Verse of the Day

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Circumcision of Christ - The Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles

Circumcision of Christ

Today we celebrate the circumcision of Jesus in accordance with Jewish tradition, eight days (according to the Semitic and southern European calculation of intervals of days) after his birth, the occasion on which the child was formally given his name.  The circumcision of Jesus has traditionally been seen, as explained in the popular 14th century work the Golden Legend, as the first time the blood of Christ was shed, and thus the beginning of the process of the redemption of man, and a demonstration that Christ was fully human and of his obedience to Biblical law. No longer celebrated by many churches, including the Roman and TEC, it is still the Eighth Day.  That has not changed and so we celebrate the event as it is referred to in scripture, thus should be recalled.

Each Sunday there are Propers: special prayers and readings from the Bible.  There is a Collect for the Day; that is a single thought prayer, most written either before the re-founding of the Church of England in the 1540s or written by Bishop Thomas Cranmer, the first Archbishop of Canterbury after the re-founding. 

The Collect for the Day is to be read on Sunday and during Morning and Evening Prayer until the next Sunday. The Epistle is normally a reading from one of the various Epistles, or letters, in the New Testament.  The Gospel is a reading from one of the Holy Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The Collect is said by the minister as a prayer, the Epistle can be read by either a designated reader (as we do in our church) or by one of the ministers and the Holy Gospel, which during the service in our church is read by an ordained minister or our Deacon Striker.

The propers are the same each year, except if a Red Letter Feast, that is one with propers in the prayerbook, falls on a Sunday, then those propers are to be read instead, except in a White Season, where it is put off.  Red Letter Feasts, so called because in the Altar Prayerbooks the titles are in red, are special days.  Most of the Red Letter Feasts are dedicated to early saints instrumental in the development of the church, others to special events.  Some days are particularly special and the Collect for that day is to be used for an octave (eight days) or an entire season, like Advent or Lent.

Today is one of those Red Letter Days, The Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. 

"And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb." Luke 2:21 (AV)

The propers for today are found on Pages 105-106, with the Collect first:

The Circumcision of Christ.

[January 1.]

The Collect.
LMIGHTY God, who madest thy blessed Son to be circumcised, and obedient to the law for man; Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit; that, our hearts, and all our members, being mortified from all worldly and carnal lusts, we may in all things obey thy blessed will; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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

Dru Arnold read the Epistle for today, which came from Paul’s letter to the people of Philippia, starting at the Ninth Verse of the Second Chapter. The portion of the letter used as today’s Epistle is relatively short.  God has sent His Son to earth and given him a name above all others, Jesus[1].  Paul exhorts his fellow followers to continue to follow the Lord, not only while he is watching them, but at all times.  God will give them the will and ability to do good, but only if they do their best to follow Him.

OD also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

The Gospel for today came from the Gospel according to Saint Luke, the Second  Chapter, beginning at the Fifteenth Verse. Today’s Gospel recounts the angels visit to the shepherds who came into Bethlehem to pay homage to Jesus in the manger.  It also documents the circumcision of Jesus, bringing Him under the Law.  He who: Is, Was and always Will be, put Himself under the Law, that He might fulfill the Law and be our salvation.

Our salvation from the Law came from the perfect sacrifice one time for the sins of all mankind for all time.  The sacrifice had to be a perfect human, one who did not exist until Jesus came.   That perfect human had to enter in to the Law, had to be subject to the Law.  Thus, Jesus submitted Himself unto the Law that he might in the end have dominion over the Law.

