Verse of the Day

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Sunday next before Advent


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

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

 

The Sunday next before Advent

The Collect.

S

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

 

As is oft the case, today’s propers are all tied together.  As is usual, they call for action not just thoughts.  In fact, the collect is among the most direct, asking God to stir our hearts that we might ACT in a manner which will result in good things! The collect is asking for God to inspire us to ACT to produce those good works that will please Him. It is asking for God to assist us in our actions here on Earth to produce good fruits. 

 

Jeremiah prophesies the coming of Jesus out of the branch of David that He might unite God’s people as one under a New Covenant.  Christ is the key piece to the puzzle of the Old Testament prophecies. He is the answer to all of the prophecies the Old Testament contains about our savior. John tells us Jesus comes to fill both our spiritual and physical hunger. Our spiritual hunger in that by His Coming, we will have the Word as our spiritual bread and drink. And our physical hunger by the fact if we follow what He says and do our best, we should have no problems getting food to eat. The collect is calling us to action, to perform good works to advance the cause of the Gospel. 

 

The collect is asking us to allow God into our hearts so that we can go forth and do good works that the Good News might be spread. When God enters into our hearts, he will give us spiritual food and drink that will be more filling to our souls than the lembas bread from Lord of the Rings, it will sustain us on our spiritual journeys here on earth and guide us on that narrow and upward path towards heaven. We just have to let Him into our hearts and provide us with that nourishment.

 

Once He is in our hearts, we are to let Him stir up His Will in our hearts, to incline us to perform good works for Him and to go out and actually perform those good works. Then through these actions we will truly get our just reward. Our wills are naturally inclined towards not following Him; we need to have our wills reset towards following Him. 

 

We have to throw off our old man, to quote Saint Paul and to put on the new armor and helmet of the new man. We have to let the Holy Ghost into us and cleanse us of our old sinful selves.  For without the Holy Ghost’s influence, we cannot truly be able to willing follow Him and act for Him on our own intuition. For our natural intuition is corrupt, by the disease of sin eating away at our very souls. Only the great doctor, God himself, can cure us of this otherwise incurable disease.

 

Nothing else in this world will satisfy us like God and the Word of God can. He is the answer to the missing hole in so many people’s hearts and lives.  There is so much evidence of this missing hole in people’s lives today. Our broken society is a reflection of the missing gigantic God shaped hole. Yet nobody wishes to acknowledge or recognize this hole. The church sadly has been complicit in this by allowing the devil to enter into the church. No house divided against itself shall stand and sadly that is what is happening with the modern church.  We have found that no art or work of mammon can come even close to the pure satisfaction following God provides. Yet because so many people have been blinded by Satan, they won’t see this. This is the only possible way we can truly be satisfied, everything else is a shadow of true happiness and satisfaction. God is the only way in which we can truly be happy, for everything else is worthless to our wellbeing, except for the joy of following Him.

 

If we follow our own heart and guidance, we will seek the things of this world.  As explained before, the things of this world cannot compare in satisfaction value to God and the Word of God.   There are plenty of examples through out history where we can see how much evil action can be laid to coveting and other evil desires by not only persons, but nations. We can look at the examples of the early wars in Europe, and of late, of the wars started by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan for examples. 

 

These examples show we are not truly capable of satisfying ourselves, only Jesus and the Holy Spirit can fill the hole. We cannot replace God with man as some liberal minded folk in this country are so apt to think. This is why we truly need the Holy Ghost acting in our hearts and cleansing us of these impure thoughts. We desperately need the influence the Trinity provides in our life. Our life will be so much more rewarding and happier, if we have them involved in our lives, versus those who do not have them in their life.

 

As we are nearing the beginning of Advent, let us think ahead to the joy of Christmas, the birth of Christ, His entry into this world, the joy of Epiphany, His revealing to the world.  Then look ahead at the horror, pain and sadness of Good Friday.  This lets us see the joy of eternal life He gave us, came at a very heavy price. Jesus gave His Own Life so we might have eternal happiness and not only that but he had to go down into hell and do battle with the devil. 

