Verse of the Day

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Second Sunday after The Epiphany



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

… God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth; Mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life …
 
In the Collect, first we acknowledge God’s place in the universe, that is He is the ultimate ruler of all things.  Thus, the civil authorities of each country, state, county and locality govern with His Authority, so long as they do His Will, whether they be Christian or not.  It is His Authority that is the source their powers and not their own determination. They do not have the power to grant themselves the power that God grants them.  And also this power that God gives is not to be abused for self profit or their own means, but to better the country and the people within it. Our Constitution, which serves as the skeleton or foundation of all our laws gets its authority from the Declaration of Independence.  Where, pray tell, does the Declaration of Independence get its authority?  From our Creator.  Acknowledged right there in plain English.  It needs no explanation, merely a grade school reading ability!  We go on to ask God to listen to us and give us His peace in our hearts.  God is perfect.  His hearing is perfect.  It is not His hearing that is in need of help.  It is our hearing. 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? He always answers, but do we always listen? We need to be always listening when He responds back and then act upon what He responds with. 

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

Paul reminds us each of us have our individual talents and we must work together with each of our individual talents to help the Church further its cause. 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 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.  It is not good enough to just say you are doing your best when you are actually not doing your best, but go 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! In the end it shouldn’t matter who did which job, as long as it is done right for God, that is all that matters. The satisfaction of a job well done is one of the best prizes we can ever receive.

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! That is how we can encourage other 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 continue 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.  Carnebeing a Latin derivative meaning flesh.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

First Sunday after The Epiphany


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

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

As imperfect creatures with free will, we will never figure out what we should be doing, let
alone do it, on our own.  We are confused beings who get into trouble left to our own devices. Without an external source of help, we will never be able to follow God on our own.  God sent the Holy Ghost that we might listen to Him and understand. He will give us the ability to figure out and know what and how we are to do the things we need to do here on Earth for Him. Not just understand The Word spoken to us through Jesus and the Scriptures, but to understand what we should do; hence the prayer to figure out what we need to do, then give us the power or strength to do what we are supposed to do.  He will help us to understand how to implement the concepts found in Scripture in our day to day lives and live the Word. We might have some difficulties, some nervousness, some stumbling; but in the end as long as we do our best to follow His will, and not worry, things shall be ok. We may not perform perfectly, but as long as we are striving to be on the road to perfection and to do our real best, then that is all that God asks of us. Because 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; not be passive about it, but actually physically do it. We need to act, using Scripture 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 this 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 and 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.  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. This word describes the essence of the Christian faith. To live the Word requires self-improvement each and every day of our lives. We need to ask ourselves at the end of each day, what did I do right today and what did I not do right? And figure out with the help of the Holy Ghost how to correct our wrongs and go on to the next day and do our best to do better.

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

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

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


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

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 must be done, no matter the cost. The lesson here is to keep your family and friends well informed of what you are doing, rather than going off on your own, figuring you can handle it.  If we get into emergencies or serious trouble then we will have wished we had informed others of where we are going. That is why it is good to keep your family and friends informed of where you are going and what time you are expected to be back.

Except most times, we cannot, as we are not like Jesus, we are not the Son of God, but rather mortals adopted into God’s Family. There are some things we cannot do on our own without His Help and without the help of our family and friends.

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

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

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

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

He comes!


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

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Epiphany

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Through the leading of the star, the wise men from Persia (modern day Iran) were led to seek the Christ Child. This was the “revealing” of Christ to the Gentiles, and the first such event. Though Jesus mainly ministered to the Jews of Israel, it is important to note He ministered to the Roman governor and the Faithful Centurion (from which our parish gets its name) whom were Gentiles.

Though the Apostles in the early church did not think that ministering to the Gentiles was worthy, through the actions of St. Paul, The Word began spreading to the Gentiles. Paul says in his Epistle that the time has come that we should start spreading to the Gentiles, and bring our gifts (talents) to His Service (as our talents are on loan from God, as Rush Limbaugh says) and use them accordingly to further His purpose on this planet.

Paul also said that he was charged by God to bring The Word to all, not just the Jews. The time was now ripe to expand past the original target market (the Jews), and to spread it to all. He said that he wished to explain the mysteries (The Word) of God to all, including the Gentiles, that they might see and hear The Word.

