Verse of the Day

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

The Propers for today are found on Page 112-113, with the Collect first:

The Third Sunday after The Epiphany.
The Collect.

LMIGHTY and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Ryan Hopkins read the Epistle for today, which came from the Twelfth Chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans beginning at the Sixteenth Verse.

The Epistle shows the way to Christian action in life.  Paul lays out a hard path, but one that goes where we want to be in the end.

E not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Deacon Striker Jack Arnold read the Holy Gospel for today which came from the Second Chapter of the Gospel of St. John beginning  at the First Verse.

ND the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: and both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six water-pots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the water-pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

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

 Consider these words from the Collect:

… mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us …

In the Collect, we are asking God to set aside our failure and protect and aid us in all we do with His strong hand.  God is perfect, thus so is His counsel.  When we acknowledge our imperfection and ask Him for help, we should look to the written record of His Son, our Savior.  We should do our best to follow His example, to be honest, hard working, peaceful and helpful.  When we do this, we will prosper, not only in this world, but in our hearts.  When we pray for His Help, we need to listen for the answer, then act on it, not ignore it because it is not the answer we wanted.

Why the continuous emphasis on action?  Simple.  The line of time stretches from the far distant and unknown past to the far distant and unknowable future.  Yet, God is there, He has always been there and He will always be there.  Where His finger touches that line of time is today.  That is where we live; it is the only place where action can happen in our time space continuum.  Today.

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

So, when we act, how should we act?  To the extent you are able attempt to do good to all.   We are not Christ, but if we do our best emulate His earthly actions, we do well.  If you treat your enemies with respect and kindness, you oft make them your friends.  We have the right of self-defense, not of vengeance.  Bring them up, don’t lower yourself.

Like Jesus at the well, remember that your purpose is to help bring people to salvation. Any step you take today may have future consequence.  Your witness, your testimony, your actions can bring people to the point they accept the Holy Spirit or not.  Your interface may only be one small step; but do your best to make it a step towards God, not away.

Error is error, wrong is not right.  But, a person’s final destination is up to God, not us.  Fortunate for each of us, it should be considered.  During the journey of life down that time space continuum, we need to do our best to keep ourselves and those around us moving towards God, not away from Him.  The direction is always clear, sometimes we just do not want to read the signs.

If we understand we are less than perfect, actually far less than imperfect, we have a good start.  We know we need God in our lives to give us direction.  We need His guidance to direct our ACTION.

Read the Bible, find out what He wants you to do, then Do It.  What can you do today to carry out His Will?  There are a multitude of things you can DO to carry out His Will, but the question is, “Will you?”

Bishop Ogles’ Sermon
We are oft fortunate to get copies of Bishop Jerry’s sermon notes.  Today is one of those Sundays.  Today we get a brilliant analysis of the Gospel for this week:

Third Sunday in Epiphany
22 January 2012, Anno Domini
St Andrews Anglican Orthodox Church

     "When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:1-14)

    Though the Gospel text today covers only the first fourteen verses of chapter 4 of the Gospel of St John, we may not do justice to the text without covering the first 42 verses.

        Thirst is a powerful hunger – a hunger for water. A man or woman cannot live more than a few days, or even hours, without the benefit of water. Water is necessary for life. This principle holds true across both the physical and spiritual realms. Men will run, walk, and finally crawl across the desert sands to find water. The desire for physical life is quite strong. Should the desire for that spiritual life that is eternal not be more so?

      Water is a compound comprised of two elements – Oxygen and Hydrogen. Oxygen is essential for fire (combustion) and hydrogen is an explosive gas, yet, when combined as H20, water is capable of extinguishing fires. Spiritual Water can extinguish the fires of Hell itself.

     You may recall poor Hagar, the concubine of Abraham, being sent out alone with her young son into the desert Wilderness with only a bottle of water upon which to survive. "And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept. And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink." (Gen 21:14-19)

     It is noteworthy Hagar was oblivious to the well of water until God opened her eyes to see it though it was there all along.