 

The World is constantly changing things to suit its sinful desires.  However, those of us who follow God do not change from the truth. This is why we will never be fully satisfied with things of this world, but we will be satisfied with what God provides for us.

 

He asks of us nothing special; but just to do our very best, not just say it. It is something I am striving to work on more and more every day. We must keep learning and following His Word. It is a hard concept for many of us to follow, including myself, but we must all strive more and more every day to do our very best. If we study Scriptures diligently and work hard to follow them to the best of our abilities, then we will, with the Holy Spirit’s help, be charted on an excellent course. 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail.  The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.

 

The time is now, not tomorrow.  The time has come, indeed.  How will you ACT?

 

It is by our actions we are known.

 

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity

  

Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California

Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above. 

 

The Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity

The Collect.

 

 

O

 GODour refuge and strength, who art the author of all godliness; Be ready we beseech thee to hear the devout prayers of the Church; and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Consider these words from the Collect:

 


… keep thy household the Church in continual godliness; that through thy protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to serve thee in good works, to the glory of thy Name …

 

 

The Collect says God is the author of all perfection; we ask Him to be ready, to hear our sincere prayers: He may answer those things which are good for the Church and the world for which we ask and from His Grace we may receive those things which are good for us.  Left unsaid is that we must be ready to hear and act on His Word. In order to receive those things which are good for us, we must be ready and willing to have them. Which means opening our hearts up to the Holy Ghost and be performing actions which are consistent with Scriptures.

 

In the Epistle, Paul tells us, as well as the Philippians, to follow God and not be dependent on man, as so many in this country are now. The problem is many, who claim they are followers of Christ, don’t walk the walk, they are selfish and only think of themselves. There are too many people around the world who think and act in this manner.  They have no desire to help others, and in fact have a desire to tear others down rather than lend them a helping hand. This is not a manner consistent with what Christ has taught us and violates the Summary of the Law, wherein it talks about loving our neighbor as ourselves. He warns them will lead them onto a path of doom and destruction.   Whereas if people would love their neighbor as themselves, it would lead them on a path to prosperity and eternal life. In times of trial and tribulation, we are not to worry, but rather lean on Our Lord. It may be difficult but it can be done through the help of the Holy Spirit. We must realize our true and final citizenship is in heaven, for which we look to Our Saviour. If we are on the side of righteousness, of the Lord, of godliness, then who are we to fear?

 

Nobody; save a respectful fear of Our God. 

 

We will not bow before the forces of darkness; but rather stand tall, equipped with the armor of light, the shield of truth, and the helmet of faith. We will give those in authority the respect they are due but we will not be dependent upon them for our every need and whim. This is why those who seek to create a larger government are working on supplanting God’s authority over us. For if God is the authority, as He is; man has no power to determine what is right and what is wrong. Man is not responsible for his own power. This is why those who are seeking to enlarge their power over the people in this country must first destroy the Church. The good news is that Paul says in the end, these people’s efforts will be in vain and they will be destroyed, as much as they are attempting to destroy us here on Earth. We can be cheered up in these depressing times, knowing we are on the winning side for eternity. We are to turn to God; if we are to be dependent on anything, it must be God upon whom we are dependent, and not Man. Being dependent on man only leads to eternal death for us, but being dependent on God leads to eternal life for us. 

 

Which brings us to the point of the Gospel, in which Christ tells the Pharisees of how they are to deal with the problem of tribute to Caesar. They have no love for the Roman Government, as we have very little love for the swamp dwellers in our own Government. However, Christ reminds them to separate their hatred of the government, and do the right thing. As we must give God His due (our worship and prayer), we must give the government their due (taxes, etc.), but this does not mean we treat the government as demi-gods, to put it one way, as politicians often think of themselves.  The government has to earn our respect, not the other way around, which too often it and the members in it forget this simple fact.

