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Sunday, January 28, 2018
Septuagesima, the Third Sunday before Lent
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.
… we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness …
In the Collect, we ask God who knows we should be “…justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour …” To get into heaven we need to be accounted as perfect. Yet, we cannot be “cured” of sin nor “improved” to perfection. So how do we solve this irregularity? We are imperfect creatures with free will, the most confounding combination ever created for salvation. We know we ourselves cannot solve our dilemma. Who can? There is a solution for us! Consider the words of John Newton near the end of his life, “Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior!” The answer lies in the latter part of Newton’s quote. Our sins are justly punished by eternal damnation, yet there is hope in our Lord.
What Paul speaks of in his Epistle is the great reward we receive for holding steady to the course God has set for us. For eternal salvation is the delivery promised to each of us by Jesus. This is the great reward for the race we run daily here on Earth. Make no mistake, like a marathon, this run requires frequent training in the Scriptures and acting upon the concepts in Scriptures. And like marathon runners, we receive a wonderful prize. However, it is a prize that has value beyond anything on Earth. The prize is for the promise of an eternal, unending life, to be spent with our Lord and Savior Jesus. It is for the promise of a world unaffected by the tarnish of sin, unblackened by the sinful deeds of imperfect beings. It is an unshadowed world. It shall be true happiness at last, to meet with our beloved family, our Christian heavenly family, friends and beloved pets.
Eternal salvation is a far more valuable prize than anything we could possibly acquire here on Earth. It is in fact a priceless treasure, truly priceless, except for the death of our Saviour and resurrection. That is the only price involved with our eternal freedom. As the saying goes, there is no free lunch. Eternal life does not come to us without cost. The cost was Jesus’ one time sacrifice for all time for all mankind. Keep the eyes on the prize, as it were! And realize that that prize does not come free. We have to run the race set before us and follow Jesus in order to receive our prize of eternal life. We have to be constantly focusing on this fact.
When times get really hard, and it is tempting to give up sometimes; that is when we must redouble our efforts and focus our end goal, remaining on the path towards Heaven.. In order to stay focused on the path, we must always remember the end, the arrival in Heaven will outweigh all of the sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears we shed in this life. If we but stay the course, our time after this will be something wonderful.
Our eyes should be focused on the finish line, not our “competition.” The only thing which counts is that we each cross the finish line. It does not matter who our competition is, as we are not competing with anyone for our destination. We only have to concern ourselves with God’s will and focusing on getting ourselves towards the right destination. For only you have an input in which area you will go. Not the final input, but an input none the less.
So how do we run the race?
With our eyes focused tightly on the finish line, not on those around us, wondering are they doing better than we are? That is not a useful question.
The useful question is, “Am I doing the best I can?” And we have to answer that question; if we are not doing our best, then we need to change it. And, remember this is a Team Effort. We have to want to win, and in order to win the race set before us; we have to perform actions. We need to act upon the Word of Scripture, the message, which is to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ and preach it to all nations as Christ commanded. We must first start with our neighbors and work our way outward. It must be a team effort, we cannot all do it alone. Each person in God’s Army has a specific talent and task assigned to them to complete their assigned mission here on Earth. We need support along the way, especially when things get tough, we need our Christian buddies to give us moral support and encouragement from the Word. We want the Christian Team to win. We need to give each team member all the help we can. And we need to be welcoming to each outsider who join the team, and treat them like the lifelong members of the Team. So, with that in mind, we must DO our best and not just say it, and we do that by acting upon the Word, not just reading it, but acting.
We are all so far from perfect that Holier than Thouis pretty damning praise. Don’t even go there. The best you can really do is not to be as evil as another, even that is pretty doubtful. But, we can do our best for our Lord and that is what really matters.
The Gospel for today, the very important parable of the vineyard, also gives us very good advice on the conduct of our daily lives and contains a crucial key to happiness. There is the lesson that the deathbed conversion gains the same prize of eternal life as the lifelong follower, but there is a lot more in it for everyday life. A person who comes to Christ late in life receives the same eternal benefits as a person who followed Christ from the age of reason.
It is a fine lesson in “buyer’s remorse” or coveting of jobs or similar concepts. If you got a good deal, it does not change because someone else got a “better” deal. Take what you got, go forth and be happy. Don’t complain because somebody else got the same deal as you did sooner. One meaning of this parable is that “cradle” Christians are no more likely to go to heaven than this morning’s convert. They just get to enjoy the Christian experience longer. However, you should not wait until the last minute to join the gang, your time here might end before you get around to it. So, don’t wait until tomorrow to act, do it today while you still have time!
Sometimes people act like being a Christian is an unpleasant experience that they will do when they get a round TUIT. It is not. Christians aren’t perfect, they just have more fun being imperfect and imperfectly trying to improve!
Christ gave us eternal life. But, we have to accept it. Once you accept it, start living as if you will live forever. You will and you will have to live with your actions forever! So, Act early and Act often!
There is but one way to heaven.
That easy to find, easy to follow, easy to hike path does not lead to the summit where eternal life in the real world awaits. Open your heart to the Holy Ghost, use His Power to follow our Lord to God who awaits in heaven.
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