Verse of the Day

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
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 is partly contained in the forewords above. 

Today we talk consider The Law and how it failed to solve the problems of the people it was designed to help and think about how getting around technicalities is different than doing what is right.

Consider the words of the Collect, “…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 …”

The Collects often are repetitive, in that we ask the same thing, week after week in differing ways.  Why is that?  Sadly, we have the same needs and the same failings week after week.  We are WEAK, we need God’s STRENGTH.  Today, we ask Him to help us, through the Holy Ghost, to increase our faith, to help us love what He wants us to do, to make His Wishes our wishes.  To make us want to follow Him that we might gain the prize which He has promised us.  That prize is eternal life which begins when we accept it, not when we die.  A benefit of that eternal life is that we live our lives here in far greater happiness than we would otherwise.  We have peace of mind, as well as a better physical life.  If we can but just put our hearts in His Heart. We have to really do our best to do this, as it is not an easy task. Luckily for us, we have the Holy Ghost who can help us.

If we are to follow Him we need that increase of faith, hope and love (charity is but another word for love) in order to be able to stay on the course that God has charted for us. By ourselves we cannot stay on course and would deviate to 180 degrees opposite from where God wants us to be. So that is why we are praying for that increase of faith, hope and love, so we can maintain course guidance. Of course, in order to have those, we need to listen to what He says and act upon it. Not just listen to what He says then go off and do what we want to do. This requires change on our part, modification of our behavior to follow Him. It requires actual action.

We will improve in all aspects of our life if we truly do our best to follow Him. They key phrase is “do our best” and not just say that we are doing our best. There is a difference, one is heartfelt and true and the other is just lip service. So, let us truly do our best to follow Him. We will make mistakes, of course; but we always have to remember to return to Him and correct our course accordingly. And if we remember the benefits of the prize of following Him, it will be easier for us to follow the path, maybe not much easier, but easier enough to keep our eyes on the prize.   We often forget about the Holy Ghost, that Third God Guy.  Without Him in our hearts, we are lost.  With Him, we, like John Newton, are found.  He is a critical part of our journey towards heaven. He will help guide us along the narrow uphill trail to heaven. We will have that vision He gives to us in our lives and we will be able to see the way God wants us to travel.

It will be a very clear vision not blurry and distorted like the way of the World. It will define and light up the path that we are to follow, and then all that will be left is for us to actually move upon that path, closer to Him. It won’t be an easy and quick path, but it will be a sure path nevertheless.

That brings us right in to Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and us!  We need to walk in God’s Word and in His Spirit.  We need to put aside the things of this world which are not in accord with the Way of God.  All of those things that He lists are not how the Sons and Daughters of God should act. It is a list of behaviors and attitudes that are not congruent with being a true Christian. They are things we should be actively working on avoiding. These things are extremely detrimental to our spiritual and physical health. If we are of God, then we will act of God, only then will we be of God. 

What is important is not what you were born to, for we were all born to death.  A king is born; a king dies.  We are born into this world, our body will die in this world.  Yet through the grace of the King, we live on.  There is much conflict in us, look at all those “fun” things Paul lists in the Epistle.  Those “fun” things do not bring happiness, they really just bring us closer to death.  We all struggle with fun and happiness, two words that often do not mean the same thing. It is a concept people easily confuse. However there really is a simple difference. Fun is a fleeting, temporary state and happiness will last a lifetime. And Eternal Life is forever.  People all to easily get these concepts mixed up without thinking of this simple difference. But it is a difference nevertheless. It is similar to the need and want issue, two other words easily mixed up. 

Yet, God has the answer for us.  He sent His Son to bring it to us.  Who will listen?