In the Gospel, Herod tries to entice the wise-men to find the Christ child and report His whereabouts to him so that he could as he claimed “that I will come and will worship him.”, but like most modern leaders of the world today, his words were duplicitous in nature. “I will come and worship him” translated to that he would come and murder Christ, as he did the Holy Innocents, while Christ was in Egypt.

The wisemen, however, fortunately, were warned in a dream, after visiting the Christ child, by God, of Herod’s true intentions, and went home a different way, that they would avoid a confrontation with Herod.  They brought him frankincense, incense and myrrh. In a way, they did what Paul talked about and brought Him “gifts” for His Service. Now we do not know if these gifts were ever used in Christ’s life. But, like present time gift giving, it is not necessarily the gifts that are important. It is the thought and the meaning behind the giving of gifts that mean the most.

Now in this troubled time, we must be ready to bring our talents to Him, to use for His Glory and to Spread His Word. In this time, we must spread The Word and without ceasing praise Him and His Majesty. In order to institute a turnaround of the moral decay, we must first act. If we do not act, how can we expect to stem the tide of the moral decay. We must act with steadfast purpose.

This may require some courage on our behalf, as we will be mocked and perhaps in this troubled time, may come a day, where we like the apostles are thrown in jail. However scary this time may be for spreading His Word, no matter how hostile it is, we must do it anyway. We must be like the men who brought freedom to this land, who defended our country when its freedom was threatened in all its wars from the War of Independence, through to the present, having been reading recently a lot on World War II, I think of the fear that must have gone through the hearts of those who participated in the amphibious assaults of D-Day, Tarawa, Peleliu, Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  Yet, they did what was to be done.  Proper action under very fearful circumstances, doing what must be done.

The important thing to remember about these men is they showed steadfast purpose and courage. It was a nerve racking thing as one approached a foreign beach of an island/land, not knowing what hell the enemy planned. But, the important lesson is that they stepped their boots forward into danger, knowing they would most likely pay for this advance with their lives.

As they stepped forward into danger, we must step forward into this hostile world, and charge forward against the fire of the hostile media and people, whose hearts have been turned to stone. We must charge against them, using The Word as our defense and our offense against Satan. The greatest defense is the best offense. And we truly have both in The Word of God. We must remember that God wants everybody to follow Him, not just certain ethnic groups (like the Jews), and we must concentrate on spreading His Word, through bringing our Gifts and Talents to His Service.

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

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The First Sunday after Christmas Day


Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion, Descanso, California

The First Sunday after Christmas Day.
The Collect.

A
LMIGHTYGod, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen

At this Christmastide, it is not surprising to find “To take our nature upon him”, is a key phrase of the Collect, preceding “To be born of a pure virgin”, meaning He could not have been born from anyone else but Mary, who was at the time a pure virgin (this is before the birth of James, Jesus’ biological half-brother. But the more important part of the phrases is “to take our nature upon him.” When He came into this world, He took our nature upon himself, that is to say in simpler terms He became like us. That is, He became human. So He could experience what it is like to be us and how we operate and also so He could represent us in His Sacrifice upon the cross.

Part of becoming human meant He felt the emotions we feel; pain, joy, suffering and more material emotions; hunger, wants and needs. This He took upon Himself, so He might come to understand His creation more. That could only be done if He could experience our body for himself, thus requiring Him to incarnate into a human form in order to understand what it was like to be us. Even though He created us and thus knew a lot about us, He needed the experience of being us. And also, to sacrifice Himself for our sakes, He needed to be within our bodies, so He could be accounted as a “human” sacrifice, taking upon all of our sins upon Himself, that we might be accounted as perfect before God to enter into heaven. This is one of the most amazing things of the Incarnation, God Himself came down to view, meet and be with His Creation, to understand how they live on this Earth and not only to understand His Creation, but to save His Creation from eternal death. This is because He views us as part of His family, by adoption via the Holy Spirit.