nd it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

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

Today we recall the circumcision of our Lord and Savior.  He is God, yet He is under The Law.  Not all those 613 laws were those called Moral, that is to say the Ten Commandments, but there are those which are moral and there are also laws of God or physics.  God, the Ultimate Being, is subject to the laws He made.  While He can, and does on the very special occasion, disregard them such as when the shadow went backwards, for the most part He, too, is subject to The Laws[2].  Why?  Because they were made for the general good of this world.  We see what happens when people do not follow the Laws that God set out for us to live by. If we stop living by The Laws, then we are no better than the animals of this world, who live by no such Laws whatsoever. Then there is no incentive for us to follow Christ if we do not live by the laws which he has set before us. If we do not need to follow these laws, then why would we follow Him? We follow Him Bcause He is the embodiment of all that is good and pleasing, unlike the world, which seems to be the embodiment of pure evil and sickness. Evil and sin are diseases that must be cured through being regenerated through the Holy Spirit. God does not break His own Laws, or at least if He did, He would have a good reason to do so. Without a system of order, there is chaos.  God is not chaos.  God never brings confusion.  Chaos and Confusion are the Devil’s Modus Opreandi, not God’s. God never tests, but when we are tested by this world, He monitors the results.  He brought the new covenant or new agreement to us through His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Knowing we cannot ever be perfect, He gave us a way to be accounted as perfect at the Judgment Day – One Sacrifice, Made One time, by One Man who was God, for All Mankind for All Time.  Jesus is our light and our life.  Through Him all things are possible. 

All salvation takes is the simple understanding of a child or a shepherd.  The simple truth that is Christ.  He was not complex.  His message was not sophisticated.  He is the way.  The One Way!

This is the first day of the New Calendar Year.  Remember also, it is the first day of the remainder of your life here on earth, let it count for something. We live in the present, the past will never come again and tomorrow never comes. Take the right path starting right now.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

The Epiphany,
or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles

What a long title for a simple thought.  The Epiphany is the title of the feast recalling the arrival of the Magi to pay homage to the Lord Jesus.  Epiphany means revealing or becoming aware.  Our Lord was revealed first to the Hebrews through the shepherds.  The first gentiles (non-Hebrews) to whom He was first revealed were the Magi or Wise Men who came from afar to pay Him honor.

Epiphany is a fixed day, it is always the Sixth of January, twelve or thirteen days after Christmas Day, depending on how you count.

With a light rain falling and 33°F at what should have been sunrise, we were in the midst of a California winter.  Yet, weather notwithstanding, we had 3 people to worship the Lord.

Gathering Song
Because it is The Epiphany, Jack Arnold chose to move out of our traditional gathering songs and picked We three kings of Orient are, Hymn 51 in the Hymnal.  It is a beautiful song with special meaning to us Gentiles.

We three kings of Orient are
We three kings of Orient are,
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain,
moor and mountain,
following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of night,
star with royal beauty bright;
westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light!

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,
King for ever,
ceasing never
over us all to reign. Refrain

Frankincense to offer have I:
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising,
gladly raising,
worship him, God Most High. Refrain

Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing,
bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb. Refrain

The Propers are the same each year, except if a Red Letter Feast, that is one with Propers in the prayerbook, falls on a Sunday, then those Propers are to be read instead, with the Collect for the actual Sunday read also.  Some days are particularly special, such as the Epiphany, and the Collect is read for eight days (the legendary Octave) The Propers  for the Epiphany are found on Page 107-109 with the Collect first:

The Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ
to the Gentiles.
[January 6.]
The Collect.
 GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be said daily throughout the Octave

Dru Arnold read the Epistle for the evening, which came from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians beginning at the First Verse of the Third Chapter:

OR this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

Hap Arnold read the Gospel for the evening which came from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the Second Chapter beginning at the First Verse:

HEN Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Thought for the Day
The Epiphany service was not much different than that first Epiphany.  Except this time there was one wise woman and two wise guys!  Most important, Jesus was there!  We had a great time worshipping.  Join us some time, it is a lot of fun.  It seems as if there is always plenty of room in the inn when there is church service going on.  Cold outside, though!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop Ogles’ Sermon
We are oft fortunate to get copies of Bishop Jerry’s sermon notes.  Today is one of those Sundays.  Today’s sermon starts off with the collect, and like always, it will give you a lot to consider in your heart.

