Verse of the Day

Sunday, April 23, 2017

First Sunday after Easter

If you like this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!

Sermon - Rev Hap Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and Scriptural readings for this week. 
Consider these words from the Collect:

… given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth

In the Collect, we acknowledge by the sacrifice made on Good Friday by the One and Only Perfect Man, a single sacrifice, made one time, for all mankind, for all time by our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Christ of God, we have eternal life.  Malice and wickedness are pervasive; like leavening, that is yeast, mixed into bread dough, they permeate our being, worming their way into the most remote corners of our souls, hearts and minds. Tiny, wanting only to be fed so they can grow and distort our being.  We need God’s Help, in the form of the Holy Ghost, to root out all malice and wickedness so we might serve Him with pure souls, hearts and minds.  Without that help, we are destined to fail.  On the other hand, with God’s help all things are possible.

In his general Epistle, Saint John continues that thought that without God’s help, that is being re-born in Him, as Saint Paul says, becoming or putting on the New Man, we are destined to failure.   Saint John makes it clear the entity we refer to as God is a Triune Being, that is Three in One; Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  What he does not make clear is the relationship between the Three.  But, that is not surprising, no place else is it really clear either.  God is comprised of three separate entities who are of one substance and form a single entity, each has its function.  Jesus Christ is our key to life and the Holy Ghost is our key to understanding and accepting Jesus Christ.  Christ, who was there at the beginning, will be there at our end; the Holy Ghost who breathed life into this world is our key to finding Christ in our hearts.  God has made it so.

The Holy Ghost is not often talked about in the church, yet He is the key to understanding.  God sent us the Holy Ghost that we might have:

·      Comfort
·      Understanding
·      Patience
·      Insight
·      Perseverance
·      Courage
·      Understanding
·      Sympathy

He is our key to finding Jesus in our souls, hearts and minds.  Without His Guidance, Scripture seems a poorly written fairy tale, with His Guidance we find Truth, the Truth that is our Lord and Savior.  

When John relates the story of Jesus coming in to the Upper Room, note three things:

·      He came into a closed room in bodily form;
·      Then gave them His Peace;
·      He breathed the Holy Ghost upon them.

The entry into the closed room is of interest.  When we leave the Shadowlands, we will gain an optimized body with shape and form, but as Jesus demonstrated things are different in the Real World.  Different can be better or worse.  In this case, He demonstrates the better.  We will no longer be halt, blind and maimed, we will live as God has meant for us.  Quite a nice feeling.

Jesus gave them His Peace.  Not peace like the hippies, or “sex, drugs and rock and roll.”  This is a totally different concept.  Jesus brings us, like those disciples, the peace of mind and soul which comes with giving all our worry, sadness and terror to Him.  He leaves in His wake not confusion, but order and wellbeing.  With Him in our hearts we cannot fail at anything that needs be done.  His Peace.  This is a thing not lightly thought of.  It is certainly not the hand shaking service interrupting greeting of some churches.  They say ‘peace’ when they mean ‘hi.’  This Peace is what we are looking for and have been looking for since we came into this world, for it is our passport out.

That brings us to the Holy Ghost.  He is the breath of life, not just physical, whereas to die is to “give up the Ghost”, which really means to have our soul leave our body for heaven.   He is our spiritual life, for without Him in our souls, hearts and minds we cannot see the narrow road to the summit.  Without Him we see only the broad even way which gently curves downward and gets smoother and smoother as it nears the Pit.   The Holy Ghost is the key to knowing our Lord!

Without the Holy Ghost, we are lost.  With Him we find and join Jesus and are found.  Then we can act accordingly and enjoy our time here on earth to the extent it is to be enjoyed.  

For there is much joy and satisfaction to be found in proper action.

When the time comes, how will you ACT?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!

Sermon - Rev Hap Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and Scripture readings for this week. 

Today is Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The central event of not only the Christian Year; but of Christianity and the entire world.  Witness the terms AD and BC.  Anno Domini (the year of our Lord) and Before Christ.  Even the politically correct BCE - CE (that is to say, Before Common Era and Common Era) divides time at the birth of our Lord.  Even those who fall in that trap must recognize Him!