The only people who listen are those who are in need, hurt, pain and despair.  Often it is because they or one of their loved ones are ill or injured, perhaps near death.  Perhaps they are unemployed or undergoing some family upheaval.  Their situation is less than perfect.  They need help and they know it.  In their own mind, they are the Samaritans of this world.  It was no accident Jesus oft cast Samaritans as the stars of his parables and stories.  It is also no accident Jesus parables and stories center on actions, not words, thoughts and meditations.  Actions are who you are. Actions show the world who you follow God or Mammon. You cannot truly be a believer if you don’t act for Him. Without action, there is nothing. The key driving principle behind his parables are actions for Him, are those of goodness, not of evil.  Those who believe on me keep my commandments.  

Actions!

Yet, those who turn to God in “need” are no different than each of us.  To quote Paul, “None are perfect, all fall short.”  We, each and every one of us, need God’s help.  Perhaps some need it more, none need it less.

When Luke tells us of Jesus and the ten lepers whom He heals and only one expresses thanks, do you think he is only telling of lepers?

In a sense are we not all lepers, outcasts with unhealable conditions?  In our case our unhealable condition is our tendency to sin and turn astray. We ourselves cannot heal ourselves and nobody else on this Earth can.   We are outcasts of this world so to speak, we only have God and our friends in Christ to help us. The world cannot help us, but those in Christ and God can. We have an incurable condition of sin, but with God’s help, it can be healed, though we cannot heal it on our own. We cannot be healed by this world, yet there is One who can heal us and will if only we appeal to Him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  We pray to God in His Name every day, He listens every day.

Through our Lord, God is there for each of us if we will accept His help.  When He gives that help, how do we react?  Frankly most of us just think it our due.  We oft fail to give thanks for all that He gives us.

When we get an answer we don’t expect, do we thank Him?  What if we get an answer?  Do we thank Him?

Like the lepers only one in ten will show thanks for the mercy and help given them.  Rarely do people give thanks for large efforts done to help them. We must endeavor to be grateful for Him and for all of those who strive hard to help us out in our times of need.  In the case of the lepers, it was the Samaritan[1], showing that fancy dress and rules are not as important as doing what is right and being grateful for what we are given.

Are you part of that 10 percent?

Remember, it is Please and Thank You that are the magic words, not Please and I don’t have time for you

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.



[1] Samaritan - Of or pertaining to Samaria, in Palestine. -- n. A native or inhabitant of Samaria; also, the language of Samaria. [1913 Webster]

Samaritans were descendants of those who had stayed behind during the Captivity and had been separated for many years from the body of Judaism.  They had not developed, nor did they subscribe to them, all the rules the Jews managed to invent during their separation.  The main body of Jews viewed them as lesser peoples, not really Jews.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity


If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
Rev Jack Arnold
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:  “…whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service; Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises…”

In our prayer to God, we acknowledge that His only or greatest gift is that we are, through Him, able to give Him true service.  For, it must be understood the only way we can really be happy is when we align our being with His Being.  We must be truly aligned, not trying to get around by using loopholes.  There is a big difference.  We are trying to live by the Big Picture and not worry about little things. Sometimes that is easier said than done.   But it must be done nethertheless. How do we accomplish this? First, we must trust God in our hearts, souls and minds. Then, we can love Him with all our hearts souls and minds, this creates a solid foundation for serving Him laudably throughout the rest of our days. This is the Summary of the Law.

To serve him, we have to truly love Him with all our hearts, souls and minds and to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”  This is the first step to following Him. This is a follow on to last week’s message. This is because the Bible echoes itself at various points, especially in the New Testament. There are many themes that repeat in the New Testament; this is one of those themes. We need the help of the Holy Ghost in order to love Him with all of our hearts souls and minds, so we need to ask Him into our hearts; only then can we truly love Him with all of our hearts souls and minds. Then, you have to act upon your trust in Him. If you trust Him as a spiritual parent, then just like with your earthly parents, you will take His advice into consideration when acting. It will be like whenever you make a big decision in later years, you think of what your parents would counsel. So too will you think of the counsel God as your spiritual parent would provide.  In the old times, God had to prepare the people for the coming of Christ. So, the Law of the Old Testament was an intermediate step to prepare people for Jesus. People had to be trained to follow the basic moral laws, before they could even comprehend the message Jesus gave.