     In today's text, we see that Jesus has made it a particular point to divert the journey from the usual circumvention of Samaria to go directly to a city at the base of Mt Ephraim  called Sychar (Sheckham in the Old Testament) . This is the burial place of Joseph and the city of Jacob to whose Well Jesus arrives at the noon hour and sits upon the stone casing of the Well. He came to this place wittingly for He knew that He would meet a particular Woman here today. "And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour."

     A Samaritan Woman of ill-repute approaches at the unusual hour of noon with her water bottle to draw from the Well. Jesus asks the Woman for a drink of water. The woman is taken aback by the request of Jesus because He appears to be a Jew and the Jews hate the Samaritans. But this man seems somewhat mysterious. She wonders at His appearance. "There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans."

     Have you ever wondered why Christ, the Lord of Heaven cares for you and will request your love? Have you wondered why He would bother to give you the time of day?

     We may learn from the approach of Christ to this Woman in personal evangelism which resulted later in broader evangelism to the entire village at Sychar. We may sometimes feel `uncomfortable' in raising the subject of Christ to a stranger. Here, Christ points the way. Put the person at ease with a casual remark as Jesus' request for water. We all want to share the blessings of Heaven. Here is our best example of personal evangelism.

     There seems to be seven principles of personal evangelism represented in this exchange with the Woman:

1.     We must have face-to-face contact with the sinner. Though the Jews had no contact with Samaritans, Christ harbored no such prejudice or resentment. He traveled across a great distance and over dry and dusty roads for this meeting. If Christ did not go to the place where the Woman was, she would never have received Him or known Him. 
a.     If we are to be fishers of men, we will catch few in a barrel. We must go to the Sea of Life.
b.    Our problem in planting seed may not be the lack of good ground, but that we have left the seed in the silo. "Is the seed yet in the barn?" (Hag 2:19)
c.     Do not equate separation with isolation. Christ talked to sinners far more than those who were Godly .Even in war, we must mix with the enemy in battle. However, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness ." (2 Cor 6:14)
d.    Our contact must be across age considerations as well as social concerns. Jesus said in Mark 16:15 – "Go into all the world."
2.     Establish a common interest.  See how Christ does so with the Woman. She came desiring water to quench her thirst. Christ also indicates a desire for water. "Give me to drink." This demonstrated to the Woman a common interest shared by the two of them.
a.     Christ immediately built a bridge which connected the interest of the Woman with His own. Once a bridge is built, much traffic may cross thereon.
b.    One common interest may expand into others of greater import. Jesus has a special kind of water – the Water of Life. It is precisely the kind of water this Woman thirsts after even without knowing.
3.     Emphasize the spiritual over the physical. Every human needs temporary benefits for life but, to a greater extent, we need everlasting provision for eternal life. We may accomplish this through
a.     Our example – Jesus speaks with courtesy to the woman and she can detect His great sincerity.
b.    Our actions – Christ treated even abject sinners with compassion and respect. The words of Christ drew at first on the physical, but transitioned smoothly to the spiritual (from physical water, to water of life).
4.     Measure your pace – do not get ahead of the understanding of your party. See how Jesus teaches from the known to the unknown: Well Water to Heavenly Water; Worship at Mt. Ephraim to Jerusalem; the perfect means of worship (Spirit and in Truth)
5.     Do not be judgmental.
a.     Jesus did not dwell unnecessarily on the fact that this woman was an adulteress. He came to save and not to condemn.
b.    Preach against sin, but do not close the door to salvation to the sinner. The Door belongs to Jesus. The emphasis must be on the seriousness of sin, but also the availability of forgiveness.    
6.     Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing! Be persistent in adhering to the point.
a.     The Samaritan Woman tried to turn the conversation from her sins and need of forgiveness to worship
b.    Christ answered her question but went straight back to her need of Him as the Savior.
7.     Be Direct – people appreciate honesty. If we try to be politically correct, we will not be good witnesses of Christ. He is exceptional and exclusive (not common and inclusive).  Direct is not the same as mean.
a.     Do not argue over issue beyond the party's ability to comprehend (ie prophecies of Revelations).

