Verse of the Day

Sunday, April 15, 2012

First Sunday after Easter

The Propers for today are found on Page 170-171, with the Collect first:

The First Sunday after Easter.
The Collect.

LMIGHTY Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Ryan Hopkins read the Epistle which came from the First General Epistle of Saint John, beginning at the Fourth Verse of the Fifth Chapter:

hatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 

Deacon Striker Jack Arnold read the Gospel for this Sunday which came from the Twentieth Chapter of the Gospel of Saint John beginning at the Nineteenth verse:

he same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.

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

We are in the Easter Season which consists of Easter and the following four Sundays, until we get to Rogation Sunday.  This is a time we should work on centering our lives on the central figure in our religion, Jesus Christ. 

Consider these words from the Collect:

Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth

God sent Jesus to be The Christ, The Messiah, The Savior, The Lamb to be sacrificed for our sin.  He gave His earthly Life, He went down into Hell, that we might be justified before God at our accounting.  Not that we might be perfect, but that we might be accounted perfect at our judgment day.  Yet we are not made perfect.  Thus we must ask God’s help that we can put away the infection, or leaven, of evil in our hearts so that we can serve the Living God here.

Paul tells us that we must be reborn as a new person in God.  We must put on the New Man and put the Old Man behind us.  We must endeavor to leave our old habits behind as we strive to make new practices into habits.  We cannot follow the direction of Jesus towards God without the help of the Holy Ghost.  The Trinity in practice.  If you believe in Jesus, you must believe in God and you can do neither without the help of the Holy Ghost.

When Jesus came to the disciples on Sunday evening, He breathed the Holy Ghost into their hearts.  He gave the disciples the power to pass His Forgiveness on to their followers.  As ministers of God, we follow the disciples, but we have not the power to forgive, except as we find in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  We do have the ability to tell you that if you repent, that is “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life”, then God will forgive you.  Through our Lord, if you repent, He has forgiven you.

So what to take from all this?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3.16

If you get that, you have the Holy Ghost in your heart.  If you don’t open your heart so that He will breathe the breath that sends The Comforter to 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 and inspiring sermon for Easter.  I beg you; take the time to read this:

Sermon Notes for 15 April 2012 Anno Domini
First Sunday after Easter
St Andrews Anglican Orthodox Church

The First Sunday after Easter.
The Collect.

LMIGHTY Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:19-23)

It will prosper our love and understanding of the fear the disciples experienced following the crucifixion. Only having heard, through a veil of ignorance, the Words of Christ that after the third day He would arise, the disciples were not expecting the Words of Christ to become a literal fact. So they hid and cowered behind closed doors.

While He was yet with them, their courage never failed, but when separated from the physical presence of Christ – they were mere cowards.

You will note that Christ rose from the Tomb with a living body though different in some respects than His pre-crucifixion body. He was recognizable in appearance, but He could also pass through material barriers without any impediment.

He came to His disciples in Peace as He always comes to us. "Peace be unto you!"

His glorified body still retained the scars of His sacrifice. Did you know that when we all get to heaven, we will have perfect bodies? There shall be only One whose body is marred from suffering – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ sends us into the World as His Father had sent Him. Let us stop to contemplate on how the Father sent the Son into the World?

1) He came under humble circumstances having been born of a humble mother, and laid in a wooden manger used for feeding sheep.  That was appropriate for Christ is our Bread of Life and we are the Sheep of His Pasture.

2) Christ lived a normal life for His time and was a carpenter for his surrogate father, Joseph.  We must, likewise, labor for our daily bread.

3) He was notable in His innocence of life. When we are notoriously wicked, the whole world notices. But when we are humble and righteous, the world makes no mention of it. We, too, must live lives that are righteous and above the contempt of men.

4) He came to set the captives free, but who are the captives? Those who are burdened with their heavy sins – all of us. He preached and taught. Our true testimony of Christ will likewise set the captives free. Before we can teach others of the means of coming to Christ to lift their burdens, we must first allow Him to lift our own unbecoming yoke and burden.

5) He showed compassion to all, but greatest of all to sinners who KNEW they were sinners. We must show compassion to ALL men and, especially, those who are hopelessly drowning in a sea of sin. A drowning man flails helpless in the briny foam, unable to save himself. That burden of throwing out the life raft falls to us.