Sermon Notes
The Epiphany
6 January 2013, Anno Domini

The Epiphany,
or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.
[January 6.]
The Collect.
 GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. (Matt 2:1-12)
            This is the Sunday of Epiphany in which we observe the Lord's introduction to the Gentile peoples. It represents the beginning of our own coming, as former Gentiles, into the inheritance of Israel through that Seed of Promise made known in Abraham and all of faith since his time. We were once, as the Wise Men were, a people afar off from the promises of God in Israel, but a great Light has appeared unto those of us who sat in darkness, and we have followed that Great beam of Light from God's Light House to Christ.
            I have been following that Star which lighted the path of the Wise Men from the first moment that it appeared to me. It is the Bright and Morning Star of my, and your, salvation. There have been times in my life, just as did the wise Men, that I detoured from following that constant Light and wound up in Jerusalem, or the city made with hands, instead of following the constant Star to Christ. The false lights of the city will often distract us, for they appear bright and many. We mistakenly suppose that Christ will always be found in the seat of great worldly power; but we err greatly in that supposition. He is more likely to be found along the road to Damascas, or along the path leading to Jericho, or along the quiet, still waters of Galilee. The great multitudes do not seek Christ and His Light among humble shepherds on the dark slopes of little Bethlehem; or in the rude, wooden frame of a manger for cattle. Most will not seek Him in the lonely little Mount of Olives, the Gethsemane Garden, nor even at Calvary. They seek Him, as at first the Wise Men sought Him, in the palace and lights of Jerusalem – the center of  power! Though we may be wise, God is always the wiser. If we will disregard our own frail, human reason and follow that Light which God provides, we shall never go astray.
            It is interesting to note in our text today that the Wise Men had followed the glorious Star, which they had seem hundreds of miles away, to Palestine. As they drew nearer, they disregarded the Light of the Star and began to lean upon their own understanding. They reckoned that the King of Israel should be born in the King's Palace at Jerusalem, - but they were wrong. Their wisdom was interrupted by a moment of foolish self-reason. Once they departed the gates and false lights of Jerusalem, they saw the Star again and were glad. It happens sometimes that, as we undertake to serve God with open mind and heart, we begin, as the Wise Men, to follow the Light of Christ. But as our labors grow constantly more fruitful in building a work for the Lord, we are distracted by some false and cheaply glittering worldly light. It may be that our ambitions for a church of great size has blinded us to the purity of truth and worship upon which we at first embarked in our labors. BIG is always better, isn't it? NO – a resounding NO! It is NOT always better. Witness the millions who follow the false prattle of Joel Osteen and his ilk in our day! If the foundation is build well and measures four-square, so shall the structure which is built upon it. Our foundation in the Church is Jesus Christ and His Word.
            It is a curious thing to note that When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. I am less surprised at the troubling effect the birth of Jesus had on Herod than I am to see that ALL JERUSALEM as well were troubled. It is not surprising that governments despise Christ because His government is perceived by them to usurp their own power. But the government of God can only bolster and secure the rightful powers of government. It is the greed for power, and more power always, of men that cause their hatred of Christ. But all of those who surround the king were also bewildered at the news of the birth of Jesus. It is true today that the government wishes to extinguish the Star of Christ from the minds of men; and it is also true that the great merchants and commercial interests likewise wish to be complicit with what they ignorantly consider to be the greater power. As long as the merchants make Caesar happy, they are free to trade in lewd pornography, prostitution, homosexuality, drugs, and every other evil influence imaginable in the minds of men.
            Let us examine the possible cause for all of Jerusalem being troubled at the news of Christ's birth:
1.      There was nothing of the nature of alarm in the news. There was a baby born whom the Wise Men simply came to worship. There was no armed military at His command – He was but a baby! Herod was a ruthless king. Why would the inhabitants of Jerusalem not have been overjoyed that a king, as innocent as a baby, were exalted to some political throne over them?
2.      The news was of a wonderful nature – it was GOOD NEWS! Do not men usually celebrate the birth of a pretender to the throne?
3.      The news was such as had been prophesied by the prophets. Even the Scribes and Jewish leaders knew of it; yet, they sided with Herod. It was the elders of the Jews that informed Herod, at his inquiry, as to where the Child should be born – Bethlehem!
Christ came to Bethlehem, and mighty Jerusalem was troubled by it without cause. Christ came to Asia Minor, to Rome, to Spain, to Europe and England – and they were troubled by His coming. He came into MY heart, and I was, at first, so troubled that I could scarcely rest until I had discovered that He would abide in my heart.  It is also quite profound to learn that not everyone sees that Light of the Star that was so visible to the Wise Men, just as has all others who have met the Bright and Morning Star. If the eye is not trained to see the value of a ruby, a diamond, or an emerald, it will easily be deceived by the false stone made of dough. If the eye is full of Light, then the whole body shall be full of light. But if the eye is darkened, the whole body will be full of darkness and oblivious to the resplendent Light without!
Man will not foil the purpose of God. Herod would desire to destroy even a Baby who was rumored to be King. So the wise Men were warned of God not to return to Herod with the news of their discovery. They departed "another way." Notice that they came to Bethlehem by way of the man made city – Jerusalem; but once you have come to Christ, your life will continue on "another way." No longer will you be drawn to seats of worldly power and commerce, but by another way that governments and men do not understand – and they cannot follow. Have you considered how blessed you are for this wonderful fact?
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Bishop Dennis Campbell’s Sermon
Bishop Dennis is a brilliant speaker.  He is able to take biblical precepts and make them perfectly understandable, even to me.  Oft he provides the text of his sermons and I take the utmost pleasure in passing them on:

Light in the Face of Christ
Psalm 46, Isaiah 60:1-9, 2 Corinthians 4:1-6
January 6, 2013

God is mentioned many times in 2 Corinthians 4. Verse 2 says, "handling the word of God." "In the sight of God."  Verse 4; "glorious gospel of Christ... image of God."  Verse 5; "Christ Jesus the Lord... for Jesus' sake."  Verse 6; "God, who commanded the light to shine... the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."

I think no person can read this passage without noticing that it makes reference to two Divine Persons.  The first it calls God, by which is meant the God of the Old Testament, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; of Deborah, Esther, and Ruth.  This is the God who said to Moses, "I Am that I Am."  This is the great God who delivered Israel from bondage and called the children of Abraham to be His unique people upon earth.  We know Him as God the Father, and we confess our belief in Him daily in the Apostle's Creed, "I believe in God the Father Almighty."  This is the One we address when, praying as Christ taught us, "Our Father who art in Heaven."  This Father God is a definite, identifiable Person.  He is God.

The second Person is equally obvious in this passage.  He is mentioned four times in six verses, where He is called Christ, Christ Jesus the Lord, Jesus, and Jesus Christ.  This is none other than Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary, born in Bethlehem, and laid in a manger.  This is the One who later healed the sick and gave sight to the blind.  This is the One who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. The third day He arose from the dead, ascended into Heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God the Father, and will come again to judge the quick and the dead.  In all of this, Christ is spoken of as an individual Person with His own identity.  So we look into this passage and we see the Person of God and the Person of Christ, two Persons.

The unique, and very mysterious thing we find in these verses is that this Jesus is spoken of as God also. He is the countenance of God made visible for us to see.  Thus, verse 4 calls Him "Christ who is the image of God, " and verse 6 tells us we see the "glory of God in the face of Jesus.

This same Jesus is also called "Christ Jesus the Lord" (5).  When the King James Version was translated in 1611, "lord" was the title of people of power and property. There was, Lord of the manor, and Lord of the Admiralty, and almost every member of the upper class called himself lord of something.  Kings often called themselves lords.  One of the titles claimed by the Roman Emperors was "king of kings, and lord of lords" signifying that other kings and lords owed their aligience, titles, and lives to Caesar.

But God is Lord in a way no mere human could ever be.  The words He spoke to Israel in the very first of the Ten Commandments are repeated many times throughout the Old Testament,  "I am the Lord thy God."  There is none other.  He is the Creator and owner.  He is the Master and Lord.  He is God.

