Verse of the Day

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above. 

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity
The Collect.
 LORD, we beseech thee, absolve thy people from their offences; that through thy bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the bands of those sins, which by our frailty we have committed. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Consider these words from the Collect, … absolve thy people from their offences; that through thy bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the bands of those sins, which by our frailty we have committed. …

The Collect asks God to pardon our offences, that is our wrongs, failures and failures to act as we should, where we have “erred and stray from His Way like lost sheep”, through His great mercy.  Note, through the mercy of God, not because we have been good, but because we cannot be good without Him in the form of the Holy Ghost.  Without His Light, we are darkness.  This is yet another common theme running through all of the collects. The theme is simple. We need Him to deliver us from the multitudes of sins, by which our frail nature of ungodliness, we have committed.  Each day we find new ways to sin, or at least we think that until we find in fact there is no new thing under the sun.(Ecclesiastes 1:9) 

Truly there is nothing new.  There are no new sins to be invented, to paraphrase the scripture quote from Ecclesiastes. The human heart is always as dark and depraved without the shining light of the Holy Spirit as it ever has been. It has been this way since the time of Adam. People are always seeking ways to get around God and His Laws, but they truly cannot. Our only hope is to be in Him and be reborn in the Spirit. As Abraham Lincoln said in the famous Gettysburg address “That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”  Only under God, can we be reborn a new, and as he said, our freedom will be reborn again.  We can only be reborn in the spirit and not the flesh as Nicodemus found out when he came to Jesus by night. In order to be reborn a new in the spirit, we first have to ask for our sins to be pardoned and be delivered from our sins by Jesus Christ Our Lord and Our Heavenly Father.  The key word is ask. This will never happen for us if we do not take the first step and ask God to enter into our hearts and regenerate our spirit. He will not come in uninvited into to our hearts. We have to allow the Holy Spirit access in order for our spirits to be revitalized.

And once we ask for our sins to be pardoned, we have to go forth and persevere in our efforts not to sin again. Only then can we be truly re-born. Through a sense of godliness, we obtain that “new birth” of freedom. If everybody in this country followed that simple advice, just think of how great our country would be. Look at Abraham Lincoln for an example of a Godly man, one of the greatest Presidents ever elected, who by following God and His Word, helped preserve the Union of this wonderful nation, albeit at a great cost to our freedom and with a huge expansion of government[1].

In the Epistle, Paul tells the Colossians if we are to be reborn through Christ into a “new birth of freedom”, as Lincoln said, we must place our hope not on Earth, but in Our Heavenly Father and his abode above. 

Unlike earth where moth and rust doth corrupt and thieves break through and steal, in heaven, we shall encounter none of that. We shall encounter none of the imperfections we see here on Earth daily. It is truly a wonderful place to be. We must keep our sights on our destination of heaven. We have to always keep this in mind every time we are weighed down by the woes of the world and of troubles in our lives. We have to always keep flying our spiritual airplane no matter what happens in this life. If we put our goal as going to heaven and setting our airplane on the magenta line towards heaven, eventually we will get there. We may encounter severe turbulence from events in our lives that threaten to upset our spiritual state, but as long as we keep flying the spiritual airplane, all will be well in the end. Heaven is truly the only place where we can place any hope and not be disappointed. God will never fail us; we just need to not fail Him. We have to do our best to follow Him here on earth and do our best to spread to Word to the people around us. If we do this, the truth shall shine forth through in our work, at home, in our daily lives and people shall see Christ working through us for His purposes. If we follow what God asks, which is a very common theme in the Bible, as it is in my sermons, we prosper and do well.