6) Christ proved Himself by His works. So must we. Though we cannot perform miracles, we have a Master who can, indeed.

7) He changed the requirements of obedience from that of strictly adhering to Commandments written on Stone Tables to that of the Commandment of Love written in the soft sinews of our hearts. That which we love warrants that we commit no sin against.

8) He was the only Man ever born without sin, and the only One who lived a sinless life. Thereby He was worthy to die in our stead for our sins. "For all have sinned and fallen short of the righteousness of God' and "The wages of sin is death."  If we all have sinned, we deserved to go to the cross instead of Christ. But He went in our stead so that we may have the privileges of son ship with the Father as sons and daughters of God.

9) He bore all of our sins on the cross when, at any moment, He could have come down from the cross. He was WILLING to go all the way for us. We must be WILLING to go all the way for Him and those He loves.

10) He arose from the Tomb on the third day as He had promised. That gives us the privilege to rise from our own graves if we are in Him and He in us. He is our Ark of Salvation that shall insure our living above the floods and terrors of this world.

11) He ascended to the Father and there intercedes for us with Him. He has left us as keepers of the Vineyard to labor in His stead. The teaching of the Apostles persists today though many have waxed cold and passionless in our day. Our task is to press on to the mark set in Christ by living a pure and clean life and telling others about the hope that is in us in Christ Jesus.

Have you lived the kind of life that causes men to know you belong to Christ?

On another note:

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the largest passenger liner ever to sell the seas – the RMS Titanic. It lies in its watery grave 12,000 down at the sea bottom of the North Atlantic.

There are thousands of strong testimonies that have survived that tragedy even if their testators did not.

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 a special sermon for the First Sunday after Easter:

How Communion Makes Us Holy
Psalm 66, 1 John 5:4-12, John 20:19-23
First Sunday after Easter
April 15, 2012

RANT, O Lord, that by thy holy Word read and preached in this place, and by thy Holy Spirit grafting it inwardly in the heart, the hearers thereof may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and may have power and strength to fulfill the same.

Faithfulness is the subject of the prayers and Scripture readings for today.  The Collect first declares that Christ died and rose again to make us acceptable to God, which it calls, "justification." It then beseeches God to enable us to put away unGodliness and serve Him in purity of life and truth.  1 John 5 reminds us that we are not to be worldly but are to overcome the world by faith, and John's Gospel, Chapter 20 records the appearance of the Risen Christ to His disciples, who are now becoming Apostles commissioned to found the Church.

Purity of life, let's call it, "holiness," should be one of the results of receiving the Lord's Supper. 

We profess that the Lord's Supper is a means of grace, and therefore, duly and rightly receiving it makes us holy. Yet I wonder how many understand how the Lord's Supper, or, as we like to call it, the Holy Communion makes us holy. We can easily understand how a serious and continuing study of the Bible makes us holy.  We know that reading it puts God's thoughts and values into us, and His thoughts and values change us by shaping our thoughts and values.  We can easily understand how prayer makes us holy.  I am not talking about simply asking God to give us things; I am talking about prayer as we find it in the Book of Common Prayer, and in Scripture, where it means, "worship."  We can easily see that the services of Morning and Evening Prayer faithfully lead us into Biblical worship, and, as they are faithful expressions of Biblical truth, they cause us to ponder Godly things.  Thus, they change us in our hearts and beings.  They make us holy.  We can easily see how the fellowship of a Biblical Church can make us holy.  In its worship we hear the Bible read and proclaimed, in its prayers we are taken to the throne of grace, and in the fellowship of our family in Christ we find acceptance, encouragement, and love.  But there is a great element of mystery surrounding the Holy Communion.  We even call the bread and the cup, "holy mysteries" in the prayer after the Communion.  So again, we ask, how does receiving Holy Communion make us holy?

It makes us holy by causing us to remember Christ's sacrificial death.  In fact, remembering Christ's death is primary in Holy Communion.  The bread of the Lord's Table is a symbol of the Lord's body, and by breaking and eating it we are reminded of the crown of thorns, the scourge, the nails, and the spear, and we remember that His body was broken for us.  The wine we drink is the symbol of His blood that ran from His wounds and was poured out for us.  I stress the word "symbol" here because the bread and wine represent the body and blood of Christ.  They never become His literal body or blood.  So when the Lord Himself, still in His physical body before the crucifixion, said, "This is my body," and "This is my blood, He clearly meant this bread represents and symbolizes His body, and this wine represents and symbolizes His blood.  Remembering His death causes us to think on holy things, which, when accompanied by Biblical faith, helps us develop holiness of life.

