Sunday, December 17, 2017
Third Sunday in Advent
The Third Sunday in Advent
LORD Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
The First Sunday in Advent
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.
In the Collect for the Third Sunday in Advent, we are referred to as the ministers and stewards (caretakers) of the mysteries of God: the Scriptures and His Word. We ask for help in getting the hearts of the disobedient, by the wisdom of the just, to turn and look to the Kingdom of God for answers and not this world. We are like unto John the Baptist preparing the way for Christ’s coming by preaching and preparing the path for Christ to begin his ministry. This is pretty much a similar theme to the rest of the collects, but it gets to the heart of the matter directly. It says that in order for us to follow God, we need our disobedient hearts to shift focus to that of being just, in order to be ready to follow Him. This world will not help us follow Him nor will their solutions help us to follow him. When we look to the world for solutions, we find the solutions of this world. This world, ruled by the Prince of this world, the Prince of Air, the devil himself! But, what will people think when we reject worldly solutions to worldly problems. There is an answer for that, conveniently following the Collect.
In the Epistle, Paul tells us not fear what others think of us, but rather be concerned about what God thinks of what we are doing and what direction He wants us to go in. This is a very hard concept for many people to act on, including myself. However, it is something that each and every one of us should be working towards. What God thinks of us is a more important standard to hold ourselves to than what the people in this world think of us. We are to look to heaven for the answers to our worldly problems, not to this world. The world’s solutions have been tried and found wanting, but heaven’s solutions are never wanting. The only failure is that of their implementation which is on us and not on God. We just need to have the willpower, which can get from the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, to implement these solutions around us.
Rather than fear man, we must fear God, and do what He wants us to do. Then perhaps maybe, some in this world will see what we are doing for Him and come to know Him and join Him. As I mentioned in previous sermons, we will never know how much and impact we have on others around us. It is on us to be good ambassadors of Christ and to make good and lasting positive impressions on everyone we encounter. It is very much like how we are to act when traveling for work. We are called to be good representatives of the company and our conduct reflects very much on the company we work for, or in this case, God. So, let us be the best representatives of God that we can be. Some people will not be receptive of course, so we must shake the dust off our boots and leave. But some people will be receptive and even those that aren’t, in time, might be open to hearing God’s message. We aren’t called to force God’s message on others, but to offer it if they wish to hear it. Otherwise, we must do our part to be polite and kind to others, believers and other sorts of believers/non-believers, be it at work, school or home. Following God’s ways, we will be a much happier people.
We will never get anywhere if we follow the ways of this world. As in John 1:11-13 He came unto His own and His Own received him not. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.
If we are born of God, then it is Him to whom we must return and not man. As the verse from John points out, even Jesus came to us and we refused him; how can we expect any better treatment from man, than that given God Himself, who came down for us? But the next part of the verse, tells us what we will get if we join with him. He gave us the power to become the Sons of God, as we are His adopted children. He is giving us our eternal inheritance, if we will but follow Him. We are going to get an absolutely wonderful reward, if we do our very best to follow Him. There is a distinct difference between saying you are doing your best and actually doing your best.
The treatment we receive in this world will pale in comparison to the treatment God will give us in the next world if we but do our very best to follow Him. He has given us the power to become the Sons of God; we are God’s adopted children. This is a power greater than any in this world not of God’s Hands. This is a power that cannot be taken from us, as we are tightly in God’s Hand. The enemy cannot pluck us out of God’s grasp, once we have willingly joined ourselves to God through the help of the Holy Ghost. We need the unifying spirit of the Holy Ghost to help us understand the concepts of Scripture; not only to understand them, but to follow them. With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can understand what we are to do; more than that, we will be able to apply the concepts we learn from Scripture to our everyday lives.
In the Gospel, Christ asks the crowd of what they expected to see? Some great big flashy sign He was going to overthrow the Romans and unite the Jews to conquer the world? No! He did not come to do this, for that would be only a temporary and in fact temporal thing to rule the world. He came for far more than that; to prepare our hearts for eternity and change us from unjust to just creatures, worthy of God’s creation and His Hands. As John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Christ’s preaching, Christ came to prepare our way to join our Father in Heaven. His sacrifice was the physical and spiritual action which paved the road for us to ascend to heaven. He came to mold and to shape us from being roughly made to something very valuable. He came to transform us from death to being truly alive.
To be worthy of the charge and care of His mysteries, we must be willing to listen to Him and do whatever we need to do to line ourselves up with what He wants for us, not what we want for ourselves. We must think of others, instead of thinking of ourselves all the time. On some level, all of us, including myself are guilty of this, but as long as we recognize it and work to consciously change it, then all will be well. We must be willing to never give up and persevere; if we follow this, we will keep getting better and better all the time.
Life is a continual process of learning in every aspect of our lives, not least of these aspects is our spiritual growth and development. The Japanese have a word for this, introduced into their industry by the American engineer W. Edwards Deming, Kaizen (改善), that is to say continuous improvement. Never perfect, but always endeavoring to improve. Day by day. Our goal is to make the next day better than the last. This is how we must continually develop as Christians.
To care for the mysteries of God properly, we must continue to learn in our spiritual lives; if we do this, we will keep growing more and more every day. Reading the Scriptures is one way to further our spiritual development, as well as helping others without thought for ourselves. We must keep doing a combination of these and similar things, if we expect to be able to facilitate our spiritual growth and change the minds of the disobedient and the unjust. We have to undergo our spiritual rebirth before we can help to transform others and to serve others. To accomplish this, we need to have the mental state that only the Holy Ghost can give us. We must keep trying our best to improve and learn from the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit and to trust in God and dread naught.
As He came to change us for the better, Paul and the Collect remind us to do the same for the others. We have to keep trying to help our friends and family and to do our best to do so, while shining the light of Christ into the darkness of this world as His ambassadors. We know not what seeds we plant when we perform such actions and in a future time they may bear fruit. We must not try and rush the work of the Holy Spirit, who works on God’s time and not that of our own time. All good things will happen in due course. If we do our part by planting the seed, the Holy Ghost will nurture and develop this seed to bear fruit. We must put our hearts and minds together and think about what God wants us to do in the end, rather than what we want to do. Put God first and all will be well, is what can be taken from today’s collects and lessons, ultimately. We must be willing do to this; then we can be properly caring for the mysteries of God.
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