This topic leads into the Epistle. As Paul says in his letter to the Galatians, we are not to be servants or slaves of God, but His own children, we are more precious to Him than servants or slaves. He views us as part of His very wide and extended family. He loves us like a father or mother loves their own children. That is a key difference between Christianity and Islam. Islam views its followers as a means to an end, but Christianity views the followers as part of God’s Holy Family in Heaven. This clearly shows Islam’s Satanic roots versus Christianity’s Godly origins. We are wanted by God as His Children, He loves us and cares for us very much, so much that He sent His Only Begotten Son that all who believe on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). That is a pretty big amount of love for us sinful beings! That He sent His Own Son to die for our offenses, our sins, shows we mean a lot to Him, that He loves us so greatly. This is truly deserving of being called the Good News. It is in fact Outstanding news for us. We should rejoice that He has made us whole, taken away the power of sins if we repent of them, so that we may continue to live our life for Him!

We are different than the world for this very reason. The world lacks the compassion, the love Christ has given us, and it is the reason why it is and has been filled with so much trouble and sin over the thousands of years of our existence. What Christ has given us is a gift beyond the world’s understanding and valuation systems. They simply cannot see the pure joy we get from following and serving God.  But we will not have as much trouble as the world has, for we have something they do not, the Love of God and Christ among us to comfort and restore us, and to refresh us whenever we are tired and weary.

We have to realize God took upon our nature and our infirmities for us, His love is infinite as He is infinite. He is the past, the future and the present, He is the Master of Time. He is indeed, the Lord of Time and He love for us expands beyond all the timelines into the unfathomable past and into the unknowable for us future. 

When we pray, we must refer to God as Father, as He is our spiritual Father and physical Father too, for without him, our fathers would not have been created and our lives would not have sprung forth upon this Earth. He is our ultimate Father in this sense, for without Him, we would not be here. We are in a state of eternal debt to God for bringing us in and saving us from the trouble of our human nature. If we are to repay it, we must follow Jesus on the path to perfection, which we will never get to, but we will certainly never get to it if we never try.

As we came upon this midnight clear, the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is here for us.  Will we accept it?  Follow Him, accept His Grace and all will be good forever.

He comes!

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, December 23, 2018

The Fourth Sunday in Advent

Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
God really does want you to REJOICE and be happy, else
He would not have sent His Son to this miserable plant to die for you,
so you might have life eternal!
The Fourth Sunday in Advent
The Collect.

O
 LORD, raise up, we pray thee, thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honour and glory, world without end.  Amen.

The Collect for the First Sunday in Advent is on Page 90:

The First Sunday in Advent
The Collect.

A
LMIGHTYGod, 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.

As is oft the case, today’s propers all tie together to reinforce a point and build our understanding of what God wants and expects from each of us.  The Collect asks for God’s help for us to accept His Help and do it His Way. Because our sins do in fact hinder us from running the race that is set before us, that is to make it through the trials of this world and life and onto eternal life with our Lord. That is a thought that is constantly resonating throughout the Collects and not only them but all of Scriptures. That is because it is a constant truth that without the help of the Lord, we are but doomed to fail to follow Him.   It is oft supposed Christians are dour souls, with no sense of happiness or humor. Perhaps this thought comes from those who have heard what the Bible says, but have never actually read it and understood it. For if they understood it then they would not think that we are dour at all!  Reading the Bible as a whole proves this often popular train of thought to be patently false. That may have been the way the Puritans thought, but then again, the Puritans were not holding to the consistent truth of the Bible. After all God commands us to make a “joyful” noise unto the Lord! Not, a dour, grumbling and solemn noise, but an exceedingly JOYFUL noise unto the Lord! There is nothing in the Bible that says you cannot have fun whilst worshipping our Lord; in fact that is the preferred way to worship Him! If we enjoy worshipping the Lord, then we are most apt to do more of our best to follow Him, if we are enjoying ourselves whilst doing so!

