Verse of the Day

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Third Sunday in Lent

The Propers for today are found on Page 128-130, with the Collect first:

The Third Sunday in Lent.
The Collect.

E beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And due to the rubric, the Collect for the Day is followed by the Collect for Ash Wednesday, which is found on Page 124:

The first day of Lent, commonly called
Ash Wednesday.
The Collect.

LMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be said every day in Lent, after the Collect appointed for the day, until Palm Sunday.

Ryan Hopkins read the Epistle for today, which came from the Fifth Chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians beginning at the First Verse. He echoes the  advice of St. James in his general epistle to be Christians, not just claim to be followers of Christ, when James wrote, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

E ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

Deacon Striker Jack Arnold read this morning’s Gospel which comes from the Eleventh Chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke beginning at the Fourteenth  Verse.

ESUS was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

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:

… look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies …

In the Collect, we ask God look in to our hearts, see our desire to be His children and defend us against evil.

Today’s Epistle and Gospel share the same theme.  You must walk the talk. 

Thus, when Paul tell us to live our lives as we represent our desires to God, he tells us to make our actions match out stated desires.  Actions!

Think about the Gospel.

It is very important to be unified in our worship and mutual support; a team always beats individuals.  That is not to take away from individuality, but rather to note that we need to remember whose side we are on and work together with our team mates.

There are two phrases particularly worth remembering, “a house divided against a house falleth” and “He that is not with me is against me.”  Middle ground exists, but it is quicksand.  Any feeling of safety there is illusory.  We must take sides.  And, we cannot keep with those who oppose the side we choose.  We must decide who we will follow.

You must keep constant vigilance against backsliding, for a fallen Christian is in worse shape than one who was never exposed to The Word.  The Epistle and Gospel both talk about the curious dichotomy; you are saved by faith, your faith alone saves you, not what you do; yet if you have faith, you must act on that faith. 

When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and repent of the sin of your former life, you are forgiven of your sins.  But, you must understand, this is not a signal to keep on sinning and keep on saying you repent. 

Rather your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your savior and your repentance is the beginning of your life as a New Man in Jesus. 

Will you slip?  Without doubt.  But, when you do, will you again repent and continue to do your best to follow the Word of God, the Light and the Truth?  Indeed, if you are a Christian that is what you must do.  You are called to believe and act on those beliefs to the best of your ability.  If you do not, then prepared as you were for life, you will so be prepared for the pit.  As you read Luke, remember the second half of the Book of Luke is The ACTS of the Apostles, not thoughts, wishes, prayers or meditations.

For, “blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.


It is by our actions we are known.

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 being 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.  But, today he moved to drawing the propers together in a far different sermon than Hap’s and adding in the psalm for this Sunday, Psalm 34.  We think you will really enjoy it!

Our Gracious Lord 

Ephesians 5:1-14, Luke 11:14-28, Psalm 34

Third Sunday in Lent

11 March 2012

lessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.[1]
Psalm 34. Benedicam Dominum.

 WILL alway give thanks unto the Lord; * his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall make her boast in the Lord;* the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
3 O praise the Lord with me, * and let us magnify his Name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and he heard me; * yea, he delivered me out of all my fear.
5 They had an eye unto him, and were lightened; * and their faces were not ashamed.
6 Lo, the poor crieth, and the Lord heareth him; * yea, and saveth him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord tarrieth round about them that fear him, * and delivereth them.
8 O taste, and see, how gracious the Lord is: * blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
9 O fear the Lord, ye that are his saints; * for they that fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions do lack, and suffer hunger; * but they who seek the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good. 11 Come, ye children, and hearken unto me; * I will
teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is he that lusteth to live, * and would fain see good days?
13 Keep thy tongue from evil, * and thy lips, that they speak no guile.
14 Eschew evil, and do good; * seek peace, and ensue it. 15 The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, * and his ears are open unto their prayers.
16 The countenance of the Lord is against them that
do evil, * to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth them, * and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart, * and will save such as be of an humble spirit.
19 Great are the troubles of the righteous;* but the Lord delivereth him out of all.
20 He keepeth all his bones, * so that not one of them is broken.
21 But misfortune shall slay the ungodly;* and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
22 The Lord delivereth the souls of his servants; * and all they that put their trust in him shall not be destitute.

The emphasis of the Third Sunday in Lent is God our defender.  We see this in the Collect for the day, which asks God to defend us from our enemies.  Ephesians 5 shows many of our enemies, meaning the sins that place us under the wrath of God and kill the soul.  Luke 11 shows our great enemy the devil, who holds the ungodly in prison in his house.  He is the strong man armed, but Christ is the One who is stronger than the devil, who conquers the devil and releases his captives.  Psalm 34 is about God's defense of David when he was forced to seek safety in Philistia.

Psalm 34 is a preacher's dream because God has done all the work. All the preacher has to do is follow the outline God has provided.  That outline has two major points, which can be stated clearly and grasped quickly.  First, God is worthy of our worship. Second, God blesses those who seek Him, while those who reject Him reap desolation of the soul.

So let's talk about how God is worthy of our worship.  The Psalm begins with a joyful statement of praise to God. "I will always give thanks unto the Lord; his praise shall ever be in my mouth.  My soul shall make her boast in the Lord."  When David wrote this Psalm he had already been anointed to become the king of Israel.  Yet Saul, the reigning king hated David and sought to kill him.  So David had to flee for his life and he sought refuge in the land of one of Israel's most malevolent enemies, the Philistines.  The king of the Philistines would have killed David, but David pretended to be crazy, so, instead of killing him, the Philistines just sent him away.  In this Psalm David is rejoicing and giving thanks to God for delivering him out of the hands the kings of Israel and Philistia.  But the Psalm rises above the blessings of one man to express the gratitude of all who recognize the grace of God in their lives.  Instead of the specific circumstances of David, the Psalm talks about the grace of God to all His people, and invites us to join together in His love and worship.  "O praise the Lord with me, and let us magnify his Name together."

