Verse of the Day

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist superseding the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

Today we celebrated the Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist superseding the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity. 

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 –

On God
As a great Christian writer (George MacDonald) pointed out, every father is pleased at the baby’s first attempt to walk: no father would be satisfied with anything less than a firm, free, manly walk in a grown-up son. In the same way, he said, “God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.”

I think every one who has some vague belief in God, until he becomes a Christian, has the idea of an exam or of a bargain in his mind. The first result of real Christianity is to blow that idea into bits. When they find it blown into bits, some people think this means that Christianity is a failure and give up. They seem to imagine that God is very simple-minded! In fact, of course, He knows all about this. One of the very things Christianity was designed to do was to blow this idea to bits. God has been waiting for the moment at which you discover that there is no question of earning a pass mark in this exam or putting Him in your debt.

Then comes another discovery. Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already. So that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like. It is like a small child going to his father and saying, “Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.” Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child’s present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction. When a man has made these two discoveries God can really get to work. It is after this that real life begins.
Jack Lewis
Mere Christianity

The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.
Proverbs 11:17

Son of man, say unto her, Thou art the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation. There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
Ezekiel 22:24-26

Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies: because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men.
Hosea 10:13

When it is evening ye say, It will be fair weather; for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
St. Matthew 16:2-3

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
St. Luke 24:39

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31

Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
I Thessalonians 5:6

[T]he root cause of the crisis in the Church of England ... has to do with authority in the Church. What is our authority? Is it the Bible or human opinion? Do we obey revealed truth or do we follow the customs ... and the supposed wisdom of the age? ... [The] history [of this crisis] can be traced to two official reports ... [which] said, in effect, [that] the Bible is a very difficult book and we cannot really understand it ... [and so] we must make up our faith as we go along; [that biblical] revelation is neither finished nor complete; [that] we are continuing the unfinished business of the Bible, [and thus] doctrine is evolving. Both of these [reports] lead directly to an agnostic church, which does not know where it is going ... has no definite message ...[and] no fixed points of doctrine ... If the Church has no fixed or cardinal points of doctrine all is lost ...”
David N. Samuel
20th and 21st century Presiding Bishop of the Church of England (Continuing)
(The Church In Crisis, pp. 11-12)

We have reached a point of diminishing returns in our public life. Hardly anything actually needs doing. We may in fact be past that point; not only does nothing much need doing, but we'd benefit if much of what has been done were to be undone.
John Derbyshire
20th an 21st century British/American commentator and journalist

You can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.
Robert Heinlein
20th century American author.

They who voluntarily put themselves under the power of a tyrant deserve whatever fate they receive.
6th century BC Greek philosopher and author
The Hawk and the Pigeons

The propers for today are found on Pages 250-251, with the Collect first:

Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist.
[September 21.]

The Collect.

 ALMIGHTY God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist; Grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires, and inordinate love of riches, and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen

The Collect for the Fourteenth Sunday is also read and  is found on Page 209:

The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity.

The Collect.

LMIGHTY and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle comes from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, the Fourth Chapter beginning at the First Verse:

HEREFORE seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

The Holy Gospel comes from the Eighth Chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, beginning at the Ninth Verse:

ND as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

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
St. Matthew the Apostle
Saint Andrew’s
Anglican Orthodox Church
21 September 2014, Anno Domini

Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist.
[September 21.]

The Collect.

 ALMIGHTY God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist; Grant us grace to forsake all covetous de- sires, and inordinate love of riches, and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

ND as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

            We observe today the calling of the blessed apostle, Matthew, by the Lord Jesus Christ. This account is given as a lesson and guide to all who are called by Christ – either in a role of layman or as minister. Every outward evidence of the call of the Apostle Matthew seems to have been casual and non-circumstantial; however, a deeper examination of the account will reveal otherwise. God does nothing by accident or without deep rivers of compassion and meaning – so, the call of St. Matthew. Just as surely as Jesus knew whom He would meet at the noon day hour beside the Well that Jacob dug, He also knew whom He would find at the customs table by the shores of Galilee. There was a reason that Matthew, a Levite, had his table there – it was to assess taxes on those who crossed and landed in port on those shores. There was a reason that Jesus “passed forth from thence” (Capernaum) to those shores. He had a certain appointment there with Mattthew.

