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Sunday, August 20, 2017
Tenth Sunday after Trinity
Sermon Reverend Jack Arnold – Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together.
Consider the words from the Collect, wherein we ask God to make us … be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and, that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee …
Once again, this Collect is kind of a follow-on to last week’s Collect. First, we ask God to hear our prayers, funny in that He always listens intently to us when we pray and we very seldom listen to Him when He answers. It is an odd paradox, He listens; we never seem to listen. It seems as if at times we should pray that we should listen; not Him, as He always listens! Nonetheless, we ask His help to ask for those things we need, not those things we want and are bad for us. We need to be humble when we ask.
What does that word mean?
According to the dictionary, to be HUMBLE means to be:
Modest - unassuming in attitude and behavior
Respectful - feeling or showing respect and deference toward other people
Lowly - relatively low in rank and without pretensions
These are three characteristics we cannot possess in our natural, sinful state. We otherwise might be like the Pharisees who would make a show of praying in public to appear pious when they were anything but. We however can obtain these characteristics by asking the Holy Ghost to bring these attitudes into our hearts, souls and minds. And not just asking, but we have to be willing to listen to what He says we should change within our lives. We have to be willing to adapt these different characteristics in our varying situations. We cannot change our station in life, but we can change our attitude towards God. He is God, we are not. We are His creatures, imperfect with free will. We must recognize that when we ask for His Help. We badly need the guidance from the Holy Ghost so we can ask for what we need, instead of what we want. NEED and WANT are two four letter words used too oft interchangeably which do not mean the same thing. People often use these four letter words erroneously, thinking they mean the same thing. They do not and cannot. Needs are vital for our spiritual health as well as physical health. Wants are nice things to have, but they are not vital for us to survive. When we think we “NEED” something, we have to ask if it fits the above definition “Is this vital for our ministry/life here on earth, or is it something just nice to have, but not a critical item?” We have to see if what we need is something we truly need, or just a want. Too many people do not perform this need analysis and as a result suffer for it physically and spiritually.
While our needs must be fulfilled, there is nothing wrong with wanting, just so long as you want things that are good for you. And as long as your want does not turn into coveting or wanting people’s stuff without being willing to work for it. We have to carefully monitor our wants and make sure they are good for us and we are wanting to work for whatever it is we want. We have to make sure we are willing to acquire the things we are wanting honestly and those things we are wanting should be good for us and not bad for our spiritual health. Once again, we are asking God to help us to want the right things that will be good for us and help us develop in our Christian lives. Paul reminds us though each believer is different, throughout all the believing peoples of the Church the same God, the same Spirit, the same Christ works all in all and through all His work is done and accomplished. When we are setting off to do work for the church, we have to keep in mind those believers we serve and help believe in the same God we do, and they are filled with the same spirit.
Paul reminds us we each have differing talents, but if we use them to the Glory of God, without concern for who gets the credit, all will be well. I can think of no finer example of this than the Marines serving on Peleliu with Eugene Sledge, in the 3rd Batallion/5th Marines. I was reading his memoir, With the Old Breed, when I realized in my reading, none of the Marines he served with cared a bit who got a credit, all they cared about was helping their fellow Marines accomplish the objective. They didn’t do what they felt like, at least not the good ones. They did what was right without thought as to who would get the credit. Their main thoughts were to work as a team to defeat the Japanese. We must work in the same manner with our fellow Christians, using each of our talents to further His work and to defeat the forces of Satan. God has given us all each unique talents to be used to further His Mission. Together, our talents can help us as the Body of Christ serve and glorify Him on Earth.
Do what you can, not what you feel like. Ignore what you feel like doing and do what God wants you to do. This can be pretty hard sometimes, but it is something that must be done all the same. We will profit from doing what God wants more than if we did what we just felt like doing. This is hard for us to grasp, but it will help us in the long term if we do what He asks, instead of doing what we want. What we feel like doing often does not align with what God wants for us, which can result in negative consequences for us. However, if we do what He wants for us, there will be positive results. It is a simple message, yet one that can be hard to swallow sometimes, but it is a message that must be swallowed all the same.