After all, the one said to be the most dour of all, Paul, tells us to be happy. In his Epistle he mentioned rejoicing in the Lord always. Not just happy, but to REJOICE.  REJOICE in the Lord ALWAYS and AGAIN I say REJOICE!  How much more fun can you have?  At the same time though Paul cautions us to be moderate in everything we do, no excesses, an even keel.  Work hard, but maintain a time and space for our family, honor our country, and above all honor God.  Maintain an even balance between work and play so to speak and moderation in both areas. However, that is nowhere near being dour; just being happy, but a cautious people. After all, if we eat too much, we end up paying the price for the gluttony. So, too, do we pay both spiritually and physically for exceeding moderation in all things. Paul is not trying to stop us from having fun, he is trying to help us to have fun safely and in an enjoyable manner, where we can be able to use our full faculties as God intended. He goes on to tell us if we think we need something, simply ask God for it! Speaking of God, John recounts John the Baptist’s role in preparing the way for Jesus.  The Pharisees trouble with the simplicity of his message.  They were looking for something more complex, less straightforward, something more like themselves. We have heard this often about the Pharisees; what they are looking for is something that people tend to look for instead of following God’s actual message. For it is easier to get around this sort of message than God’s very simple and straight forward one. 

They were not willing to accept the change in the status quo; the New Testament would break their role in finding ways around the commandments Jesus gave.  There is no way around the two commandments, namely of loving God with all our heart, soul and mind, and loving our neighbors as ourselves! Without those, we are just pitiful, weak, sinful beings! But, if we embrace those commandments, we start to shed our old man image, and put on a newer, shinier and better image. We then become, Man 2.0, quite the upgrade from the first version! We can then bring change to our lives and those changes in our lives will ripple out like a rock hitting the pond water and affect the lives of those around us. We will never know the full extent of the impact, but if we keep living the Summary of the Law, our lives will be greatly enriched.

The Pharisees were a case of no play, all work and led a rather unbalanced life.  The opposite of what Saint Paul suggests we do. They neither held to rejoicing in the Lord always, nor did they hold to moderation in all things. We are told to balance ourselves with play besides work, to make us into a happier people who will rejoice in God’s commandments and will do His Work without complaint. We will be happier in the end if we do it His Way instead of our way as we are so wont to do, which is in our nature. The whole of Scriptures is about us fighting against our nature so we will be closer to what God intended us to be; a happy and holy people, living together in harmony.  This goes back to what the collect says, we ask He would come into our hearts and help us to work towards that harmony, to help us run the great race set before us.

If the world would do what God asked, our lives would be so much better, we would all be living together in happiness. Peace on earth will not be possible until the world accepts Him into their hearts. This is the perfect season for those who haven’t yet, to accept Him, to acknowledge Him at His first true appearance amongst us, at His Birth. Up until the end of our time here on earth, there is always time to accept Him, but do not wait until it is too late to do so!People can accept Him any at any time, but sooner rather than later is preferable. It is better to accept Him right away rather than wait until it is too late. That is why we much keep spreading and preaching the Gospel to all peoples and nations to fulfill the Great Commission.

Jesus also tells us to put our trust in the Lord, then not to worry.  He knows how counterproductive, indeed, how destructive worry can be in our lives. We know it not only cannot, but will not do good, we know it will only hurt our cause; yet we do it.  Is this not a proof positive of how much we need His Help?  How hard is it to Trust in God and Dread Naught?  Very!  Extremely difficult as a matter of fact. Worry can be a really powerful negative emotion.  We need to fight this emotion as nothing good comes from excessive worrying.  The best cure to worry is to pray for God for guidance and to act upon that guidance.  Even though it is very hard to trust somebody you can’t see physically, you must trust your spiritual sense and follow Him anyway!  Knowing you will see Him physically one day is one of our great rewards.This greatly eases at least my worries and should ease yours as well. There is always going to be a great evil in this day and age and we do not need to add to our existing problems by worrying. Worry solves nothing and simply creates more problems for you. It is an activity we need to do our best to stop doing.

When Saint John is recording the actions of John the Baptist, he tells us that when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?They got an answer they neither expected nor really understood, he said,I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet EsaiasI baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; he it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.They had no clue what he was talking about.  All they could see was what they expected, a king of this world.  Yet, John the Baptist knew the kingdom was not of this world, for the King was no of this World, but the Eternal King of Eternity.  John the Baptist later says He must increase, but I must decrease.(John 3:30)  This is true of us, also.  We must let Jesus permeate us and become the dominant force in us. But, it does not happen in the twinkling of the eye. Jack Lewis tells us, We are doing well enough if the slow process of being more in Christ and less in ourselves has made a decent beginning in a long life (it will be completed only in the next world). Jack Lewis suggestsyou try his plan;I pray ‘Lord, show me just so much (neither more nor less) about myself as I need for doing thy will now.’