When you google images for the term Easter, you find 95 percent of the images, eggs, bunnies and chocolates.  That is NOT our celebration. That is NOT what Easter is about. Easter is not about finding goodies inside plastic shells. The Christian year has four main celebrations. Christmas celebrates the incarnation or human birth of Jesus, the Christ of God.  Epiphany celebrates His revealing to the Gentiles, that would be us!  Good Friday remembers, the word celebrate hardly fits here, the one time sacrifice for all mankind for all time by our Lord and Savior (that is where the word savior comes in) that we might be accounted as perfect when we stand before Him at the final judgment day.  Today, Easter is, in Spanish La Resurreccion, in English The ResurrectionThe Return to Life of Jesus, Christ of God, who returned from death, from Hell, to deliver His promise of eternal life in person!

Consider these words from the Collect:

… Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect…

In the Collect, we acknowledge by the sacrifice made on Good Friday by the One and Only Perfect Man, a single sacrifice, made one time, for all mankind, for all time by our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Christ of God, we have eternal life.  We no longer our bound to the rules of the Old Covenant whereby animal sacrifices were required. These sacrifices have never worked, as they could not provide what Christ provided in His Sacrifice. He provided a body free and unblemished from the tarnishes of sin. He was truly the perfect Lamb without blemish or spot. This would allow Him to stand in our place. He truly took our place upon the cross of sin literally and figuratively. By Jesus Christ overcoming death, we through Him, are no longer under the threat of death of our eternal soul in the Pit.  No longer can anyone condemn us to death, they may destroy our bodies, but we live on in Him and through Him in Heaven.  With an acknowledgement of the fact God sent His Son to be our Savior giving us eternal life, we go on to ask His Help so our hearts might desire good and with that Help put those desires into action so that we might accept that eternal life offered us by that same Jesus Christ.  That is what that preventing is all about.  Today we think of the word as meaning stopping something, but it also means going before one, as in this case God’s special or particular grace preparing the way for us by changing our hearts to desire what is good for us rather than things we often want that are bad for us in the end.  Without Him to smooth the road, we will not make it.

Paul then tells us, if we say we are with Christ, we must act with Him.  The Sacrifice He made for us is not free. There is no free lunch, nor in this case is there a free ticket to Heaven. There is a continual debate in many denominations whether we are saved by faith alone, or by good works. Our answer to this debate must make it clear that only the faith of Jesus can save us, His faith, not ours; then our faith in Him, our belief, our trust, in Him, not in our own selves.  If we have faith, we have to firstly believe, and if we truly believe, we will of necessity back up that claimed faith with actions or works so to speak.  So, we are saved by our faith, but our faith requires operative action upon our part. We must continually seek to better ourselves by setting our sights on Him in Heaven and guiding our actions by Him, by associating with others likeminded.  We must turn our backs on this earth if we truly face heaven.  We must use Jesus as our compass, for looking to ourselves results only in confusion.  As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:24, One cannot serve two masters.” We must choose Him or Mammon. I know which one I choose, hopefully you do as well. 

When we come to Holy Week, we find a triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, triumphant in the eyes of the beholders, beholders who really have no clue what this is all about.  The crowd, with some of the same people who later condemned Him, welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with the expectation He came to free them from the Roman yoke, to hold them up, to put their feet on the Romans’ necks.  Yet, He knew where He was going and what would happen. He was in control of the situation.  He knew what was going to happen. He would not have set the plan in motion if He didn’t know it would work. He knew that the end result would be a success, but He also knew that there would be incredible pain and suffering involved on the road to His resurrection.

As He saw the road ahead was filled with obstacles, the pain and suffering, so too, do we know that it will be filled with hard times and suffering also. But like He, we must persevere on the straight and narrow path, refusing to ever give up. He never gave up on us, why would we give up on Him?  When we are in trying and very difficult circumstances let us remember Our Lord’s circumstances. When those who had followed Him abandoned Him, including Peter who denied him three times. Add to this being betrayed by one of those He had included in the ranks of the Apostles, who had been seduced by the greed of earthly treasures. Then on top of this, His unfair trial, then His painful death upon the cross for us all. Then He had to descend into Hell and do battle with the Devil.

Compared to all of this, are any of our circumstances even close? Can any of them truly compare to the sadness, despair and agony our Lord felt in Holy Week, with the Dramatic Conclusion on Good Friday. The answer is no, no matter how hard and trying our circumstances are, we cannot even come close to the magnitude of pain He felt. We must remember how hard things were during this week for Him, especially as He knew precisely what would happen to Him.

