Verse of the Day

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Saint Luke the Evangelist - superseding the Twentieth Sunday after TrinityIf

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Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Todays 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, “… inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son; Manifest in thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls …”

The Collect asks God to inspire us, that is His “Church”, through the intervention and help of the Holy Ghost, to accept the love and healing power of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that like Luke and those he touched, we might have our broken bodies and souls made whole.

This is such a familiar theme, asking God to help us come to know Him and His Help, the Holy Ghost.  Without His guidance, we really can do nothing in the end that is right.  What seems right to us always ends up in the swamp.  We need to recognize the need before we can benefit from the help He can give us.  We need to ask for help, then when it is delivered to recognize and accept it. The healing that comes from Christ can only happen if we are willing and able to listen to Him and to let Him into our hearts and minds. He does not come in to those who do not want to receive Him. We have to make it our desire to let Him in.

Paul is truly our ultimate example of God’s Power and Grace.  Paul, Chief Persecutor of the early Church, “saw the light” on the “Road to Damascus.”[1]  God chose Paul from amongst all the men walking the earth at the time to use his talents to further God’s purpose on earth.    An interesting paradox is that the closer you come to God, the more you appreciate how much separates you from His Godly Perfection, the more you realize your shortcomings.   But, at the same time the very God who chose Paul to do His Work has chosen you.  So, like Paul, see the Light and move to do His Will.  You will find that your life will have a purpose to it that cannot be defeated, for in the end, you are on the winning side, that of God’s eternal light. If you do your very best for Him on this earth, with your life, you will have a wonderful eternal reward for Him. It is a pretty powerful motivator that we need to remind ourselves of, more often.

So, when Paul writes to his beloved assistant, helper and fellow minister of the Gospel, Timothy, near the end of Paul’s time here on earth, he is trying to help him with earthly things and motivate Timothy to continue his work in the event they join not again here on earth[2].   He tells Timothy to spread the Word of God, to be prepared to endure persecution and affliction for the sake of the Word.   He notes that of all his followers or close companions only Luke remains with him.  Thus, when we despair of low numbers in our churches, we should remember Paul.  If Paul, arguably the greatest mind of all those who put God’s Word to pen, could not keep everyone in God’s Word, why should we expect such a differing result.  The big thing for Paul, and us, is don’t give up[3].  You cannot win if you give up and you cannot lose the war if you do not give up. 

At times, it does not seem easy to not give up, with what seems like depressing news at every turn, but we cannot lose that hope eternal, that Christ gives us. We have to look to the Holy Spirit and His Word to strengthen us and encourage us, to enable us to fight the good fight with all that we have. We have to always remember the great love Christ our master has for us, that He died on the cross for our sins, that we might have eternal life. If we remember this and apply the Summary of the Law to our life, and have hope, then all will be truly well with our souls. It may not be well in the world, but we can make our corner of the world a more pleasant place to be in, for us, and for others around us.

On the surface, our part in the battle with the Devil may appear to be won or lost, but as long as we do not give up, in the end God’s Side, and thus our side, wins.  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.”[4]

Not everything in life went smoothly for Paul, why would we expect it to be different for us?  We must persevere.  When we pray for help from God via the Holy Ghost, we pray for understanding, comfort, strength, patience, perseverance.  We are like iron, forged under fire, our character in faith is built with the hammering blows of life that are dealt upon us, to make us stronger people of God.

If you think everything is against us, you are not right, but a lot is.  There are many Alexander the Coppersmiths these days. We must strive not to be Alexanders, but to be more like Timothys daily. There are plenty of bad examples to go around, let us strive to be good examples, as much as we have it in us to be, and with the help of the Holy Ghost.

When Luke tells us of the Lord sending his representatives throughout the area which He Himself would travel, he is writing not only of ordained clergy or ministers, but of each of us.  We, each and every one of us, have a mission here on earth to Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God (Isaiah 40:3b), for truly, we are The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3a).  Yet, we cannot save people by bringing them to God, only He can do that.  But, we can tell them of Him and pray for the Holy Ghost to act on their hearts.  We serve the same purpose as did John the Baptist, to be Jesus’ messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (Mark 1:2-3)  We can only prepare the way, God and the hearts of those to whom we talk must do their parts.  We seldom know what effect our work has, yet we must do it. 

When we bring the Word of God to people, it is not often accepted these days, for the forces of this world are very, very strong on people’s hearts.  The riches of this world blind people to their true poverty.  If the Word is not accepted, we merely move on.  Luke also tells us ministers of God should be supported by their congregations to the extent of their needs. 

This has a two fold purpose:

1.     If people do not pay for something, they oft have little regard for its value.  You can see the result of that in public housing.
2.     To the extent ministers of the Gospel devote their time to the Word, they do not have the ability to otherwise earn their living.  Balanced against this is the fact that the hire the laborer was worthy of was to meet their needs, nothing more. 

In the Anglican Orthodox Church of the United States, we have no paid ministers.  This is because we are small, we have experienced[5] ministers who have planned their lives to allow them to serve the Lord on their own dime, so to speak.  We must guard against this world entering our Church.  We are to be in the world, not of the world. It is a very fine line, that at times is difficult to see, but it must be seen and not crossed into the of the world, but yet remain in the world and engaged in the fight under our Lord’s banner.

Yet, this is more than just about “ordained ministers of the Gospel”, each of us must prepare the way for the Lord.  We are truly in a wilderness today.  The cares and riches of this world, for we live in the richest (in earthly terms) time ever, drag us away from the Word of God.   Each Christian must live their life as Christ taught, acting as a Beacon of Light, shining His Light into the world that others might see that Light and be drawn to it.

Thus the Collect, Epistle and Gospel tie together, laying out, detailing and reinforcing the same message ultimately.  We have to ready and willing to listen to God, and walk in God, and act with the Holy Spirit in us, in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven and bring those around us with us.   We cannot point people to God, we must lead them[6].

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?

The time to act is NOW.  Will you act?  For whom will you act?  Will you count the cost before you act?

Action, not diction, is what counts.  It is by your actions you are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

[1] Take a moment to reflect on the power of The Word.  These two phrases permeate our language, yet today few know where they come from.  An epiphical moment where a hidden truth or solution to a problem comes is known as “seeing the light”, the Light which Paul saw literally.  That moment is oft referred to as a “Road to Damascus moment.”  Yet, think how few read the Bible today to know the true meaning of the term.
[2] Note the length of this sentence, a typical Pauline sentence.  Paul seemingly was somewhat parsimonious in the use of periods.
[3] An interesting side note, the don’t give up is a part of one of the most famous quotes in naval history – Don’t give up the Ship - The name comes from the dying words of Captain James Lawrence to the crew of his USS Chesapeake, later stitched into an ensign created by Purser Samuel Hambleton and raised by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie, during the War of 1812.
[4] Sir Winston Churchill, Speech, 1941, Harrow School
[5] For the most part, they are either retired from some other field or have paying jobs, the ministry is their life’s work, not their “job.”
[6] Remember, for 285,000 people this day is their end of time here on earth, they face their Lord this day.  We know not at what hour the Master cometh, nor at what hour we may be called to Him.

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