To call Jesus Christ, "Lord" is to equate Him with the Father.  It is to call Him God.  This is precisely the point of the words of 1 Corinthians 4:5; "Christ Jesus the Lord."  Christ is God.

Christ claimed to be the very same God who created the universe, called Abraham to found a new people, and saved Israel from her Egyptian slavery.  But, He also claims to be different from the Father, and the real difficulty we have with this is that He claims to be the same God, yet also a unique person, at the same time.  He claims to exist with the Father and the Holy Spirit in such a way that the Three are one God.  Three Persons, yet one Person.  Or, more correctly, three Persons, one God.

There is no way for us to express this in a way that our finite minds can understand.  St. Patrick attempted it with the shamrock, with its three leaflets making one leaf.  Others have used the triangle, having three sides, yet being one form.  Still others have used three inter-connecting circles or ovals, such as the quitectra. Shamrocks and triangles and circles are helpful as illustrations and symbols, yet cannot fully convey the truth of the Holy Trinity to us.  In the end we must admit that God is greater than we can now understand.  He is so great He exists as Three Persons in One Person.  Therefore, Jesus of Nazareth is God.  He is also Man, but that is another sermon. 

Now we come to the real point of today's sermon.  It is found in 1 Corinthians 6:6, which tells us God commanded the Light to shine.   The Light is the glory of God made visible to enable us to know and love God.  We are to look upon the Light and see God.  We are to look upon the Light and see His love for us, His self-sacrificing love, His cross bearing love, His forgiving love, as well as His perfect goodness and purity.  The Light reveals His truth, His purity, His absolute moral perfection that cannot even be tempted by evil.  Evil has no allure to Him.  He is pure love and goodness.  The Light is Christ.

The Christ enables us to see the pitfalls and the dangers of the world. We see the dangers of sin.  We see that it ruins lives as surely as it makes us worthy of God's wrath.   In seeing them, we are warned to negotiate around them safely.  Like a lighthouse, Christ reveals dangers in the waters, so the ships can go safely around them.

Just as the Lighthouse warns ships away from rocks and shallows, it also leads them safely to the harbour.  In a similar way, the Light of Christ leads us to God.  Thus, Psalm 43:3 prays, "O send out thy light and thy truth, that they may lead me, and bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy dwelling."  The Light, the glory of God in the face of Christ, shines to illuminate to way to Heaven.  Its Beams send out a continuous message: here is life.  Here is hope.  Here is the way to God. Come to the Light, He will get you home.
+Dennis Campbell

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

Rev Bryan Dabney of Saint John’s Sunday Sermon
We are fortunate to have Bryan’s Sunday Sermon.  If you want people to come to The Truth, you have to speak the truth, expouse the truth and live the truth.    This is really a good piece and I commend it to your careful reading.

Sermon for The Epiphany

Many of you have read the Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities which depicted life in Paris and in London during the time of the French Revolution. The author painted for us a verbal picture of the distinctions between those two locales. In addition, he illustrated the self-evident truth that without God every sort of evil and degradation is possible. Yet, in spite of the various abuses of the Old Regime, the French radicals established a government which was, in effect, worse than its predecessor. Instead of worshiping God, the French revolutionaries worshiped a false idol of Liberty; in place of the king’s justice, they substituted the justice of party bosses; and in place of the Bastille— a jail for holding political prisoners— they erected the guillotine to eliminate all who were suspected of treason against their established order. In the end, what started out as a revolution in 1789 to remove an hereditary monarch, had by 1804 brought many of those disgruntled folk full circle with the elevation of a new and even more powerful ruler, Emperor Napoleon I.

Across the English Channel was Great Britain, with its stable parliamentary system of government, which offered a safe haven to all who would escape there from turbulent France. Still, even within British society there was injustice, and Dickens was clearly warning his readers against the evils of mob rule, as well as a government dominated by a heartless and decadent plutocracy.

This morning’s Gospel, Matthew Chapter Two, presents us with the story of not two cities, but of two kings. The first was evil King Herod, while the second was the new born King of the Jews, Jesus Christ. These two kings are a study in contrast.