            This was a day like every other day for Matthew, except what was about to transpire. He was now minding his own business, but would very soon be minding the business of the Lord. When God calls a man or woman, there is no time for excuse or equivocation – one simply answers the call and follows.

            This apostle is referred to as Matthew, though he is called Levi by Mark and Luke perhaps to avoid labeling him with the lurid past as “chief of the publicans” (tax collectors). But Matthew, in his Gospel, refers to himself as Matthew so as to leave no doubt as to the depths from which he arose to become a blessed apostle of the Lord.

            There came a time in every Christian’s life that he or she heard that voice. It may have been as a little girl swinging on the playground, or it may have been an older gentleman for whom the Lord had work to do in His vineyard – but the voice was heard as surely as Matthew heard this voice of Christ. “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.” You will note that Jesus did not begin a rapport with Matthew to inquire as to why an Israelite would be doing the dirty business of the Roman government in collecting taxes. He asked nothing of him, for He knew ALL about Matthew. He did not tell Matthew to first straighten out his life and then come “follow me.” The need is now in your life to follow Jesus. If you follow Him, He will cleanse your heart and make you a useful vessel in His Temple. The invitation was not given owing to any particular merit in Matthew, “but notwithstanding the infamous employment he was in, as accounted by the Jews: this was no bar in the way of his call to be a disciple of Christ; and shows, that there was no merit and motive in him, which was the reason of this high honor bestowed upon him; but was entirely owing to the free, sovereign, and distinguishing grace of Christ, and which was powerful and efficacious: for without telling him what work he must do, or how he must live, and without his consulting with flesh and blood, at once, immediately.” (John Gill, 1765)

            There were likely many men sitting around the shores of Galilee just whiling the hours away with nothing much to do at all. If any were from Alabama, they would have been whittling on a stick, but Jesus did not call those men – He called a busy man named Matthew. He seeks out doers and not idlers. If our hands are idle in profession, family, or some presumed need to retire from life, God does not need those lazy hands. He needs the hands, heart, and mind of men and women who will put those faculties God has given them to good use. So, Jesus found, and called, Matthew – a man who had never before met Jesus. So how did Matthew respond?

            “And he arose, and followed him.” Matthew followed Jesus all of the way just as Ruth followed Naomi – not part of the way as did Orpah. Matthew was loyal to the end, and to the beginning of the glorious resurrection! He asked no questions, nor did he make any excuses. He did not plead for time to close out his books and deposit his tax money – he simply followed from that very moment. Have you responded in that way when the Lord called you? Or have you whiled away the days, the years, and the decades of your life as an unfruitful servant? Did you begin on the way, and then turn back as a dog to its vomit and the pig to wallowing in the mud? “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:22) I have no patience for a professed Christian who is too lazy to follow the Lord all of the way to that calling to which He has called them. But, I believe the Lord has greater long suffering and patience than we mortals have. He will strive for a time with that uncooperative servant, but not forever!

And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.” This reminds me of our pickiness in finding a church full of perfect little Christians. In the halcyon days of my early manhood, I went on crusade to find such a church to no avail. Once I attended a country church in a little hamlet of Alabama. The minister said something that I needed to hear badly at that time. He said, “Folks, if you are searching for the perfect church, you had better get out of it as soon as you can, once you have found it – because YOU will ruin it!” It is not the Church that is perfect, but the Lord whom she worships. If the heart of the church is fixed on Christ and His Word, that is all that matters.  An old friend counseled me to “find a Church that puts her faith in Christ, and believes His Word, sink an anchor into the ground there, and hang on tight.” I have found such a Church, and I have hung on tight!

            Jesus knew we were sinful and imperfect when He came to us. He knew that we could not be righteous, and no sinner can enter Heaven. So, He came to redeem us from our sins and make a way for us to enter that Gate of Heaven which He opened for us. Here in this verse, Jesus is sitting at a meal in Matthew’s house with publicans (tax collectors), sinners, and His disciples. He did not sit there among them to become like unto them, but so that they might come to follow Him also and become more like Him. But there are some who are so self-righteous that even Heaven cannot afford to have them.

