Verse of the Day

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Fourth Sunday in Advent

Today was the Fourth Sunday in Advent, the period including the four Sundays before Christmas; the first Sunday of which is always the nearest Sunday to the feast of St. Andrew (30 November). Advent is a season of preparation and penitence. We prepare ourselves to celebrate the coming of Jesus at Christmas, but we also look forward to his second coming.  The liturgical color for this season is purple reminding us of the Kingship of Jesus and that Advent is also a season of penitential preparation.

This morning’s sunrise brought 35°F with bright blue and clear skies with a very light northerly Santa Ana wind; by the time church started we were right at 60°F, pretty darn nice!  The lovely weather brought three people to worship.

On Point
Someone asked, where do the quotes come from?  The answer is from the people who uttered them.  But, how did you find them?  Oh, that.  Some from Bishop Jerry, many from Rev Bryan Dabney, a few from other places, some from Rev Geordie Menzies-Grierson, but overall mostly from Bryan.  He always has a few great ones to share.  On to the On Point quotes –

On worry
A great many people (not you) do now seem to think that the mere state of being worried is in itself meritorious. I don’t think it is. We must, if it so happens, give our lives for others: but even while we’re doing it, I think we’re meant to enjoy Our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the birds’ song and the frosty sunrise.
CS Lewis
The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE, whose difficulties with her daughter and son-in-law continued: On the experience of forgiving; and on the tedium of dying.

6 July 1963
All one can say about Lorraine is that if she is really so brainwashed as you think, she is then no more morally responsible than a lunatic. I fully admit that as regards her husband you have been set as difficult a job in the forgiving line as can well be imagined.

Do you know, only a few weeks ago I realised suddenly that I at last had forgiven the cruel schoolmaster who so darkened my childhood. I’d been trying to do it for years: and like you, each time I thought I’d done it, I found, after a week or so it all had to be attempted over again. But this time I feel sure it is the real thing. And (like learning to swim or to ride a bicycle) the moment it does happen it seems so easy and you wonder why on earth you didn’t do it years ago. So the parable of the unjust judge comes true, and what has been vainly asked for years can suddenly be granted. I also get a quite new feeling about ‘If you forgive you will be forgiven.’ I don’t believe it is, as it sounds, a bargain. The forgiving and the being forgiven are really the very same thing. But one is safe as long as one keeps on trying.

How terribly long these days and hours are for you. Even I, who am in a bed of roses now compared with you, feel it a bit. I live in almost total solitude, never properly asleep by night (all loathsome dreams) and constantly falling asleep by day. I sometimes feel as if my mind were decaying. Yet, in another mood, how short our whole past life begins to seem!

It is a pouring wet summer here, and cold. I can hardly remember when we last saw the sun.

Well, we shall get out of it all sooner or later, for even the weariest river Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Let us pray much for one another.
CS Lewis
The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

Wherefore God 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.
Philippians 2:9-11

Blindness and deafness in spiritual things are worse in those that profess themselves to [be] God’s servants and messengers than in others.
Rev. Matthew Henry
17th and 18th century English pastor and author

The Propers are found on Page 95-96, with the Collect first:

The Fourth Sunday in Advent
The Collect.

 LORD, raise up, we pray thee, thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honour and glory, world without end.  Amen.

The Collect for the First Sunday in Advent is on Page 90:

The First Sunday in Advent
The Collect.

LMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be repeated every day, after the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas Day.

Dru Arnold read the Epistle for today, which came from Paul’s first letter to the Philippians, starting at the Fourth Verse of the Fourth Chapter.

Paul calls on us to “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.”  We are to lead the world to Christ by example, to “Let (y)our moderation be known unto all men.”  In this Advent season, as always, “The Lord is at hand.”  We are to worry about nothing, “but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  Be joyful in all things, not for all things.  And in the words we find at the end of the Holy Communion Service, may “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Or to quote another, “Trust in God and Dread Naught.”

ejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Hap Arnold read today’s Holy Gospel which came from the Gospel according to Saint John, the First Chapter, beginning at the Nineteenth Verse.  When they heard rumor of John the Baptist, Jews wondering if this might be the Messiah, sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who art thou?”  John told them, “I am not the Christ.”  Then, they cast about for who he might be, ”Art thou Elias?”

