Verse of the Day

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Second Sunday after Easter

On Point
If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.
~C.S. Lewis

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.
Thomas Jefferson– American patriot and president

Men must be governed by God, or they will be ruled by tyrants.

William Penn– 17th century founder of the British colony of Pennsylvania

The Propers for today are found on Page 171-172, with the Collect first:

The Second Sunday after Easter.
The Collect.

LMIGHTY God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Dru Arnold read this morning’s Epistle from the First Epistle of St. Peter, beginning at the Nineteenth Verse of the Second Chapter. The Epistle reminds us that Christ, who was completely without sin or guile, not only died for our sins, but suffered humiliation and torture without complaint for us.  Thus, if we, because we believe in God and our Lord Jesus, are subjected to unfavorable comment, criticism or even persecution, we should bear this gladly, as our Lord gave us his example.  If we want to benefit from the Lord’s sacrifice, then we need to try to follow in his footsteps.  We need to look to His example to live our lives.

We are as sheep going astray who have been returned to the flock by our Lord, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.

We were asked the question, who is this man Jesus?  We answered, he is the Son of God; are we following him?  In this Epistle again, we are admonished to follow our Lord.

HIS is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Hap Arnold read today’s Gospel which started in the Tenth Chapter of the Gospel according to St. John beginning at the Eleventh Verse. Using the words that give this Sunday its name, Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”  He goes on to say He is not a hireling who cares not for the flock, but rather the shepherd himself.  He understands his job and puts it first, before his desires.  Jesus knows each of His sheep and they know Him, even as He knows His Father and His Father knows Him.  Because we are His sheep, He willingly laid down His life that we might live.  Jesus also points out He is not here to shepherd only the Jews, but all men, “And there are other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd.”

ESUS said, I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and know my sheep, and am known of mine, even as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd.

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:

who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life

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 need an example to follow, a pattern for our lives.  God gave us that in His Son.  Jesus leads us towards God.  But, we have a hard time following Him.  Thus, God sent us the Holy Ghost to enter in to our hearts, to make our eyes see The Way, to let our ears hear the directions to The Path.

Peter notes that throughout His Life, our Lord gave nothing but good. He was not accepting of evil, but when He was ill treated, He gave not venom, but healing in return.  Through His sacrifice, we are accounted as perfect, thus we need try our best to be perfect following His Example.  Will we fail?  That is certain.  Should we thus be inclined to just give in to evil?  NEVER.  To quote Winston Churchill, “Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”[1]

Jesus gave His Life for us because we are HIS.  He made it very clear that while He was sent to the Jews, God’s chosen people, His mission was not to them only.  Recall, He told them, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd.”  He was there not only to bring them everlasting eternal life and salvation, but to others also. 

To US. 

We are of His Flock, we are not strangers to Him nor Him to us.  If God cared enough to send His Son to give His Life to protect us from certain death, do we care enough for Him to follow His Directions?

We have One Leader.  He leads One Flock.  His Way may not always seem the easiest, but in the end it is for certain eternity.  He came to earth to save our lost souls.  If we listen to the clear guidance of the Holy Ghost, to each of who are “as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls,” we will gain both happiness here on earth and eternal life.

But, there is more than  just saying you believe.  You must act on those beliefs to make them real.  Things are getting tough here on earth. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (1 Peter 5.8)  And, I might add he holds sway in a lot of public offices.  Things are going to get worse.  You will need to act for God or for that lion.

When the time comes, how will you ACT?

It is by our actions we are known.

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
Second Sunday after Easter
14 April 2013, Anno Domini

The Second Sunday after Easter.
The Collect.

LMIGHTY God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. 7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:1-10)

            Sheep and children are closely related in character. We often refer to innocent children as “little lambs,’ and certainly they are, not having carnal knowledge. If the Federal Department of Education has its way, they shall attain that knowledge as early as Kindergarten! What a disgrace to inflict such immoral training on little children. If we trained little lambs to believe that they were wolves, how long would they fend for themselves in the wilds? Lambs must be provided food and shelter by their shepherd. Children must be provided the same by loving parents. Lambs have vision that is limited to only a few feet before them – so it is with little children as to insight and wisdom. The wolves are forever trying to separate out the most vulnerable lamb to satisfy an insatiable appetite. So do the wolves of the world seek out the children to corrupt and indoctrinate against the Moral Law of God.

