Verse of the Day

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Second Sunday after Easter

Today was the Second Sunday after Easter, the central event of the Christian year, the celebration of our Lord, “Christ the Lord is Risen!”

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 some great ones to share.  On to the On Point quotes –

At the Core
This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, building, missions, holding services. Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects—military, political, economic, and what not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden— that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time. In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.
Jack Lewis
Mere Christianity

Thy Neighbor
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn: We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.
Jack Lewis
The Weight of Glory

It is of great importance to set a resolution, not to be shaken, never to tell an untruth. There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and a third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good disposition.
Thomas Jefferson

Death is just God’s way of telling you to watch your airspeed or rotor RPM.

The rights of neutrality will only be respected when they are defended by an adequate power. A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even the privilege of being neutral.
Alexander Hamilton
Federalist No. 11, 1787

Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.
Jeremiah 23:24

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
St. Luke 12:32

I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
St. John 17:14

For as by one’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
Romans 5:19

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Philippians 4:13

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
Hebrews 4:14

Those that bind up their happiness in the favor of men make themselves an easy prey to the temptations of Satan.
Matthew Henry
17th and 18th century English pastor and author

There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough—a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice—which costs nothing, and is worth nothing.
JC Ryle
19th century Anglican bishop and author
(Holiness, p. 204)

Our confidence must not be in what we have done, nor in what we have resolved to do, but entirely in what the Lord will do.
Charles H. Spurgeon
19th century English pastor and author

The taxpayer: That's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination.
Ronald Wilson Reagan
20th century American president

You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power— he’s free again.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn
20th and 21st century Russian author

The freedoms of the mind, heart and voice are the most essential of freedoms because they free us to be individuals. They allow us to have our own values. Without these freedoms, no society is free... Individual rights exist in the empty spaces that government is forced out of. Government rights however do not exist until everyone is forced to provide them. That is true of the redistribution of wealth and property, but it is even truer of the redistribution of freedom and the confiscation of conscience... Without the right to be left alone, there are no other individual rights. Without individual rights, there is no such thing as a free society.
Daniel Greenfield
21st century American commentator
(The Redistribution of Freedom, 12-16-13).

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.

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.

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.

This morning’s Epistle came 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.

Today’s Gospel came from 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.

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
St Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church
4 May 2014, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)

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. 6 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. 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep  (John 10:1-11)

          Though today’s Gospel text ends with the 10th verse, I could not bring myself to end there without adding the 11th which fully reveals this gracious Personage described as the Good Shepherd.

          The Universe is a closed system as every student of astronomy will admit as scientific fact. Heaven, too, is separate and distinct from the physical universe and is also, itself, a closed system (much like a simple Sheep Fold) and the abode of God. Just as the Universe is a place prepared of God for our temporal existence, so Heaven is a place prepared for the spiritual existence of those who cling to Him as lambs and children. There is an old saying that “nothing happens by accident” and I believe that saying is true as regards the Universe and the heavenlies.

           Far greater faith is required to believe that the intricacies of the Universe, of the great organization of galaxies and star systems, of the perfect balance existing upon earth for the support of life, for the amazing structure and continually working intellect that is evident in the human body. To believe that the tiny cell, much less the complex organization of millions of cells of the human body, could happen by accident of nature requires a faith that can only be identified as ridiculous. Of course there is, as even Einstein admitted, a great Intellect behind the perfect balance and structure of the universe – and of life itself. – and that Intellect is God!

          In today’s text, Christ makes reference to that closed system of Heaven – the Sheep Fold. The Mind that conceived the organization of interstellar space also is the same Mind that created the natural world as we know it. He created every rose of crimson beauty, and every lily of purest white splendor, the tiny creatures that are unseen to man, the lambs and bears, lions and elephants, and you and me. His Mind is Macro in its enormity to consider the whole Universe and Micro in its meticulous awareness of the tender baby sucking at its mother’s breast. The Divine Creator has endowed man with a special glory and privilege and made him the crowning achievement of His Creative genius. We are compelled to say, along with the psalmist: When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: 7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! (Psalms 8:3-9)

          Our God is a God, not only of this one-time life on earth, but the God of the Resurrection. Life is continually being resurrected, even in this world of woe, from death. Every stalk of wheat derives its being from that first grain of wheat that fell into the earth at Eden and sprang into newness of life. Every cell of our bodies can trace its primitive DNA back to that of the first man – Adam. So God, even in the temporal, has place seeds of the eternal. There is, however, a known end to the ways of the world and its supporting planetary accoutrements. This system of death and life is not that which God approves for those He loves. He has sent His only Begotten into the world to redeem us out of that sin of Adam (and our own) which has interrupted His creative plan for eternal life in all things.

          As a great and all-knowing scientist speaking to children of the Manse, He leaves off the references that cannot possibly be conceived by a child, and uses vocabulary that is simply, pictorial and imaginative in revealing the great mysteries of the closed system of His Heaven. He speaks of sheep and shepherds, of porters and strangers, of doors and thieves.  These mental pictures we can grasp and know. Being the greatest teacher ever to open His mouth, Christ employs the fundamental principle of teaching, known today, as teaching from the KNOWN to the UNKNOWN. Teaching cannot be accomplished in any other way. Unfortunately, the technique used in many of today’s university classrooms is that of teaching from the UNKNOWN to the IMPOSSIBLE!

          1 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 Christ begins with the negative – those who attempt to enter “some other way” – precisely because this is the manner in which most will attempt to gain heaven. The loose theologies of man-made truth has crept into churches and corrupted the simplicity and truth of the Gospel. The leaven of the Pharisees is far more prevalent than the pure unleavened Bread of Heaven  served in most churches today. How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Matt 16:11-12) Our theology of today is more of the WALMART variety than that of Treasures of Heaven.

          2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. Christ is our Door to Heaven. He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and “no one cometh unto the Father but by Him.” We may come up with every self-enriching scheme and call it exalted faith; we may labor our fingers to the bone in doing good; we may sacrifice every of our livestock on the altar of benevolence; but still stands in the foreground and brilliance of Light the single means by which we may enter Heave n – the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He who keeps getting in the way of the builders of a human paradise. If the secular humanists, the Communists, the totalitarians of every stripe could only vanquish this shining figure in the midst, they could then complete their human utopia. But “the Stone that the builders rejected has become the chief Corner-Stone of the building thereof.” When they have near-completed their structure, they then may note the troublesome stone at the base around which they had to labor in building their building. It kept getting in the way and causing them to stumble. Now they recognize, after all, that is it is the Chief Corner Stone – but too late. As they try to lift it to the crown of their hand-made building, it tumbles back upon them and crushes them to dust.