The world is extremely complex; it is full of problems, temptations and difficulties.  It is full of obstacles for us, yet all Christianity offers is a few simple solutions.  We often hear there are no simple answers to complex questions.  Actually, that is not true.  There are simple answers to complex problems, they are the only ones which can and will work.  The problem is they are not the answers people want.  Most people do not want to know what they are supposed to do, lest they have to do it.  They want to be told what they want to do is at least okay, even though it is clearly not okay. But we need to know what we are doing is actually “Okay”, not what Joe on the corner claims is Okay. To do that, we have to read the Scriptures and listen to what God says is Okay, because He really does know the best in this matter for us. 

Once again, when you think about being a Christian, think a bit about these quotes from GK Chesterton:

·      Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.
·      The word goodhas many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man. 
·      The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people. 
·      Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions. 
·      A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.

 G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

We are called to a new and different life, we ask the Lord to both lead us and follow us, to keep us always.  Our goal is to dothe Lord’s will, not to avoid613 laws.  To do what is right and be humble.

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, December 16, 2018

The Third Sunday in Advent


The Third Sunday in Advent
The Collect.


O
 LORDJesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

The First Sunday in Advent
The Collect.

A
LMIGHTYGod, 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.

In the Collect for the Third Sunday in Advent, we are referred to as the ministers and stewards (caretakers) of the mysteries of God: the Scriptures and His Word. We ask for help in getting the hearts of the disobedient, by the wisdom of the just, to turn and look to the Kingdom of God for answers and not this world. We are like John the Baptist  who prepared the way for Christ’s coming by preaching and preparing the path for Christ to begin his ministry. We are likewise preaching the Word and preparing the World for His Return, by getting their hearts ready by being guided by the Holy Spirit and spreading the Good News across the globe. 

The collect gets to the heart of the matter directly. It says that in order for us to follow God, we need our disobedient hearts to shift focus to that of being just, in order to be ready to follow Him. This world will not help us follow Him nor will their solutions help us to follow him.  When we look to the world for solutions, we find the solutions of this world.  This world, ruled by the Prince of this world, the Prince of Air, the devil himself!  But Only His Solutions will help us to follow Him. We will only prosper if we follow His Solutions, that is God’s solutions. What will people think when we reject worldly solutions to worldly problems.  There is an answer for that, conveniently following the Collect.

In the Epistle, Paul tells us not fear what others think of us, but rather be concerned about what God thinks of what we are doing and what direction in which He wants us to go.  Rather than spend the mental energy on being concerned with what others think, let us use that same mental energy to do our best for God, our family and our country. We can get a lot more done for God this way and it will be better for our hearts, souls and minds if we think this way. Worry does not solve any problems; but it can create problems if we let it. So, let us not worry about the opinions of man, but of God instead. We will profit spiritually this way.

This is a very hard concept for many people to act on, including myself. However, it is something that each and every one of us should be working towards. What God thinks of us is a more important standard to hold ourselves to than what the people in this world think of us. We are to look to heaven for the answers to our worldly problems, not to this world. The world’s solutions have been tried and found wanting, but heaven’s solutions are never wanting. The only failure is that of their implementation which is on us and not on God. We just need to have the willpower, which can get from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, to implement these solutions around us.

Rather than fear man, we must fear God, and do what He wants us to do. Then perhaps maybe, some in this world will see what we are doing for Him and come to know Him and join Him. As I mentioned in previous sermons, we will never know how much and impact we have on others around us. It is on us to be good ambassadors of Christ and to make good and lasting positive impressions on everyone we encounter. It is very much like how we are to act when traveling for work. We are called to be good representatives of the company and our conduct reflects very much on the company we work for, or in this case, God.  So, let us be the best representatives of God we can be. Some people will not be receptive of course, so we must shake the dust off our boots and leave. But some people will be receptive and even those that aren’t, in time, might be open to hearing God’s message.  We aren’t called to force God’s message on others, but to offer it if they wish to hear it. Otherwise, we must do our part to be polite and kind to others, believers and other sorts of believers/non-believers, be it at work, school or home. Following God’s ways, we will be a much happier people. 