Which brings us to the point of the Gospel, in which Christ heals a woman who has such supreme faith in Christ healing her, that if she but touches his cloak, she knows she will be healed. She did not have any doubts about Christ’s power to heal her. She truly had a solid faith. She depended not on the talisman of the cloak, but the power of Christ with which she expected to connect. She knew Christ had the power to heal her and believed He wouldheal her. Christ was impressed by the woman’s faith.  If we had the faith of this woman in Christ, imagine how we could impact the world around us. There would be little we could not do for our fellow men and women.  And, I might ask, what is stopping us?  The ruler whose daughter had died also shared this amazing faith in Christ.  He had zero doubt whatsoever Christ would do these things. 

Also, the faithful centurion and the man whose son was sick had this tremendous faith. The faith of all of these, in particular the ruler whose daughter died was truly strong. Christ recognizes this man’s faith and rewards with the girl’s resurrection.  Quite a surprise for those who had just laughed and scorned him, basically telling him “That is impossible, you can’t raise the girl from the dead.”

He proved them wrong.  He gave a very practical demonstration that much is denied men, but though God all things are possible.  But, we need the faith of the woman, the faith of the ruler and the faith of the centurion.  We must follow Him and the plan He laid out for us. We have to be willing to listen and be ready to follow Him.  In time, we shall too have an amazing reward, through our faith and we shall be in a “new birth of freedom” from otherwise certain death. We can do things thought impossible, if we put our trust in Him, as I have aforementioned.  

This is what Jesus meant when he said we could move mountains with our faith. If we put our trust and faith in Him, nothing that we need to do is impossible for us to achieve. We must keep listening to His Guidance and to do our best to follow Him.

Works must follow faith however. We cannot have a full faith, unless we act to demonstrate the faith. Faith is demonstrated through our actions, and our Lord set this in His Example for us to follow. 

Jesus’s miracles were all about actions, not just in word, but in deed. He did both, as we must also. If we only talk the talk, but do not walk our talk, then our words mean nothing.  If we walk the walk also, our words have weight, meaning, as we become men and women of the Word. I say of the Word and not like the old saying, he is a man of his word. For we want to become a Man/Woman of His Word, not our word! If we go by His Word, we can never go wrong. We always seem to go on our word and that is where we get into trouble. It is action not just diction which counts. The two can go together, but in the end, actions speak louder than words. 

Following this theme of words and action as today is Veteran’s Day, I realized God has used godly men for our freedom to be kept, by laying down their lives for ours. No greater love could be found in the world, then those men who died in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World War I, the Pacific and the European theatres of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, Desert 1 and 2, Afghanistan and countless dirty little wars where the freedom of our country and that others was threatened.

Through a sense of godliness, these men went to battle on our behalf, as Christ battled Satan on our behalf.  These men did not just go into battle with the godliness, they prayed hard for them, they prayed for each minute just to stay alive, especially in the hellholes of the Pacific and the European theaters.  The danger they faced were far more perilous than the ones we face today.  We overcame the enemy, not only because of our superior tactics, but we had men ready and willing to take the enemy on and do our best to prevail, and who followed God.

The Collect, Epistle and Gospel tie together, laying out, detailing and reinforcing the same message, ultimately.  We have to have faith in Christ and God, and be willing to accept the Holy Ghost into us, that through Him, we may do good works on Earth and that we will receive our just reward for doing what is right in the end.

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]The American Civil War was fought not over slavery, but over States Rights.  Make no mistake, the right being disputed at the time was slavery.  Many will say the wrong side won, including the noted thinker Thomas Sowell.  Slavery was an institution whose time was long passed, it did not serve anyone, master or slave.  It was counter to the Word and should never have existed here.  Truly it was an instrument of the Devil and was used to harm our country.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity

Sermon - Rev Hap Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above. 

The Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity
The Collect.

 GOD,our refuge and strength, who art the author of all godliness; Be readywe beseech thee to hear the devout prayers of the Church; and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Collect says God is the author of all perfection; we ask Him to be ready, to hear our sincere prayers: He may answer those things which are good for the Church and the world for which we ask and from His Grace we may receive those things which are good for us.  Left unsaid is that we must be ready to hear and act on His Word. In order to receive those things which are good for us, we must be ready and willing to have them. Which means opening our hearts up to the Holy Ghost and be performing actions which are consistent with Scriptures.