If we do what we should do, we will follow the little rules as a matter of course.  If we get the important things, the little things will follow soon after. The only rules that are important really come from:

1.     Love thy God with all thy heart and soul and mind;
2.     Love they neighbor as thyself. 

As Jesus says, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” He means all of the moral laws and preaching of prophets past can be traced back to these laws, which comprise the basis for all of the laws that would follow thereafter, especially the Ten Commandments.  The 613 Mosaic Laws can call be traced back to these two commandments. They are the “Basic Speed Laws” of the Christian faith; there is no way to get around these two and be within the spirit or the intent of the Law.

Trying to follow the Law failed to solve the problems of the people it was designed to help. This is because the people spent their time thinking about how to get around technicalities which is different than doing what is right. Complying with the Law is a different matter than finding loopholes around the Law. The Pharisees did the latter, and we should do the former.

In California, we have this law called The Basic Speed Law. It says you should drive no faster than is safe. If there is a section of road posted at 25 miles per hour, but it is really safer to go 15 mph, which is complying with the intent of the law?

The Pharisees would have you find a loophole in a 25 miles per hour zone for example, by just going 25 miles per hour. But, what if the area it is in is not safe for 25 mph, more like 15 miles per hour?  Could you honestly think going 25 miles per hour in what is actually a 15 miles per hour area is within the intent of the law? No! It is the same with trying to go around the intent of the Law. We cannot honestly say we are doing something within the spirit of the Law, when we are only doing lip service to it. We must be within the intent or spirit of the Law, rather than trying to find ways around the Law.  Follow, not avoid.

With the Summary of the Law, we are meant to follow the spirit of the Law, which actually is to love God with all of our hearts souls and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we act in this spirit we are following the Summary of the Law or the framework for all of the other moral laws in the Bible. We have to think of whether our actions are following within in this spirit of the Law whenever we set out to do something. We must judge it by these two and see whether it is a righteous action and within the spirit of the Law or not. If it isn’t, then we should not do it. If it is, then we should do it. 

In the Epistle, we are reminded God chose Abraham not because he complied with The Law, for the Law was far into the future.  God chose Abraham because he had faith, put his trust in God and desired to follow Him. These characteristics are to be a model for us as Christians. Have faith and put your trust in God and desire to follow Him to the best of your abilities.   The Law was an aid to man to help him be better when he had difficulty following God’s Will.  

If we do the same and put our trust in God, we will be able to perform the laudable service He so desires for the rest of our days. We have to keep this continuous process of faith and trust going. The best way to do that is to learn and absorb the Scriptures as a whole, to see the large picture of what He wants for us. The Law is a small part of the large picture, when we see how it ties into the New Testament, we have a far better understanding of what God wants in our lives, as individuals. Once you see how it fits into the larger picture, then you can see how your actions are part of the much larger picture of God’s Plan.  That is to follow the Great Commission, to spread the Gospel of our Lord, which will improve the lives of those who truly believe upon Him and bring true Happiness throughout the globe.

However, not everyone on the globe will follow Him, and they will not be truly happy as a result. An example of this are the Pharisees; religious lawyers who specialized in the 613 Mosaic Laws, which brought them death, not life.  Their job was to help people not break The Law without unduly interfering with their lives by forcing them to embrace the intent of The Law.