 

We have to realize that God has granted the government their authority to govern, but not to supplant Him. God cannot be replaced by man. His authority is where the government gets their authority, and will always be; whether they choose to recognize that or not, is up to them. That is what we pray for when we pray for the President, that he would recognize God’s authority and align his leadership with that of God’s will. The statists in this country believe the false lie that man can govern man without assistance from God or God’s authority. Governments which do not recognize this fact are in the end, doomed to fail. The history books are filled with pages of failed governments, all failed because they refused to recognize God’s rightful place as the source of their legal authority.

 

Jesus’ point is that we give them what they are owed, no more and no less.  The Pharisees were trying to trick Christ to say that you must honor one or the other, when you can do both.  We should be serving God and not man; that does not mean that we do not have to pay our dues to the government that rules us. It is only through God’s grace that he allows government to rule over man. The government we have was established with the recognition it serves at His pleasure. Its Declaration of Independence establishes people have rights endued them by their Creator, not the government. It is with the authority of the people the government serves. It must exist to serve the people and God. It is not to be a self-licking ice cream cone. Jesus told us to feed the poor people, not create laws that take money from other people ostensibly for that purpose, of which he commanded us to do.

 

The Collect, Epistle and Gospel tie together, laying out, detailing and reinforcing the same message, ultimately.  We have to respect the authorities that govern us, no matter how we disagree or dislike them, and conduct ourselves like Christians. However, that does not mean that we replace the rule of God with the rule of Man. Man’s laws should merely be a restatement of God’s laws, not to replace God’s laws.

 

Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail.  The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.

 

The time is now, not tomorrow.  The time has come, indeed.  How will you ACT?

 

It is by our actions we are known.


                                                                 Be of God - Live of God - Act of God 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity


Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California

Todays sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction and are all tied together.  Todays propers really put to lie the concept of the hermit Christian.  When we talk about them, look how the Collect talks about the Household of God, what Bishop Cranmer styles as the Church, and how Paul speaks of the benefits of fellowship and joint prayer.  If that were not enough, see how Jesus reminds us of the need for forgiveness and patience, things you only need if you interface with others.


Consider these words from the Collect:

 

… keep thy household the Church in continual godliness; that through thy protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to serve thee in good works, to the glory of thy Name …

 

In the Collect we ask the Lord to keep His household, (that would be the Church or us) in continual godliness (that is to keep Him as our leader and follow Him and the principles of Scripture), so that with His Help we can have as smooth a path as practical and serve Him in happiness. It also says through His protection we might be free from all adversities and to do good works for Him. By being free of adversities, it means in times of adversity God might give us the guidance needed to soar through these adversities and do good for Him.

 

This is only possible if we listen to the Scriptures and apply them with the help of the Holy Ghost.  Without the help of the Holy Ghost, we cannot have His Protection and will not be able to keep on the straight and narrow uphill path towards heaven.

 

Saint Paul follows this same thought in his Epistle when he thanks the Philippians for their fellowship and talks about how their bond through Christ have strengthened his faith as a result which enabled him to continue doing good works for the Lord. He expresses his wishes for the Philippians to do the same and to keep growing in heart, soul and spirit, with their judgement and knowledge increasing as they allow the Holy Ghost in their hearts more and more.

 

And they would approve of godly things and their holiness would increase as they walk more and more with God.  It ties in nicely with the collect asking for God to keep the Church in continual godliness. Our Lord accomplishes this by having our bonds strong in the church, He keeps us in that continual godliness. The more we love the Lord, the more it will show through in our actions and our judgment.  So, let us keep loving the Lord, so our actions and judgment will align His!

 

Which brings us to the point of the Gospel, in which Christ tells Peter about forgiveness and how we must be ever patient with our fellow humans, and if they are repentant, grant them that forgiveness, no matter how many times they might err and vex us.  It doesn’t matter if we want to or not, if they are truly repentant then we must forgive them, regardless of how we want to do otherwise. This is important as if we hold the evil of non-forgiveness in our hearts, it is to our own detriment.  We would not be following the words of the collect of staying in godliness if we were to not forgive. For as God forgives, so must we forgive those who are truly sorry. 