In the Epistle, Paul tells us, as well as the Philippians, to follow God and not be dependent on man, as so many in this country are now. The problem is many, who claim they are followers of Christ, don’t walk the walk, they are selfish and only think of themselves. There are too many people around the world who think and act in this manner.  They have no desire to help others, and in fact have a desire to tear others down rather than lend them a helping hand. This is not a manner consistent with what Christ has taught us and violates the Summary of the Law, wherein it talks about loving our neighbor as ourselves. He warns them will lead them onto a path of doom and destruction.   Whereas if people would love their neighbor as themselves, it would lead them on a path to prosperity and eternal life. And also, he talks about how the enemies of Christ glory in our shame; this will be their undoing in the end also. It may benefit them for a short while here on Earth but in the end, it will lead them to their everlasting doom. We are not to worry, but rather lean on Our Lord, even in these times of trials and tribulations, some of which we have yet to face. We must realize our true and final citizenship is in heaven, for which we look to Our Saviour. If we are on the side of righteousness, of the Lord, of godliness, then who are we to fear?

Nobody; save a respectful fear of Our God. 

We will not bow before the forces of darkness; but rather stand tall, equipped with the armor of light, the shield of truth, and the helmet of faith. We will give those in authority the respect they are due as tradition, but we will not be dependent upon them for our every need and whim.  This is why those who seek to create a larger government are working on supplanting God’s authority over us. For if God is the authority, as He is; man has no power to determine what is right and what is wrong. Man is not responsible for his own power. This is why those who are seeking to enlarge their power over the people in this country must first destroy the Church. Paul says in the end, these people’s efforts will be in vain and they will be destroyed, as much as they are attempting to destroy us here on Earth. We can be cheered up in these depressing times, knowing we are on the winning side for eternity. We are to turn to God; if we are to be dependent on anything, it must be God upon whom we are dependent, and not Man. Being dependent on man only leads to eternal death for us, but being dependent on God leads to eternal life for us. So, must we put our trust in God as our Eternal Navigator, our Guide throughout the rocky path of life. Returning to Him when we are lost, He will always guide us back to the straight and narrow path.

Which brings us to the point of the Gospel, in which Christ tells the Pharisees of how they are to deal with the problem of tribute to Caesar. They have no love for the Roman Government, as we have very little love for the swamp dwellers in our own Government. However, Christ reminds them to separate their hatred of the government, and do the right thing. As we must give God His due (our worship and prayer), we must give the government their due (taxes, etc.), but this does not mean we treat the government as demi-gods, to put it one way, as politicians often think of themselves. The government has to earn our respect, not the other way around, which too often it and the members in it forget this simple fact.

We are not to think of the government replacing God, but rather that God has granted the government their authority to govern, but not to supplant Him. His authority is where the government gets their authority, and will always be; whether they choose to recognize that or not, is up to them. That is what we pray for when we pray for the President, that he would recognize God’s authority and align his leadership with that of God’s will. The statists in this country believe the false lie that man can govern man without assistance from God or God’s authority. Governments which do not recognize this fact are in the end, doomed to fail. The history books are filled with pages of failed governments, all failed because they refused to recognize God’s rightful place as the source of their legal authority.

Jesus’ point is that we give them what they are owed, no more and no less.  The Pharisees were trying to trick Christ to say that you must honor one or the other, when you can do both.  We should be serving God and not man; that does not mean that we do not have to pay our dues to the government that rules us. It is only through God’s grace that he allows government to rule over man. The government we have was established with the recognition it serves at His pleasure. Its Declaration of Independence establishes people have rights endued them by their Creator, not the government. It is with the authority of the people the government serves. It must exist to serve the people and God. It is not to be a self-licking ice cream cone. Jesus told us to feed the poor people, not create laws that take money from other people ostensibly for that purpose, of which he commanded us to do.

