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Sunday, February 15, 2015
Quinquagesima - Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold - 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.
Consider these words from the Collect:
… that all our doings without charity are nothing worth; Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity …
In the Collect, we acknowledge to God that if we have not charity, nothing we do is worth anything; we then ask Him to send the Holy Ghost into our hearts with the precious gift of charity. Webster tells us that Charity is love; universal benevolence; good will; the word which properly denotes love. What it really means is Love in Action! Like many areas of our Christian development, we will never fully get there. But we shall make progress so long as we do not give up! As Winston Churchhill once said “Never, never, never, never EVER GIVE UP”. So should we never give up in our Christian development. We may stumble and fall at times, but if we get up and keep going and return to our Lord, then all will be well in time. Properly understood charity is the Love of God, that perfect love, to which man should aspire. Charity is not giving oodles of money away to an organization, hoping to make yourself look better, like many modern “philanthropists.” It is to help people with the love in your heart that Christ and God has given us, to enable us to act on His behalf here on this Earth. Love is not selfish or wasteful, but kind and abundant. We are to be agents of good change, not that of bad, and with Charity, we will act with love towards one another. If we do not have love in our hearts towards one another, how can we expect to be able to have any positive change on the world around us?
Paul tells us no matter our gifts, talents and so called accomplishments, without the Love of God, we are nothing and have done nothing. It must be clear to us that our understanding here on earth is limited, we will never here see the fullness of God’s plan, yet the part most clear is the love we are to have one for another, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, for no reason other than we know that is right so to do. It does not matter to us we will never see the fullness of His plans, each of us are a small piece of a much bigger plan. And all of us small pieces work together to fulfill the bigger plan. We only need to find our part in the plan and act upon that, again with Charity in our hearts. For if we do not have true love or Charity within our hearts, we cannot act for God. When Paul talks about God’s great plans, he uses the phraseology “through a glass, darkly”, which is very interesting inasmuch as CS Lewis uses a variation to describe earth as compared to heaven. He calls the earth The Shadowlands and says in heaven all is clear and bright, not dark and muddled as here on earth. So, here our understanding is limited, it will not always be so. That will be fulfilled when we pass the Pearly Gates into heaven, and in order to do that, we have to have faith, and have good works acted upon with charity. If one of these ingredients are missing, we are not acting according to what He wants for us. So, we have to believe with all our heart in God and Christ, and act upon that belief with great Charity.
As they were coming in to Jericho, Jesus told the disciples of what was to come, yet they could not grasp their leader would submit to such treatment on their behalf. He was the Conqueror; in a sense they were right, He came to conquer death for us, not the Roman Empire. As they went along, they encountered the blind man who was, like many of us are, blind. His blindness was of the eye, not the heart, he knew the power of God, and of love. The blind man who wanted his sight and knew Jesus had The Power. He cried unto the Lord and was rebuffed by His People. Did he give up? No, he cried the more. As we should not let others discourage us from following the Lord, indeed we should increase our prayers and serving fervently. When Jesus heard him, he turned and asked what the man wanted. MY SIGHT! No generalizations, no beating about. The blind man asked of Him what he truly wanted. Ask and it shall be given unto you. The blind man lacked sight, but not vision. Nor, it might be added did he lack faith. We should ask God to have to sight and hearing that we might see, hear and act upon the Word. To some, the faith he had might seem a blind faith, but it was one that he acted on and gained what he lacked. Will we have the faith to act?
True love is Faith, Hope, Charity.
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God
 To quote Winston Churchill, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.” (29 October 1941)
 The three Gloster Gladiator fighters Faith, Hope and Charity defended Malta against the Italian Air Force during the early part of the siege of Malta in World War II. Legend has it that all three persisted and of the three, Charity never failed.
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It is amazing to me how conservative Christians have revised the interpretation of many concepts in the Bible just in my lifetime. Growing up evangelical in the 1970's, I never dreamed that I would hear an evangelical or other conservative Christian pastor endorse the idea that the Creation may not have occurred in six literal twenty-four hour days, or that some aspects of evolution may be true, or that the Flood of Noah's day was only a regional flood of the Euphrates River valley, not the entire world.
If any evangelical pastor had preached these "heresies" in the 70's he would have been run out of his church and denomination. But now these "heresies" are considered acceptable views in mainstream conservative Christianity.
So what is up with the Bible? Why is it that orthodox/conservative Christians must repeatedly update their interpretation of God's "holy, inspired, inerrant, unchanging" Word?? Did God allow the Bible to be written so poorly, so confusingly, that mankind has needed scientists, not theologians, to understand what God really meant to say?
Here are some examples of Hebrew/Christian beliefs based on the literal reading of the Bible that have been revised due to scientific and medical discoveries:
1. Flat earth.
2. The flat earth rests on pillars.
3. The earth has four corners.
4. There is a canopy above the earth called a firmament to which God hung the sun, moon, stars, and planets.
5. The sun revolves around the earth.
6. There are "fountains of the deep" under the earth.
7. There is a layer of water above the firmament.
8. The universe was created in six, literal, twenty-four hour days.
9. All animals and planets were created during those six twenty-four hour days.
10. The universe is 6,000 - 10,000 years old.
11. The entire world was covered by water, even Mt. Everest, during the Great Flood.
12. Noah was able to accommodate 10 million species of animals in his boat.
13. Kangaroos got off of Noah's boat on top of Mt. Ararat (modern day Turkey) after the Flood waters receded, traveled (and swam) thousands of miles to Australia...without leaving one kangaroo skeleton on the continent of Asia.
14. Seizures are caused by demon possession.
Once science and medicine proves the literal reading of the Bible on these issues false, Christians then revise their interpretation of the passage or passages in question and decide (arbitrarily) that the passage in question is speaking "metaphorically" and that previous generations of believers were simply mistaken.
What? Says who?
I am currently in a discussion with a Christian regarding the Ascension story. When I point out to him that if Jesus ascended to heaven at a speed slow enough that his disciples could watch him ascend, Jesus hasn't even made it to the next nearest galaxy, let alone the far reaches of outer space and ultimately heaven.
"You are reading this passage literally and being silly. It is obvious that the author of the passage was speaking metaphorically," says the Christian.
When I ask the same Christian if he believes that the Resurrection account should be read metaphorically his reply is, "Of course not. This account should be understood literally. The Resurrection of Jesus was a real historical event."
Dear conservative Christians: Please open your eyes. Instead of repeatedly revising and updating your interpretation of your God's "unchanging" Word, why not just accept the obvious: The Bible is an ancient book full of scientific, medical, historical, and archeological inaccuracies, written by scientifically ignorant, superstitious, ancient peoples. People do not "ascend" into the sky and decomposing dead men do not walk out of their graves to enjoy a broiled fish lunch with their fishing buddies.
Stop basing your life on these fables and legends and accept the findings of modern science and medicine as the basis of your reality. Please.
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