 

Holding non-forgiveness in our hearts is as bad for us as holding a grudge against an individual. It acts like a very slow acting poison. In the long term it can turn our soul from a bright light to a black soul if left unchecked. This is why Jesus councils us to never let the sun go down on our anger. If we hold non-forgiveness against an individual who is clearly penitent, then we are not acting like a Christian, but like our old unsaved selves. So, we need to let go of our anger and forgive others regardless if we like them or not.  We should do unto others as we would like them to do to us, if the roles were reversed. 

 

We can only forgive those sins against us, for those that are against God, only God can forgive. Contrary to the belief of the Roman Catholics, priests do not have this power. We can only pronounce God’s forgiveness. We don’t have God’s power of forgiving, is God doing the actual action of forgiveness, but it falls upon us to tell people about it. When one sins against a fellow creature, they sin against God also.  When we say we forgive them, we are not forgiving them ourselves only, but informing them God has forgiven them for their sins.   Remember, we can forgive them for personal trespasses against us, but through God’s power, only He can grant absolution of our sins, not us.  Nowhere in Scripture does Christ tell Peter humans have the power to forgive sins, as the Roman Catholics claim they have, but rather God must forgive sins, but we can tell others God has forgiven them. 


The parable illustrates what happens to those who are forgiven, but yet turn around and do not forgive their neighbor (in this case, a debtee) for their sins and have thus abused their forgiveness from Our Lord. If we follow this person’s path, we will find ourselves in a poor spot in eternal life; not only the eternal life, but our temporary life here on earth would be made more miserable by our abusing of the forgiveness. Let us not be like that fellow, but let us forgive our neighbor, if he is truly sorry and willing to repent and re-start the friendship, and turning a new leaf so to speak. 


If God has been so good to forgive us, why should we not inform others God can and will forgive them of any sins against Him or us for that matter? It would be truly selfish not to do so and to go against what He has commanded us to do, in spreading the Word to all nations. This is why the Gospel is called the Good News, because God has forgiven us for our sins and sent His Son to die for us, that we might have eternal life instead of eternal damnation. This is the ultimate forgiveness, accounting us as perfect, when we are anything but.  

 

Today’s propers speak of the power of Our Lord in forgiveness and how we must remember our bond with our fellow Christians in Christ, especially in times of great sorrow or trouble and use that to strengthen us in our day to day lives. We must always remember there are others in our heavenly family who are struggling along with us. With the help of the Holy Ghost and our bond with Christ, we shall not fail.


The Collect’s prayer, Epistle and Gospel tie together, laying out, detailing and reinforcing the same message, ultimately.  We have to be willing to forgive others, tell them about God’s forgiveness, and not turn around and commit the grave error of not forgiving others as God has forgiven us for our sins. We have to act more like God each day, though we are not and never will be perfect. If we try our utmost best, that is all we can do.


Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail.  The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.


The time is now, not tomorrow.  The time has come, indeed.  How will you ACT?


It is by our actions we are known.


Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Sunday, November 1, 2020

All Saints and Trinity 21

 

Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California

Todays sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction.

 


Before we discuss the propers, I would like to talk a bit about today, All SaintsDay.  First notice the word is plural, a great number of saints, all in fact, are remembered today.  

 

In other traditions, All Saints' Day is known as All Hallows, Day of All the Saints, Solemnity of All Saints, or Feast of All Saints.  It is a fixed day, celebrated on 1 November every year, except not surprisingly by our Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brethren who celebrate the even on the first Sunday after Pentecost.

 

Roman Catholics and our Eastern Orthodox friends are talking about people who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven.   In the Reformed Church and Anglican Orthodox Church in particular, we regard all true Christian believers as saints and observe All Saints Day to remember all Christians both past and present. 


 Consider the words of the Collect, “…God … keep us … from all things that may hurt us; that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things which thou commandest …”

 

The Collect asks God to keep us from things that are bad for us and make our hearts ready so we can do the things He wants us to do; this ties perfectly with the Epistle and Gospel as it always does.  The message of the Collect, the Epistle and the Gospel can be summarized by Stay away from things that will harm your spiritual and physical health and do things good for your health and be spiritually aware of what is going on.