When the Pharisee of the Gospel asked Jesus what he should do to gain eternal life, the Pharisee correctly summarized The Law: Love God; Love your neighbor.  He would have been fine had he stopped there.  But, he had to show the Son how smart he was.  In doing so, the lawyer was about to learn the first lesson of lawyering, ‘Never ask a question to which you don’t know the answer.’  So, he asked, ‘Who is my neighbor?’  The answer, of course, is everyone but you; the rest of humanity.  But, as was often the case, Jesus presented the story of the injured man helped by the Samaritan, then asked, Who was neighbor to the injured man?
                                                                                                                                                        
The priest and the Levite would not see the injured man; there are none so blind as those who will not see.  They could or would not follow the second commandment of the Summary of the Law, of loving they neighbor as thyself. What ever the reason it ended in the same result, they turned their heads away and walked by not even thinking of the injured man and his suffering. They were too prideful to see the truth of loving they neighbor. They were too wrapped up in the riches and cares of this world. 

The material things of this world are temporary and they have blinded and ensnared many. This is the reason the Jews have not yet come to Christ and will not come to Christ. They care too much about the symbolic rituals of their Temple and are blind without the Holy Ghost. They are very much like many churches of today in that respect, caring about their position on Earth more than following God’s clearly stated will.  Focusing on this world, which is only a temporary state, is a foolish and fleeting thing. Things on this earth will corrupt and rust and pass away; but things in Heaven and life in Heaven will never corrupt and pass away. We should focus on things eternal, not on things temporary.  What they should focus on is their eternal life. While they claim to know the concept of Heaven, they truly do not know it or believe in it per se.  For it is action that demonstrates and validates claimed belief.

The Jews cared only about not breaking The Law on Earth and hoping that flawed concept would bring them salvation. No matter how they followed it, they could not obtain salvation on their own. The missing link to their solution was one that has been here since The Creation: Jesus Christ. They are searching for Him, but they cannot find Him, as He is right under their noses. He is right in front of them, but they will not see Him as their Messiah. So, they are doomed to always looking for Him, but never being able to find Him until they open up their spiritual senses. This is the problem with the World as well. They search for the answers He provides, but they will not acknowledge Him or His solutions.

The world would be better off if they learned the lesson the lawyer learned in today’s Gospel. You will also note the Samaritan, one of those separated from the chosen mass of Judaism, did his duty.  When he left the injured man at the inn, having given the innkeeper roughly two days wages, he said, “Do what need be done, if I owe more I will pay when I pass by next.”  You will note, he put no limit on his duty, he just committed to doing what needed to be done, regardless of cost.  

The lawyer to his credit answered honestly, “He that shewed mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Right is not a matter of quantum; it is not a matter of majority rules or public opinion; actions speak louder than words. 

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
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, wherein we ask God who is … more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask …

For the first time in a long time, this collect acknowledges we are continually pray to God, asking Him for what WE want.  Yet, how oft do we listen to Him when He responds with what we need?[1]  If we will listen to Him and DO what He asks, He will give us more than we have need of, more than we ask for, more than we can even desire. The point of the collect is that He has unlimited resources for this and also able to forgive us for things bearing on our conscience. Yet, it requires us to listen to Him, then ACT[2] on what we are told.  When we ask His forgiveness, when He gives it, we need to accept it and live it; if we live in the past, we never will benefit. We have to accept it in the present. The present is the only realm of time in which we have any control of our actions and thoughts and can influence people around us.  We cannot influence things in the past or in the future, we can only do our part in the here and now. The Line of Time stretches from the unfathomable past, back to The Beginning, all the way to the unknowable future, all the way to The End.  God is in both places all the time, thus He knows The Beginning, as well as The End.  But, where God’s finger touches that line lies The Present.  Right now; where we live; the only place we, as humans, can live.

We can change the future through our actions. The future is always in motion and can change depending on our actions in the present. However, we cannot influence the past, which stays static and cannot be changed. Therefore, it is useless to concentrate on the past.  However, we can learn valuable lessons from the past and use those when we are applying our actions towards the future. We can only of course help change the future the right way if we have the Holy Ghost in our hearts. We need to be constantly moving forward. Tomorrow will never arrive, we are always in today and that is where our actions can be effective. Let us not wait until tomorrow to act, for it may not arrive. Let us accept His Forgiveness now, today and go forth and act.