Confounded, they asked, “Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?”  He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.”  The Pharisees people were somewhat confused and asked, “Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?”  John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; he it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”

Interestingly, the same theme is found over and over, as is oft the case with truth.  There are those among us who just plain will not see.  For, there are none so deaf as those who will not hear and none so blind as those who will not see.

his is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; he it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

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

As is oft the case, today’s propers are all tied together.  The Collect asks for God’s help for us to accept His Help and do it His Way.  That is a thought that permeates or at least should permeate our entire lives.  It is oft supposed Christians are dour souls, with no sense of happiness or humor.  Perhaps this thought comes from those who have heard what the Bible says, filtered through some odd prism, but have never actually read it. That may have been the way the Puritians thought, but then again, the Puritians were not holding to the consistent truth of the Bible. After all God commands us to make a “joyful” noise unto the Lord! Not, a dour, grumbling and solemn noise, but an exceedingly JOYFUL noise unto the Lord! There is nothing in the Bible that says you cannot have fun whilst worshipping our Lord, in fact that is the preferred way to worship Him! In fact, if we enjoy worshipping the Lord, then we are most apt to do more of our best to follow Him, if we are enjoying ourselves whilst doing so!

After all, the one said to be the most dour of all, Paul, tells us to be happy.  Not just happy, but to REJOICE.  REJOICE in the Lord ALWAYS and AGAIN I say REJOICE!  How much more fun can you have?  We are also to be moderate in everything we do, no excesses, an even keel.  Work hard, but maintain a time and space for our family, honor our country, and above all honor God.  He goes on to tell us if we think we need something, simply ask God for it!  Speaking of God, John recounts John the Baptist’s role in preparing the way for Jesus.  The Pharisees just had trouble with the simplicity of his message.  They were looking for something more complex, less straightforward, something more like themselves.

They were not willing to accept the change in the status quo, that the New Testament would break their role in finding ways around the commandments that Jesus gave, as there is no way around the two commandments, namely of Loving God with all our heart, soul and mind, and loving our neighbors as ourselves! Without those, we are just pitiful, weak, sinful beings! But if we embrace those commandments, we start to shed our old man image, and put on a newer, shinier and better image. We then become, Man 2.0, quite the upgrade from the first version!

They were a case of no play, all work and led a rather unbalanced life. We are told to balance ourselves with play besides work, to make us into a happier people that will rejoice in God’s commandments and will do His Work without complaint.  We will be happier in the end if we do it His Way instead of our way as we are so want to do, which is in our nature. The whole of Scriptures is about us fighting against our nature so that we will be closer to what God intended us to be, a happy and holy people, living together in harmony. If the world would do what God asked, we would be living together in harmony. Peace on earth will not be possible until the world accepts Him into their hearts. This is the perfect season for those who haven’t yet, to accept Him, to acknowledge Him at his first true appearance amongst us, at His Birth. There is always time to accept Him, but do not wait until it is too late to do so!

Jesus also tells us to put our trust in the Lord, then not to worry.  He knows how counterproductive, indeed how destructive worry can be in our lives.  We know it will  do no good, we know it will only hurt our cause; yet we do it.  Is this not a proof positive of how much we need His Help?  How hard is it to Trust in God and Dread Naught?  Very, yet to make progress this we must do. Even though it is very hard to trust somebody you can’t see physically, you must trust your spiritual sense and follow Him anyway, knowing that you will see Him physically one day, will be one of our great rewards.

The world is extremely complex; it is full of problems, temptations and difficulties.  It is full of obstacles for us, yet all Christianity offers is a few simple solutions.  We often hear that there are no simple answers to complex questions.  Actually, that is not true.  There are simple answers to complex problems, they are the only ones that work.  The problem is they are not the answers people want.  Most people do not want to know what they are supposed to do, lest they have to do it.  They want to be told that what they want to do is at least okay, even though it is clearly not okay. But we need to know what we are doing is the actual “Okay.” thing, and not what Joe on the corner claims is Okay. To do that, we have to read the Scriptures and listen to what God says is Okay, because He really does know the best in this matter for us.

Once again, when you think about being a Christian, think a bit about these quotes from GK Chesterton:

·       “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
·      “The word "good" has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”
·      “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”
·      “Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.”
·      “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

 G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

We are called to a new and different life, we ask the Lord to lead us and follow us, to keep us always.  Our goal is to do the Lord’s will, not to avoid 613 laws.  To do what is right and be humble.

Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail.  The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.

The time is now, not tomorrow.  The time has come, indeed.  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
Fourth Sunday in Advent (Morning Prayer)
22 December 2013, Anno Domini

The Fourth Sunday in Advent
The Collect.

 LORD, raise up, we pray thee, thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honour and glory, world without end.  Amen.

The Collect for the First Sunday in Advent is on Page 90:

The First Sunday in Advent
The Collect.

LMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be repeated every day, after the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas Day.

            In our Prayer of Collect for this Sunday, does not the prayer appeal to that same imagery given by Malachi in the last Book of the Old Testament? “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” (Mal 4:2) From the Collect: “O LORD, raise up, we pray thee, thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us.” The Executive Power of Creation (John 1:1-3) was that same Sun of Righteousness whose coming is proclaimed by John in the Wilderness – not in St. Paul’s Cathedral, or the Temple at Jerusalem, but in the Wilderness! If you will learn the mysteries of God, flee to the Wilderness of your closet – not to Rome or Canterbury! Israel has languished in darkness so thick you could cut it with a knife since the days of Malachi & the prophets. But the Sun is about to burst forth to disperse the storm clouds and black despair of the dawning day. Here is a prophet who proclaims truth to thousands in the Wilderness. His message satisfies a great hunger in the people if they will even travel to the Wilderness to hear it.

1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! 10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. 11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:1-11)

                This Old Testament Reading speaks of comfort to the people of God – not all who CALL themselves the people of God, but those whose faith has sealed their names in the Book of Life of the Lamb. The passage speaks clearly of John the Baptist some 700 years before his birth. Just as Job received double all of his losses in the end, so shall the people of God receive a double measure of Grace for their sins repented. John came to prepare the hearts and minds of the people for the Coming Lord Jesus Christ. The great empires of the day shall be brought to the depths of the pit, and others shall be raised up in righteousness. Even science and humane consciousness shall bloom among those nations who turn to the Lord.

            Isaiah reminds us that we are only transient pilgrims in this temporary world. We sprout up as grass, or as flowers in the desert, one day, and wither and disappear the next. It is only the fragrance of the Holy Spirit that we emit while blooming that causes us to grow anew in heavenly pastures. God’s Holy Word is not subject to the intellectual reasoning of man, and it will stand forever regardless the disgraceful attempts to re-interpret it into oblivion.  The Lord is our Shepherd. The newborn believers are carried in His very arms to protect from wolves – both without and within the Church. Now come we to the Gospel passage for this 4th Sunday in Advent:

1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, 2 Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. 7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 10 And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11 He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. 12 Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13 And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. 14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. 15 And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; 16 John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: 17 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. (Luke 3:1-17)

                The Lord’s Jesus Christ is not only the eldest Son in Time, but also in all of Eternity Past and Future.  His steps toward Calvary did not begin outside the courts of Pontius Pilate, in Nazareth, in Bethlehem, but in Eternity Past - long ere the world was made.  It is evidence of God’s prevenient election of His people spanning all time by His Grace. “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev 13:8) The Lord Jesus Christ was the First-Born of God in Eternity Past, and the First-Born of the Resurrection at the conclusion of His earthly ministry. The Way that John prepared was the Way of the Lord. If we are His, and follow Him as our Shepherd, we shall also be raised in immortality and ascend to God the Father.

            John is preparing the hearts of the people for repentance and cleansing. Though John baptizes with water as an outward evidence of cleansing, it is the coming Lord Jesus Christ who will cleanse the heart so that the vessel is clean from inside to outside. “I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” I invite your attention to Psalm 51:7 -  “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. “ Hyssop is a purgative to clean the alimentary canal (the inside of the soul), and the outward washing will cause the appearance to equal the inward essence. That is the fiery purging that Jesus Christ brings as a Refiner of silver. It was a common sight in Korea of the 1960’s to see men casting grains of rice into the air with a tribulatum, and others fanning the grains as they fall back to the earth. This was to separate the chaff from the pure grain. The trials and tribulations (a derivative of the Latin term for tribulatum) is the method that Jesus uses to prove and strengthen our faith as a mother exercises her child.