The Collect, Epistle and Gospel tie together, laying out, detailing and reinforcing the same message, ultimately.  We have to respect the authorities that govern us, no matter how we disagree or dislike them, and conduct ourselves like Christians. However, that does not mean that we replace the rule of God with the rule of Man. Man’s laws should merely be a restatement of God’s laws, not to replace God’s laws.

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

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles

Saints Simon and Jude
The two Apostles went to evangelize Armenia and Persia, and they were murdered in the city of Suanir in 47, Anno Domini.

Saint Simon was also called Simon the Zealot, probably because he had been a member of the nationalist party of Zealots who refused to recognize any foreign yoke over Palestine. Zealots were those who had a especial zeal for the independence of the Palestine, that is, they did not want the Holy Land to fall into the hands of any pagans whatsoever. Since the Zealot cause had some good points – commendable in some aspects – it is understandable the Lord recruited one of His Apostles from its numbers.

The mother of Saint Jude was Mary Cleophas, a sister-in-law of the Virgin Mary, stood with her  by the Cross of Jesus on Calvary. His father was Cleophas [Clopas or Alpheo in Aramaic], a brother of Saint Joseph.  Therefore, he was the legal cousin of Jesus. Jude was one of those his fellow countrymen called a “brother” of the Son of the Carpenter, because it was a custom among the Jews at that time to call cousins brothers. He wrote an epistle to combat the Gnostic heresy, which was just beginning to appear. 

Sermon - 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 and are all tied together.  

Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles. [October 28.]

The Collect.

ALMIGHTYGod, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone; Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity

The Collect.

 RANT, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect says that we must have the Lord’s pardon and peace, but we have to ask for it before we have it. If we don’t ask for it, we don’t get. Like the old Cowboy saying “If You Don’t Work, You Don’t Eat.”, which the basics of is covered in another letter of Paul’s to Timothy. In this case it is “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”, so we ask Him we might have the willingness to ask and receive His pardon and peace.

The Collect for St. Simon and Saint Jude mentions that Jesus Christ is the head corner stone. They are referring to He is the main foundation rock for the Christian Church in that all of the principles of Christianity are derived from Him. The Summary of the Law is an excellent example of showing that Jesus is our chief cornerstone.  It also asks that God might grant that we might be joined together spiritually with the theology of Jesus that the Apostles followed two millennia ago.

It makes the point we should share their same faith of Jesus Christ being our Savior, Mediator and advocate. It is asking for us to receive that same zealous spirit the Apostles had in following Him, that we might be a follow their good examples in following Jesus.

The second part of the collect says that we might be made an holy temple acceptable to God. Meaning we must be cleansed of our impurity and the Holy Spirit might enter to cleanse our souls, so they might be acceptable to God. This is a process that like many others in Christianity will take the rest of our earthly lives to work on. Like being a good pilot, we should always be learning in our spiritual lives.

Being a good learner involves being willing to face your mistakes and make the needed corrections. This applies to flying, work and your spiritual life as well. We have to be good learners, to make our bodies an acceptable temple to God.

In the Epistle, Paul exhorts us to act, following Christ as the “Chief Cornerstone”, or the Head Bishop of the Church, with us following under His Orders, as he is our Commanding General. And he tells us that we must not only think like Christians, but the key word is Act. If we do not act upon our thoughts and words, how are we any better than those who went before the Christians, like the Jews of old, who said one thing and clearly did another. And in His message, and understanding it, with the Gospel’s message also that we, no matter how tough it may be to do it sometimes, we must follow His will rather than ours, and we may not be loved or liked by the world for it.

Which brings us to the point of the Gospel, in which Christ warns the Apostles that this won’t be an easy milk-run, rather it will turn dangerous and they have to face the choice between the World and life on Earth, or death and Life in Christ and God eternally. He tells them they will face many persecutions for His sake, and they will be rewarded in time, for the trials and tribulations they suffer in His name.