           3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. The porter is very like the true ministers of God who open the Door to Christ to his hearers. While living in Iran, the sheep were led out during the warmer part of day from the stone enclosures called sheepfolds in the mountain heights. These were usually semi-caves in the mountainside with a large stone fence erected in an arch around the front. There was an opening that was always guarded by the Shepherd to keep the sheep from escaping into the dangers of winter and the predator-infested mountain slopes. There were often different shepherds whose sheep were sheltered in the fold. The Shepherd would make a unique sound with his voice and his sheep would immediately respond by following him out of the fold. The others would not respond. I found this remarkable and in complete accord with the Words of our Lord. Christ calls out today and many do not heed His Voice because they are not of His Fold.

          4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. If we know the Shepherd’s Voice, we will follow Him everywhere, for everywhere He leads will be a place of security – green pastures and still waters. If danger lies ahead, the Shepherd is first to address the danger and will even lay down His life for the sheep.

          5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. We have many who profess Christ today who are following strangers. If they truly knew Christ, they would not recognize and follow a stranger’s voice.  Last year, I drew several hundred dollars from a bank in which I have a savings account and went to deposit that money in another bank where my personal checking account is maintained. The teller took the bills and ran them through a machine. They all passed muster. She then marked each with a special pen to verify their authenticity. They all passed this test. She then took one of the bills and held it up to the light for quite a while. She then told me that this particular one hundred dollar bill was actually a five dollar bill. Well, I thought this ridiculous for it was clearly a one hundred dollar bill. She told me to hold the bill up to the light and see whose visage was inscribed in the watermark on the right side. It was Lincoln when it should have been Franklin! She told me that a skilled counterfeiter had bleached out a five, and over-stamped with the one hundred. This is why the bank device could not recognize the fake – the paper was Federal stock. Neither would the pen. But the skilled eye of the teller could catch the phony because she was so very familiar with the true money. We may appear to be genuine Christians, and our lifestyles may be moral and above reproach, but what of the watermark that is INSIDE our hearts. Will that expose us as imposters to the knowing eye of the Lord? 6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. He often speaks to us in such simple words that we, too, do not understand. We expect words of greater sophistication and profundity perhaps.

          7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. When we simply do not ‘get it’, Jesus will speak to us in more direct ways. Many local Christians of the Baptist persuasion wonder why I commit idolatry by displaying the cross and candles above the Lord’s Table. I explain, usually in vain, that the cross is a reminder of who Christ is to us and what He did. I explain that Christ used metaphors to point to Himself. The Cross is one such example of who Christ is and what He did. The candles, I explain, represent both the Light of the Gospels and that of the Epistles which go out to the World in giving Light. I explain that Christ tells us in the second chapter of Revelations (2:5) to the church at Ephesus that if that church forgets from whence they have fallen, Christ will remove their candlestick. I then remind them that the Anglican Church still has its candlestick. This usually ends the dialogue….(*___~) Christ is our DOOR. He meets every specification for a DOOR. He is the only entrance available.

          8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. Those false prophets who deceived and misled the people are the thieves and robbers. Their kin still dominate the world of theology today. They change biblical meanings and words for profit. They build up the esteem of man, and minimize the truth of God. But those who truly belong to the Shepherd will recognize the phonies, just as the bank teller mentioned.

         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. We have a perfect liberty IN Christ. Outside of Christ, there is only bondage and whimpering servitude. The same is true of nations that honor Christ. Those whose constitutions and morality adhere to Christian faith are free and her people live without bondage.

          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. The thief never announces his intentions ahead. His success is due to his cunning and secrecy. Modern false teachers are never going to pronounce that they have no faith at all in God the Father, or His Son Jesus. They begin, as the Serpent in the Garden, with a half-truth and proceed, step-by-step, with a full denunciation of Truth. Lies led to death at Eden, and lies lead to death in the church. But in Christ, we have Life, and that life we have, even on earth, is full, abundant and heavenly.

           11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep  What other shepherd, bent on profitable gain, will lay down his life for the sheep? But there is One Shepherd, who is the Owner of the Sheep, who does not view them out of a prospect for profit, but loves them fundamentally with a heart love of warmth and kindly beneficence. He loves them as His own family (which they are) and will lay down His very life for the sheep so that THEY may have life. Do you know this Shepherd, and do you hear His Voice today?

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
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. We are fallen, miserable creatures in the pattern of Adam.  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 that will give us eternal salvation and everlasting life.

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.  We are to act to the best our abilities like the example He set forth for us. It will be hard and trying, but if we accept the Holy Ghost into our hearts, we can do these things. We will never be perfect, but that does not mean that we stop trying. We just reset our compass and follow the True North of Christ.  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. It was to all of the people that God made. Remember, God did not only create the Jews, but He made everybody! Jesus’ mission was to all of us miserable sinners, not just the Jewish people. 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? It is the least we can do, after a painful death Our Lord endured that we might be free from the wages of sin. We must do our best to follow Him and He will be well pleased with us, if we actually do our best as opposed to saying that we are doing our best.

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. Anytime we sin or fall short, we simply reboot and start a new life with God yet again. It is a simple answer to our sins, repent and do our best to “Go forth and sin no more.”

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 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:

What Makes You Happy[2]?
Psalm 34, Isaiah 40:1-11, Philippians 3:7-16
Second Sunday after Easter
May 4, 2014

What makes you happy?  I think most people would say they are happy when they, and their family and friends have good health, loving family and friends, a reasonable level of prosperity, and a comfortable standard of living. Most of us grew up thinking it is possible to achieve these things if we are willing to work hard, love our family and friends, treat all people with respect and compassion, and live within the guidelines of basic, Biblical morality. 

But, by the time we reached our 40s we were beginning to understand there is more to happiness than what we find in these things.  We began to find that we can have all these things yet not be truly happy.  The great example of this is Solomon, the Old Testament king of Israel and author of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon had wealth, power, respect, health, and love.  Yet he was unhappy.  So he devoted himself to getting more wealth, more power, and more respect in the hope that he would find happiness.  It didn’t work.  We know people like that today, people who seem to have everything, yet find that everything is not enough, and they live lives of quiet desperation in gilded cages.