            John is calling the Old Testament Church (not all of the nation of Israel, but those who believe in the coming of the  Promised Seed) to repentance and faith. He is telling the people to be ready to receive their Lord and Savior. Such preaching as John practiced is becoming quite rare for our day, sadly. But ALL of John’s preaching pointed directly to the Lord Jesus Christ, and so should every sermon delivered from every pulpit today. There is far too much nonsense being preached about football, golf, and social encounters. We need a firm and devout return to the Holy Word in preaching, and that of Christ crucified and risen! Just as the fig tree that failed of fruit was fated to be cut down, so will Jerusalem suffer destruction at the hands of the Gentiles after they have rejected Christ and His righteousness. “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  Do you suppose that the same principle might apply to nations today who have known God, enjoyed His benefits, and then reject all that He taught?  It might be well to remember that the same fire that purifies silver (the elect) is that which consumes the wicked before God.

            Almost everyone who hears this sermon will recall some cold, dark night of the soul during which the gathering shadows grow into a stifling darkness for which there seems no respite. Perhaps a debilitating illness, or loss of a beloved soul, has precipitated the night of despair and smothered the light of joy. Such was the state of Israel to whom John was sent. Men had walked in darkness from the last word of Malachi of the Old Testament (the last word was ‘curse’ for the law is a curse without the grace of God). Four hundred years of utter darkness of silence passed from the time of Malachi until the time of John. Such darkness will make the eyes keen to the light that is granted in due time. John proclaims to the light-hungry people the Coming of the Light. There is a place called the ‘Lost Sea’ in eastern Tennessee at which a person can enter and elevator and descend almost 400 ft. below the surface to a large, underground body of water. Taking a glass-bottomed boat out onto the large lake, one can see numerous bass and other fish that are snow white. They have been deprived the benefit of light for hundreds of years, so the pigment of their skin has not been able to respond to light. The amazing thing is the eyes of these fish – they are grown over with scales. If we remain in darkness too long, we will become blind to light just like those dark

            John was not that coming light promised by Isaiah and the prophets – his preaching pointed to an ever-brightening horizon over which that bright and glorious Light of the World was about to break in brilliant colors of dawn. Have you seen the Light, my friends?

Rev Rick Reid of Saint Peter’s Sunday Sermon
We are happy to have a sermon from Reverend Rick Reid, minister of Saint Peter’s, whose congregation is right at the Worldwide Headquarters of the Anglican Orthodox Church.  Rev Rick has all the resources and challenges right at hand.  This sermon is not in the usual expository style common to the Sunday Report and the AOC, but I think you will enjoy it.

Rejoice in the Lord[1]

In this morning’s Epistle St. Paul tells the Philippians "Rejoice in the Lord always."  Paul then repeats it once again for emphasis "Again I will say Rejoice”

It seems strange a man in prison would be saying, "Rejoice in the Lord always"  It's clear from Paul’s letters, he lived through frustrations, trials and other situations that would seemingly not cause him to “Rejoice in the Lord!"

In St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians  Chapter 4: verses 11- 13, he tells us of his life and that of his companions:

11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place;

12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:

13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he describes the hardships he experienced as a servant of Christ:  Five times I have received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day, I was adrift on the sea.

Not too many of us could match the ordeals he faced. And in Philippians 3: we read about what may have been the greatest sacrifice of all on Paul's part: he gave up a promising career as a leader in the Jewish community in order to carry the gospel to the hated, much despised Gentiles. Paul was not an apostle, clothed in soft raiment or one who lived an easy life.

He knew the irony in such a command as "Rejoice in the Lord always."

This is a unique command from a very a unique apostle.  But seriously, what did Paul mean, and how can we obey a command such as this?  A good place to start is to look more closely at just what he says.

Christianity offers joy; Jesus offers victory over the world and its values. 

Victory is not something we strive to achieve; it is, rather, a guarantee, which is granted to us, before we ever begin our walk with the Lord.

God doesn't measure us by the success we attain in this life. He will love us in even if everything we attempt for Him ends in total failure.

Christian joy also stands in stark contrast to earthly happiness.

Earthly happiness depends on the external. Situations, things, and people make us happy.