            But, as we have discussed in many devotions, Christ is our Good Shepherd and He brings us to safe lodging in protected folds. In fact, He is the very Door of the Fold through which no one can enter without Him. We never mature, as Christians, to a point in which we are mature in Christ. We may study Holy Writ 10 hours per day, and every day of our lives, but, yet, never gain a full comprehension of all that it contains of the Bread of Heaven and the Water of Life. If you did gain such a full comprehension of all that God has said in His Book, where could we go for more Bread and more Water?

            Jesus said to His late night guest, Nicodemus: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Have we deeply considered the significance of that counsel of the Lord to the proud Pharisee?  Is this counsel of Jesus not closely related to that which He gave in the Gospel of St Matthew? Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matt 18:3-6) Are we not physically born into this world as little children? The same is true of the Spirit rebirth. Christ did not mean that we should be born again in the same way as our first birth, but that we become new creatures in Christ through a re-birth of our spirit. We are then as little children in the eyes of God. Even the sage theologian who loves, and has made the study of, God’s Word a lifetime endeavor will also be simply as a little child in the eyes of God. You may look long and far to find such a theologian in our day.

            Do not children know and understand the voice of the parent? So do the sheep know the voice of the Shepherd. Do not we hold the hand of our little children when we lead them across streets and in public places? Does the Shepherd not likewise lead His sheep tenderly along the mountain trails? Dow we not teach our children to disregard following the voice of a stranger? So the sheep follow only the voice of their Shepherd. Does not the parent plan for the future of his child and do all he can to make his lifelong and healthy? Does not the Good Shepherd offer life, and that more abundantly? So Jesus uses things that we know of, and to which we can relate, to teach of higher truths that are presently beyond our understanding. Poor Nicodemus could not separate the symbolism from that being symbolized (at least at first). But Nicodemus never came to Christ under cover of darkness again, but publicly and openly.

            How are Christian saints like children? 1) Children are heirs of all that the fathers possess: “….if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”  (Romans 8:17)  2) Trusting in our Father as the lambs trust in their shepherd, we are made children of God: For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:26)  30 Children follow parents as lambs the shepherd: Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children (Eph 5:1)

            Sheep are not born of the Shepherd, but of other sheep. But those choice lambs, purchased by the Shepherd, become His charges even more than their natural parents who cannot provide for them as can the Shepherd. It is the sheep of the church that reproduce more sheep, and the Shepherd cares for them as His own. Children are begotten of parents. Saints are begotten of God.

            Children inherit physical and mental traits of parents. Saints are endowed with the likeness and character of their God.

            Children are given the ‘family’ name of the parent. Saints are called ‘Christian’ after Christ their Good Shepherd.

            Children are not in every detail alike just as the children of God are not all alike in every detail. Each is given at least one talent with which to invest His labors for the Kingdom, but not the SAME talent!

            The list of comparisons is limitless. We are all in Christ as children leaning on every word of the counsel of God with a due reverence. We are just as the lambs awaiting the Shepherds call to proceed or to stand fast; to enter the fold, or to remain without.

            If we are yoked with spiritual pride, we are no longer children, and if not children, hold no part with Christ. We all, alike, must become as little children from the moment of our salvation until the closing of the long dark night of this life.

            God has blessed me with so many children under my preaching in St Andrews Parish. It was EXACTLY that for which I craved. I LOVE children and find it so easy to train them up in the way that they should go. When I think back on those shiny little eyes listening attentively to my long sermons, I am amazed that they continued to return Sunday after Sunday. They had not complaint in singing the classical hymns of the church, or in reading from the King James Bible though, for most, English was their second language. What an amazing gift God gave me for more than fifteen years. I could never have brought such a lovely congregation together on my own efforts – it was the Good shepherd who opened the Door and invited them in. How much I thank Him for the privilege. Regardless of their ages, those children will ALWAYS be MY children in love.

            Have you followed the Counsel given by Jesus and become (and remained) as a little child?

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:

Psalm 23,  1 Peter 2:19-25, John 10:11-16
Second Sunday after Easter
April 14, 2013

I love the ancient creeds of the Church, because they summarise the primary and essential doctrines of the faith once delivered unto the saints.  The Nicene Creed for example, summarises what the Bible teaches about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  It also ventures into such things as Church, forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.  These are the foundational doctrines of the Bible.  To deny them is to deny the faith, to deny Christ Himself.  To deny them is to declare yourself an unbeliever.