            “And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” These pharisaical culprits had witnessed the Lord doing nothing amiss, but tried to judge Him by the company He was keeping. They could care less for the sinner and downtrodden – they were ABOVE all of that in their own minds. They were looking for grains of sand with which to make stones of offense. Moreover, gutless as they were, they did not confront Jesus directly, but rather asked of His disciples, there, prying and hateful little questions. Man has not changed from that moment until now. Those who bounce from church to church without ever saying what they found amiss to the minister, but do spread tales among the congregation, are just as gutless. The murmerers and back-biters are those who spread discord and discontent among the peace of the church. These Pharisees fit the bill perfectly.

            If He did not hear their aural remarks, Jesus heard the profanity of their hearts. He responded with a comment that may have seemed a puzzle to some: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” The first sentence is fairly clear and reasonable to all. Jesus is the Great Physician who can heal every affliction of Mind, Body, and Soul. Those who are sick, and know they are sick, should consult a physician capable of the cure. Unfortunately, some diseases such as sinful hearts are so insidious that the afflicted are unaware of their depravity – they seek no healing at the fountains of Mercy. The Pharisees were too proud to see their own leprosy of sin discoloring their souls and hearts. They were, in a word, HATEFUL.  The latter part of Jesus comment is what probably missed the heads of the Pharisees though they knew the words well, For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings(Hosea 6:6) Mercy is a component of Love and the currency and coin of the Realm of the Kingdom of Heaven. If Love and Mercy are present, sacrifice is never necessary.

            Friends, if any are called of God to any particular role, or office, you can never be of use to the Lord in it if you consider your calling a ‘sacrifice.’ It must be a labor of love and mercy for it is these two that grease the wheels of Heaven, and calls the Holy Ghost down to your endeavor. What of you, my friend? 

When God said, “Follow me” did you arise and follow? 

Did you follow all of the way?

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction.

Consider the words of the Collect, “…didst call Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist; Grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires, and inordinate love of riches, and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ…”

In our prayer to God, we recollect God’s call to Matthew to abandon his very lucrative position to follow His Son.  We normally call Matthew’s previous position a “publican”, in the terms of modern England, our mother country, one who runs a “public house”, that is a pub, or as we would call it in the United States, a bar.  But, that is not what the word means in this usage, this publican was a tax collector.   In that time, he was the one who collected taxes for the Roman Occupation Government.  He was allowed to keep a certain percentage of what he collected to cover his costs and provide a living.  In many cases, if not almost all, publicans extorted far more tax money than they were required to turn over to the Romans and lived quite high on the hog, so to speak.  Matthew was a real minority, an honest publican.  He scrupulously collected what was due, took only his share.  But, when the Lord called, he answered.  Not an easy thing to abandon a lucrative job for a position that promised an early and painful demise.  His dedication to the Lord shines through in his Gospel writings.

This brings us to Paul’s point, as Christians living in the world, we cannot be of the world, rather we must be of God, set aside to Him.  At the same time, we must let His light shine through us as a beacon to the world.  The Prince of the World, the Devil, the Prince of Darkness, has much to offer in short term in this world, but never delivers on the promise of happiness.  He can offer and even deliver fun; he offers, but cannot deliver, happiness!

When we preach, that is to say tell others, of the Gospel, it is not about us, it is about Jesus Christ; the selfsame Christ who gave his earthly life as a sacrifice for our sin that we might have everlasting life.  It is not an eternal life that starts when we die.  Eternal life starts the moment you accept His Promise. This is not evident to those who are blinded by the god of this world, or Satan to put it another way. He is only a lower case god, as he is not God. Only God can be like God.  The Gospel is as St. Paul says “Hid” to those who are serving Satan wittingly or unwittingly, as they cannot grasp the infinite mercy and love of Our Savior Christ and do not want to know that they have to turn to Him.

And that friends, brings us to Matthew’s story of how he came to Jesus, so to speak.  As he sat at his tax collection station, Jesus passed by and told him to follow.  Matthew got up and followed.  This was not a gradual acceptance of the Saving Grace.  The offer was made and accepted.  He came to dinner with Jesus and many other “sinners” much to the dismay of the Pharisees.  They would not understand, in the words of Paul, “All fall short.”  All, even, or maybe in particular Pharisees.  The fact is none of us are better than others, though it may be admitted some are worse. Let us not be worse, but strive to be better than we are, as close to perfection as we can reach, with His help.