 

One word that intrigues me from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is “circumspectly”; which when I looked it up meant “wary and unwilling to take risks.”  I believe Paul meant today we should not be taking risks with our faith, but walking in that which has been tried and true for over two thousand years. He means we should not compromise our belief in the Gospel. We cannot risk comprising the integrity of the faith. Too many of the modern so called Christian churches today compromise the integrity of the faith to gain more power on this Earth. We called not to compromise on the core of our faith which is Jesus and His Death and sacrifice and resurrection.  This is not what being a Church is supposed to be about. It is supposed to draw people closer to God, not away from Him.  We are called to be shining lights towards God and to stand out, to be holy, and not part of the darkness of this World. If God has not changed over the millennia, why should we change our position? 

 

Indeed, we must not change our position; if it is truly derived from His Holy Word, then it should never change. If a minister or bishop’s position conflicts with Scripture, then you know they are not in line with His Word and is not a fellow believer. We must all strive to be in congruence with His Word. We are all working together in His Church to further His Cause. If we are not all on the same page, then we are not furthering His Work. We have to all work together to spread the Gospel, each person contributes to the much larger picture of spreading the Gospel. 

 

Paul in his Epistle warns us not to drink to excess, but to keep it in moderation. He does not mean never to drink wine, as some, (Puritans and certain Baptists, among others) would take, but rather have “moderation in all things”; which is a similar idea Paul expresses in 1 Corinthians 6:12, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.  Just because you can do something, like drinking or eating, does not mean you should do it to excess where it can cause you harm. He is warning against excesses in everything, and we should do everything in a healthy dose of moderation. Eating too much can cause stomach problems, something we want to avoid. Drinking too much can cause serious issues, not the least of which is hangovers; the worst is drinking to death. 

 

Our Lord wants us to be moderate in our celebration, not celebrating to the point of excess where bad things can happen to our bodies and our minds; but celebrating to where we are thankful to Him for all things, and for His Love.

 

This is the unifying theme of both the Epistle and the Gospel for today. Keep everything we do in moderation and avoid excesses in anything.  Rather than turn to the excesses of this world, Paul says we must turn to God and be filled with His Grace of the Holy Spirit; making joyful noises to the Lord, be it in prayer or song while giving thanks always for all things to God. 

 

The Gospel’s theme is that everybody is invited to God’s great feast and or wedding party (heaven) but if you do not have the right clothes (the Holy Ghost’s presence in your heart) then you will not be allowed to enter. Just like if somebody shows up to a black tie event wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, if we are not up to God’s Holy Dress Code, then we will not be able to make it into heaven. How do we get His Dress code? Simple, we have to let the Holy Ghost into our hearts and read and digest His Word. Scripture will tell us how to act and be allowed into the feast.

 

How often are we thankful to God for letting us join His Feast? More often than not we seem to forget who made us, who created the world we dwell in, who created the fantastic beasts on land and in the sea. It seems very strange we forget to thank God for all of these things, but we do. Making a joyful noise unto the Lord is part of how we can do this, besides prayer and thanksgiving. Be it through songs, happy declarations to the Lord or joyful worship, we can send our joy unto our Lord.  This is part of the reason it is important to say prayers like the Gloria in the prayer book with “liveliness”, we are expressing our praise and thanksgiving unto God, for having sent His Son down to save us from our wicked selves. 

 

In our lives, we should be grateful to God more than we are. We are too often not thinking of God’s role in our lives and only thinking of our own. I can identify this. We have to widen our view to think of what God has done for us in our lives and appreciate and thank Him for it. We have to turn away from that temptation, and let the Holy Spirit in and guide us to thanking God for what He has done for us in our lives. 