These things are very fragile, and can be taken away from us in the twinkling of an eye.  You may pour your life into loving a person only to be rejected and thrown away like yesterday’s newspaper.  You may amass a great fortune, only to lose it all in a bad investment or a market crash.  And your health… next to love that is the most fragile of all things. What happens when these things are taken from us?  Can we suffer their loss and still be happy?  We can, but only if our happiness comes from another source.  If these things are all we have, our happiness leaves with them.  If our happiness is founded on something else, it remains, even if the other things go.

Let me start over again now.  Let me start from a different perspective.  Let me ask what makes you unhappy?  We could say the loss of the things I have been talking about makes us unhappy.  The loss of prosperity, health, love, and comfortable life-style makes us unhappy.  We could put it more bluntly and say poverty makes us unhappy.  Loneliness makes us unhappy. Squalour makes us unhappy.  Sickness makes us unhappy.  But is that really true?  I know of people who are happy though they are poor, lonely, live in squalor, and have terminal illnesses.  So those things alone cannot be the final deciding factor in happiness or unhappiness. Tell me if you think this is true: unhappiness is caused by the desire to have things different from the way they are.  We want a better job, so we become unhappy with the one we have.  We want a better car, a better family life, a better marriage, a better vacation, a better house, so we become unhappy because we don’t have them.  When life doesn’t measure up to our storybook fantasy of “happily ever after” we become dissatisfied.  We become unhappy.

Do you remember George Bailey, the central character in “It’s a Wonderful Life?”  George didn’t think life was so wonderful.  George resented his life, and he was deeply angry and depressed because he was stuck in the “crummy little town” of Bedford Falls.  He wanted to see the world and have adventures and money and fun.  Bedford Falls was, to him, the same as Alcatraz.  In other words, he wanted things to be different.  Knowing they would never be different, George Bailey was bitterly and desperately unhappy.

Could it be that being unhappy at the way things are is actually being unhappy with the life God has given to us, and with the way He has guided and provided for us as we travel the road of life?  Is unhappiness caused by rejecting what God has provided, and by longing for something else?  We want a carefree existence, God gives stress and problems.  We want rest, God gives work.  We resist this.  We kick against the prods.  We get angry with God because He doesn’t do things our way.  Thus, we lead ourselves into anger, depression and grief, and, for some, unbelief.

In such situations we would think we would turn to God.  But, in reality, we often turn intensely back to the things.  We try to alleviate our sorrows by drowning them in money, work, amusements, entertainment, even religion. You have probably seen the bumper sticker that says, “When things get tough, go shopping.”  That is the foundational faith of many people.  Have a bad day at work? Buy a new toy to help you forget about it.  Troubles at home? Go play golf.  Spend money.  Indulge yourself.  See if you can buy happiness.  And it works, for a while. You get a feeling of happiness when you buy a new toy, and those endorphins are released in your system.  But they soon fade, and the toy goes into that pile of other toys that gave you pleasure for a moment, but lost their appeal.  So the next day’s troubles require a new toy.  And the next day’s requires another, and so it goes and the depression rises like the credit card bill.

So, how can we find happiness?  Is happiness even possible in this valley of the shadow of death.  The Bible’s answer is a resounding, “YES.”  But it is not found where we usually seek it.  When we accept life as God gives it, and trust God to work it all for our good, we will begin to be happy.  When we are willing to obediently accept what God’s providence gives, then we are ready to begin letting the world go and start trusting God.  I think this is a big part of what the Bible means in Philippians 3:8,

 “I count all things as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ.”

Contrary to popular opinion, “dung” refers to garbage.  It consists of things we would put in the trash can.  Ancient towns and cities had dumps outside the gates where people would take their garbage.  Dead animals, spoiled food, and broken furniture would go there.  The Greek word for dung is a combination of two words.  One is “ex” from which we get our word, “exit” and simply means “out.” The other is a word that means “to throw.”  So dung is simply the broken, ruined and spoiled things we throw out.  How appropriate.  We throw out the broken, spoiled and ruined things of this world to find happiness in Christ.  We throw out our ruined dreams, our spoiled hopes, and our broken trinkets, in order to embrace the things God gives that lead to true happiness.  My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, when you can count all things as dung compared to knowing Christ, and when you can gladly suffer the loss of them to find your happiness in Christ, then you are ready to leave sorrow behind and embrace the peace of God.  I think this has been wonderfully expressed in Isaac Watts’ famous song, “When I survey the Wondrous Cross.”  He wrote, “All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.”

This is difficult.  That’s why most people never do it.  Most “Christians” never do it, never even attempt to do it.  But it is the only way to be happy on this earth.  And it only comes through years of hard work, meaning diligent use of the means of grace, including obedience.  By the means of grace we “reach forth” unto the things of God. By the means of grace we press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Let us not think we have attained it yet.  Let us press on toward the mark.

Before I close I want to remind us that the words of Philippians 3 only refer to happiness on earth in a secondary way.  Their primary intent is to point us to Christ and His righteousness as the only way to know God and be saved.  In Philippians 3:5-6 Paul listed all his religious accomplishments which he had previously believed were his ticket to Heaven.  In his eyes, he was blameless in “the righteousness which is in the law.”  It is this personal righteousness and religious accomplishment that Paul counts as dung in verse 8.  It is dung in his own eyes because it is dung in the eyes of God.  None of us, coming the ticket office in Williamsburg, would hand the attendant a bag of smelly garbage and expect to be given a ticket to tour the Governor’s Palace.  Yet many think their own goodness can earn their place in Heaven.  Paul is saying your own goodness is garbage to God.  It won’t get you in.  It is offensive to Him.  Throw your goodness away and let God dress you in the true goodness of Christ.  Then you will be fit to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  Christ died to get you into Heaven.  Let Him do it.  But He also died to give us a foretaste of Heaven.  He also died to give us new life, a life lived in His love and peace.  He calls this life, “eternal life” meaning it is like the life we will have when we are finally in Heaven where sorrows and sins and death will trouble us no more forever.  We will be eternally happy in that land.  And in the little glimpses and tastes we have of it here and now, we can be happy here too.
+Dennis Campbell
Bishop, Anglican Orthodox Church Diocese of Virginia
Rector, Holy Trinity Anglican Orthodox Church
Powhatan, Virginia

Roy Morales-Kuhn, Bishop and Pastor - St. Paul's Anglican Church - Anglican Orthodox Church
Bishop Roy is pastor of the biggest AOC parish West of the Mississippi and is in charge of the Diocese of the Epiphany. 