If those situations, things or people change for the worse, we may no longer be happy. Even the most mature and sensible people cannot maintain happiness, all of the time.                                            

Fortunately, Jesus does not call us to be happy; he calls us to be joyful. Joy comes from “within”, and is based not on external circumstances, but on internal assurance and confidence in Christ. Paul knew that our inner attitudes do not have to reflect our outward circumstances. He was full of joy because he knew regardless of what happened to him, Jesus Christ was with him.

In the five verses following his command to rejoice, Paul offers practical ways to allow joy to affect our attitudes and actions.

Paul next tells the Philippians, "Be careful for nothing. In other words, do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving  ...let your requests be made known unto God" (4:6).

Paul is urging us to turn our anxieties into positive actions. And for the Christian, the most positive action is consistent, fervent, prayer. In essence he is telling us to turn anxieties into requests, to be made know unto God.

Rather than get all tangled up in worries and solutions, you can give those worries to God in confidence. He is good; he will not forsake you. It may take some time, but eventually we will learn to trust Him and to turn to Him in all that we do.

Then Paul says: 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Paul then states one of the most famous verses in the Bible:

8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Paul is telling us to fill our minds, with positive thoughts, and that there is no room for negative, self-defeating thoughts.

We usually spend our rational moments fretting over our failures, Paul urges us to spend the moments we are in control of our thinking… retraining our minds with good thoughts and positive ideas.

You are what you allow your mind to feed on. The books you read, the TV shows you watch, the conversations you participate in,….. all of these form your sense of what is right …and good.

If you constantly allow yourself to be exposed to degrading influences, your thinking will affect your lifestyle accordingly.

But this is not a negative command; it's a positive one. We're not only to filter out the bad, but also to funnel in the good. If you expose yourself to a spiritually healthy education, entertainment, and conversation. The irrational moments, full of worry, fear and Godless thoughts, will gradually fade in intensity and frequency.

Finally, in verse 9, Paul says to latch on to a model for growth. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do:… and the God of peace shall be with you.

Paul understands that the strongest argument for anything ….is a good example. He urges the Philippians to study him, to become imitators of him.

Paul doesn't claim to be the perfect example. There was only one perfect person who walked the face of this earth. But we must not be deterred from following good examples.

Rejoice in the Lord for what God has done in the lives of others… and remember that he can do it in ours as well!

And Paul goes on to say: "And the God of peace will be with you" (4:9b).

This parallels verse 7: "And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 “Again, we are faced with another Christian virtue that is greater than an earthly value.  Biblically, peace has to do with maintaining a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you.  Not as the world giveth" (John 14:27).

You can rejoice in the Lord, any time and anywhere...At work… or  in your car.

Or while watching the Panthers beat the Jets. Temptations, tragedies, disappointments: none of these have to shake your confidence and fulfillment in Christ.

A 1967 diving accident left Joni Eareckson Tada a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. Today, she is an internationally known mouth artist, a talented vocalist, and radio host. She is the author of 17 books and an advocate for disabled persons around the world.

She greatly struggled to accept God’s design in her paralysis. She is now at peace with the work of God in her life.

She once said, "I don't always know the whys, but I do know who holds the answers… And I can wait." Now this really is:  “This is the peace which passes all understanding.”

Let us all remember that were created for something far greater than this life, and nothing here on earth will ever totally satisfy us.

But, in the meantime, as we experience life’s ups and downs, and as we nurture the joy that comes through the love of Christ, we can "Rejoice in the Lord always." 

Again I will say: Rejoice! 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:

There Standeth One Among You
Philippians 4:4-7, John 1:19-29
Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 22, 2013

“There standeth one among you.”  Theologians and preachers often make much ado about the transcendence of God.  And we should.  Transcendence is an important attribute of the greatness and glory of God.  He transcends the physical universe.  He transcends time and space. Christina Rossetti, who, by the way was an Anglican, wrote the beloved Christmas carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter” in 1872.  We will sing it tonight at our Christmas service, and I will completely obliterate the timing of the words in the second verse, like I do every year.  You know the words, “Our God, heav’n cannot hold Him, nor earth contain.”  I will get the timing of those words wrong tonight, but I have their meaning correct in my heart.  I know God is bigger, and greater, and far more glorious than the stars and galaxies I see in the night sky.  I know the heavens cannot hold Him. He transcends all things.