 

The Collect, Epistle and Gospel tie together, laying out, detailing and reinforcing the same message ultimately.  We have to be ready and willing to listen to God, and walk with God, and act with the Holy Spirit in us, in order to have the right “clothes” to enter into the kingdom of 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?

 

The time to act is NOW.  Will you act?  For whom will you act?  Will you count the cost before you act?

 

Action, not diction, is what counts.  It is by your actions you are known.

 

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

  

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

 

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action

Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California

Todays sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction.

 

Rev Jack Arnold

Consider the words of the Collect, “…God … keep us … from all things that may hurt us; that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things which thou commandest …”

 

The Collect asks God to keep us from things that are bad for us and make our hearts ready so we can do the things He wants us to do; this ties perfectly with the Epistle and Gospel as it always does.  The message of the Collect, the Epistle and the Gospel can be summarized by Stay away from things that will harm your spiritual and physical health and do things good for your health and be spiritually aware of what is going on.

 

One word that intrigues me from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is “circumspectly”; which when I looked it up meant “wary and unwilling to take risks.”  I believe Paul meant today we should not be taking risks with our faith, but walking in that which has been tried and true for over two thousand years. He means we should not compromise our belief in the Gospel. We cannot risk comprising the integrity of the faith. Too many of the modern so called Christian churches today compromise the integrity of the faith to gain more power on this Earth. We called not to compromise on the core of our faith which is Jesus and His Death and sacrifice and resurrection.  This is not what being a Church is supposed to be about. It is supposed to draw people closer to God, not away from Him.  We are called to be shining lights towards God and to stand out, to be holy, and not part of the darkness of this World. If God has not changed over the millennia, why should we change our position? 

 

Indeed, we must not change our position; if it is truly derived from His Holy Word, then it should never change. If a minister or bishop’s position conflicts with Scripture, then you know they are not in line with His Word and is not a fellow believer. We must all strive to be in congruence with His Word. We are all working together in His Church to further His Cause. If we are not all on the same page, then we are not furthering His Work. We have to all work together to spread the Gospel, each person contributes to the much larger picture of spreading the Gospel. 

 

Paul in his Epistle warns us not to drink to excess, but to keep it in moderation. He does not mean never to drink wine, as some, (Puritans and certain Baptists, among others) would take, but rather have “moderation in all things”; which is a similar idea Paul expresses in 1 Corinthians 6:12, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.  Just because you can do something, like drinking or eating, does not mean you should do it to excess where it can cause you harm. He is warning against excesses in everything, and that we should do everything in a healthy dose of moderation. Eating too much can cause stomach problems, something we want to avoid. Drinking too much can cause serious issues, not the least of which is hangovers; the worst is drinking to death. 

 

Our Lord wants us to be moderate in our celebration, not celebrating to the point of excess where bad things can happen to our bodies and our minds; but celebrating to where we are thankful to Him for all things, and for His Love.

 

This is the unifying theme of both the Epistle and the Gospel for today. Keep everything we do in moderation and avoid excesses in anything.  Rather than turn to the excesses of this world, Paul says we must turn to God and be filled with His Grace of the Holy Spirit; making joyful noises to the Lord, be it in prayer or song while giving thanks always for all things to God. 

 

The Gospel’s theme is that everybody is invited to God’s great feast and or wedding party (heaven) but if you do not have the right clothes (the Holy Ghost’s presence in your heart) then you will not be allowed to enter. Just like if somebody shows up to a black tie event wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, if we are not up to God’s Holy Dress Code, then we will not be able to make it into heaven. How do we get His Dress code? Simple, we have to let the Holy Ghost into our hearts and read and digest His Word. Scripture will tell us how to act and be allowed into the feast.

 

How often are we thankful to God for letting us join His Feast? More often than not we seem to forget who made us, who created the world we dwell in, who created the fantastic beasts on land and in the sea. It seems very strange we forget to thank God for all of these things, but we do. Making a joyful noise unto the Lord is part of how we can do this, besides prayer and thanksgiving. Be it through songs, happy declarations to the Lord or joyful worship, we can send our joy unto our Lord.  This is part of the reason it is important to say prayers like the Gloria in the prayer book with “liveliness”, we are expressing our praise and thanksgiving unto God, for having sent His Son down to save us from our wicked selves. 