Christ also explains that had he not come and talked to the evildoers, that they would freely be able to deceive us, but now that He has come and revealed them for who they truly are, that they will not be able to hide in their wickedness, as they persecute mercilessly His flock, which he had warned them about earlier in His Gospel.  His point is, though they may persecute you, their evilness will shine through their falsified, nice demeanor they show the world, and yet, when they act with malice in their hearts, their evilness shall come out through their actions and deeds. In our words and deeds, our goodness must shine through our actions and deeds, to counteract our badness which also comes out through words and deeds.

The Collect, Epistle and Gospel tie together, laying out, detailing and reinforcing the same message, ultimately.  We have to ready and willing to accept the fact that we will be persecuted, and we must use the help that God provides, by asking for it, and that in the end that Good will triumph over Evil, with the wick-doers deeds of malice showing through their supposedly kind exterior. In these days of trials and tribulations, we must follow this three step process that I have at the end of my sermon, Be of God, Live of God and Act of God most especially.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Hymns of the Church – God of Our Fathers, Unto Thee– 23 October 2018, Anno Domini(In the Year of our Lord)

            Though we will celebrate the National Day of Thanksgiving in America on the 22nd of November 2018, it is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O LORD, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God.(from 1928 BCP, Communion Service, pg 76) Such is the spirit of the wonderful English hymn of Thanksgiving composed by Arthur Campbell Ainger in 1906. 

The hymn was later adapted to the tune of TRAFALGAR by Hugo Sidney Nicholson in 1916. This version of the hymn is taken from the Standard Edition, Hymns Ancient and Modern, published by the Church of England. (1922)

God of Our Fathers, Unto Thee

God of our fathers, unto Thee
Our fathers cried in danger’s hour,
And then Thou gavest them to see
The acts of Thine almighty power.
They cried to Thee, and Thou didst hear;
They called on Thee, and Thou didst save;
And we their sons today draw near
Thy name to praise, Thy help to crave.
Lord God of hosts, uplift Thine hand,
Protect and bless our fatherland.

Thine is the majesty, O Lord,
And Thine dominion over all;
When Thou commandest, at Thy word
Great kings and nations rise or fall.
For eastern realms, for western coasts,
For islands washed by every sea,
The praise be giv’n, O God of hosts,
Not unto us, but unto Thee. 
If in Thy grace Thou should’st allow
Our fame to wax through coming days,
Still grant us humbly, then as now,
Thy help to crave, Thy name to praise.
Not all alike in speech or birth,
Alike we bow before Thy throne;
One fatherland throughout the earth
Our Father’s noble acts we own.

God of our fathers, unto Thee Our fathers cried in danger’s hour, And then Thou gavest them to see The acts of Thine almighty power. They cried to Thee, and Thou didst hear; They called on Thee, and Thou didst save; And we their sons today draw near Thy name to praise, Thy help to crave.It is a fact that the faith of the fathers should be truly descended to that of the sons and daughters. In our modern day when families and marriages are under attack from nihilists and socio-communist engineers, the dutiful teaching of father’s to their sons and daughters concerning the meaning and purpose of our God-given days has suffered lapse. How do the youth of our land know to call upon a God and Father whom they have never known? If the Providential history of our nation were properly taught in public schools, there would yet be the spark of faith to recognize the snares and dangers of the modern assault upon freedom and liberty, and of the only source of true liberty being vested in the Creator of the World. But, happily, the burdens of hard oppression and unjust government often awaken the sleeping spirit of man to relearn the source of his salvation in the Lord whom he may have offended in his former ways. That is the hope of the nations, and of the helplessly trodden underfoot. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. 28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. 31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 32 Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders(Psalm 107:27-32)Just as the houses and families of the fathers Zacchaeus and the Nobleman of Capernaum were brought to faith by their fathers, so should our own beloveds be brought to the same salvation.