Please consider the result of Jesus' encounter with the Woman at the Well: it led to many of the Samaritans accepting Christ. One Seed planted begets much fruit.

Remember, sharing the Gospel releases us from personal liability for a soul. We plant the Seed. Leave its germination to God and His Holy Spirit. We may witness to one today and seemingly lose that person to the devil, but years later, the seed sprouts and that person comes to Christ because of that word you shared years ago.

Have you shared with one at the Well of Christ lately?

Bishop Dennis Campbell’s Sunday Sermon
As is oft the case, we are honored to present Bishop Dennis’ Sunday sermon presented to his parish.  Dennis has an excellent command of scripture and is able to present it in a manner which is completely understandable to the rest of us.  This year’s sermons are drawn from the book of Psalms, or, as it is known by Anglicans, "The Psalter" which begins on page 343 of the Book of Common Prayer.

A Thirst for God
Psalm 42
Third Sunday after Epiphany
22 January 2012

Psalm 42. Quemadmodum.

IKE as the hart desireth the water-brooks, * so longeth my soul after thee, O God.
2 My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God: * when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?
3 My tears have been my meat day and night, * while they daily say unto me, Where is now thy God?
4 Now when I think thereupon, I pour out my heart by myself; * for I went with the multitude, and brought them forth into the house of God;
5 In the voice of praise and thanksgiving, * among such as keep holy-day.
6 Why art thou so full of heaviness, O my soul? * and why art thou so disquieted within me?
7 O put thy trust in God; * for I will yet thank him, which is the help of my countenance, and my God.
8 My soul is vexed within me; * therefore will I re- member thee from the land of Jordan, from Hermon and the little hill.
9 One deep calleth another, because of the noise of thy water-floods; * all thy waves and storms are gone over me.
10 The Lord will grant his loving-kindness in the day- time; * and in the night season will I sing of him, and make my prayer unto the God of my life.
11 I will say unto the God of my strength, Why hast thou forgotten me? * why go I thus heavily, while the enemy oppresseth me?
12 My bones are smitten asunder as with a sword, * while mine enemies that trouble me cast me in the teeth; 13 Namely, while they say daily unto me, * Where is
now thy God?
14 Why art thou so vexed, O my soul? * and why art
thou so disquieted within me?
15 O put thy trust in God; * for I will yet thank him,
which is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 42 is the cry of a soul in deep sorrow.  Many believe it was written when King David's son, Absalom, raised an army and attacked Jerusalem, forcing David to flee for his life.  It certainly expresses the kind of thoughts and feelings a person would have in that kind of situation.  Listen to the grief in the words. "My tears have been my meat."  "My soul is vexed within me," "all thy waves and storms are gone over me." "My bones are smitten asunder as with a sword, while mine enemies that trouble cast me in the teeth," "when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?"

Here is a man who feels deserted by God.  Here is a man who prays, but feels like his prayers aren't reaching God, as though God is not listening.  He even says, in verse 11, "Why hast thou forgotten me?"  There is here a warning about trusting our feelings.  We may feel something is right when it is actually very wrong.  We may feel good about something we should actually feel very bad about.  We may feel like we are very close to God when we are actually very far from Him, and we may feel like He is very far from us when He is actually here with us, dwelling in us by His Spirit.  We must trust the Scriptures rather than our feelings, and I think this is one of the great lessons of Psalm 42.  Notice that a refrain appears twice; once in verse 7 and again in verse 15.  "O put thy trust in God; for I will yet thank him, which is the help of my countenance, and my God." This refrain is a declaration of faith over feeling.  David is making a conscious decision here to trust God instead of his own feelings.  He is deciding to trust the Word of God, not his own fears or emotions, or even his circumstances.  It is so important for us to remember that our God will never desert us.  "I am with you alway," Jesus said, "even unto the end of the world."   You may feel alone, but God is with you.  You may feel deserted, but God is with you.  In the deserts and caves, God was with David, and He is with you always if you are His by faith.  He dwells in you, whether you feel it or not, and you know He is there because He said so, not because you have a feeling He is with you.