But the Bible makes a great deal about another attribute of God.  The Bible goes to great lengths to show that He is as immanent as He is transcendent.  In other words, He is down here as much as He is out there.  This point is made throughout the Bible.  In the very first verse, God created the heavens and the earth.  In the second verse, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. In Genesis 2 “God took the man and put him in Eden.  In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve heard the voice of God walking in the garden, and in Genesis 3:9, “the Lord God called unto Adam.  In other parts of the Old Testament the Lord speaks to Noah.  God speaks to Abraham. God speaks to Moses.  God speaks Joshua.  The Lord calls Samuel.  He speaks to the prophets, whose writings echo the refrain, “The word of the Lord came to me.”  He appears to Isaiah “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.”  To Jeremiah He says, “Am I a God at hand… and not a God afar off?”  He is telling Jeremiah  He is here with us.  He is “at hand.”

The immanence of God is also one of the primary messages of the New Testament.  Matthew 1 tells us Christ is God with us. John 1 tells us the word, who always was, always is, and always will be God, “was made flesh and dwelt among us.” “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” Christ said to the Apostles. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them,” Christ promised His Church.  According to the Bible Christ dwells in us.  We are His Temple.  He has put His Spirit in us, the Holy Spirit, who is called the Spirit of Christ. This brings me to the words of the Gospel reading this morning, John 1:26, “there standeth one among you.”  The words were spoken by John the Baptist regarding Christ Jesus.  John did not know exactly which man in the crowds he spoke to was the Christ.  That had not been revealed to him yet.  But he knew one thing about Christ; he knew He was here.  He knew Christ was among them.  He still is.  Christ is among us.  The point of all of this is to say we are never alone.  God is with us, an ever present help and friend.  “There standeth one among you” and that One is God with us.  That is the first point of today’s sermon.

For the second point we turn to the Epistle and read in Philippians 4:5, “the Lord is at hand.”  While it is certain that “at hand” refers, in part, to the return of Christ, the words also apply to Christ’s continuing presence with His people.  He is, as He said through Jeremiah, a God at hand and not a God afar off.  But the point I want to emphasise here is found in verse 7; “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.”  This is the result of Christ being among us.  This is the result of Christ dwelling in us.  This is the result of us being in Christ.

There is no peace in this world.  There is, at times, the appearance of peace, but it is always an illusion, for in such times the next big problem is advancing upon us.  It may be war.  It may be poverty.  It may be illness.  It may be family problems.  It may be disillusionment.  It may be disappointment.  But something is coming at us, and it will shatter our illusion peace.  That’s why Jesus said the peace He gives is not like the peace the world gives.  The peace Christ gives is as eternal and unbreakable as God Himself.

The peace of God is based upon His atoning sacrifice on the cross.  It is based on the knowledge that Jesus died for our sin, and that all who believe in Him in Biblical faith are completely and eternally forgiven.  His blood has washed away our sins.  He has removed them from us as far as the east is from the west.  That means that when we stand before God on the other side of the grave, we will not tremble in the consuming wrath of God, we will give thanks in His consuming love.

The peace of God is based on the removal of the fear of death.  Why do people fear death?  Isn’t it because we instinctively know we will face God?  And don’t we fear that meeting because we know we have sinned?  In short, don’t we fear death because we fear hell?  But in Christ that fear is gone.  The sting, the pain of death is gone.  The grave is no victory for hell, it is the entrance to eternal life, and we can face it with assurance.  That is peace.

The peace of God is based upon the knowledge that earthly troubles will pass, but Heaven is forever.  We often hear the words, ‘life is short.”  They are often followed by an exhortation, like, “use the good china,” or “hug your wife and children.”  They are usually said with a smile, yet there is a sense of urgency in them.  If life is short we should make every minute count.  We should do what is important.  I agree, and I add, seek God.  Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, and mind.

The peace of God is not based upon getting the most out of life here and now.  It is based on the  knowledge that when earth is over, and all the treasures we have worked so hard to get, and all the pleasures we thought were so important, and all the troubles we thought were so huge and debilitating, will end soon.  And one day, God’s people will look back on them and wonder how we could have been so dominated by them because they will be absolutely insignificant in Heaven.

The peace of God is based upon the knowledge that God loves us and is working all things to our good, here and now.  Life on earth, for the Christian, is like a preparatory school.  It not the end or the goal; the be all end all.  It is only a classroom to get us ready for Heaven.  Knowing this we can trust God with life.  We can put it all in His hands and accept what comes to us.  We know that the troubles of life cannot separate us from God, and that all things work together for our good.