 Thine is the majesty, O Lord, And Thine dominion over all; When Thou commandest, at Thy word Great kings and nations rise or fall. For eastern realms, for western coasts, For islands washed by every sea, The praise be giv’n, O God of hosts, Not unto us, but unto Thee. There is no true American, and something else. We are not African AND American. We are not Chinese AND American. We are not German AND American. We are either true-blue American, or we belong to a divided allegiance. The same is true of God our Father. We are not born of faith in half-bred circumstances. There is none other but God – not God AND Baptist.  Not God AND Presbyterian. Not God AND Anglican – but altogether we belong wholly to God or to the world only. My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.(1 Sam 2:1-4) 

Though our doctrine and faith may be defined by our biblical understanding as articulated by a denominational view, the truth stands eternally  immutable that God is forever true and every man a liar to the contrary.  . . . . let God be true, but every man a liar. (Romans 3:4) The Sovereignty of God is not limited to the righteous believer, but to all Creation (including the cruel and wrathful potentate). God used the fallen Samson to bring judgment on the heathen, and He even called Cyrus, by name, of the Medes and Persians, to conquer Babylon and set His people free to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem.

 If in Thy grace Thou should’st allow Our fame to wax through coming days, Still grant us humbly, then as now, Thy help to crave, Thy name to praise. Not all alike in speech or birth, Alike we bow before Thy throne; One fatherland throughout the earth Our Father’s noble acts we own. The believing remnant of America has been granted a time of reprieve to consider the works of the Lord and to appeal to His Sovereign Will and Providence in the affairs of the nation. If we fail, the failure will be profound for our nation. The hordes of evil doers and unbelievers are banging at the gate to enslave her inhabitants. How shall we respond? If we are as the seamen referenced in Psalm 107 who reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end, what shall be the response of the righteous of the land of our nativity? If we are at wits end, should we not call upon Him whose wisdom is from everlasting to everlasting. We cannot own the answers to our national predicament, but the Lord does, indeed, have those answers. 

The church is undergoing a mutiny of godless men in her midst while her ship is headed into stormy seas. They have ‘crept in unawares’ and have gained the better places of leadership. They propose the very things that God condemns. They are not part of the Holy Church but persist as parasites and deadly organism within her blood. It is high time for the seasoned crew to regain the helm and appeal to the Master Seaman to right our ship and bring her to safe harbor. 

Can you even imagine the response of the western world only fifty years ago if our people were persecuted for not embracing homosexual marriage – of not only rejecting abortion, but the ruthless murder of the infant at the very gates of sunlight and birth? 

I know not what lies ahead for America and the Christian world at large; but I do return thanksgiving to God for preserving us a Godly and free nation among the nations of the earth for these many years, and for His Providential Hand in guiding our Founding Fathers in establishing that nation upon Godly precepts. And I also pray for whatever judgment He may bring of hard persecution and chains if it will awaken us to those wonderful truths which define the Ancient Landmark of our faith, and the Old Paths wherein our fathers walked.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity

Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Todays sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction.

Consider these words from the Collect:

… Grant …thy faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind

We ask God to pardon our sins so we might serve Him with peace of mind and do His Work without having to worry about our fate. It is good to have a clear mind when you go into battle, to be free of worry that you might do your best. You do not want to have a foggy mind when you are doing an action that requires your best concentration, so that is what we are asking from Him. To give us clarity of mind that we might do what is right.  

We need His pardon and peace to cleanse us from our sins, to enable us to have a mind that is quiet and focused on doing His will. It is a difficult thing to quiet our minds at times, but it must be done, so that we can focus on doing our best from Him. His pardon and peace will help us clear our minds from worrying thoughts and distressed thoughts, if we will but let Him in. The pardon and peace He gives is a perfect pardon and peace, He only asks that we go forth in the world and spread His Word, which will give the perfect pardon and peace to all that accept it.