We will never get anywhere if we follow the ways of this world. As in John 1:11-13 He came unto His own and His Own received him not.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.  Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.

If we are born of God, then it is Him to whom we must return and not man. As the verse from John points out, even Jesus came to us and we refused him; how can we expect any better treatment from man, than that given God Himself, who came down for us?  We should not be surprised when our fellow men treat us like dirt. We know ourselves how depraved we can be without the guiding light of the Holy Spirit in us. 

But the next part of the verse tells us what we will get if we join with him. He gave us the power to become the Sons of God, as we are His adopted children. He is giving us our eternal inheritance, if we will but follow Him. We are going to get an absolutely wonderful reward, if we do our very best to follow Him.  There is a distinct difference between saying you are doing your best and actually doing your best. 

The treatment we receive in this world will pale in comparison to the treatment God will give us in the next world if we but do our very best to follow Him. He has given us the power to become the Sons of God; we are God’s adopted children. This is a power greater than any in this world not of God’s Hands. This is a power that cannot be taken from us, as we are tightly in God’s Hand. The enemy cannot pluck us out of God’s grasp, once we have willingly joined ourselves to God through the help of the Holy Ghost. We need the unifying spirit of the Holy Ghost to help us understand the concepts of Scripture; not only to understand them, but to follow them. With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can understand what we are to do; more than that, we will be able to apply the concepts we learn from Scripture to our everyday lives.

In the Gospel, Christ asks the crowd of what they expected to see?  Some great big flashy sign He was going to overthrow the Romans and unite the Jews to conquer the world?  That was what they expected, but not what He came for!  He did not come to do this, for that would be only a temporary and in fact temporal thing to rule the world.  He came for far more than that; to prepare our hearts for eternity and change us from unjust to just creatures, worthy of God’s creation and His Hands. As John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Christ’s preaching, Christ came to prepare our way to join our Father in Heaven. Without this preparation, we would not have the wonderful gift of eternal life.

His sacrifice was the physical and spiritual action which paved the road for our ascent to heaven. He came to mold and to shape us from being roughly made to something very valuable. He came to transform us from death to being truly alive. 

To be worthy of the charge and care of His mysteries, we must be willing to listen to Him and do whatever we need to do to line ourselves up with what He wants for us, not what we want for ourselves. We must think of others, instead of thinking of ourselves all the time.  On some level, all of us, including myself, are guilty of this, but as long as we recognize it and work to consciously change it, then all will be well. We must be willing to never give up and persevere; if we follow this, we will keep getting better and better all the time. 

Life is a continual process of learning in every aspect of our lives, not least of these aspects is our spiritual growth and development.  The Japanese have a word for this, introduced into their industry by the American engineer W. Edwards Deming, Kaizen(改善), that is to say continuous improvement. Never perfect, but always endeavoring to improve.  Day by day. Our goal is to make the next day better than the last. This is how we must continually develop as Christians.

To care for the mysteries of God properly, we must continue to learn in our spiritual lives; if we do this, we will keep growing more and more every day.  Reading Scripture is one way to further our spiritual development, as well as helping others without thought for ourselves.  We must keep doing a combination of these and similar things, if we expect to be able to facilitate our spiritual growth and change the minds of the disobedient and the unjust. We have to undergo our spiritual rebirth before we can help to transform others and to serve others.  To accomplish this, we need to have the mental state that only the Holy Ghost can give us. We must keep trying our best to improve and learn from the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit and to trust in God and dread naught.

As He came to change us for the better, Paul and the Collect remind us to do the same for the others.  We have to keep trying to help our friends and family and to do our best to do so, while shining the light of Christ into the darkness of this world as His ambassadors. We know not what seeds we plant when we perform such actions and in a future time they may bear fruit. We must not try and rush the work of the Holy Spirit, who works on God’s time and not that of our own time. All good things will happen in due course. If we do our part by planting the seed, the Holy Ghost will nurture and develop this seed to bear fruit. We must put our hearts and minds together and think about what God wants us to do in the end, rather than what we want to do. Put God first and all will be well, is what can be taken from today’s collects and lessons, ultimately. We must be willing do to this; then we can be properly caring for the mysteries of God.

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