It is no accident that the Creed begins with the doctrine of God as He is revealed in Scripture, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  The vast majority of the Creed focuses on these teachings, because without them we have no right understanding of God, and right understanding of God is the foundation of all right belief.  It is certainly the foundation of the Biblical, Christian faith.

Yet the knowledge of God profits us nothing unless we act on it in faith.  As James 2:19 tells us, even devils know about God, but are lost for eternity.  Devils "believe and tremble."  So the Bible does not just teach an intellectual assent to doctrine; it teaches right doctrine accompanied by the response of faith.  Today I want to look at the response of faith, and I want to address this vast, and many faceted subject under the heading of conversion, because it doesn't matter what you believe about God if your lifestyle and life orientation is still one of going astray from God.

For some, the word, "conversion" recalls images of tent meetings and evangelistic crusades, and going forward at an invitation to accept Christ.  Many even think the act act of going forward is conversion.  But it is possible to go forward at a thousand such meetings, yet not really be converted, for to convert is to change, not just go forward.  Of course, some have been truly converted in such meetings, in a dramatic and seemingly sudden event.  For others, conversion was a much slower process.  This is especially true of people raised in the Church and Godly homes.  Such people may kind of grow into Christ in such a way that they cannot  name a date and time and place in which they were converted, yet they are converted.  For conversion means to have a change of life based upon the revelation of God in Scripture.  The Apostle Peter, in the Epistle for today calls it being returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your soul, which is God.  Peter uses the familiar image of sheep going astray. We can imagine an ancient shepherd leading his flock; some sheep following him closely, but many are going their own way, and running away until they are finally lost and die in the wilderness. 

To be converted is to be returned to the Shepherd.  It means to change the direction of life, and it especially refers to a change in the direction of our relationships.  Take for example our human relationships. We are sinners who regularly rupture our human relationships, especially those that are most important, such as those with family and church members, and we need a conversion in these relationships so that we begin to to do the things that build them up, rather than tear them down.  Luke 1:17 is part of the angel's words about John the Baptist, and it says he will go before the Messiah and "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children."  In this verse Luke used the same Greek. word Peter used in 1 Peter 2:25, and we easily see the relational meaning of the word. 

Conversion especially refers to our relationship with God.  Returning to Luke 1 again, verse 16 says,  "many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God."  Again Luke and Peter use the same word, "turn," and, again, the word is relational. It is a conversion of relationships meaning to adopt a lifestyle of continually restructuring the relationship with with God.

It is important to stress here that those who are converted have, at some point in their lives, come to realise that they are trusting God to forgive their sins and receive them into Heaven because, and only because, Jesus Christ, "bare [their] sins in his own body of the tree," as Peter wrote in our Epistle.  That verse is 1 Peter 2:24, and I humbly ask you to look it up and ponder it this afternoon.  And then I ask you to humbly look at yourself and answer this question, "Am I trusting Jesus, and only Jesus to forgive my sin and receive me into Heaven?  And, if you are not, or are not sure, call me and I will explain this more fully.

There is something else that must be stressed today, and it goes back to that change in relationship I was talking about a few minutes ago.  Conversion means to have a changed relationship with God through Christ.  It means you stop going astray and return to the Great Shepherd. and Bishop of your soul, Jesus Christ.  It means you now intend to stop living the lifestyle of straying, and begin living the lifestyle of returning.   We could say, you decide to stop living apart from God as though you are divorced from Him, and start living in love and fidelity with Him as though you are part of the Church and the Bride of Christ.  Again I invite you to ask yourself if this describes your relationship with God, and if the answer is "no," or, "I'm not sure," talk to me, for your soul is in danger. 

All true Christians have made the decision to be a returner, not a strayer.  Peter portrays this change in very graphic terms.  He tells us "that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness."  This is what we prayed for in the Collect for the Second Sunday after Easter.  Asking that we might receive the inestimable benefit of the sacrifice of Christ, and that we might follow His example of a holy life, we prayed:

"Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
+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.

Second Sunday after Easter

When we hear the words of the gospel message today (St. John 10:11), what sorts of images come to mind? Unless one has an agricultural background, one will have but a vague grasp of what our Lord had said. But the Jews of Christ’s earthly ministry were entirely familiar with what he was describing save one exception. For while it is true that those people understood the particulars of herding goats and sheep; they hardly understood that our Lord 's allusion to himself as the good shepherd was, in fact, pointing to his true nature: that of the Messiah who would shepherd his people.