Herod was not a Jew by birth, but an Idumean, or Edomite. He had risen to power because he was a friend of Augustus Caesar. His rule was marked by many building projects, such as the erection of the artificial port of Caesarea Maritima, the fortress of Masada, and the renovation of the Great Temple in Jerusalem. But Herod’s reign was marred by his brutality. He banished his first wife and son so he could marry into the Jewish Hasmonean Dynasty. He did this to gain titular recognition that he was a legitimate ruler over Judaea. Still, such a marriage was not enough to placate his nagging paranoia. He was not above killing anyone who he perceived to be a threat to his rule over Judaea. It was on that account that he arranged the murders of one of his wives, Mariamne, and two of their sons, as well as the murder of his eldest son by his first wife. Herod’s murder of the Holy Innocents in Bethlehem is a further and grisly testimony to his ruthless nature. While only recorded in St. Matthew’s gospel, the incident has Herod’s imprimatur sealed on it in blood. Sadly, secular historians tend to discount the murders in Bethlehem as a gospel fiction, largely because there are no other historical records on the subject.

Nevertheless, those who do acknowledge the story as being factual often preface their acknowledgment of the atrocity by pegging the number of murdered boys as being in the neighborhood of 6 to 20 in the town proper, with an additional dozen or two in the surrounding countryside. It seems that those who would rationalize this macabre incident by reducing the number of fatalities are, to say the least, perverse beyond measure. Their twisted logic might be expressed by the following: “Oh yes, Herod was indeed a paranoid and power-hungry tyrant; but he was not as bad as some would lead us to believe.” Thus, to paraphrase a well-known modern mass murderer, Josef Stalin, “The death of a single person is a tragedy... the death of a million is a statistic.”

Herod’s recorded acts of murder and violence that resulted from his paranoid nature should be circumstantial evidence enough to validate the gospel account. But that does not sit well with the unregenerate as they want to cast doubt upon all of the events which had transpired at Bethlehem in the time of Herod. For if Satan can plant his seed of skepticism concerning one aspect of the Nativity story, then such will spread to other aspects of the account as well as upon the whole of Scripture.

Thankfully, God is in charge of his word written. He did not send his Messiah into our world to be killed off before fulfilling his eternal purpose; neither has he permitted a false account to be placed within his Bible. The Holy Ghost gave the apostle Paul the following words to comfort us in this and every matter of faith and practice when he noted that, All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (II St. Timothy 3:16, 17). God has given us his word written as a guide for our conduct in this life. It is the truth in every case and in every situation. We may not always understand it, but we must not doubt it. God did not leave us comfortless, neither did he leave us without instruction. The Bible is his word— through every story, every parable, every law and every warning. If it says that something happened, it happened, and in the same manner as it was described. If you cannot accept what he inspired the penmen of the Bible to write, then you need to ask him for understanding. God did not give us his word for us to tweak or edit— as the new bible version editors have done— only to believe it and follow it as truth.

Now consider the impact of Christ’s first advent. Our Lord’s birth marked the beginning of our Christian Era— the dawn of the church age and the age of gospel preaching to all in every land. Christ was born to save his own, not to garner power for himself at our expense. Our Lord came into the world to become a sacrifice for us, not to sacrifice us for his own benefit and pleasure. Our Lord came to seek and save the lost— that we might have life and have it more abundantly— rather than to milk us of our wealth, and conscript us into his legions. He came because he knew that we could not save our selves. He loved us then, and loves us still. He died that we might have eternal life with him in his kingdom. He lives that we may never die.