We will receive the Holy Ghost into our hearts if we accept Him. God offers His Help to us, but we can only have it if we accept His Help. If we don’t accept His Help, we can never have the Holy Ghost into our hearts.  He gives us the power to act in the spirit of The Law.  The Law, or actually 613 little laws, turned out to be in of itself a death sentence.  The Jews could not, or would not, comply with the 613 Mosaic Laws, which brought them death.  The Law brought Death, but the New Testament of Jesus Christ brought to us Life, true everlasting life.

The Jews only cared about not violating the Law, not about the spirit of the Law which was intended. They were more concerned with following the letter of the Law. However, following the spirit of the Law is what counts.  Following the letter of the law does not by itself save you. To following what the Law was meant for, you have to follow the spirit or the intent of the Law. Jesus is the ultimate embodiment of the Law. As the embodiment of the Law, He gave us the important bits of the law, when He gave us the Summary of The Law, which through Him would bring life, everlasting life and happiness here on earth.

T
HOU shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Only two laws to comply with, which though simpler, are harder:

1.     Love God
2.     Love your neighbor like yourself

If you do those two things, you will not need much instruction in the moral laws. For all the moral laws that God devised hangs around those two keystones, Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  Abiding by those two principles will greatly improve not just your life, but the lives of other people Christian and non-Christian around you. It may even lead the latter group to Christ. This is the true spirit of the Law which we are meant to follow. Christ wants us to not just follow the letter, but follow the spirit, which is more important than the letter. If we do these things, with the help of the Holy Ghost, then we are in good shape.

The two laws are seemingly contrary to our sinful nature, but with the help of the Holy Ghost, they can be overcome. And they are also both things that will greatly improve our lives here on Earth. If not in a monetary sense, most certainly our lives will be improved spiritually if we follow the Summary of the Law. If you understand the Big Picture, you know what to do on your part of the Little Picture to make your world line up with His World. The easiest way to do this is to accept the help of the Holy Ghost and align your little picture with God’s picture or the Scriptures.

The problem is just like the Jews, we cannot perfectly follow those either. Because we come from the same common ancestor, Adam, we have the curse of free will. We often exercise this free will poorly, rather than in the way God intended, which is to focus on Him.  But we can at least do our very best to follow those directions and change course whenever we aren’t headed in the right direction.  That is where the Holy Ghost is so useful for us, inputting change of course corrections to us. We just need to listen to His input and then act upon it accordingly.

In the Gospel, Jesus helped a deaf man with an impediment of speech. This is very much a metaphor for our own sinful selves. We are deafened by our state of being sinful beings and without the help of God, cannot hear His call and commands. We need Him in our hearts to heal us of our spiritual dirtiness and deafness. We have a speech impediment in that we often utter incorrect or outright sinful words in our day to day lives. We are asking for Him to heal us of both spiritual impediments. Without His Help, we cannot be cleared of our spiritual deafness and uncleanliness.

Like that deaf man, if we will allow Him into our hearts, Jesus Christ will clean our hearts from the bacteria that causes the spiritual deafness and uncleanliness. That is to say sin. The key phrase here is that we have to allow Him into our hearts.  He won’t come in uninvited; we have to of our own will, willingly invite Him in. Only then can He start the cleansing process. Only with a continual, conscious effort, can He dwell within our hearts and save us. It is through His faith, His sacrifice we are saved, but we must show that we are with Him, by acting for Him. This is a continuous process that will go on for the rest of our earthly lives.