Second Sunday after Easter
04 Mat 2014

Epistle: I Peter 2:19-25 Gospel: John 10:11-16

19 For this is thank worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
20 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.
21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
24 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.
25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Remember right after Jesus was arrested, the disciples ran away. Yes Peter did follow Jesus into the area where he would later be tried, but before the first rooster crowed, Peter denied Christ three times as Christ predicted.  Peter will also run away. So now after Jesus has come back from the dead he will gather his followers around and calm them, teach them and prepare them for the coming fury of Satan. Understand Satan knows he is defeated, but he will not go down without trying to take others with him. He will do his best for the next several millennium to destroy what Christ left behind here on earth.

Notice how Peter in this first letter he makes reference to at least three Old Testament passages.

 “Who did not sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” {Isa.53:9}.

Then another O.T. reference. “ whose stripes ye were healed.” {Isa.53:5} . And finally the passage from Isaiah 53:6. “All we like sheep have gon astray; we have turned every on to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

The whole 53rd chapter of Isaiah is the plan of salvation. We can read that and understand that we do not seek God, He seeks us. We run the other way or as verse six reads ‘turn to our own way’.

Why do we do this ? Because as David wrote, we are born into sin. So we must ask Jesus to cleanse us and make us clean. We must ask Jesus to save us from our sins, we must ask Jesus to come into our life and make us free. Only he can. His death on the Cross has made our salvation possible. Seek Jesus today if you doubt that you are saved. Ask him to come into your heart to heal you of this sin that caused him to go to the cross instead of you.

Let us now look at our Gospel reading. We see that Jesus is telling his to be wary of those leaders of the church who will not protect the church.

The illustration of the Good Shepherd and the Wolf is not a cautionary tale. It is the Truth of which Jesus tells, a time coming when those who have been charged with protecting the flock {church} will run. When there is any controversy, those who are supposed to protect will flee.

Let’s read this and see what Jesus is saying to the Jewish-Christians and later to the Gentile-Christians.

11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
12 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.
13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 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 fold, and one shepherd.

In this passage from the tenth chapter of St. John we learn the man who tries to enter the area where the sheep are safe, is a thief and a robber. One who wants to deny and take away that which Christ has given us, our salvation. This is all part of the fight Satan is engaged in. Because this parable was spoken several weeks before Jesus went to Jerusalem for the last time, many did not understand what he meant by passages such as “ I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” His followers can now understand what he meant. Look at the verses 17 and 18. “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” Interesting note as we study this passage of John’s gospel, we fins a prophecy pertaining to non-Hebrew believers. Notice what Jesus says in verse 16. “ I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

Jesus is referring to non-Hebrew believers here.

This is where the Great Commission comes into play. “Go ye therefore into the world making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit.. and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, and surely I will be with you always to the very end of the age.”

It is now clear what he meant, now that the disciples are talking to Jesus, after he came back from the dead. Over the forty days that Jesus lingers on earth after Easter there will be some four to five hundred witness to his being alive. This will be so convincing that these people will be willing to give up their own lives when they are confronted and forced to choose between Christ and other choices. The Hebrew authorities will try to force these early believers to abandon the faith they now have, they will be threatened with death, shame, being cast out of the synagogue and all manner of trouble. But they will not give up their belief in the Risen Savior. This willingness to give up their life rather than convert will actually cause the Church to grow over the early years of persecution. Many a pagan will come to the Lord after witnessing believers willingly giving up their lives for this risen savior. Death in the pagan world was to be feared and all omens or signs that pointed to death were to be avoided. Even the Hebrew people wrote and spoke angrily about death. David wrote many a time about being dead and not remembered. He does not like the idea of death. So when these new believers came along and did not fear death, it will cause people to take notice. “Surely there must be something about these people that causes them to willingly go to their deaths.”

We must learn from those who have gone before us. We must read, digest, and use the Word of God, the Bible. We must follow Jesus, because He is the good shepherd, he will not lead us astray, he will not fail us. Let us follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.

He peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord: And the Blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be amongst you, and remain with you always. Amen.
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. I think you will enjoy it.
The Good Shepherd

In our Gospel reading: Jesus 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.

In saying this, Jesus was referring to the unfaithful shepherds of Israel, the kings and the priests that Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel spoke of. He then declared that He would be our Shepherd, and that He would be a good and faithful Shepherd. Jesus was also telling us that He is the fulfillment of the prophecies, such as this one from Ezekiel 34:

And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock.4 11 For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.

The Good Shepherd is of God.  He runs from no danger, but pays the price.   That should tell us Jesus paid our tab, then asked the price.  He told His disciples He was sorrowful to the point of death.  He really didn't want to go to the cross to suffer and die.  He cried out earnestly to His Father in heaven: Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. (Luke 22:42)

Jesus truly displayed great courage. I think that John Wayne best described courage when he said: Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway. Jesus displayed great courage because He is the Good Shepherd.  He is not a hireling, but the Owner of the sheep.  So, He could not run.   His duty lay with the flock.  He could not deny the need of the flock. He could not take care of Himself, firstThe Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. So Jesus died on the cross…in our place. He died for His sheep, because we are His, and He is the Good Shepherd And, if He is the Shepherd, we must be the sheep. Sheep are, in fact, among the least intelligent of animals. They will wander from safety into danger without any thought. They will go where they cannot get back from without assistance, repeatedly.  They are helpless in the face of genuine danger, and do not understand the dangers that confront them, and even when they do, it is often too late for them to flee or do anything about it to protect themselves.                                T

That is what makes the sheep a perfect image for God's people and the Shepherd the perfect image for God Himself.  We also, do not understand the depth of the danger we live in.  We do not always see sin for the evil thing that it is, nor do we often see our sins, as sins. We do not always follow God.  We follow our family, our friends, our neighbors, just like sheep, into things we ought not to do, and into attitudes and values which deny our God and betray the faith we confess.  Like sheep, we allow ourselves to be drawn away from what is wholesome and good, many times, by our expectation of some pleasure, joy, and some "greener grass" on the other side of the fence.

When we do discover the danger, and see what we have done, we are not able to rectify it.  Even when we know we have gone astray, we are all too often unwilling to turn around, unwilling to do the things that we know would bless and benefit us, unwilling to give up the things we have become accustomed to, or the high regard of the people we have learned to treasure.  Instead we just stand still; right where we are, and await disaster rather than repent, ask for forgiveness, and turn away from whatever it is that threatens us.

The devil, the world and our own sins can threaten and destroy us, if we are unwilling to give up whatever it is that draws our hearts and attention from a holy life of faith. Whatever it is that keeps us from His Word, whatever it is that makes us too busy to pray or too important to put the others first. Anything which delights us or frightens us into placing God and His grace out of our minds or out of our priorities is one of those things that threaten us. Anything that causes us to forget to trust God, or causes us to despair of God's love, good will, and forgiveness, threatens us. Jesus is the Son of God, God of God, and Very God of Very God …who came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man. 