When we mention peace, it is a very different concept from what people in this world think of it. It is not just about drugs, and rock and roll. It is far from it and something more solid and consistent than many people in this world think of it.The peace that God gives us is the calmness in our soul when the world is crumbling around or even on us. When things are going wrong at work, school or home, peace is the feeling that God is with us and that we have nothing to fear from whatever it is that is troubling us. For whatever is troubling us be it work trouble, school trouble or home trouble, cannot be greater than Him who created us and all of creation and all the planets and all of the stars. It is the sureness that we service Him who created all things and sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for us, that we might have eternal life. It is also knowing that through His Son we have that eternal life and that we do not have to fear death unlike those who do not believe.

 It is that peace of mind and soul that comes from knowing that when we die, we will be spending eternity with God and Jesus. It helps us to know that this is only a transitory phase. And if we let it this peace will take the place of worry.  This is something that people that tend to worry, such as myself need to remember. You can then concentrate on what you can do and not be concerned with what you cannot do; for if you cannot really do it, it is pointless to concern yourself.  That is the whole point of peace, having it will give you calmness and rational thinking to do what you need to do for Him. The peace gives you the confidence to perform actions, even in difficult and very trying circumstances. Once again, action, not diction, is paramount.

Not everyone will accept it though, even though all should accept the offered gift, it does not mean they will. We have to realize this, and some may not accept it at first, but it does not mean that we should give up on them, but rather let the Holy Spirit plant the seed, as He plants a seed in our hearts. As our fallen nature attests, we are not instantly transformed into a different person overnight, but rather thorough many days, weeks and years of practicing Christian beliefs, through reading Scripture and being around other believers. The transformation happens in a gradual process, that continues all of our lives. And so it will be to with some of the non-believers we encounter in our lives, that seed we plant may germinate in time to bring them to Christ.

Paul gives his clearest definition of the spiritual war between the forces of Satan and those who would follow God. It not only assures us that there is a spiritual war, but it warns us that apart from utilizing the weapons which God has provided for us, we are hopelessly underpowered. This passage tells us what our divine weapons are. Beyond this, these weapons imply the nature of the struggle which we are in. The weapons which God has provided for us are those weapons which best repel the attacks of Satan, and thus we can learn a great deal about the nature of Satan’s opposition from simply considering each of the weapons at our disposal:

                                        Clothing       Truth; this our cloak, as well as our cover;
     Breastplate or Armored Vest       Righteousness; being at one with the One True and Triune God;
                                              Boots       The Gospel; the Word of God will get you there;
                                             Shield       Faith; able to not only ward off blows of evil, but quench the fiery darts hurled at us;
                                           Helmet       Salvation; we are saved already, thus we cannot be harmed by any of the forces of this world, the armored helmet of the gift of salvation given to us by our Lord will protect us in the end, the only time that counts;
                                         Weapon       Up to now, the equipment has been defensive or at least supporting; but to win a war, you need to be on the offense, our offensive weapon is the sword of the Holy Ghost, the Word of God!
Now, what to do? We are clearly commanded to take an offensive role, to go where the battle is. We are not called to be at the rear, but on the front lines, in this spiritual battle.  With the help of the Holy Ghost, we should be using our tongues boldly as St. Paul says, to spread the Gospel.  You don’t play the defensive in this spiritual battle, as in tactical warfare, nobody ever won a battle by being stuck on the defensive. You must go out and preach boldly and speak the truth and not worry about the consequences of doing so. The problem with the church today is that they are afraid of offending people and just think the best way to reach the lost people is to get along with them. This will not work, this concept is basically aiding and abetting the enemy, also known as treason. We must not commit this dreadful act! 