If you will but read the Bible, what God wants you to do will be clear. If you do your best to do His Will all will be well with you. Death is a pretty hollow threat if you do your duty. If you have done your best, that is at the end of the day, you have done your best to follow Him, then truly you have nothing to fear. The people of Jerusalem would not have been in the pickle they got in when 70AD came along, had they only done what God wanted. But, it was too hard for them. These were, of course, the descendants of the people who defied God in the wilderness for 40 years, they were a stubborn and stiff-necked people, blinded by their stubbornness to the need to change. They could not see what God wanted for them or now for us. In 70AD, what had been so hard earlier seemed pretty easy compared to the fix they were in, but by then it was too late. By then they were left with only “There are none so poor as cannot purchase a noble death.” But, for most of them by that time they had no will. It left when they failed to follow God’s Will.
It is an object lesson for us, to do what we can in the here and now and not worry about tomorrow. We shouldn’t complain if it is too hard for us, because being on God’s side, nothing is too hard for us. We should ignore these thoughts and turn our attention to what God wants for us. We must learn from the past mistakes of our spiritual forebears and resolve not to repeat those same mistakes. If we are ignorant of our spiritual past, we are doomed to make those very same mistakes. Ignoring or whitewashing history does not profit us as a people, but rather it leads us down the path that started those whole mistakes in the first place. History is history, it is in the past. It cannot be changed, but what can be changed is the future. And that can only be changed by learning from the past and doing our best to learn from the mistakes in the past, as well as the good examples from the past and pressing onward.
When Luke wrote of the sales in the temple, he had a point. The point was not to preclude jumble sales at church. He was not abhorring the sales, but the cheating in the name of God. This Gospel does literally preclude cheating people at those jumble sales! You must understand the temple hawkers were selling perfect defective “sacrificial lambs” which would be recycled over and over. In their very successful effort to make money they were defrauding the people and insulting God in His own House. It should also be pointed out that a church should be a place of worship. It may be a Prophet Center, but not a Profit Center. Similar sounding words, but a totally different meaning for the church. If the building needs constant commercial enterprise, then perhaps the emphasis is on the wrong center. All of these churches that emphasize quantity over quality should be suspect. It does not matter the quantity, as long as you have a base of quality believers who serve the One Triune God. We need to be concerned more about the spreading of His Word, the constant truth, then focusing on how many people we can attract, and how the message can be changed to suit them. These are both problems with the modern churches today. A church should be funded for its needs by its members and its wants should come much later, if not in fact unheeded. A church is about Him, not about IT. It should not be a self-licking ice cream cone, but a center to help the believers walk in Christ, not focusing on physical and material plant on earth, but on helping us on our own “Pilgrim’s Progress” towards heaven. If it focuses on anything but that, it is a stumbling block to believers. We are not called to be a stumbling block, but to be guides, to be lanterns shining in the darkness, to be as a light cloud amidst the darkness of this world.
Do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it. That is duty. It does not matter how you “feel” about black or white. Black is black; White is white. Do your duty. Work as hard as you can, do the best you can, trust in the Lord. By the way, cheat no one. If you follow that, you won’t need to be told, “Particularly in God’s House.”
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
 The concept of being truthful in the efforts we make to spread The Word is not a separate subject by any means, but would take more time to talk about than we have time for here. Suffice it to say that we must take every care to spread The Truth and not what our audience, whoever that may be, would like to hear. When we bring our “sacrifice” to the “temple” we need make certain it is in fact as perfect as we can make it. This is so hard that one of the recurring themes of the Collects is asking for guidance to ask for the right things.
 A term I first heard from Bishop Dennis Campbell in 2011. It was a great thought then and a great thought now!