All of these things put a peace in our hearts the world can’t take away.  We can lose our homes.  We can lose our cars.  We can lose our health and our lives.  But we can never lose God or the benefits of His love.  That knowledge gives peace.  Philippians 4:7 says it will keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.  Keep means to protect.  The word projects the image of a strong and heavily armed guard standing watch over your soul.  Who is this Guard?  He is no mere man; nor even an angel. He is no less than Christ Jesus.  He is the guardian of your soul.  It is He who keeps you by His peace. 

May His peace be with you.

+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.

Fourth Sunday in Advent

In I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Paul the apostle commended the Thessalonian brethren for their exemplary conduct in that they had turned to God from idols. The tenets of our faith dictate that having more than one God is sinful, and that worshiping graven images is forbidden. Just as Israel’s covenant with the LORD specifically barred them from fashioning images for the purpose of worship, so we Christians must also abide by this restriction as well. Consider the following verses from Exodus, I am the LORD thy God... thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image... thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them... (20:2a, 3-4a, 5a).

Consider also the words of the prophet Isaiah (44:9-10, 14-17) on this subject: They that make a graven image are all of them vanity... Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?... He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak... Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baked bread; yea, he maketh a god and worshippeth it; he maketh a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: and the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou are my god.

In his first epistle to the Corinthians (10:19-21), St. Paul equated idolatry with worthlessness, and paganism with demonism when he wrote, What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and the table of devils.... It should be noted that in the apostle’s day, the prohibition against idolatry included the worship of the emperor as a living god. Thus the behavior for which the apostle applauded the Thessalonians— on account of their patent rejection of all idolatry in favor of the worship of the one, true and living God— can be juxtaposed to those of the Corinthian church who needed a reminder that they too must turn from worshipping idols.

Though initially rejected by early Christians in the first and second centuries, history tells us that by the fifth century idolatry was alive and well within the Church. Dr. Jesse Hurlbut once noted that, “while the triumph of Christianity resulted in much that was good, inevitably the alliance of the [Roman] state and the church also brought in its train many evils... As a result... we do not see Christianity transforming the world to its own ideal, but the world dominating the church (Story of the Christian Church pp. 62-63) .”

And so the paganism of the Ancient World— which was thought displaced by the Christian Church— soon reappeared as a corporate member of it. The Rev. E.M. Bounds once observed concerning this sort of behavior, “When the church itself, the bride of Christ, is seduced from her purity [by Satan], she degenerates into worldly ritualism... The Devil is a hydra-headed monster who is multifaceted in his plans and wisdom as well as in atrocities. His supreme effort is to gain control of the church, not to destroy its organization, but to pervert its divine purpose (Guide to Spiritual Warfare p.41-42).”

Now consider our adversary’s handiwork within the fold Christ. In 431 AD, the Council of Ephesus officially gave the title of “Mother of God” to the Virgin Mary. This very title had once belonged to the goddess Cybele whom the Greeks called “Meter Theon” or “mother of the gods”. It should be noted Ephesus was once the seat of worship for Diana, or Artemis, who was also a mother goddess. The Temple of Diana of Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World. Now while it is true that the council did not mean to convey a pagan understanding of Mary— only that she was the bearer of God in the flesh— still the irony of that event is inescapable. For in the very city where the apostle Paul (Acts 19:26), hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands, a church council had unwittingly supplied future church leaders with the proverbial “green light” to advocate that very aspect of paganism which the apostle had so forthrightly condemned some four centuries before.

But there is more. Consider that one of the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation (2:18-29) was the church at Thyatira which, as the Rev. Matthew Henry explained, “...allowed [a spirit of wicked teaching named Jezebel] to seduce the people of that city. [This spirit and its charges] attempted to draw the servants of God into fornication and to offer sacrifices to idols.” The warning by our Lord of this coming acceptance of idolatry should have been “a fire bell in the night” as it ought to have stirred the faithful leadership of the church into action against this sort of behavior. Sadly, by the fifth century, there was not much interest in keeping pagan practices out of the church as very many within the body of Christ were merely unconverted pagans masking themselves as Christians.

