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Sunday, July 24, 2016
Ninth Sunday after Trinity
Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon tied the Epistle and Gospel together talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction, the general content is in forewords above.
Consider the words from the Collect, wherein we ask God to give us … the spirit to think and do always such things as are right; that we, who cannot do any thing that is good without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will …
This is kind of a follow-on to last week’s Collect. We are asking God to give us direction that we might know right from wrong and follow the right way. If we listen to our hearts and minds, like the aviator, mariner or adventurer without a compass, we will soon be hopelessly lost. With the compass God gives us, we can find the One True Way, much like the compass always points North.
The Collect acknowledges that without God’s intervention through the Holy Spirit in our lives we cannot do anything that is good or right. Indeed, our own very natures prevent us from doing what is right. Our nature is inclined towards being away from God, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can reset our nature to be towards God. We just have to ask for His help and not just ask for it, but willingly receive it. By receiving, I mean that we have to be willing and ready listeners, ready to listen to what He wants us to do, and then act upon that. We have to have His will be our will. We have to put aside what we want to do, and put what God wants us to do in the forefront. This is a very difficult matter, a concept we have always struggled with.
This is nothing new. As Paul reminds us we have a common spiritual past, regardless of our actual lineage. Spiritually, we are descended from the Jews of the Exodus. Their God is our God; God directed their actions. He was a Trinity then as He is today. Their reality is our reality, whether we choose to understand or accept it. Our forefathers drank of “the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” We are like them in that we stubbornly, due to our own nature, resits His will. We murmur and grumble, when in fact we should be praising Our Father Almighty. We are also like them, in that if we do not look up to Him who was lifted up on the cross, like Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, we will perish. However, if we will look up to Him who was crucified on the cross, and believe on Him and his name, we shall be saved.
Those who have gone before provide examples, both good and bad. We should aspire to follow the good examples of those who have gone before and not the bad examples that they have left behind. In this letter Paul addresses the bad and suggests we should see what their ill behavior gained them before we set our course and not after. We should not strive to emulate the murmurings of the people, though we may feel that way sometimes, as we can learn from their bad examples. We must see their bad examples and do not emulate those; on the other side, we must see the good examples, and strive to emulate them.
Following after the Jews, we should strive to not incorporate those bad examples, but the good examples into our lives. And, lest we think ourselves ever so special, he reminds us we are subjected to no special temptations, only those “as is common to man.” Every man on this planet is a sinner who desperately needs help, every bit as much as the next, albeit likely in differing ways. In sin, all are equally lost to death, unless they accept the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Which is to say, common to everybody within the human race who is not Christ, which is all of us. This is another example of the adage, “Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.” It is an old saw, but one as valid today as the first time it was used.
That is a reason the Old Testament should be read and reviewed and compared to the New Testament, to see where we came from, how we got here and where we should go next. It works like a process flowchart, from the beginning from Adam, down through the various figures of the Old Testament, the flowchart ends at the arrival of Christ and the Holy Ghost, and in our redemption. Analyzing this flowchart, we can see our temptations and sins are nothing new, and sins are a waste of our spiritual life. We must practice continuous improvement, kaizen as the Japanese called it, and or total quality management of our spiritual life.
Just like total quality management requires each and every member of the organization work together to achieve quality and serve the needs of the customer, so too, do the Scriptures require all believers work together, to serve the needs of those we serve, namely other believers and the Church. We must continuously improve ourselves in our day to day lives, not just in the church, but in our businesses and personal lives. This is the message Paul is conveying to Corinthians, that we must see how our forefathers acted, emulate their good qualities and dispose of the wasteful, bad, sinful qualities. We must continually improve upon ourselves throughout our lives. We must continually work on improving our bad qualities and making them into good qualities. Only God, the Holy Spirit, and Christ can really provide us the spiritual guidance we need to do this. We must trust that they will give us the correct guidance when needed.
Speaking of lessons, when Saint Luke recounts the story of the prodigal son we oft think ourselves as that prodigal one returning to God so late in life. Yet there is far more to be learned than the titular son.
Consider the two sons. The older is a wonderful young man who strives to please his father in everything he does. The younger son asks for his inheritance, now rather than later, and sets off to spend it wastefully in a far off land. In dire straits, he decides to go home to his father and beg to be allowed to live as one of his servants. He decides to tell his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son…” Before he can get the words out of his mouth, his father welcomes him, gives him new clothing and calls the servants to prepare a fatted calf for a big party. The elder son is very angry and hurt. He asks his father what he did wrong; he followed his instructions every day to the best of his ability, worked hard, and yet his father had never even given a small party for him. The father answered, saying, “Son, thou are ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost and is found.”
This story, like that of the workers in the vineyard has a number of meanings. Like the father in the story, God wants us to be His faithful child, but rejoices when we return to Him. Like the prodigal son, we should be grateful to live long enough to return to Him. We should recognize when we have erred and strayed from our ways like lost sheep; as soon as we recognize that, we should immediately return to Our Lord in prayer, asking for His forgiveness. Like the father in the story, our Lord will warmly welcome us back with open arms.
The moral of the younger son’s story is that God is always waiting for us, and if we are not too late, we can always return to Him. Today preferably rather than tomorrow! He will always accept us with opening arms, but we must make sure it is not too late. Don’t wait until you die! If you feel you have erred and strayed, repent now! Do not put off until tomorrow your repentance. If you are led by the Holy Spirit to repent, please do it today, you may not live to see tomorrow.
Do not let the sun go down on your sins and wrath, you may not live to see another day! On the other hand, consider the oldest son, let us learn from his mistake and be joyful when our brothers and sisters come home to our family. Let us put aside the anger and jealousy and replace those hurtful emotions with the emotions of pure love and joy! Let us join in the celebration and not begrudge the fatted calf. We should not be jealous or angry when our long lost brethren return to the flock of Christ! We should be merry and joyful they have returned to us! Do not let your pride become anger and cloud your emotions like it does so many of us. But, rather see a sinner coming back into His flock and rejoice in he is no longer headed towards The Pit!
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
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