That means He became one of us, taking on human nature, flesh and blood and was born fully human, while still truly and fully God as well.

The truth is Jesus lived without sin, and spent the last years of His life teaching His disciples and doing things which should have identified Him as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, the Savior intended by God for our rescue from our sins.

Then Jesus died.  "The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."  He died on a cross, as we just celebrated on Good Friday.  His death was ours.  We had earned it and we deserved it, and He did not, but He died for us and in our place anyhow.  Because of His great love and His self-giving sacrifice, we are forgiven.  Our sins are not held against us.  We are no longer considered guilty, and deserving punishment and death, but holy and righteous because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus won this for all men, and God has promised that all who trust His promises, and expect what He has promised will receive and possess those promises, forgiveness, love, and blessings, along with life everlasting, though His Son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus' sheep hear His voice and follow Him.  We follow Him trusting in His power of eternal life. We hear His voice, all are faithful. We follow by faithfully delighting in His will, and walking in His ways.  We believe in Him, and we cling to His Word, His truth and most importantly we follow His voice.

Jesus said His sheep hear His voice.  Those who cannot hear it are not His sheep.  Those who will not listen are not His sheep.  Those who will not believe the things His voice is saying are not His sheep.  Those who will not follow Jesus are not His sheep.  In the days of Jesus, shepherds led their sheep; they did not drive them like cattle.  In fact, you cannot drive sheep as one might drive a herd of cows.  You have to lead them. Shepherds of old would meet and their flocks would mingle, but when it came time to part, the shepherds would simply walk away and call out, and their sheep would each hear his shepherd's voice and follow the their shepherd because he was their shepherd, whom they knew and trusted.  Jesus' sheep hear his voice.  He said so.  Those who do not hear and follow Him are simply and sadly not His sheep. And Jesus is the Good Shepherd. There are other shepherds out there.  They speak different words and lead in different directions.  Each has his own agenda, and do not care for the sheep, except as a means to their own needs.  They do not love the sheep because they do not own them, and they cannot save them, because the kind of saving the sheep need is beyond anyone but Jesus.  When life’s dangers confront the sheep, those false shepherds, those hirelings, run away and abandon the sheep to their destruction.    

But Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  That means you are safe. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  He will protect and keep us in all things. He will guide and bless us.  He will not desert us in our hour of need, because He is not merely a hired hand.  We need have no fear of life or death.  He is our Shepherd.  He has loved us to death, and into everlasting life. Jesus knew that we were like sheep and not able to understand, and not able to sense the danger we were in, and not able to help ourselves, so it is finished, He has gone to the cross for our salvation. He has spoken His love for us in His Word and Sacrament. And as we again read from Ezekiel the 34th Chapter:
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Only the Good Shepherd is the One promised in ancient prophecy: " 14 I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.15 I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God.16 I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.

He has sought you.  He has gathered us into His flock. He has healed our deepest wounds, and He shed His blood for our sins.

And He gives us the peace that passes all understanding. So listen for His voice.  Be careful to hear His voice and not the voice of another.  And when we have heard His voice, and know that it is His voice, we will follow Him. 

Do not let anything, success, family, friends, pleasures, fear, troubles, or sorrows, or any other thing stand in your way, but follow Him.  Be at peace in whatever circumstance you may find yourself; for Jesus Christ, your Shepherd, is the Good Shepherd.

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

Consider the words of our lesson from the book of Ezekiel wherein the prophet was given to pronounce, For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep , and will deliver out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel... (34:11-13).

In a later chapter, the prophet was given of the LORD to say more on this subject: . . . Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then ye shall know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD (37:11-14).

The prophet Jeremiah was also given to write on the dispersal and re- gathering of Israel when he prophesied saying, Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, neither walked therein; but have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them: therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will feed them wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink. I will scatter them also among the heathen, whom neither they nor their fathers have known: and I will send a sword after them, till I have consumed them (9:13- 16). . . He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock (31:10).

Both Ezekiel and Jeremiah were well known as bearers of bad tidings to the people of Judah and Jerusalem. The LORD had commissioned them to warn the descendants of Jacob about his coming judgment for their sins against him. Yet, sprinkled through their proclamations of judgment were passages such as our lesson today where God made known that he would redeem the remnant and restore them to the land which he had sworn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that he would give them.

From the beginning of their history, the children of Israel have been notoriously stiff-necked and willful. Consider the following examples of their refusenik nature.
After leaving Egypt, they set up a false god to worship (32:1-6). God dealt with the rebels as Moses called on the Levites to draw their swords and slay several thousand of the wicked. Moses then had the golden calf ground to powder and the dust thereof was cast into water which the people were forced to drink.

In the book of Numbers, we are told of their refusal to enter the land of promise because they were afraid, and as a result, the LORD their God forbade them to go in and take possession of that good land for some forty years (13:26-33; 14:1-3).

Even after entering the land of Canaan, they refused to follow through on God’s command that they drive out the heathen peoples living there (Judges 2:1- 3). As a result, the LORD made the Canaanites a stumbling block and a thorn in their flesh. They also sought to have kings over them instead of the one, true and living God (I Samuel 8:1-8). Saul— their first king— was rebellious and self- willed, and God soon replaced him with David. Under David’s leadership, the people conquered Jerusalem and it became their capital (II Samuel 5:6-12) as well as their seat of worship. Later, David’s son, Solomon, constructed the first great Temple upon Mount Moriah (I Kings 6:1). But even those great men were plagued by sinful acts and bouts of willfulness. The rest of the kings of both Judah and Israel were for the most described as being persons who did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD (II Kings 13:11).

Things got so bad in the northern kingdom of Israel that God permitted them to be carted off into captivity by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. The southern kingdom lasted but another 135 years before it too was carried away into captivity by the Babylonian Chaldeans. And while the people of Judah and Benjamin were eventually permitted to return to their homeland, the ten tribes of the northern kingdom did not begin their return until centuries after Judah had formally returned.

The catastrophes of 70 and 135 A.D. saw the Jews reduced, and then removed from the land of Canaan which was renamed Palestine by the Romans. With their homeland taken from them, their holy Temple destroyed, and their population greatly reduced, the name “Wandering Jew” took hold. While some of the Roman emperors tolerated them, with the coming of Constantine and his elevation of the Christian faith, the Jew became a hated and maligned figure agreeable to the prophecy of Moses found in Deuteronomy (28:63-68).