Doing our best is all that God asks of us, not just saying we are doing our best when we aren’t.  But, happily for us Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf accounts us as just before God.  So, now we know that, who do we tell about it?  Do we let people know, or do we hide our allegiance to the Lord?   If you hide your allegiance, you really have none.  Thus, we must be open about our allegiance and share the Good News with others, so they in time may come to seek the joys of His Kingdom. They may not understand right away, but the seed of the Lord may germinate and grow within them, so that within due course they may understand the Word and come to seek Him. A seed does not instantly become a large sycamore tree, it takes years of watering and good sunshine for the plant to grow into the large tree. It is the same with us, it takes years of good spiritual food and drink (Holy Scripture and the Holy Ghost) and of being with fellow believers who are learning along with you to grow spiritually. We have to remember this every time we bring the Word to an audience who may not have received much nurturing. We may not see results right away, but the Holy Spirit will plant the seed and over the years, with constant nurturing, that seed will grow into a great Sycamore tree of the Spirit.

The Holy Ghost is a large part of our spiritual lives. Without Him, we could not be considered one of Christ’s sheep. We have to let Him into our hearts and lead the transforming and renewal of our minds. Without His help, we cannot adequately follow Him. In other words, we are doomed without the help of the Holy Ghost, who will give us His guidance and advice in conducting our church, professional and personal lives.

When Jesus opened the ears and mouth of the deaf mute, He did for him what the Holy Ghost will do for us  If we will but let Him open first our ears to hear, then our mouths to testify, communicate and direct.  We must lead people to God, not try to push them.  Thus, we need to strive, each of us, to follow God more closely so we can pull on the lead rope.  Leading requires being in front of the people you are attempting to lead, having them follow your example towards an objective.  Study Jesus’ life, He is a perfect example of a leader.  We cannot ever be perfect, but we can strive for that perfection in our actions.

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


[1] Herein lies another problem.  If we pray, it seems we continually pray for what we want and we oft want things that are contrary to our actual needs.  Imperfect creatures with free will, a bad combination in itself, we continually use and understand in our hearts two words: need and want, to mean the same thing; when in fact they often mean two diametrically opposed things.  Thus, amongst other things and perhaps before, we need to pray for the Holy Ghost to help us to understand the difference and ask for what we need.
[2] Here we are again, back to the old Action, not Diction, is what counts!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
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 from the Collect, wherein we ask God … who declarest thy almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity; Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure; …

Once again, this Collect is kind of a follow-on to the last few weeks’ Collects.  First, we acknowledge God’s power which is manifested not in terror but in mercy and pity on our failures. We note that God has chosen to use His great power to grant kindness to us and not punishment upon us which we truly deserve, due to our corrupted nature. This is important to note; with all the power in and of the universe, God chooses to manifest His Power in showing infinite mercy and kindness to us, not in causing us more tears. He is far kinder to us than we could ever possibly deserve. We do not at all deserve what He has given us, with the death and resurrection of His Son, the gift of eternal life.  He has truly bestowed upon us a limitless, priceless gift.We would expect Him to be otherwise, given our fallen nature.  Rather than be unforgiving and unmerciful, He is there to comfort and help us.  He showed us His Great Mercy when He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. He had no reason otherwise to do it, but through His Great Mercy for us, He sent His Son to die for us that we might be freed from sin. This is a wonderful example of His Mercy.  He does not act as a human would in His position, but rather being a merciful and mindful God to us. He realizes our struggles and gives us resources to us to help with those struggles. The Holy Ghost and the Scriptures are these resources. They are our valuable navigation aids to keep us on the course towards heaven. Without them we are like the aviator or mariner, that without the navigational aids, they are hopelessly lost. So too, are we hopelessly lost without the aids of the Holy Ghost and Scripture.

Thus, the Collect goes on to ask His Help in following His Commandments so we might gain the good that comes from that following. Which will come if we but actually follow His Word. Following requires active action.  And we would hope that we recognize the good that comes from that acting and choose to continue to act for Him as opposed to our natural tendency to go astray. Following His Commandments is a sure way to stay on the course set for us, if we follow the Scriptures and His Commandments and take them to heart. To take them to heart we need to make sure our actions are consistent with His Commandments, and not just say we are following them when we are not.