Jesus came for us, the sinners.  He came to lead, counsel, teach and guide.  More than that, He came to be a one time sacrifice for all mankind for all time.  A full and sufficient sacrifice and oblation for our sins.

Turn around, follow Him.

Action counts.  For by their actions ye shall know them.  

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

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.  

St. Matthew
Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity
21 September 2014
Psalm 119:1-16
1Kings 19:15-16,19-21 • 1 Timothy 6:6-19

Preparation and Service
a calling to all believers.

 ALMIGHTY God, who by thy blessed Son didst call Matthew from the receipt of custom to be an Apostle and Evangelist; Grant us grace to forsake all covetous desires, and inordinate love of riches, and to follow the same thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

    Please take the time to go back over the three selections of scripture listed for today, the day set aside to commemorate St. Matthew.   Each selection delves into the concept of service.   What is service ?  We ask the Lord to use us in his kingdom at the conclusion of Holy Communion: O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

Each of the passages of scripture set aside today speak to that work or service. Let us think of the service of St. Matthew, a man who had been all about serving himself, as a greedy tax-collector, to a man who will eventually lose his life in the service of Christ, his Savior. St. Matthew completely changes direction, in a matter of only a few lines of scripture, Matthew leaves one profession to enter another. He makes a diametrically momentous change which involves going from a man of wealth to a man on the streets, roads, and byways of life, what a great biography.  Matthew did have a template to follow.  Let’s look at our Old Testament lesson.   1Kings 19:15-16,19-21:

Elijah passes the mantle of service and ministry on to Elisha.  Immediately Elisha accepts the mantle, turns back to sacrifice the oxen that were pulling his plow, fed those left behind and then followed Elijah.   Notice something else.  Elisha burns the plows, hitches, anything to do with his former vocation, he is moving on to the next calling.  He has no intention of going back to the fields after accepting the call.  Talk about service.   

In Psalm 119:1-16 the psalmist speaks to preparation, meditation, walking in the way of the Lord.   Each aspect of what the psalmist is doing is making a way for the reader as well as the author to do right in the sight of the Lord.  “thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.”   Notice the verbs and adjectives used to describe the actions that the psalmist is taking to make sure he is following the commands of the Lord.  “...I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, ...o let me not wander from thy commandments,...with my lips have I declared all the judgements of thy mouth,...I have rejoiced,..I will meditate,...have respect,...will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.” 

All this preparation to follow the Lord.  How much time do we spend in the Word of the Lord each day ?  Do we meditate on the Word, do we rejoice, have delight, have respect, and most importantly do not forget the Word ?

Now to the meat of the message today.  As I have shared before, Jesus was not angry at the rich who knew what to do with their wealth. As long as the wealth was obtained in a legal fashion, (read the parables of the talents) and was used in a righteous fashion, Jesus did not condemn.  His anger at wealthy folk was focused on those who did not help in the spreading of the gospel.  Notice what St. Paul writes in his second letter to his adopted son Timothy. 

Paul notes ‘godliness with contentment is great gain.’   The next verse is used in the opening of the service for the burial of the dead.  ‘..for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.’  The reality is we have a temporal blessing, if we are rich, here on earth.  Well how do we deal with that concept ?

First off, do not become entangled in the idea that ones wealth is the end all and be all of our life.  ‘...for the love of money is the root of all evil...’   Notice it reads LOVE of money, not money is the root of all evil.  We need money to function in this temporal world, we need money to do things for the Lord, we need money to be part of the society we live in.   In a word, Paul is telling all believers, rich, not so rich and everyone else, to make sure of their priorities.  Do not be come ensnared by this false dreams of wealth or fame, fortune or what not, ‘...fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, where unto thou art also called and hast professed a good profession (witness) before many witnesses.

And now the best argument against the ‘wealth bashers’; ‘...charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life...’

Notice several things about these last couple of verses.  No where in them is there a call for the rich to divest themselves of their wealth.  They are to do good works in the Lord, they are to do good, they should be ready to distribute wealth and willing to communicate. And the most important aspect of this set of verses, ‘... laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.’  That by far is the most important aspect of living for Christ. 