The prophet Zechariah affirmed the above when he penned the following:
But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets... I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate (7:11-14).

Scripture makes it abundantly clear that the LORD God scattered the children of Israel because of their sins and trespasses. While the first two scatterings (the kingdoms of Israel and Judah) were for the most part regional, the last one in 70 A.D. was over a much wider area, literally from one end of heaven to the other, and over a much longer period of time.

And on account of their rejection of their promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, God deprived them of their homeland, the Temple, and the great city of Jerusalem. With the loss of the Temple, they had no place to offer their sacrifices to the LORD; and no sacrifices meant no atonement. The loss of Jerusalem meant there was no place to erect a new temple, for it could only be set up there. And without their homeland, they were a people dispossessed and left to wander about with no true national home. They would try to adapt themselves as citizens of the countries where they migrated, but they generally met with little success and much sorrow.

The Bible says that there is but one homeland for the children of Israel and that is the land of promise. And so the Diaspora in 70 AD was that scattering among the heathen nations which had been foretold them by Moses when he prophesied that, . . . among these... shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life (Deuteronomy 28:65-66). And our Lord prophetically warned them on account of their failure to know the time of their visitation when he said, Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord (St. Matthew 23:38- 39).

Forty years later, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans and bulk of the people were sold into slavery. The Bar-Cochba Revolt (132-135 A.D.) seems to have been the final phase of third scattering as the Romans finished their work of driving the remaining Jews out of Judea and into Galilee. The children of Israel had become as Moses had prophesied, a stateless people. It was on account of the aforementioned events, that several notable Christian scholars— from antiquity even until today— believe that God has washed his hands of the children of Jacob who have, on so many occasions, rejected his word and commandment.

In spite of all this, God’s promise to the patriarchs remains in force. Throughout the books of the prophets, God spoke to the children of Israel promising them, And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, And shalt return unto the LORD... then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee... And... will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it, and he will do thee good and multiply thee above thy fathers (Deuteronomy 30:1-5). He has preserved for himself a remnant. In the book of Isaiah, God made it plain that, Except the LORD of host had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah (1:9).

In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet reminded the people that, For lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave their fathers, and they shall possess it (30:3). And in that same book, God affirmed his relationship to them when spoke of the unbreakable nature of the covenant with them (31:31-40).
In the book of Zechariah we are told, Behold I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; and I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness (8:7-8).

If God is willing to save and restore for his purposes a people who had been long in rebellion against him, what joy there should be in our hearts because he has promised us— who had once been in rebellion and separated from him— that he will not suffer us to be taken from the hand of our Saviour. Our Lord has promised to finish the work he began so long ago. On a day known only to the Father, our Lord will, pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me [Jesus Christ] whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn (Zechariah 12:10). And so God will gather all true believers to himself in one fold and one flock. What a joy there will be on that day, so pray for the hastening of it. And pray also that others will be joined to our Lord in his salvific work by our life and witness on his behalf.

Let us pray,

 LORD our God, who art the author of all life upon this orb; grant we beseech thee thy blessings and lovingkindness upon the nation of Israel; take away their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh; breathe upon them and restore them as you have prophesied through your prophets, so that they might come to a saving knowledge of him who is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and without whom no person can be saved, even Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Have a blessed week, Bryan+

Guest Sermon - William Arnot
Bishop Jerry writes … An old friend of mine who deceased in 1875 wrote the following sermon. He was a favorite of my father's and now is one of my favorites. He has a gift to explain God's Word in terms that the simple (such as I am) can understand.

Anchor of the Soul

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.
Hebrews vi. 19.

In the margin of the ocean that surrounds and laves our island home, an object of absorbing interest may often be observed, —a ship riding at anchor near a lee shore in an angry sea. She has drifted, ere she was aware, too near a rock-bound coast: the wind is blowing direct on shore: there is not room to tack: whether she should point her prow north or south, she will strike a projecting headland ere she can escape from the bay. One resource remains, —to anchor where she is till the wind change.

There she lies. Stand on this height and look down upon her through the drifting spray. I scarcely know in nature a more interesting or more suggestive sight. The ship is dancing on the waves: she appears to be in their power and at their mercy. Wind and water combine to make her their sport. Destruction seems near; for if the vessel's hull is dashed by these waves upon the rocks of the coast, it will be broken into a thousand pieces. But you have stood and looked on the scene a while, and the ship still holds her own. Although at first sight she seemed the helpless plaything of the elements, they have not overcome—they have not gained upon her yet. She is no nearer destruction than when you first began to gaze in anticipation of her fate. The ship seems to have no power to resist the onset of wind and wave. She yields to every blast and every billow. This moment she is tossed aloft on the crest of a wave, and the next she sinks heavily into the hollow. Now her prow goes down beneath an advancing breaker, and she is lost to view in the spray; but anon she emerges, like a sea-fowl shaking the water from her wings and rejoicing in the tumult. As she quivered and nodded giddily at each assault, you thought, when first you arrived in sight, that every moment would prove her last but now that you have watched the conflict long, it begins to assume in your mind another aspect, and promise another end. These motions of the ship now, instead of appearing the sickly movements of the dying, seem to indicate the calm, confident perseverance of conscious strength and expected victory. Let winds and waves do their worst, that ship will meet them fearless, will hold her head to the blast, and maintain her place in defiance of their power. What is the secret of that ship's safety.? No other ship is in sight to which she may cling: no pillar stands within reach to which she may be moored. The bond of her security is a line that is unseen. The ship is at anchor. The One on which she hangs does not depend on the waters, or anything that floats there; it goes through the waters, and fastens on a sure ground beyond 'them. Thus, though the ship cannot escape from the wild waters, she is safe on their surface. She cannot, indeed, take the wings of a dove and fly away so as to be at rest; but the sea cannot cover her, and the wind cannot drive her on the beach. She must, indeed, bear a while the tempest's buffetings; but she is not for a moment abandoned to the tempest's will. The motto of that ship is the motto once held aloft in triumph by a tempted but heroic soul: "We are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" (2 Cor. iv. 8, 9).

An immortal creature on this changeful life is like a ship upon the ocean. On the strength of that obvious analogy the apostle intimates, by a bold yet perspicuous figure, that we have " an anchor of the soul." The soul, considered as a passenger on the treacherous sea of Time, needs an anchor; and an anchor "sure and steadfast" is provided for the needy soul.

