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Sunday, January 21, 2018
Third 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:
… mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us …
In the Collect, we are asking God to set aside our failure and protect and aid us in all we do with His strong hand. God is perfect, thus so is His counsel. When we acknowledge our imperfection and ask Him for help, we should look to the written record of His Son, our Savior; the ultimate example of perfection and we should be doing doing do our best to follow Him, by being honest, hard working, peaceful and helpful. When we do this, we will prosper, not only in this world, but in our hearts. And not only our hearts, but doing these things will make things better for those around us, too. When we pray for His Help, we need to listen for the answer, then act on it, not ignore it because it is not the answer we wanted. This is a very common theme throughout the collects and by extension, the Bible. As we have always the same problems, we have the same need, which is to turn to God for help! Therefore, the theme will be similar, asking God to open our hearts, souls and minds to Him, that in Him, we might get the help for our sinful bodies and souls.
Why the continuous emphasis on action? Simple. The line of time stretches from the far distant and unknown past to the far distant and unknowable future. Yet, God is there, He has always been there and He will always be there. Where His finger touches that line of time is today. That is where we live; it is the only place where action can happen in our time space continuum. Today. Not tomorrow nor the past, but today. We can’t go back in the past or go forward to the future and act there, our actions have to be done in the present. That is why worrying does nothing productive. Therefore, let us not worry about the past or the future but think about what we can do and act within the present time. We can however learn from our past actions and improve on areas where we fell short. Let us keep ourselves busy doing God’s work, so that we have no time at all to worry or fret, but act. The time we spend worrying or fretting is time taken away from possible actions we could perform in the present.
God, our God, is a God of Action. No less is His Son one of action. All throughout the Bible, you find Jesus doing things, not just talking about them. His faith, shown in the action of His giving His Life that we might live, speaks through His actions. His whole ministry can be summed up in one word, action. No matter where you turn while reading the Bible, what you find is Action, not Diction. Recall the second half of the Book of Luke. It is known as the Acts of the Apostles, not thoughts, not prayers, not meditations, not wishes or anything else; The ACTS. He expects us to act in our lives, not just talk. Talking is nice, but acting shows people where your heart clearly lies.
The Gospel provides a great example of how our God is a God of Action. In the Gospel we see Jesus performing his first earthly miracle, turning water into wine at Cana. He was at first apparently reluctant to perform it, telling his earthly mother that it was not the right time for Him to perform miracles. Mary chose to ignore this and instead placed great faith in her son by instructing the servants, “Whatsoever he saith to you do it.”
She had great faith in Him that He would perform a miraculous action. Mary truly had the faith that Jesus talked about that could “move mountains.” When He referred to this, He was not talking about moving mountains in the physical sense of sorts, but obstacles which get in our way in life. That is the faith we need to have in Him and God. We need to have that faith that He can help us overcome those mountainous obstacles, we just have to let him into our hearts.
His actions created a wine that was so good, it caused the governor to remark that usually they save the best wine for the first, then when the partygoers get more drunk they bring out the worst wine. But the wine that Jesus created was so good, he said, “You have saved the best for last” in effect.
The whole point behind the Gospel is that Jesus, and God, is a person of action not just diction. Jesus could have chosen not to do anything or tell the servants anything. But He chose to honor His mother’s request and perform a miracle that set off His earthly ministry. When faced with the opportunity to act He always acted. This was the first of those times when He was faced with a decision point. You will note in all of his miracles He chose to act.
This shows that if we are to become like Christ, we are also to be men and women of action and not just diction. There are too many in this world who to paraphrase President Trumps’ inaugural address “They talk the good talk and sit around on their hands and do nothing.” It is all too easy to say the right words at the right time, however it is harder to perform the right actions at the right time.
Actions truly show our character more than words ever could. So, it is important that we pray for the Holy Ghost’s guidance to craft our actions that the light of Christ might show forth through us and that when we reach critical decision points, we might make the right choice and action at the right time.
So, when we act, how should we act? To the extent you are able, attempt to do good to all. Always do the right thing when you are faced with that choice. Sometimes that choice is harder than others to be made, but it must be made all the same. We are not Christ, but if we do our best emulate His earthly actions, we do well. If you treat your enemies with respect and kindness, you oft make them your friends, by treating them with respect and kindness. It like many other things Jesus taught is hard to do, it is easy to say, however. But we must do our very best to do this, for we shall become better people of His Flock for doing so. We have the right of self-defense, not of vengeance. Bring them up, don’t lower yourself. That is the goal, to raise us all up and not lower ourselves to the low standards of this world, but to raise those around us to the heavenly standards.
Like Jesus at the well, remember that your purpose is to help bring people to salvation. We are not called to do any action that would push people always from salvation, but rather to lead them by example towards that salvation. Any step you take today may have future consequence. Your witness, your testimony, your actions can bring people to the point they accept the Holy Spirit or not. Your interface may only be one small step; but do your best to make it a step towards God, not away. Therefore, let us think about our actions and the possible consequences they could have for people turning to or away from Him.
Error is error, wrong is not right. But, a person’s final destination is up to God, not us. Fortunate for each of us, it should be considered. During the journey of life down that time space continuum, we need to do our best to keep ourselves and those around us moving towards God, not away from Him. The direction is always clear, sometimes we just do not want to read the signs. That is why we need the help of the Holy Ghost to read those signs and keep on moving in the consistent direction towards heaven.
If we understand we are less than perfect, actually far less than imperfect, we have a good start. We know we need God in our lives to give us direction. We need His guidance to direct our ACTION.
The common theme through the Collect, Epistle and Gospel is that if we have hope and trust in God, we must dread naught, and carry on, empowered through them in our daily lives here on Earth until we are called to our heavenly home. These are actions we must take not mere thoughts or words, actual actions!
Read the Bible, find out what He wants you to do, then Do It. What can you do today to carry out His Will? There are a multitude of things you can DO to carry out His Will, but the question is, “Will you?”
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