The week built towards the First Day of the First Week of the New Covenant.   Jesus knew what He was doing.

Reflect on this, during World War II on D-Day, the first waves were National Guard and new recruits.  No veterans of Torch, Norway or Dieppe.  Why?  Because all the soldiers were patriots and all were ready to defend their country; but like Peter, the new guys did not know what that really meant.

Crucifixion, a cruel painful death.  Painful beyond our comprehension.  Think about the mechanics of being nailed to a cross.  Think about that.  Then think about the descent into hell to do battle with the devil.  Think about that.  No matter what you imagine, like D-Day the reality exceeded the expectation.  

Yet Jesus, being God, knew exactly[1] what He was volunteering for.  And He rode towards the sound of gunfire with full and certain knowledge of His Death and also of His Resurrection. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  John 15.13

Jesus went with full knowledge aforethought where no one would go – FOR YOU, FOR ME, FOR US.  That is Good Friday’s lesson. 

Today, The Resurrection, Easter or as it is called in Spanish, Dia de la Resurreccion, is the day that the promise of everlasting life was delivered. It is the completion of the sacrifice He made for us on Good Friday, it is His triumphant return from the depths of Hell, having procured an eternal victory for all of those who would truly follow Him and act upon His name. He went for us with full knowledge of where no one but Him would go, so that we may have eternal life. Dwell on that and think of how much love He truly has for us, that he went and endured significant and terrible emotional pain for us.

This one perfect sacrifice, one time, for all time and for all mankind was made for YOU.  All you need to do to get the benefit is follow Christ.  So, what does that mean?  See John 14.23:  Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

It is not attending church that makes you a Christian, it is doing what He asks of you.  Going to church just gives you help and encouragement.  It makes you part of a team, part of a coherent unit.  After all, the more people there are in a group like the church, the more stable it will be. And more stable also will our spiritual lives be if we have friends and family involved in it as well, to keep us on that straight and narrow path.

Today, you have a choice, just like every day.  Today you can be a Chreaster, that is one who celebrates Christmas and Easter and does not live the life or you can be a Christian.  One who follows Christ. There is a difference between the two and it is big. The key in the difference is actions and faith. You have to have faith in Our Lord and you have to act for our Lord. This will determine if you are a Christian truly or only one in name.

If you choose being a Christian, be prepared for constant failure and shortfall of goal.  So long as you do your best and never give up Christ will account you as perfect when it counts.

Today, the first day in Eternity or another day off your life towards death.  Your choice.  Jesus made His, you make yours.

When the time comes, how will you ACT?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

[1] This is so very important to remember, Jesus knew EXACTLY what He was doing.  Yet, He did it anyway.  He went through with all of this knowing ALL.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday of Holy Week

Holy Saturday

The Jewish Council remembers Jesus' vow to return and has the tomb guarded and sealed with a heavy stone. Second day of death. From the time Jesus left his body on the cross until the resurrection, little is known.  It is said in the Apostle’s Creed that “He descended into hell”, where he did battle with the Devil for our souls, a battle the Devil was destined to lose.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Holy Week

The Sunday next before Easter commonly called Palm Sunday, the start of “Holy Week” and a time that most people just associate with the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. 

Holy Week
The Sunday next before Easter is commonly referred to as Palm Sunday.  The period between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday is often referred to as Holy Week.  Most churchgoing people go to church on Palm Sunday, then to church on Easter Sunday. It’s a fairly uplifting time with not a lot of thinking. On Palm Sunday Jesus makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. On Easter Sunday there’s the joyous resurrection. What’s not to like about that?

The thing is, there is a tremendous amount that goes on between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, not all of it joyous, in fact most of it is pretty scary or sad.   The beginning of the week was wonderful; in the end the week was even more wonderful.  In between was a series of ups and downs the ups a little high and the downs very very deep. It is important to remember as you go through Holy Week that Jesus was in control of all the events of the week.  The week starts with the Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem and ends with the death of the Savior on the Cross and the burial of his body in the tomb.  It is a week of ups and downs without parallel, the ups a little high and the downs very very deep, deep as Hell you might say, and precedes the most joyous day of the year, the Day of the Resurrection or Easter Sunday.