Why would anyone want to "magnify," or, worship, God?  First, understand that by "worship" I do not merely refer to the things we do together in church on Sunday.  What we do here is important.  It is so vitally important that a person who habitually neglects worshiping in a Biblical church on the Lord's Day has strong reason to seriously doubt the validity of his faith.  We are not to forsake the assembling, the meetings of the Church for worship, commands Hebrews 10:25.  Knowing this we think of our Lord's words in John 14:15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments," and the even more direct statement in John 14:21, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me."

By worship I mean more than daily prayer and Bible reading.  Encouraging daily private and family worship is very important to me. It is my goal to have every member of our parish joining our fellow Anglicans around the world, and many who aren't Anglicans worshiping daily in the Prayers and the Scriptures.  We Anglicans are blessed to have the Lectionary of daily Bible readings and the services of Morning and Evening Prayer, and I rejoice that many of you are already partaking of these blessings. I rejoice because I know that, by them, your souls are fed daily by the word of God; your knowledge and understanding of the Bible is increasing; and you are being shaped in your innermost being by the things of God.   You are being built up and strengthened in Christ, and God, who is worthy of all love and worship, is being honoured in your life and home.  But worship is bigger than this.  The worship of which I speak is a total life orientation that brings all of life together under the Lordship of Christ and does all things to the glory of God.  It is this kind of worship David invites us to in this Psalm.  And our reason for worship is the goodness of God given unto us.  For example, He hears our prayers.  "I sought the Lord and he heard me."  Lo, the poor crieth, and the Lord heareth him."  "The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth them."  It ought to shock us to hear that the One who upholds Heaven and earth, who created all things for His glory, cares about you, so much that He is willing to give you His attention, and hear your prayers.  And He acts on your behalf.  He answers prayer.  "He delivered me out of all my fear."  "They who fear him lack nothing." "They who seek the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good."  "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart, and will save such as be of an humble spirit."  There are many reasons to worship God, but these are certainly among the best.

The second point of this Psalm is the contrast between the worldly and eternal situations of those who worship God, and those who don't.  Let's look at those who don't first.  Two verses express their fate.  They are short, but they speak volumes.    Verse 16 says, "The countenance of the Lord is against them that do evil, to root out the remembrance of them from the earth."    We have all seen weeds in gardens and lawns, and we all know people who spend much time and energy rooting them out.  Picture their efforts, and see God doing the same to rid His creation of those who do evil. God is digging down into the earth and pulling out the wicked by their roots.  That is the meaning of this verse. 

Then, verse 21 tells us, "misfortune shall slay the ungodly."  Misfortune refers to the natural forces of life.  Sickness guilt, grief, loss, loneliness, sorrow, and the natural wear and tear on the body brought about by ungodly living will accompany them throughout this life, and finally bring them to an end.  It would be bad enough if that were all, but the Bible talks about an eternal living death; an eternal existence in a place of everlasting suffering, a place where all the problems and natural consequences of life are multiplied and suffered forever.  It is to dwell in a place where you keep on sinning and keep on reaping sin's bitter fruit.

Now let us turn to the condition of those who seek God.  I am compelled to say at the start, that seeking God means seeking God His way, which means according to His revelation and teaching in the Bible.  There are many ways to seek God, but only one way to find Him.  In fact, finding Him means to give up on all your own ideas and attempts to find and define God, and to accept His Way.  Those who do this are the ones of whom the Bible speaks when it says, "seek and ye shall find."

One of my favorite verses in the Psalms is Psalm 19:11, "in keeping of them there is great reward."  It refers to the law of God as the revelation of the way to live a harmonious, peaceful, and happy life.  The harmonious, peaceful and happy life is simply the result of living life God's way.  I know we live in a fallen world and people hurt us, economies go bust, illness strikes us, and death stalks us every day.  Even this Psalm recognizes that troubles come to us.  It was persecution, not justice, that forced David to flee for his life. Many things are beyond our control and we just have to trust God with them. But if we put what we can control under the Lordship of Christ, we find that the more closely we approximate life by His commandments, the better life is, and the further we get away from them the worse life is.  That is the point being made in Psalm 34:12, if you want to live and see good days, if you want to live in a way that brings rewards and joys and avoids many of life's heartaches and sorrows, live for God.  Keep your tongue from evil.  Let your words build people up rather than cut them down.  Speak truth instead of lies. Put away evil and do good.  Wage peace.  This kind of life is its own reward.

But God is not merely helping us get through this world.  God is using this world to prepare us for Heaven.  Thus verse 21 says, "The Lord delivereth the souls of his servants."  There is a land that is far more glorious than we can imagine.  It is so glorious even the Bible can only describe it in images like streets of gold and a house full of mansions.  But the Bible doesn't have to use images to tell us we are going there, if we are Christ's in Biblical faith.  "I go to prepare a place for you," our Lord said in John 14, and, "if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am there ye may be also."  This is what God is about in the lives of His people.  This is what God wants for you.  This is what He gives to all who "truly repent and unfeignedly believe His holy Gospel."  Truly the Lord is gracious, and "blessed is the man that trusteth in him."
+Dennis Campbell

Bishop, Anglican Orthodox Church Diocese of Virginia
Rector, Holy Trinity Anglican Orthodox Church
Powhatan, Virginia

[1] Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent, BCP Page 92

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