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Sunday, January 14, 2018
Second Sunday after The Epiphany
Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion, Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and readings for this week. Consider these words from the Collect:
… God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth; Mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life …
In the Collect, first we acknowledge God’s place in the universe, that is He is the ultimate ruler of all things. Thus, the civil authorities of each country, state, county and locality govern with His Authority, so long as they do His Will, whether they be Christian or not. It is His Authority that is the source their powers and not their own determination. They do not have the power to grant themselves the power that God grants them. And also this power that God gives is not to be abused for self profit or their own means, but to better the country and the people within it. Our Constitution, which serves as the skeleton or foundation of all our laws gets its authority from the Declaration of Independence. Where, pray tell, does the Declaration of Independence get its authority? From our Creator. Acknowledged right there in plain English. It needs no explanation, merely a grade school reading ability! We go on to ask God to listen to us and give us His peace in our hearts. God is perfect. His hearing is perfect. It is not His hearing that is in need of help. It is our hearing. He hears us clearly when we pray; God always hears us when we call Him. This Collect is really to remind us that when we pray to Him, we need to listen to Him. It is our hearing which is need of help, not His and the help we need can only come from Him! Too often we ask Him what to do; when He tells us what He wants us to do, it is not what we want, so we don’t hear. After all, there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. So, the question is not, Does God hear our supplication? Rather the question is, Do we hear His answer and abide by it? Do we listen when His answer is not what we want, but what we need? He always answers, but do we always listen? We need to be always listening when He responds back and then act upon what He responds with. He always has a better idea of what we need to do than we ourselves do. We think He doesn’t answer, but that is often because we are deaf to His answer through our own condition of being poor, sinful creatures who need His Forgiveness and Guidance desperately. What we really need to do is stop our wanting thoughts and to listen to what we need, His Guidance. We need to be still and listen to His answers and not just go off and do what we want. Instead we need to hear what He wants us to do and act upon it. Too often we just do not bother to listen to that voice that tells us Gods will and run off and follow our own devices and desires and get into trouble.
Instead of doing that, we need to truly listen and take His Guidance to heart. We need His Guidance to stop the evilness which lies within ourselves and to control it, to mitigate it, so that we can do good things for Him. His Guidance comes in the form of the Holy Ghost. Without His Guidance, we cannot ever hope to be good and righteous. To do that, we must open our hearts and minds; and let Him in. He will not force His way in. It takes action on our part to let Him in. If we open our hearts and minds, then we will hear Him. Will we let him in to our hearts for this to happen? It has to start with us letting Him in, and then we will hear His answer loud and clear. That describes the purpose and function of the Holy Ghost, that Third God Guy. That is why He is here, to help us and guide us upon the rocky narrow and uphill path towards heaven. He is there, always there, we merely need to let Him in! Without Him, Scripture is so much foolishness, with His Insight, it is perfectly clear.
We all have some talent; each has something they do better than others. Paul reminds us for the church, or any organization for that matter, to succeed, we must do what needs to be done, working hard, honestly, cheerfully, looking for no public praise, being kind to all. Everybody needs to utilize their talents according to the needs of the church, not somebody else’s talents, but their talents. Each and every one of us has a talent of some sort, be it musical, talking (being good with communication), sweeping, taking out the trash, there is no end to the need. Almost anything else can be used for His Glory, to further His Work, His Goals, is a talent. Each and everyone has a unique talent and or gift that can be used to further His Will on Earth. Sometimes, we fail to remember for the team to be successful, each person needs to do the job they do best to the best of their ability; not necessarily the one they like best the way they want to do it at the pace they enjoy. It is not good enough to just say you are doing your best when you are actually not doing your best, but go full “best” ahead as it were! The reward of a job well done in and of itself should be sufficient. And knowing you did your best is what really counts, not just getting recognition from others, but the satisfaction in your heart of knowing that with God’s Help you accomplished a large task, is one of the best feelings in the world. It does not matter to God who gets the credit, what matters to Him is we get the job done and to do it right! We should not be ‘giving’ of ourselves to God, so that we can get praise and recognition. That is not giving; it is selling. And that would not be truly giving from the heart as is God’s desire. That would be using the talents He loaned to us for our own wants and ends, which would not be becoming of the Christians we are called to be, the New Men we are called to be. If we get praise and recognition as a result of our actions, then it is fine, as long as we keep in mind why we performed our actions and who helped us.
At the same time, though we should not look for praise for our own work (though we may appreciate it, we should not dwell on it too long, lest we have to start shopping for size fourteen hats for our swollen heads!), we should look for reasons to praise and encourage others. We need to recognize hard work, sacrifice, thoughtfulness and talent in others, remark on it and praise the use thereof! That which is rewarded most is that which grows best. Reward the good, so that we may reap the goodness of our works! That is how we can encourage other fellow Christians and our other friends to grow and learn, by the encouragement. This encouragement will help sprout the seed for more of the good work around us to continue to flourish.
Look at John the Baptist, out in the wilderness; not in the fancy building, the gold-plated temple, but out where he could prepare straight the way for the Lord. He was out where the people were, he came to them, rather than wait for them to come to him in a fancy building. He was on a mission to pave the way for Jesus to come and preach and ultimately for His Death and Resurrection. Smoothing the path so to speak, making ready the hearts and souls of the people for the coming of the Lord. He did not point at himself, rather he pointed the way towards God incarnate!
By the way, how necessary is praise to miserable human beings? God Himself, looking on His Son’s baptism remarked for all to hear, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
How oft do we praise the actions of others? Too often we are quick to criticize the failings of others and over analyze their failings. Sometimes when we think of people we know, all we can think of is their failings and forget everyone has their good parts as well, for each of us has been created by God. It is in our nature, part of our human nature, our free will condition that we must fight against with His help. We must understand while it is valuable to know when we fall short, people strive the hardest for praise of those whose opinion they value.
When you hear those words, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” remember to use them yourself. Lead others to God, don’t just point the way.
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God