In many respects the world, and life on it, are like the sea. Itself restless, it cannot permit to rest any of the pilgrims that tread its heaving, shifting surface. At some times, and in some places, great tempests rise; but even in its ordinary condition it is always and everywhere uncertain, deceptive, dangerous. Currents of air and currents of ocean intermingle with and cross each other in endless and unknown complications, bringing even the most skilful mariner to his wit's end—making him afraid either to stand still or to advance. On this heaving sea we must all lie. Even our Father in heaven does not lift up his own, and Christ the Son does not ask him so to do: “ I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world; but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." The best that can be done for them, in this world, is to preserve them from sinking or striking on the shore. The soul is tossed by many temptations; but the anchor of the soul is sure and steadfast within the veil. Without are fightings, within are fears, —all these are against us; but one thing will over-balance and overcome them—" Our life is hid with Christ in God."

Hope sometimes signifies the act of a human spirit laying hold of an unseen object, and sometimes the object unseen whereon the human spirit in its need lays hold. These two significations may be combined together: they are so combined here. " The Hope set before us," is Christ entered for us now within the veil; and the hope that " we have," is the exercise of a believing soul when it trusts in the risen Redeemer. These two cannot be separated. The one is the grasp which a believing soul takes of Christ, and the other Is the Christ whom a believing soul is grasping. These two run so close together that you cannot perceive where the joining Is. " I am the vine, ye are the branches." Even so. Lord; and what human eye can tell the very line which marks where the branch ends and the vine begins? Christians are members of Christ, —of his flesh and of his bones. " As he is, so are we in this world." " Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me. -*" "Which Hope we have." If you ask me, Whether does he mean, by hope, the Christ on whom his soul is leaning, or his own act of leaning on Christ } I answer, Both. You cannot have one of these without having both. The branch has the vine; but it has also its own living growth into the vine. And if it had not that living growth into the vine, it would not have the vine. So the soul has Christ, and also its own living faith in Christ, wanting which it would have no Christ.

Mark well here what it is that renders a disciple safe and firm as he floats on the rushing tide of Time. It is not terror of the Lord in his conscience. Such terror may awaken a slumberer, and make him flee to that which will keep him; but the terror itself cannot keep him. Fear repels; it is hope that holds; —blessed hope!

The anchor must not be cast on anything that floats on the water, however large and solid it may seem. The largest thing that floats is an iceberg. But although an iceberg does not shake like a ship, but seems to receive the waves and permit them to break on its sides as they break on the shore, it would be ruin to anchor the ship to it. The larger and the less would drift the same way, and perish together. Ah! this stately Church—this high-seeming and high-sounding ecclesiastical organization, woe to the human spirit that is tempted in the tossing to make fast to that great imposing mass! It is not sure and steadfast. It is floating: it moves with the current of the world: it moves to an awful shore! Not there, not there! Your hope, when you stretch it out and up for eternal life, must enter " into that within the veil, whither the Forerunner is for us entered."

Nor will it avail a drifting ship to fix its anchor on itself It would be very childish to try this method; but I have seen full-grown people betake themselves with great energy to this foolish shift. When a boat on a stream broke adrift with a few unskilful people on board, I have seen them in their alarm grasp the gunwale and bend themselves and draw with all their might in the direction of the shore! In spite of their drawing, the boat glided with them down the stream. In the concerns of the soul such childishness is even more common. Faith in one's own faith or charity is a common exercise among men. Beware! Hope must go out for a hold; even as the ship's anchor must be flung away from the ship. The eye is made for looking with, not for looking at. Away from all in ourselves, and out through all that floats like ourselves on this shifting sea, we must throw the anchor of the soul through the shifting waters into Him who holds them in the hollow of his hand.

Mark, further, that hope in Christ is specifically the anchor of the soul. Here, like draws to like: spirit to spirit. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him worship him in spirit. There is no anchor that will make our temporal possessions fast. Wealth, and friends, and even life, may drift away any day on the flood; and no power on earth can arrest the movement. These bodily things may or may not abide with a Christian; but his anchor does not hold them. It is only an anchor of the soul, not an anchor of the body. We must not expect from the Lord what he never promised.

There are contrivances not a few in our day for fixing material property, so that it shall not drift away in the currents of time. The system of assurances both on life and property has reached an enormous magnitude. Amidst its great and manifold branches, the wicked have of late years, like wild beasts in a forest, found cover for various crimes. Things are now made fast which our forefathers thought essentially uncertain, like the currents of the ocean. Treasures are insured while they cross the sea in ships, so that, though the vessel go to the bottom, the importer gets his own. The food and clothing of a wife and children, which formerly were left to float on the uncertain waters of the husband and father's life, are made fast by insurance to an anchor which holds them, although that life should glide away. Taking up the obvious analogy employed in this scripture, one of the insurance societies has adopted the anchor as its name.

But the action of these anchors is limited to things seen and temporal. They cannot be constructed so as to catch and keep any spiritual thing. They may hold fast a wife's fortune, when the life of the bread-winner falls in; but they cannot maintain joy- in her heart, or kindle light in her eye. Far less can they insure against the shipwreck of the soul. With these things they do not intermeddle. All the world may be gained for a man, and kept for him too, and yet he is a loser, if he lose his own soul. Only one anchor can grasp and hold the better part of man—and that is the hope which enters into the heavens, and fastens there in Jesus.

The anchor—in as far as it indicates the object which hope grasps—the anchor is " sure and steadfast." The expressions are exact and full. The words are tried words. They are given in order that we might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to the hope set before us.

There are two cases in which one's hope may be disappointed: the support you lean on may be unwilling or unable to sustain you. In the one case it is deception; in the other, weakness. A Christian's hope is not exposed to either flaw: it is both "sure and steadfast;" that is, the Redeemer, who holds them, is willing and able. He will not falsely let you go, nor feebly faint beneath your weight. He is true and strong—for these are the words. He both will and can keep that which we commit to him against that day.

With the same meaning, but by means of another analogy, Christ is represented elsewhere in Scripture as a foundation; and it is intimated that the foundation is a tried one. It has been put to the strain, and has stood the test.

In modern practice great importance attaches to the trying of an anchor. Many ships have been lost through accident or fraud in the manufacture. The instrument had a good appearance, but there was a flaw in its heart; and when the strain came, it snapped, and all was lost. For the security of the subject, the Government have erected an apparatus for testing anchors; and the royal seal is stamped on those that have been approved. When the merchantman purchases an anchor so certified, he has confidence that it will not fail him in his need. It is interesting, and even solemn work, to test anchors, and stamp them as approved. Beware! set not the seal on one that is doubtful, for many precious lives will yet be entrusted to its keeping.