It is the same in other areas of life; we must trust the Scriptures rather than our feelings.  When tempted we can easily make ourselves "feel" something is right.  We tell ourselves "it can't be wrong if it feels so right."  It's O.K. for me to be rude because I've had a hard time.  It's O.K. for me to drive like a maniac because everyone else does."  It's O.K. for me to be selfish because I'm worth it.   It's O.K. for me to..., and you can fill in the blank with the things you talk yourself into, because..., and you can fill in the blank with your own lame excuses.  And you can convince yourself, your friends, and even your minister, that it's O.K., but you can't convince God.  When He says, "Thou shalt not," thou shalt not!  We must obey Scripture, not our feelings.

In David's case, it is his circumstances that make him feel far from God.  A large number of his own people have turned against him.  His own son leads the rebellion and desires to kill him and become king in his place.  He has been forced out of his palace to live in the fields and wastelands.  The attack by enemies is stated plainly in verses 11 and 12; "the enemy oppresseth me," "enemies that trouble me cast me in the teeth."  It is stated more poetically in verse 9; "One deep calleth to another, because of the noise of thy water floods."  The deeps are troubles, specifically enemies that trouble David and they are pictured as mighty waves tossing him about and threatening to drown him.  It is as though the waves of the sea call to one another and counsel together on how to destroy a small and battered ship.  The Bible often uses water and bodies of water to represent the unGodly, especially when they attack or trouble the Church.  Thus, the beast of Revelation 13 rising out of the sea, means it comes from the pagan nations and cultures; it rises out of the unGodly people.

When David cries out that he thirsts for God as a hart thirsts for water in the desert, he means he wants God to change his circumstances.  He wants the good old days back.  He remembers when he lived in the palace and led the people into the house of God in worship, and his land was at peace, and things were good, and he wants it to be that way again.  And he has a question; where is God?  Or, more to the point, why doesn't God do something?  Why does He allow my enemies to cause me so much trouble?

Is there anyone who has not asked this question at some point in his life?  Haven't we all wondered where God is when we hurt, and why He doesn't do something about al the pain and suffering of life, and why He allows His own people, we who seek Him in faith, and who strive to live according to His teaching, to be trouble and oppressed by those who care nothing about Him?  Truly it is not only our enemies who taunt us in our trials asking, "Where now is thy God?"  For we ourselves ask, "Where now is my God?"

The Bible addresses these questions in many places, but not in Psalm 42.  The Bible gives answers, which are the only possible answers to these questions, but not in Psalm 42. Psalm 42 gives no answers.  It only issues a call to trust God.  "O put thy trust in God."  I think this is significant.  We like to have all the answers and know the plan.  We like to have input into the plan.  We want to know the destination, the food stops, and the motels reservations, and the cost all aid out in front of us before we start the journey.  In many ways and in many things, that's good.  But with God it is not always possible.  Sometimes He calls us to follow Him "unto a land that I will shew thee," as He said to Abraham.  Sometimes He just calls us to trust Him.  "O put thy trust in God," He said to David, and He says the same, the very same thing to us.  We can never know all the answers in this life.  We see through a glass darkly.  There is much about God that is mysterious, even hidden from us because our finite human minds cannot comprehend the infinite God.  A thimble cannot contain the Atlantic no matter how long you pump water into it.  But we can trust Him whom we have met in the Word and Sacrament, whose Spirit dwells in us, who promises to give all that He has "declared "unto mankind in  Christ Jesus our Lord" to "all those who truly repent and unfeignedly believe His holy Gospel."  And He promises that nothing in Heaven or earth can prevent Him from fulfilling His promise.
tR. Dennis Campbell
Bishop of Diocese of Virginia
Rector, Holy Trinity Anglican Orthodox Church
Powhatan, Virginia

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