Jesus has a triumphant entry into the city on the First Day of the Week (Sunday); on Thursday night he celebrates the Passover with his disciples in the Upper Room, he prays and agonizes over what he knows is coming in the garden of Gethsemane; Judas betrays him early Friday morning, his most trusted disciple denies him, not once but three times before the cock crew; the Jews condemn him to Pilate who in turn orders him to be beaten and humiliated; that does not satisfy the Jews and at their request, Pilate condemns a man he knows to be innocent to a horrible death to pacify the crowd of Jews assembled by the priests; Jesus is crucified, asks John to take care of his mother and gives up the ghost; his body is taken down and buried; the disciples are dispersed and discouraged; they have listened to their Lord, but not understood.

Think of this week from the disciples’ perspective, on the first day they enter with their leader into Jerusalem in triumph; mid-week they celebrate the joyous feast of the Passover, then their leader is betrayed, defends himself not and is killed.  At the time they surely could not think of this as a Holy Week and certainly not a Good Friday.  Yet on the first day of the week that follows, our Lord is Risen, Risen indeed and delivers the promise of salvation in person.

It is important to remember as you go through Holy Week that Jesus was in control of all the events of the week.

What a week!

Palm Sunday
The name Palm Sunday comes from the palm leaves, along with clothing and other honors strewn along Jesus’ path as He came in to Jerusalem the first day of the week before His crucifixion.  Of interest, only Jesus knew of the upcoming crucifixion, every one else, including Jews, Romans and the Christians, thought he was making a triumphant entrance in to the city to take control of things and kick the Roman occupation force out. The moon was almost full, this was the year of the Messiah according to Daniel.  Jesus chose the route into the city, through the King’s Gate.  The people saw Him coming and met him at the Mount of Olives.  They expected Him to come in and proclaim His rule.  And that He did, but not in the way the people were looking for.     Those who thought of Him as Lord looked for a Kingdom of this World to be established. Sunday was a day of triumph and fulfilled the anticipation of the Jews of a day for which they had waited four centuries.  The Messiah had finally come, at the time predicted by scripture.  They were certain that He would free them from the burdensome and cruel yoke of Roman rule.  The Jews would finally be on top of the power pyramid.  They would rule the world under Him!  Yet, that was not to be.  The day in the temple!  Holy Cow!  Here their savior was throwing people out of the temple, not throwing the Romans out of Jerusalem.  They were sad to learn He came not to rule this world, for that time was not yet come; He came to give them the key to eternal salvation.  He came to take them from this veil of tears to a state of perfect freedom.  They wanted someone to throw the Romans out and all God sent them was the key to eternal life.  What a disappointment!

On Monday, Jesus preached in the Temple and further distanced Himself from the people’s vision and demonstrated God’s vision.  He went in to the temple and through out the vendors selling “sacrificial” birds and animals at exorbitant cost, as well as the moneychangers, changing Roman money for Temple money dishonestly.  Far from announcing Himself head of the temple, He announced they had made His Father’s house a den of thieves.  Rather than working within the Jewish establishment, He over turned it!

Jesus and the Pharisees dispute in the Temple. He left for the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. There he delivers the “Mount of Olives Discourse”. Judas agrees to betray him to the Jewish priests for 30 pieces of silver.

The Sanhedrin was gathered together and decided to kill Jesus, even before Pesach if possible. In the meantime, Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper. Here he was anointed on his head by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, with very expensive ointment of spikenard. Some of the disciples, particularly Judas Iscariot, keeper of the purse, were indignant about this; the oil could have been sold to support the poor.  “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.”  In this case, Judas recalls to mind many politicians.  Jesus reminded them of the importance of first things first and the futility of giving, rather than helping, when He said in Matthew 26.11 “For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.”  Judas went to the Sanhedrin and offered them his support in exchange for silver. From this moment on Judas was looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus. Judas spied on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane where he came on his plan.

Maundy Thursday
At the Passover Feast, Jesus and his disciples share the “Last Supper” and He washes their feet. Jesus blesses his bread and wine as his flesh and blood and shares it with his disciples, the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. As Paul tells us in his First Letter to the Corinthians, “…the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”

At this same dinner, the disciples manage to quarrel over who should be the boss of who.  Jesus tells them he came in the role of a servant, as He is their master, their role is likewise that of servants.  In a move designed to reveal both His knowledge aforehand and our frailty, He tells Peter that Peter will deny Him thrice fore the cock croweth, or dawn breaks.  Peter, a loyal follower, denies what will be shown as clear fact.  Remember the further you let yourself get from the Lord, the weaker you are.  Weakness grows with the cube of the distance.  Stay close.