We must not be afraid to preach the truth of the Gospel through ought the world and not worry ourselves with what the world will think. For what the world will think is not as important as what God thinks. And by the word bold, we are not to put a holier than thou air and talk down, nor are we to cruelly shout down the opposition, but with confidence in our voice, we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated by the enemy. We will do our actions and say the truth with clarity and confidence. That is what it means to preach the Word boldly.

The Word spreads “by word of mouth” and by action. It does not spread by mouth alone! There needs to be work backing up those good words. Your mouth, your actions!

Speaking of actions, Winston Churchill said, “Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”[1]

Churchill was not the first. God wants us to persist. Consider the case of the nobleman of Capernaum.  The man asked Jesus for help for his son.  Jesus did not immediately grant the request as He needed the man to persist to make a point for those around him.  He responded as he often did to Jews, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.”  The man persisted and because Jesus saw faith in him, he said, focusing his attention on faith in God, “Go thy way; thy son liveth” or  "Be on your way. Your son is alive." In other words: "Do not worry. My Word can heal your son at a distance." The boy was healed in the very instant when Jesus spoke the Word. The father believed this Word. So did his household, wife, children and servants. More than one person was healed on that occasion.

This miracle shares characteristics with the previous healing of the Centurion’s son:

  • Jesus has just come back to Galilee.
  • Someone comes to him with a request.
  • Indirectly Jesus seems to refuse at first.
  • The person persists.
  • Jesus grants the request.
  • This leads another group of people (his disciples, the nobleman’s household) to believe in him.
Note the necessity of trusting in Jesus as the giver of life.  Of the text, Luther wrote: "Although the Lord performed miracles and signs to make Himself known and to lead people to faith in Him, the underlying purpose was to focus their attention on the Word rather than on the signs which served merely to attest the truth of His testimony. Faith must rest on the Word of God."  Another Lutheran theologian wrote: "In affliction faith is practiced and chastened. If a person can see, taste and experience the help and grace of the Lord, then that person learns to trust the Word and nothing but the Word. That is the true faith, trusting the Lord for its own sake. Such faith comes not from flesh and blood. It's the Lord to which faith clings. That almighty Word works faith."

Jesus led this nobleman from a "miracle" faith to a true faith in His Word. He does this to us also.

"Be on your way. Your son lives." This Word of Jesus was not only a prophecy. It had the power to heal the sick boy. And this Word took the nobleman's worries away. As it will take ours away if we will let it. 

As we see in the Gospel, persistence is a very important part of the Christian life, it helps build our character in bad times, and also in good as well. No matter what we are going through, the persistence in faith is what builds us up as Christians, to keep going  in times that are less than pleasant, as we continue to progress as pilgrims to Our Father above. In distressing times or late at night it is often easy to forget this, but we must remember that we need to keep going, no matter how hard it seems. It is a comforting fact that He is with us in these most distressing times. 

We are asked to let God forgive us our sins and go to battle in this world with His armor.  With Him all things are possible; when we depend on our own pitiful resources, the outcome is in doubt and the result unlikely to be favorable in the end. When you believe in our Lord and act on that belief, victory is certain in the end.  Understand, the result here on earth may not be the one you want, but it is the one God wants for you.  God expects you to accept His help and act with His help to gain victory over the prince of this world.

Consider also that God, through our Lord, offers forgiveness.  Forgiveness lets you restart your life, regain your foothold, strengthen your soul. If you accept the forgiveness and go forward you can do great things.  If you will not, and likewise you will not forgive, you will be bound by the prince of this world and doomed to failure.  You will never attain the greatness of which you are capable with God’s grace and help.

Do what is right, I would say no matter if there is no one looking; but He is always looking.  It is not that hard.  Believe, take His help, act on the belief you profess, never ever give up.  

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?

The time to act is NOW.  Will you act?  For whom will you act?  Will you count the cost before you act?

Action, not diction, is what counts.  It is by your actions you are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

[1]Sir Winston Churchill, Speech, 1941, Harrow School