In our contemporary world, idolatry has become more sophisticated. The widespread cults of personality in religion have taken center-stage in the hearts of the naive. Several popular pastors have put aside the notion of God’s coming judgment for sin and the need for repentance in favor of a false universalism. They teach only about God’s love and omit his desire for justice. Others lure their prey into their dairy stalls— which they call churches— to be milked of their hard earned wages, while at the same time feeding them a gospel devoid of the whole truth of God and rendering them fit for the slaughterhouse of Hell when they die. A growing number of these wolves in sheep’s clothing are big promoters of the false gospel of prosperity: where God will make every true believer materially rich, and physically well in this life. And such carries with it the equally false notion that if you do not receive a blessing from God, then you do not possess the proper level of faith to deserve a blessing. Further, you likely did not provide these charlatans with sufficient funds which would entitle you to receive a blessing from God. What a kick in the teeth to an otherwise faithful believer who is struggling with financial or health problems. Imagine telling a person in those circumstances that they are not measuring up to God because they are ill, or in debt, or facing any number of difficulties. They might as well take the advice of Job’s wife to, curse God and die (Job 2:9).

Then there are those outside of the church who hold up a variety of secular figures as their gods and goddesses. They hang on every word they say, and they buy their sponsored products as if they were talismans. The pagans of the Ancient World idolized the strong, the powerful, the outwardly beautiful and the rich, and nothing in man’s character over the millennia has changed one iota. Modern idolaters also have their own temples much as the ancients had theirs. Consider any of the various domed stadiums and open-air coliseums where they cheer their demigods utilizing both the liturgical as well as the extemporaneous forms of praise. They have set up within their hearts votive altars for the objects of their worship. They even mark their bodies up with their signs and symbols which indicates not their mere support of those things, but of their ownership by them. In the future the Antichrist will require all who might buy or sell to possess his mark in their foreheads or in their right hand (Revelation 13:16-17). It seems the unregenerated are being prepped today for that future event. Indeed, all these things are ample evidence for their condemnation before a holy and righteous God should the unregenerate not repent and be forgiven of this terrible sin. For if one does take the mark of the Beast, there will be no repentance (Revelation 14:9-11).

But it would be erroneous to believe that such venues for idolatry are limited only to the secular realm, or to those of the various religious cults. Sadly, there are otherwise faithful Christians who have succumbed to a rather insidious form of idolatry which is in their midst, and yet is seemingly invisible to them. Their idols are found in the ever-increasing number of “sanctinasiums” where the profane rhythms of the world are presented in a manner hardly distinguishable from a secular concert. Their idols are self-worship, self-glorification, and self- aggrandizement. They are all about feeling their faith; so if they do not feel something— if their senses are not motivated or tingled— then they believe they have not worshipped. But Christian worship is supposed to be about God, and not ourselves. We are supposed to come before God with reverence and holiness. We are supposed to come before him confessing our sins and seeking his pardon. We are supposed to come into his presence with thanksgiving and praise; not in clamor or in irreverence, but in all holiness. As the apostle Paul observed, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance [self-control] against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:22-26).

We Christians have a duty to witness to those who are as yet under the spell of false teachers, and to warn them to turn away from such persons. God has given us his word written for our edification that we might be recipients of his grace rather than subjects of his wrath, and we in turn are obliged to share that knowledge with others. The Bible tells us that we are to give worship to no person, thing or ideal other than the Godhead. We have been warned throughout the pages of Scripture that those who persist in vain worship will have their hearts darkened and their reservation confirmed in that eternal lake of fire where all who are estranged from God will have their final and everlasting abode.

Christians be warned! Flee from all idolatry. Flee from those churches who preach an acceptance of those things which will bring you into condemnation. Avoid the traditions of men both old and new that are in opposition to the expressed will of our gracious heavenly Father. Stick to the word of God and keep away from any thing, or any person that would be exalted above the Godhead, or would displace him in your heart and life. Be warned my brethren, stay away from idols!

Let us pray,

ather, instill in each of us a desire to read the scriptures, and to inwardly digest them; that in so doing, we will become better witnesses on your behalf; and this we ask in the name of thy Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. 

Have a blessed week, Bryan+

[1] Years ago, I heard a Lutheran pastor say, “Be thankful to the Lord in all things, not for all things, that would be kind of sick.’  Point well taken, I am confident Paul would agree.

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