As the dinner goes on, Jesus tells them one of them will betray Him.  Not able to grasp that any of them would literally betray Him, each asks, “Is it I?”  Judas knows.

Jesus tells the disciples things are heating up, counsels them to arm themselves and goes out to pray in the garden of Gethsemane.  Disciples come with Him, despite their best efforts, they fall asleep.  Night has long fallen, the end of the day is near by our reckoning.  The end is near for Jesus here on earth.  Even nearer for Judas.

Good Friday
Good Friday was the day in which Jesus was tried by the Jews, tried by Pilate, condemned, crucified, died and was buried[1].  Except in hindsight, this was not a Good Friday at all.

In the early hours before sunup, Jesus is betrayed by the “Judas Kiss” and arrested. At sunrise, he is disowned by Peter thrice before the cock croweth. When brought before Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest, and his Council, he is condemned. He says that he will rise from death after three days.

They hand him over to the Roman authority, Pontius Pilate, who sends him to Herod (Antipas, the son of Herod the Great). Then Pilate asks the crowd who he is to pardon: a murderer, or Jesus? The crowd chooses Barabas and Jesus is sentenced to death. Pilate’s actions made famous the line, “I wash my hands of this.”  While he might have attempted to wash the guilt for the murder of the world’s one truly innocent man on to the Jews, he remains the one who condemned him to death.  Pilate was nothing if not a politician and bureaucrat.  The condemnation was to him the simplest solution to the problem of a Jewish hierarchy’s manufactured crowd’s anger.  What was the death of one Jew to him?  Yet he was worried enough to attempt to wash his hands of the guilt.

Jesus is brought to Calvary, where on the “third hour” (9 am) he is crucified. He is mocked as he hangs between the Bad Thief and the Good Thief, whom he blesses. On the “sixth hour” (noon), darkness covers the land. Jesus cries out “My God, My God, hast Thou forsaken Me? ”

After drinking wine, he commits his spirit to his Father and dies. Matthew reports an earthquake that destroys the Temple. Many understand now that Jesus was the Son of God. His body is taken down and anointed. He is buried in a new tomb donated by Joseph of Arimethea. This is the first day of death.

Holy Saturday
The Jewish Council remembers his vow to return and has the tomb guarded and sealed with a heavy stone. His followers stay in the “Easter Vigil”. Second day of death.

Easter Sunday
On the third day of death, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary find the tomb empty, but for an angel who tells them Jesus is already resurrected and is on His way to Galilee. On their way to tell the others, Jesus appears to them.  Death is conquered, the Promise delivered.  Our lives from this day forward are eternal!

Think about the Week that was!
The reason Jesus came to Jerusalem at the Passover was to take the place of the yearly sacrifice by one perfect sacrifice, one time, for all time and for all mankind. His was the blood marking our door that the destroyer might pass over.  The week started on a triumphant note and ended up trying to do between there were windows into the future, glimpses of the past, moments of despair, moments of terror, moments of confusion; but in the end joy and the ultimate triumph.

[1] The tomb was a new one which had been hewn for Joseph of Arimathea.  Joseph, a native of Arimathea, was apparently a man of wealth, and probably a member of the Sanhedrin an "honourable counsellor, who waited (or "was searching") for the kingdom of God", according to John, he was secretly a disciple of Jesus. As soon as he heard the news of Jesus' death, he "went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus." Pilate, reassured by a centurion that the death had really taken place, allowed Joseph's request. Joseph immediately purchased fine linen and went to Golgotha to take the body down from the cross. There, assisted by Nicodemus, he took the body and wrapped it in the fine linen, sprinkling it with the myrrh and aloes that Nicodemus had brought. The body was then conveyed to the new tomb in rock in his garden nearby. There they laid it, in the presence of Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and other women, and rolled a great stone to the entrance, and departed. This was done speedily, "for the Sabbath was drawing on". Joseph of Arimathea appears in some early New Testament apocrypha.

Although there are no written records until the fifth century, tradition holds Joseph of Arimethea, who provided the tomb for the burial of Jesus Christ, brought Christianity and the Holy Grail to England in 37 AD and built a church in Glastonbury in Somerset.