The warnings that Paul writes about can be applied to anyone, it just happens more often, because of how we judge our fellows, wealth or being rich lead a believer into false hopes or trusting in something that can be gone in a matter of moments.  If you think of the great financial disasters that have struck from time to time, you may have wealth today and tomorrow be destitute.    The great evangelical bishop, John Charles Ryle, was born into a family of great wealth.  He had all the advantages of that great wealth. As he related in his conversion story, his family went to bed wealthy and woke the next morning in poverty.  His father’s wealth evaporated in a financial disaster that struck Great Britain in the 1840s.  The good that came of that, Ryle went into the ministry by way of the Church of England.  He would go on to write many papers dealing with the day to day issues of faith of the common man.  His books still resonate today some 140 years after having been first penned. 

In conclusion, let us all inspect our lives, making sure we are using the riches God has given us to the furtherance of the Gospel and the Kingdom.  Let us remember what David wrote. “....I will not forget thy word...” Let us reflect on the life of St. Matthew, who’s life we commemorate this Sunday.  We can learn by example.   Daily shall we praise Him, daily shall we read his Word, daily shall we do that which pleases our Lord and Savior. 

Let us pray:

 LORD, we join our unfeigned thanks for all thy mercies; for our being, our reason, and all other endowments and faculties of soul and body; for our health, friends, food, and raiment, and all the other comforts and conveniences of life. Above all, we adore thy mercy in sending thy only Son into the world, to redeem us from sin and eternal death, and in giving us the knowledge and sense of our duty towards thee. We bless thee for thy patience with us, notwithstanding our many and great provo-cations; for all the directions, assistances, and comforts of thy Holy Spirit; for thy continual care and watchful providence over us through the whole course of our lives; and particularly for the mercies and benefits of the past day; beseeching thee to continue these thy blessings to us, and to give us grace to show our thankfulness in a sincere obedience to his laws, through whose merits and intercession we received them all, thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

LMIGHTY God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we possess; Grant us grace that we may honour thee with our substance, and remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of thy bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


IRECT us, O Lord, in all our doings, with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  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:

Matthew, Follower of Christ
Matthew 9:9-13
Feast of Saint Matthew
September 21, 2014

            We know Matthew by many names.  In Hebrew it means “Gift of the Lord,” though, since he was a tax collector for the Romans, I’m sure most of his fellow Jews believed he was mis-named.  In Luke 5:27 he is called Levi, which probably indicates that he was of the Hebrew tribe of Levi. Levi, then, would have been similar to our English surnames. Mark 2:14 calls him the son of Alphaeus.  Putting these names together we would call him Matthew Aphaeus Levi.

            Mathew has other names, which are much more important than his family name or his given name.  He is sometimes called Matthew the Evangelist, as in our Prayer Book.  This name refers to his great gift to mankind we know as the Evangel, or, Gospel of Matthew.  He is often called, Matthew the Apostle.  This is one of his most important names because it means he is one of a few, very select men Christ called to be with Him during His earthly ministry.  These men were eyewitnesses to His life and work, and they were earwitnesses to His words and teaching.  Having thus been called and taught, the Apostles were sent by Christ to establish the Messianic Kingdom on earth, which is known to us as the Church.

            Of all his names and titles I, think Matthew himself might have been happiest with the one he acquired in the first verse of this morning’s reading from his Gospel, “Follower of Christ.”  As Mt. 9:9 says “he arose and followed Him.”

            Matthew was a tax collector, and one day he was doing his job, probably not thinking about spiritual things, just collecting the money and keeping the books.  He wasn’t expecting God to speak to him, but He did.  Jesus quietly came to him and said, “Follow Me.”  God often comes to people unexpectedly.  We are busy about the things of life, sometimes rather heedless of God, sometimes not exactly heedless, but not exactly following Him either, and something happens to call our attention back to Him. It is as though He stands before us and quietly says, “Follow Me.”

            I think of the example of Martha and Mary when Jesus visited their home.  Martha went into the kitchen and began to prepare a meal for everyone.  There were a lot of people there, so preparing the meal was major task, but Martha got right to work, until she noticed she was working alone.  Everyone else, including Mary, was in the living room listening to Christ.  So Martha went in and demanded that Jesus, make Mary go into the kitchen and help.  Was Martha wrong?  Not really.  Cooking is good, and if someone doesn’t do it we’ll all go hungry.  Martha’s problem was her timing.  The Messiah, Emmanuel, God With Us, had come from Heaven to earth and was right there in her living room.  He was teaching people about the Kingdom of Heaven. He was speaking the words of eternal life and showing the will and nature of God to them.  But Martha was missing it all.  Her mind was on the things of earth.  So Jesus called her to stay and listen, like Mary.