He who is now the anchor of the soul within the veil, was " made perfect through suffering." The safety of which this text speaks, is safety such as an anchor affords. This is different from the safety of a ship on a stormless sea, and different from the safety of a ship that is moored fore and aft within the walls of a harbour. Both these positions are safe; but they differ both from each other and from safety by an anchor. Man unfallen enjoyed the first kind of safety, and the ransomed in rest enjoy the second; but the place of a believer in the body is neither like that of a ship on a calm sea, nor like that of a ship within the harbour, —it is like a ship exposed to raging winds above, and deceitful currents below. Such a soul may be abundantly safe; but its safety is of the kind that a ship enjoys while it is exposed to the storms, and before it reaches the haven – the safety that an exposed ship enjoys through an anchor that is sure and steadfast. Take now a series of practical lessons.

1. The ship that is kept by an anchor, although safe, is not at ease. It does not, on the one hand, dread destruction; but neither, on the other hand, does it enjoy rest. " Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you." Those who have entered the harbor do not need an anchor; and those who are drifting with the stream do not cast one out. The hope which holds is neither for the world without nor the glorified within, but for Christ's people as they pass through life rejoicing with trembling; faint, yet pursuing. " In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world."

2. But further: the ship that is held by an anchor is not only tossed in the tempest like other ships, - it is tossed more than other ships. The ship that rides at anchor experiences rackings and heavings that ships which drift with the tide do not know. So, souls who have no hold of Christ seem to lie softer on the surface of a heaving world than souls that are anchored on his power and love. The drifting ship, before she strikes, is more smooth and more comfortable than the anchored one; but when she strikes, the smoothness is all over. The pleasures of sin are sweet to those who taste them; but the sweetness is only for a season. “The wicked shall be driven away in his iniquity; but the righteous hath hope in his death."

3. When the anchor has been cast into a good ground, the heavier the strain that comes on it, the deeper and firmer grows its hold. As winds and currents increase in violence, the anchor bites more deeply into the solid, and so increases its preserving power. It is thus with a trusting soul: temptations, instead of driving him away from his Saviour, only fix his affections firmer on the Rock of Ages. " When I am weak, then am I strong;" when I am most exposed, then am I safest, in the hollow of my Redeemer's hand. If you have hold, it is in a time of temptation that you will increase the intensity of your grasp. Accordingly you find, as a general rule, that those Christians who have passed through a great fight of afflictions are stronger in the faith than others who have always sailed on a smooth sea.

4. The ship that is anchored is sensitive to every change of wind or tide, and ever turns sharply round to meet and resist the stream, from what direction soever it may flow. A ship is safest with her head to the sea and the tempest. In great storms the safety of all often depends on the skill with which the sailors can keep her head to the rolling breakers. Life and death have sometimes hung, for a day and a night in the balance, whether the weary steersman could keep her head to the storm until the storm should cease. Even a single wave allowed to strike her on the broadside might send all to the bottom. But to keep the ship in the attitude of safety, there is no effort and no art equal to the anchor. As soon as the anchor feels the ground, the vessel that had been drifting broadside, is brought up, and turns to the waves a sharp prow that cleaves them in two and sends them harmless along the sides.

Watch from a height any group of ships that may be lying in an open roadstead. At night when you retire they all point westward; in the morning, they are all looking to the east. Each ship has infallibly felt the first veering of the wind or water, and instantly veered in the requisite direction, so that neither wind nor wave has ever been able to strike her on the broadside. Thereby hangs the safety of the ship. Ships not at anchor do not turn and face the foe. The ship that is left loose will be caught by a gust on her side, and easily thrown over.

As with ships, so with souls: those that are anchored feel sensitively the direction and strength of the temptation, and instantly turn to meet and to overcome it; whereas those that are not anchored are suddenly overcome, and their iniquities, like the wind, carry them away. " We are saved by hope; " —saved not only from being outcast in the end, but from yielding to temptation now.

It is a vain imagination that rises in ignorant minds against the gospel of Christ, that when a sinner gets a glad hope in Christ's mercy, he will not be careful to obey Christ's law. It is an old objection, and perhaps it is human and natural; but it is not real—it is not true. As certainly as the anchored ship feels every gust and every current, and turns sharply round to face and fight it; so certainly a soul that has hope in Christ has a quick and sure instinct to detect influences and companionships and customs that dishonour the Lord and ensnare his people. And as the hopeful soul surely detects the danger, it also, in virtue of its hold and hope, turns round to meet, to resist, and to make the devil flee.

I suppose no youth, since Pharaoh reigned in Egypt, has been exposed to a greater strain of temptation than that which Joseph overcame in Potiphar's house. But it was hope that saved him, as the anchor saves the ship. If he had not been at peace with God, he would have been like a ship caught on the broadside by a hurricane. It was the anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast within the veil before the blast began, that enabled him to overcome it: " How can I do this great evil, and sin against God?''

5. When the ship is anchored, and the sea is running high, there is great commotion at her bows. The waves in rapid succession come on and strike. When they strike they are broken, and leap, white and angry, high up on the vessel's sides. This tumult is by no means agreeable in itself; but the mariner on board would not like to want it, for it is the sign of safety. If, while wind and waves continue to rage, he should observe that this commotion had suddenly ceased, he would not rejoice. He would look eagerly over the bulwarks, and seeing the water blue on her bows, instead of the hissing, roaring spray, he would utter a scream of terror. The smoothness at her bows indicates to him that her anchor is dragging. The ship is drifting with wind and water to the shore.

Such, too, is the experience of a soul. Brother, you hope in Christ. Do not be surprised that the currents of fashion rub sometimes rudely against you. It is explained by a text in the Bible: " The friendship of the world is enmity with God." If you are fixed, a great flood is rushing by, and it must needs cause a commotion round you. An impetuous tide of worldliness will dash disagreeably against you from time to time. Do not be too anxious to make all smooth. Peace may be bought too dear. When the mighty stream of vanity on which you float produces no ruffling at the point of contact, —when it is not disagreeable to you, and you not disagreeable to it, —suspect that your anchor is dragging, that it has lost its hold, and that you are drifting into danger.

Cast in the anchor while the sea is calm: you will need it to lean on when the last strain comes on!

[1] Sir Winston Churchill, Speech, 1941, Harrow School
[2] Bishop Dennis is discussing happiness, this is a different word than fun.  Please consider the difference between  the two as you read this.

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