But if Lucifer can influence the unsuspecting to doubt the truth behind the events at Bethlehem, he can overturn the faith of those who are not well-studied in God’s word written. That is the challenge before us as believers— to daily read and inwardly digest God’s word. Only then can we properly face down evil using the words of Scripture which we have committed to heart. Only then we can stand firm against all that the world, the flesh and the devil will send our way to trouble us and divide us in the faith.
Think on all the good that Christ has made possible for us when he entered our world as a little child born to humble parents. He grew to manhood in a rural town in Galilee wherein he learned first-hand what it was like to be a mortal. Later, he ministered to his own by communicating the gospel of peace to all who would listen. And because of his teachings, he experienced the true nature of mankind in their stalwart rejection of God’s word. He suffered at the hands of his own people and was ignominiously executed for no real crime except that he had told them the truth which they did not want to hear. He was slain on a rude cross and was buried for three days, after which he rose again in glory heralding a new day in the life of this world. Our Lord died so that you and I might have life everlasting in his coming kingdom. He paid in his blood the sin-debt that all mankind owes to God. After his resurrection, he was seen of many witnesses especially his disciples. This testimony they carried with them to the end of their days, affirming to all the truth which they had witnessed in spite of being threatened with death if they did not recant. And forty days after his resurrection, our Lord ascended to right hand of the Father where he is even now interceding for us, and where he is awaiting the day when he will come again in glory to bring the kingdom of God to the earth.

No man born into this life could ever do for us as Christ has done on our behalf; and none will ever be to us— who are born again of the Spirit— the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus Christ did not erect great buildings, nor did he create a kingdom by fawning to pagan autocrats in order to gain his throne. Jesus Christ is God incarnate who entered our world because mankind— his supreme creation and made in his image— was estranged from the Godhead and without his coming to set things aright, would surely perish to a person under God’s judgment.

Consider the words of our Lord as noted in St. John’s gospel (3:16-18). Many, even of the unregenerate, know the first verse and maybe even the second, but the last verse is conveniently distant from their memory. 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. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. These verses sum up the matter and present to us the absolute necessity for the coming of our Lord.

As we celebrate this season of Epiphany— the manifestation of Christ to the world— we ought to keep in mind this tale of two kings as it reveals to us the significant differences between those who would seek to dominate and rule over us for their own selfish purposes, versus that of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will rule over us not to acquire power and wealth, but to bring the power and abundance of God’s kingdom to us. Therefore, seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (St. Matthew 6:33). Let us affirm before all the world that essential truth of our Christian faith: We have no king but King Jesus.

Let us pray,

 LORD our God, who sent thine only begotten Son into the world that those who would believe on him should not perish but have everlasting life; grant that we, who have been regenerated by the power of the Holy Ghost, might live lives that reflect his nature; and further, that those who would witness the same in us might also seek thee as well; for this we ask in the name of him who is King of kings and Lord of lords, even Jesus Christ, our Saviour, Redeemer and Friend. Amen.

Have a blessed week,

New Years and Belated Christmas Greetings
Lest anyone think we are criticizing late greetings, understand while our own Christmas letter has been written and the cards printed, they did not get mailed until 2 January 2013 !

The New Year Dawns from the AOC

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.

Another year of progress, another year of praise,

Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.
Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,

Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;

Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;

Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.
Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,

Another year of training for holier work above.

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be

On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.
Frances R. Havergal 1874

New Year Greetings from Kenya

Dear Friends.
Happy new year from Kisii, Kenya to you all.
We hope that this year will be a year of miracles, Glorified to the Lord!
We here by welcome you to Kisii Kenya, and hope we will share more.
Be Blessed.

Christmas and New Year Greetings from Great Britain

My best wishes and prayers for the New Year.
I hope your Christmas services went well; you were remembered in my prayers.

Greetings to you and the AOC

You lovely Christmas card was much appreciated, as is the fellowship we share in the Lord.

In the love of the Christchild,

Rev Geordie

[1] The name Jesus, savior, is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, which was originally Hoshea (Num. 13:8, 16), but changed by Moses into Jehoshua (Num. 13:16; 1 Chr. 7:27), or Joshua. After the Exile it assumed the form Jeshua, whence the Greek form Jesus.  It was given to our Lord to denote the object of his mission, to save.
[2] Yet, do not misapprehend, we know but little of His Laws and the laws of the universe as He made them.  Our grasp of the space time continuum is little beyond that possessed  by those at Moses time.  He is, was and always will be.  We live in the present, remember the past and prepare for what will be, the best we can.

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