be there.  Where His finger touches that line of time is today.  That is where we live; it is the only place where action can happen in our time space continuum.  Today. Not tomorrow nor the past, but today. That is why worrying does nothing productive, we cannot act in the future nor in the past right now, but only in the one dimension, that of the present. Therefore, let us not worry about the past or the future but think about what we can do and act within the present time. Let us keep ourselves busy doing God’s work, so that we have no time at all to worry or fret, but act. The time we spend worrying or fretting is time taken away from possible actions we could perform in the present.

God, our God, is a God of Action.  No less is His Son one of action.  All throughout the Bible, you find Jesus doing things, not just talking about them.  His faith, shown in the action of His giving His Life that we might live, speaks through His actions.  No matter where you turn while reading the Bible, what you find is Action, not Diction.  Recall the second half of the Book of Luke.  It is known as the Acts of the Apostles, not thoughts, not prayers, not meditations, not wishes or anything else; The ACTS.  He expects us to act in our lives, not talk.  

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

She had great faith in Him that He would perform a miraculous action. Mary truly had the faith that Jesus talked about that could “move mountains.” When He referred to this, He was not talking about moving mountains in the physical sense of sorts, but in obstacles that get in our way in life.  

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

The whole point behind the Gospel is that Jesus, and God is a person of action not just diction. Jesus could have chose 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 that 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 times, however it is harder to perform the right actions at the right times.

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

So, when we act, how should we act?  To the extent you are able attempt to do good to all.   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, with treating them with that respect and kindness. It like many other things Jesus taught is hard to do, it is easy to say however. But we must do our very best to do this, for we shall become better people of His Flock for doing so.  We have the right of self-defense, not of vengeance.  Bring them up, don’t lower yourself. That is the goal, to raise us all up and not lower ourselves to the low standards of this world, but to raise those around us to the heavenly standards.

Like Jesus at the well, remember that your purpose is to help bring people to salvation. We are not called to do any actions that would push people always from salvation, but rather to lead them by example towards that salvation. 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 down that 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.

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 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!

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

18 January 2017 - Special Prayer Request


Serbia

Bishop Igor Djurcik asks us to pray for peace between Serbia and the country of Kosovo which broke away from them in 2008.  Kosovo is a muslim country and seems to be willing to provoke conflict; Serbia is a primarily Christian country which seems to be ready to return the conflict.  It is a very difficult situation and seems likely to escalate as two argue over a train at present.  Pray a peaceful resolution can be reached, that Serbia will look for the long term best interests of its people.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
Sermon - Rev Hap Arnold
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   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.  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 hearin  He hears us clearly when we pray, God always hears us when we call Him.  This Collect is really to remind us that when we pray to Him, we need to listen to Him. It is our hearing which is need of help, not His and the help we need can only come from Him!  Too often we ask Him what to do, when He tells us what He wants us to do, it is not what we want, so we don’t hear.  After all, there are none so deaf as those who will not hear.  So, the question is not, Does God hear our supplication?  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? We think He doesn’t answer, but that is often because we are deaf to His answer through our own condition of being poor, sinful creatures who need His Forgiveness and Guidance desperately. What we really need to do is stop our wanting thoughts and to listen to what we need, His Guidance. We need to be still and listen to His answers and not just go off and do what we want. Instead we need to hear what He wants us to do and act upon it. Too often we just do not bother to listen to that voice that tells us Gods will and run off and follow our own devices and desires and get into trouble.
g that is in need of help.
things.

Instead of doing that, we need to truly listen and take His Guidance to heart. We need His Guidance to stop the evilness which lies within ourselves and to control it, to mitigate it, so that we can do good things for Him. Without His Guidance, we cannot ever hope to be good and righteous. To do that, we must open our hearts and minds; and let Him in. He will not force His way in.  It takes action on our part to let Him in.  If we open our hearts and minds, then we will hear Him. Will we let him in to our hearts for this to happen? It has to start with us letting Him in, and then we will hear His answer loud and clear.  That describes the purpose and function of the Holy Ghost, that Third God Guy.  He is there, always there, we merely need to let Him in!  Without Him, Scripture is so much foolishness, with His Insight, it is perfectly clear.