            Matthew was like Martha. Emmanuel stood before him, but his mind was on his money and accounts.  Jesus called him away from these things.  Jesus called him to something better.  Jesus called him to God.

            Maybe you are a little like Matthew today.  Maybe you are a religious person, not exactly heedless of God, but not exactly following Him either, at least not with the dedication and fullness of devotion He is calling you to give.  And who of us would say he is following Christ as closely and fully as he should be?  But that can change.  He stands before you as surely as He stood before Matthew, and He calls you with the very same words, “Follow Me.”  Matthew “arose and followed Him.”  Will you?

            The words, “Follow Me,” permeate the Gospel of Matthew.  In Mt. 4:7 Christ calls Simon and Andrew, saying, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  In 8:19 a scribe says to Christ, “Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.”  In 16:24 Matthew records the words of Christ; “if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”  Following Jesus is a major point of Matthew’s Gospel. He does not just want his readers to assent to certain doctrinal statements about Christ.  I do not mean to say doctrine was not important to Matthew.  It was very important.  It was central to him.  It was foundational to him.  That’s why he included the words of Peter at Caesarea Philippi in his Gospel.  You remember that Christ had asked the disciples who people say He is.  They answered, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elijah; and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”  But Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  That was a doctrinal statement. Every word of it is full of doctrine and doctrines. And Matthew included these words because he wanted us to know the doctrinal truth about Jesus.  Matthew wanted the Jews, and Gentiles to know Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah Israel has been waiting for.  That’s why Matthew began his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus.  He was showing the Jewish people that Jesus was of the house and lineage of David, as the Messiah was foretold to be.  When the wise men came to Bethlehem they came seeking “he that is born King of the Jews, for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” Mt. 2:2).  The King of the Jews is the Messiah. John the Baptist recognised Jesus as the Messiah, and said, “I have need to be baptized of thee.” God the Father identified Jesus as the Messiah, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” thus fulfilling Psalm 2:7, Thou art my Son.”  In chapter 5 we read Christ is the fulfillment of the law.  In chapter 17 God identifies the Messiah again, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”   At the foot of the cross, the Roman centurion even says, “Truly this was the Son of God.”  Matthew longed to see Israel know Jesus of Nazareth as her Messiah/King and God.  That’s why he wrote his Gospel.  Each verse I just read or referred to is a doctrinal statement.  So Matthew was very concerned about doctrine.  He wanted people to know Christ is more than an ordinary mortal, more than a moral teacher, more than a philosopher, more than a theologian.  He wanted people to know Him as the Christ, the promised Messiah.  He wanted people to have the right doctrines about Jesus.

            But he didn’t want the doctrines to be a mere intellectual pursuit.  He wanted the doctrines to lead people to Christ as their Lord and God and Saviour.  He wanted the doctrines to lead people to become followers of Christ, just as Matthew became a follower of Christ that day in Galilee.  In Matthew’s Gospel we still hear the words of Christ, “Follow Me.”  But this time they are not addressed to Matthew; they are addressed to you.

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.

Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity 

In the epistle (Romans 12:16-21), the apostle Paul reminded his  readers to Recompense to no man evil for evil. Without a doubt this is one of those biblical expressions which is congruent with the old saying of “easier said than done.” We all have it in our natures to protect ourselves. Self-defense is a perfectly legitimate activity, even biblical. But revenge or the striking back at someone well after the fact is forbidden to us as Christians. (For our purposes, I am refraining from any references to a just war and am confining my remarks only to actions within a community.) Our Lord’s command to us is quite clear in this regard for it is written: To me belongeth vengeance , and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of calamity is a hand... The Lord shall judge his people (Deuteronomy 32: 35; Hebrews 10: 30)

But does not our right to necessary self-defense also permit us to take vengeance upon those who have harmed us? The short answer is, No. It is one thing to ward off an attack, but it is quite another to set about to do in our enemies and persecutors by laying in wait, or by other acts of subterfuge. For it is in that latter state that we may waste much time and effort scheming as to how we should seek our revenge. It may be that our enemies have maligned us. It may be that we were cut out of a business deal by those whom we had previously regarded as friends. Nevertheless, in spite of their actions, we ought to remember that our good and gracious God will not allow us to be permanently set back, neither will he give such persons “a pass” on their misdeeds if they do not repent. And it is precisely because of that last point that we are not to go out of our way to harm our enemies simply because they took advantage of us in some one way or another. We are to commit such persons to God and trust him to protect us from their evil and malicious designs. We can and should avoid such persons, but we ought to pray for their reformation. And if we see them in trouble, we should do for them as set forth in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Again, this is easier said than done especially when we know that they bear no love for us in their hearts. 