In the 23rd Psalm, David gives us the sense of what our Lord had mentioned in John's gospel. The LORD is my shepherd...he maketh me to lie down in green pastures...he leadeth me beside the still waters... These comforting words were reinforced by our Lord's remarks to his disciples on the night before his crucifixion as found in St. John 14:1-3: Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

And further on in that same chapter our Lord said, ...I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you( vv.16-18).

The Good Shepherd has sent his most holy Spirit to guide, comfort and indwell all who are his elect and beloved until he comes again. Therefore, the Holy Ghost does not stand apart from us, but actually resides within every regenerated believer, speaking to us the deep things which God through Christ would have us know for our edification. And it is by virtue of the Spirit of God that select men are called into the ministry for the purpose of shepherding the various flocks of our Lord which are scattered across the world.

Additionally, our Lord has warned us about Satan’s counterfeit shepherds— mere hirelings, or grievous wolves— who will hide their true natures behind a sheepskin of godliness, all the while denying the power thereof (II St. Timothy 3:5). Look again at the text of our gospel lesson today and notice how our Lord described these persons. A hireling is one who is supposed to watch the sheep, but has no great love for them apart from his paid position. As the sheep are not his own, he does not exercise due diligence in the maintenance of the sheepfold. And if faced with a dangerous predator, he will run away, leaving the sheep open to being despoiled.

And such accurately describes the state of the ministry today as a host of churches have fallen under the influence and control of these hirelings and wolves. Without a doubt, there are those who have sought their pastoral positions for profit and little else. On this account, they have labored to increase the membership of their respective churches, not for God’s glory, but for their well-being in both the eyes of men as well as for their own pecuniary interests. Ergo, they have made merchandise of the souls over which they have been given charge by church boards and vestries. Sadly, the majority of those hold membership in said governing bodies are utterly clueless in many cases to the truth of God’s word written. These supposedly upstanding folk have often gleefully opened their church doors to hirelings and wolves when they should have exercised godly discernment and kept them out. For once those miscreants have entered, they will weaken the church with their pernicious false gospel and destroy the faith of many.

But, such is not the case with the good shepherd. Our Lord said, ...the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. Examine Article XIX of our Anglican Articles of Religion (Book of Common Prayer, p. 606): “The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.” That is the acid test in Anglicanism, but it should be so in all churches.

The Good Shepherd came to establish his church and create, via the new covenant, a more perfect relationship between God and mankind. The church is the fold of Christ, a haven from the world, a place of sanctuary, and a place of sanctity. It is a place where God’s peace is shared by those who are born again of the Spirit and have faith in the promises of God. It is a place where God’s word written is respected as the whole truth against all else to the contrary. It is a place where healing can be sought and where the penitent can be restored to fellowship by those possessed of a forgiving spirit. It is a place where those who are members realize that their Master has paid their debt of sin and that they are renewed in their minds and hearts, readily confessing their sins to him in both their private devotions, as well as in their worship time together. It is a place of joy and rejoicing in the power of the Holy Ghost with such being set forth in both the spoken word, and in songs which lift up the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. St. John’s is just such a church and fold of Christ. But we are not alone as there are many others that are scattered across the earth whose members are worshipping and praising the Godhead as we are doing at this present. And while there are many folds, they all possess one door, and that is Jesus Christ. They may speak different languages, and use differing forms of worship, but they are, nevertheless, our brothers and sisters.

One day, the many folds shall be one as we heard in our gospel lesson. The Lord Jesus will return and take his own to be with him. In the Book of Revelation (3:9, 10), Jesus said: To the angel of the Church of Philadelphia write:...I have set before thee an open door...Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth... Our Lord has promised to come again and take us to live with him forever in God's kingdom. As the 100th Psalm so states, ...we are his people and the sheep of his pasture. So let us then live in humble expectation of that august promise as noted in First Thessalonians 4:16-18: For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. Therefore lift up your voices in joyful praise to our heavenly Father, and thank him for his wonderful gift which he has provided for all who believe on him through our Good Shepherd, even Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Let us pray,

ather God, keep us steadfast as we watch for the coming of thine only begotten Son, that by the indwelling of thy most holy Spirit we might be kept safe from all wolves in sheep’s clothing and all hirelings; for this we ask in the name of him who is the Good Shepherd, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Have a blessed week, Bryan+

[1] Sir Winston Churchill, Speech, 1941, Harrow School

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