Verse of the Day

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fourth Sunday in Advent

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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.

The Fourth Sunday in Advent
The Collect.

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

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

The First Sunday in Advent
The Collect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus also tells us to put our trust in the Lord, then not to worry.  He knows how counterproductive, indeed how destructive worry can be in our lives.  We know it not only cannot, but will not do good, we know it will only hurt our cause; yet we do it.  Is this not a proof positive of how much we need His Help?  How hard is it to Trust in God and Dread Naught?  Very!  Yet to make progress this we must do. Even though it is very hard to trust somebody you can’t see physically, you must trust your spiritual sense and follow Him anyway!  Knowing you will see Him physically one day, is one of our great rewards. This greatly eases at least my worries and it should ease yours as well. There is always going to be a great evil in this day and age and we do not need to add to our existing problems by worrying. Worrying solves nothing and can in fact create more problems for you. It is an activity that we need to do our best to stop doing.

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

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

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

 G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

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

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

The time is now, not tomorrow.  The time has come, indeed.  How will you ACT?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

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