Some may ask, “Why would God have us help our adversaries who are in extremis?” The response may come as a surprise to those who are unfamiliar with Scripture: “Because God would not have us embittered by them.” A bitter person is not a loving person. If one has to constantly remind himself of the ills others have done unto them, it causes one to discount the joy which God would otherwise have that person experience. It also cultivates within that person fertile ground for demonic influence. There should be little doubt that contemplating evil for another opens the door of your soul to infiltration by the adversary. The Devil thrives on our bad feelings so it is of paramount importance that we do not give him such space because we are supposed to be vessels for the Holy Spirit of God. 

Listen to the words of St. Paul (II Corinthians 2:10-11), To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I in the person of Christ; lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. The Rev. E. M. Bounds once observed that, “An unforgiving spirit invites satanic possession... To corrupt our spirits, to provoke us to retaliation, revenge, or unmercifulness– that is his chosen work and his most common and successful device... When Satan generates an unforgiving spirit in us, then he has us, and we are on his ground. Then wicked men and good men, all kinds of people, are likely to do us harm, sometimes at vital and very sensitive points. Sometimes they unconsciously wrong us and sometimes they do it knowingly and willfully. As soon as a spirit of unkindness possesses us for the wrong done to us, Satan has the upper hand.” That is why we are to let those offenses go and commit them to the Lord— placing them in his capable hands. And God may call these into his service much as he called Saul of Tarsus— an enemy of the body of Christ— to become St. Paul: the great teacher of Christ. Your enemy today could by the grace of God become a brother or a sister in Christ tomorrow. Would you then seek vengeance on one who has now become a member of the Christ’s body? Would you not be striking at Christ as well? 

St. Paul reminded us in his epistle to the Ephesians that, we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (6:12). Those who have wronged us are but the physical instruments of the devil and his minions. They are more or less to be pitied rather than hated. We cannot avenge ourselves of the forces of darkness through our anger and any acts of retribution against their pawns. God would have us armour ourselves with his prescription for spiritual victory and such does not include bearing or carrying about feelings of revenge or hatred. He wants us to hand over the particulars of our vengeance to him and he will repay them should they not repent. 

We should also keep in mind what our Lord said from the cross (St. Luke 23:34) Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. If he who was crucified for our sakes could in the midst of his suffering ask God to pardon his persecutors, then we should do likewise for those who have done unto us far less. A forgiving spirit opens the way to blessing. A forgiving spirit keeps the devil out of our lives. A forgiving spirit seeks after the peace of God. A forgiving spirit remembers that we were once enemies of God, and that he forgave us our sins and trespasses which we so enjoyed committing before we came to know him as our God. 

Think on the words of the Lord’s Prayer, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. If we expect God to forgive us of our sins and trespasses, then we should forgive those who have sinned against us. God has a plan and purpose for his elect which includes being filled with his Holy Spirit. And in being so filled, we should daily confess our sins to him in the name of our Lord and Saviour. For it is through our daily confession that we are made fit to experience that perfect fellowship with him via the Holy Ghost. 

Therefore rid your hearts of all hatred and malice toward others. Make such a daily activity. Take care to spiritually clean out all that is amiss in your life for that is what our Lord expects us to do as members of his body. We have been commanded to let our light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven (St. Matthew 5:16). But we will not be able to do that if we are busy quenching the fire of the Holy Ghost with our bad feelings and our malice. Purpose in your hearts today to be cleansed of all unrighteousness and mean-spiritedness, so you can truly enjoy fellowship with the Godhead. 

Let us pray,

ATHER, drive from us all hatred, variance, malice and every evil way, that in all things we might be more than conquerors, for this we ask in the name of our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Have a blessed week, Bryan+

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