We all have some talent; each has something they do better than others.  Paul reminds us for the church, or any organization for that matter, to succeed, we must do what needs to be done, working hard, honestly, cheerfully, looking for no public praise, being kind to all.  Everybody needs to utilize their 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 musically, 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.  It is not good enough to just say you are doing your best when you are actually doing your half, quarter or not at all best, but full “best” ahead as it were! The reward of a job well done in and of itself should be sufficient.  And knowing you did your best is what really counts, not just getting recognition from others, but the satisfaction in your heart of knowing that with God’s Help you accomplished a large task, is one of the best feelings in the world.  It does not matter to God who gets the credit, what matters to Him is we get the job done and to do it right! We should not be giving of ourselves to God, so that we can get praise and recognition.  That is not giving; it is selling. And that would not be truly giving from the heart as is God’s desire.  That would be using the talents He loaned to us for our own wants and ends, which would not be becoming of the Christians we are called to be, the New Men we are called to be. If we get praise and recognition as a result of our actions, then it is fine, as long as we keep in mind why we performed our actions and who helped us.

At the same time, though 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!), we should look for reasons to praise and encourage others.  We need to recognize hard work, sacrifice, thoughtfulness and talent in others, remark on it and praise the use thereof!  That which is rewarded most is that which grows best. Reward the good, so that we may reap the goodness of our works!
                                                                                       
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.  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 most for praise of those whose opinion they value.

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

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God



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

Sunday, January 8, 2017

First Sunday after the Epiphany


If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
Sermon - Rev Hap Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and readings for this week. Consider these words from the Collect:

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

As imperfect creatures with free will, we will never figure out what we should be doing, let alone do it, on our own.  That is the part of the reason God sent the Holy Ghost; that we might listen to Him and understand. He will give us the ability to figure out and know what and how we are to do the things we need to do here on Earth for Him. Not just understand The Word spoken to us through Jesus and the Scriptures, but to understand what we should do; hence the prayer to figure out what we need to do, then give us the power or strength to do what we are supposed to do.  We might have some difficulties, some nervousness, some stumbling, but in the end as long as we do our best to follow His will, and not worry, things shall be ok. Because then we will be on the path to eternal life and happiness, as he wants us to be happy.  To actually be on that very real and difficult path and not just think or talk about being on it. We need to actively follow Our Lord and not be passive about it, but actually physically do it. We need to act, using the Scriptures as our Holy Handbook for our actions within our lives. He did not mean for us to simply read it only, but to digest it and use what we learned in the real world.

After all isn’t that what the school system was supposedly put in place for? University, the words comprise it are “Una Veritas”, meaning “One Truth”, as it was supposed to be a place of Godly learning, where one would learn the “One Truth”. The school system was intended that we might have Godly children growing up in the faith, therefore strengthening them as men/women of great moral character. If we put back the Scriptures in our schools and held the kids to the standards of those Scriptures, then we would find ourselves on a moral higher ground. The Scriptures are the only true truth, as they are based on the Word of God, who is truth in every sense of the word. It is something should use to help develop ourselves in life, to use a term from the Japanese, kai-zen, or continuous self-improvement.

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

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

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


So once we find out what God wants, we often rationalize our way around it.  Think about the 613 Mosaic laws and the Pharisees who made a good living telling people how to comply with them to the letter and still do just what they wanted to do.  So, then even if we find out what God wants and decide to actually do it instead of avoid it, we are faced with the often huge problem of where do we get the strength to accomplish this task.  The answer is circular, from God.  He never asks us to do anything we cannot do good enough for Him if we rely on Him.  Never.  End of that discussion.

Now, once you have managed to get this far, you gain the power needed to become one of Paul’s New Men, a person who has accepted God’s Grace, turning to God and relying on Him for guidance, strength, courage and perseverance. To do that, we need to turn outward.  Not think of ourselves, but of God and our fellow Christians.  Speaking of that, one of the tools God gives us to get things done is a Team, that Team is fellow Christians.  So, we need to work together as a Team.  Think not of your glory, but that of God.  President Reagan had a sign on his desk, which read:

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

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

When we look at the Gospel today, aside from the historical function telling us that Jesus was in the temple bringing the light of the gospel to the rabbis, I am reminded there are other lessons.  It is not that we want to micromanage your life, but keep your friends and family informed of what you are doing and where you are going.   Jesus’ earthly parents risked life and limb going back up the road to Jerusalem at night.  But, that was their duty as parents.  A duty which must have been done, no matter the cost. The lesson here is to keep your family and friends well informed of what you are doing, rather than going off on your own, figuring you can handle it. Except most times, we cannot, as we are not like Jesus, we are not the Son of God, but rather mortals adopted into God’s Family. There are some things we cannot do on our own without His Help and without the help of our family and friends.

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

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

Through duty, we too might have a noble death and welcoming in heaven.

Duty –
God • Honor • Country • Family

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

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



[1] Note also the tremendous advantage that God has over the Devil.  Not only did God make both man and the Devil, but He has actually been a man, the Devil only read about men and thought about men and contemplated men. In Jesus, God has been a man.  Note - in this instance, He learned about the compassion, worry and duty of parents towards their Son!  The Devil, not so much.