 

In our lives, we should be grateful to God more than we are. We are too often not thinking of God’s role in our lives and only thinking of our own. I can identify this. We have to widen our view to think of what God has done for us in our lives and appreciate and thank Him for it. We have to turn away from that temptation, and let the Holy Spirit in and guide us to thanking God for what He has done for us in our lives. 

 

The Collect, Epistle and Gospel tie together, laying out, detailing and reinforcing the same message ultimately.  We have to be ready and willing to listen to God, and walk with God, and act with the Holy Spirit in us, in order to have the right “clothes” to enter into the kingdom of 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?

 

The time to act is NOW.  Will you act?  For whom will you act?  Will you count the cost before you act?

 

Action, not diction, is what counts.  It is by your actions you are known.

 

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God


[1] In that day, the giver of such a feast would have provided wedding garments for those who traveled far and were unable to bring one.  In our case, Jesus provides the appropriate garb to those who will wear it, not just accept it and put it to one side.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Saint Luke the Evangelist, superseding the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity


Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California

Todays sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction.

 

Consider the words of the Collect, “… inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son; Manifest in thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls …”


 

The Collect asks God to inspire us, that is His “Church”, through the intervention and help of the Holy Ghost, to accept the love and healing power of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that like Luke and those he touched, we might have our broken bodies and souls made whole.

 

This is such a familiar theme, asking God to help us come to know Him and His Help, the Holy Ghost.  Without His guidance, we really can do nothing in the end that is right.  What seems right to us always ends up in the swamp.  We need to recognize the need before we can benefit from the help He can give us.  We need to ask for help, then when it is delivered to recognize and accept it. The healing that comes from Christ can only happen if we are willing and able to listen to Him and to let Him into our hearts and minds. He does not come in to those who do not want to receive Him. We have to make it our desire to let Him in.

 

Paul is truly our ultimate example of God’s Power and Grace.  Paul, Chief Persecutor of the early Church, “saw the light” on the “Road to Damascus.”[1]  God chose Paul from amongst all the men walking the earth at the time to use his talents to further God’s purpose on earth.    An interesting paradox is that the closer you come to God, the more you appreciate how much separates you from His Godly Perfection, the more you realize your shortcomings. In time you will find that your life will have a purpose to it that cannot be defeated, for in the end, you are on the winning side, that of God’s eternal light. If you do your very best for Him on this earth, with your life, you will have a wonderful eternal reward for Him. It is a pretty powerful motivator that we need to remind ourselves of, more often.

 

So, when Paul writes to his beloved assistant, helper and fellow minister of the Gospel, Timothy, near the end of Paul’s time here on earth, he is trying to help him with earthly things and motivate Timothy to continue his work in the event they join not again here on earth[2].   He tells Timothy to spread the Word of God, to be prepared to endure persecution and affliction for the sake of the Word.   He notes that of all his followers or close companions only Luke remains with him.  Thus, when we despair of low numbers in our churches, we should remember Paul.  If Paul, arguably the greatest mind of all those who put God’s Word to pen, could not keep everyone in God’s Word, why should we expect such a differing result.  The big thing for Paul, and us, is don’t give up[3].  You cannot win if you give up and you cannot lose the war if you do not give up.  

 

At times, it does not seem easy to not give up, with what seems like depressing news at every turn, but we cannot lose that hope eternal, that Christ gives us. We have to look to the Holy Spirit and His Word to strengthen us and encourage us, to enable us to fight the good fight with all that we have. We have to remember that as long as we do not give up, in the end God’s Side, and thus our side, wins the battle.