The Lord's Supper makes us holy by causing us to remember that Christ's death purchased our eternal life.  The Bible speaks of two states or conditions of the souls of people in eternity.  One is called eternal death and it signifies being cut off from the presence and joy of God forever.  As the Epistle for this morning states it; "he that hath not the son hath not life."  This does not mean the soul goes into non-existence.  It means the soul goes into a state that is so terrible and frightful that it can best be described as a living death.  We can understand this easily because we have heard of people going through experiences in life which were so horrible they called their existence a 'living death."  This, magnified beyond our ability to understand, is the condition of those who are forever cast out of the presence of God.

The other condition of the soul in eternity is called everlasting life, or, eternal life.  Again, this refers to the quality, rather than the quantity, of existence, and it means to dwell forever in the immeasurable love and happiness of God.  This condition of eternal life was purchased for us by Christ.  Referring again to the Epistle of 1 John we read, "this is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in His son." The breaking of His body and the pouring out of His blood was part of the way He paid the price of our sins, and purchased eternal life for us.  When we eat the bread and drink the wine of Communion, we remember these things, and we are moved to greater faith and faithfulness.  We are made holy.  This is the second major point of this sermon; receiving Holy Communion moves us to greater faith and faithfulness.

We are accustomed to thinking about the word, "faith" in two ways.  First we think of the act of trusting in Christ's sacrificial death to make you right with God.  The best way I can think of to express this is to say that if anyone asks you why you think you are going to Heaven, your answer would be, "Because Christ took my sins on Himself and paid their penalty by dying for me on the cross, and that is why God will let me into Heaven" Second, we think of The Faith, which means the doctrinal content of Christianity.  The right receiving of Holy Communion increases our faith in both of these meanings.  It increases our faith in Christ as our Saviour, by helping us trust Him more.  It increases our belief that Christ died for my sins, therefore God is going to accept me into Heaven.  It also increases our understanding of The Faith.  The more we ponder the sacrifice of Christ, the more we grow in our understanding of the whole of the Christian Faith.  We grow in our understanding of the seriousness of sin, the need for grace and justification, the meaning and need of holy living, and the Church, and so many other important things.  We grow in faith as we receive Communion.

Yet there is a third meaning of the word, "faith" as it is used in the Bible, and that meaning is, "faithfulness."  We could also call this, "purity of life," or, "holiness," or "Godliness," or any number of other things, but they all refer to living lives that are more fully surrendered to the will of God and less occupied with the things of sin and self.  I think no one will disagree when I say that the more we realise the wickedness of our sin, the horrors of hell, and the greatness of the sacrifice of Christ, the more we ought to be moved to lives of holiness and purity.  The more we ought to be moved to love Christ, and devote ourselves to Him in all things.  The Lord's Supper gives us the opportunity to think on these things, to grow in our understanding of them.  And, if we truly understand these things, and if we truly see them through the eyes of faith as we come to the Table of the Lord, we will naturally find ourselves moved to holiness.

I need to say one more, very important thing.  You have noticed that I keep saying things like, the Bible changes us, prayer changes us, and Communion changes us.  This is very important because we do not change ourselves by doing these things; God changes us, and He uses these things to do it.  That's why they are known as the means, or channels, of grace.  Grace, of course means God's attitude of mercy toward us, but it also refers to God's activity toward us as He changes and remakes us, and causes us to walk in His ways and find our joy in Him.  So, when we worship, God works in us to heal our souls and strengthen our faith.  When we read the Bible God changes our thoughts and gives us His values.  And when we come to the Holy Table of Communion, God Himself enables us to come in faith, and grow in faith as we remember our Saviour's loving sacrifice.  So, in the end, it is not we who make ourselves holy by coming to this Table or doing good things.  It is God who makes us holy by the means of grace.  We could say, God uses these things to draw us into Himself.  That is the real way Communion makes us holy.
Blessed Easter,
+Dennis Campbell

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

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