As imperfect creatures with not just free will, but manifold, perhaps rampant free will, the norm is to choose what we want, not what we need, then we come to calamity.  We are each grievous sinners, some worse than others, none better.  Yet, we all come before God equal.  In equally big trouble, some more, none less. We are all equal by virtue of the fact we are hopeless sinners without the saving grace and faith of Christ.  It is only through His Faith we are saved.  And not our faith, but the faith of Christ who dwells within us.

This is the point Saint Paul is making when he says that first he gave unto us[1] that understanding he got directly from God as to the role of Jesus Christ.  He recounts some of the factual information about Jesus’ time here on earth after the crucifixion, the descent into hell and the resurrection. He is confirming the story of the Gospel as told to him. He notes the various witnesses, still alive or recently passed away.  He makes the point we must spread the Gospel so that others might believe.  He tells us we are saved by faith alone. 

Our faith?  Partly, but not chiefly and not first. Then, by whose faith are we saved?

We are saved by the perfect faith of Christ, our only mediator and advocate before the Father.  It is not by our faith, but the faith of Him who dwells within us, that of Christ. Without Christ, we could not have any faith to begin with. The perfect faith of Christ allowed a single sacrifice to be made one time, to cook the books and account for the sins of all mankind for all time.  His is the faith which saves us and our faith in Him allows Him to operate in us. If we do not have faith in Him, He cannot enter into us with His faith. That is why those who do not have the Holy Ghost in them do not believe in Him.  One of Paul’s points in today’s Epistle was that if he, the previous Chief Persecutor of the church could be saved by Jesus that option was available to each of us.  Anybody who is able and willing to can be saved by Jesus. They just need to repent and turn back to Him. All we need to do is repent and follow.  Thus, we need to Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way towards Christ and God’s grace.

It is a simple concept that people do not want to comprehend. As I have mentioned in some of my past sermons, people just do not want the easy answer. They want somehow a more complicated, more convoluted answer that they can get around. This simple answer is one that we cannot get around in a Pharisee manner, no how hard we try. Believe in God, the Holy Ghost, Lord Jesus, repent, spread the Gospel and live the life of the New Man, using Paul phraseology. It’s a simple truth. The truth is often simple, people just do not want to hear a simple truth. They would rather deal with something more complicated that they can water down. This simply truth however, they cannot water down, so they avoid it. This is what it boils down to and what most people do not want to hear. We are to spread this News anyway, and if it is rejected, shake the dust off of our feet and move on. We cannot and should not force this message on anybody.

The other point is that Jesus is real, He is Who He says He IS.  He is not a fictional character, he is not a great teacher.  He is THE SON OF GOD and He came to save us: body, heart, mind and soul.  There is no other way to view Him that makes as perfect sense as this[2]. Just as we are real sinners, He is a real Savior. You cannot have the Holy Spirit within you and say that He is not the Son of God. Likewise, you cannot say He is the Son of God without the Holy Ghost in you.

If that is not enough to turn your heart, consider the parable of the publican and the Pharisee related by Saint Luke.  The man who was proud of his performance was not the example Jesus chose for the one justified, rather the one who acknowledged his failures and asked God for forgiveness and help. This is to point us as an example of who we should be like.  And I can say with confidence it is not the Pharisee. Think of these examples and who would we rather be like, the publican, or the Pharisee?  Remember, the Pharisee’s job consisted of finding clever ways around the 613 Mosaic Laws.  The publican was looking for help in actually following two:

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith.

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HOU shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.    BCP Page 69

And, just as importantly, he was not looking for ways around those two laws, he was looking for help to follow God and forgiveness when he fell short.   In our day to day lies, let us strive to be more like the publican and less like the Pharisee.

Let us ask God for the help we need to follow His Will.  For we must have His Help to act as we must here on earth!

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



[1] Though Paul was writing to the people of Corinth, the information is just as applicable to us, perhaps more so now than ever before.
[2] This is the Trilemma of Jack Lewis in Mere Christianity - I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.