 

Not everything in life went smoothly for Paul, why would we expect it to be different for us?  Life is not always smooth sailing, there will be times when we encounter severe turbulence in our life. But with God’s help we will and must ride out the turbulence. Like real turbulence, it is only temporary. Once we get passed it, it will smooth out. But there will be periods that are quite turbulent. We just have to remember to ask for God’s help to get through those turbulent times.  When we pray for help from God via the Holy Ghost, we pray for understanding, comfort, strength, patience, perseverance.  We are like iron, forged under fire, our character in faith is built with the hammering blows of life that are dealt upon us, to make us stronger people of God.

 

If you think everything is against us, you are not right, but a lot is.  There are many Alexander the Coppersmiths these days. We must strive not to be Alexanders, but to be more like Timothys. There are plenty of bad examples to go around, let us strive to be good examples, as much as we have it in us to be, and with the help of the Holy Ghost.

 

When Luke tells us of the Lord sending his representatives throughout the area which He Himself would travel, he is writing not only of ordained clergy or ministers, but of each of us.  We, each and every one of us, have a mission here on earth to Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God(Isaiah 40:3b), for truly, we are The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3a).  Yet, we cannot save people by bringing them to God, only He can do that.  But, we can tell them of Him and pray for the Holy Ghost to act on their hearts.  We seldom know what effect our work has, yet we must do it.  

 

When we bring the Word of God to people, it is not often accepted these days, for the forces of this world are very, very strong on people’s hearts.  The riches of this world blind people to their true poverty.  If the Word is not accepted, we merely move on.  Luke also tells us ministers of God should be supported by their congregations to the extent of their needs.  

 

This has a two fold purpose:

 

1.     If people do not pay for something, they oft have little regard for its value.  You can see the result of that in public housing.

2.     To the extent ministers of the Gospel devote their time to the Word, they do not have the ability to otherwise earn their living.  Balanced against this is the fact that the hire the laborer was worthy of was to meet their needs, nothing more.  

 

In the Anglican Orthodox Church of the United States, we have no paid ministers.  This is because we are small, we have experienced[4] ministers who have planned their lives to allow them to serve the Lord on their own dime, so to speak.  We must guard against this world entering our Church.  We are to be in the world, not of the world. It is a very fine line, that at times is difficult to see, but it must be seen and not crossed into the of the world, but yet remain in the world and engaged in the fight under our Lord’s banner.

 

Yet, this is more than just about “ordained ministers of the Gospel”, each of us must prepare the way for the Lord.  We are truly in a wilderness today.  The cares and riches of this world, for we live in the richest (in earthly terms) time ever, drag us away from the Word of God.   Each Christian must live their life as Christ taught, acting as a Beacon of Light, shining His Light into the world that others might see that Light and be drawn to it.

 

Thus the Collect, Epistle and Gospel tie together, laying out, detailing and reinforcing the same message ultimately.  We have to ready and willing to listen to God, and walk in God, and act with the Holy Spirit in us, in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven and bring those around us with us.   We cannot point people to God, we must lead them[5].

 

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?

 

The time to act is NOW.  Will you act?  For whom will you act?  Will you count the cost before you act?

 

Action, not diction, is what counts.  It is by your actions you are known.

 

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God


[1] Take a moment to reflect on the power of The Word.  These two phrases permeate our language, yet today few know where they come from.  An epiphical moment where a hidden truth or solution to a problem comes is known as “seeing the light”, the Light which Paul saw literally.  That moment is oft referred to as a “Road to Damascus moment.”  Yet, think how few read the Bible today to know the true meaning of the term.

[2] Note the length of this sentence, a typical Pauline sentence.  Paul seemingly was somewhat parsimonious in the use of periods.

[3] An interesting side note, the don’t give up is a part of one of the most famous quotes in naval history – Don’t give up the Ship - The name comes from the dying words of Captain James Lawrence to the crew of his USS CHESAPEAKE, later stitched into an ensign created by Purser Samuel Hambleton and raised by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie, during the War of 1812.

[4] For the most part, they are either retired from some other field or have paying jobs, the ministry is their life’s work, not their “job.”

[5] Remember, for 285,000 people this day is their end of time here on earth, they face their Lord this day.  We know not at what hour the Master cometh, nor at what hour we may be called to Him.