Verse of the Day

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Second Sunday in Lent

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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. 

Consider these words from the Collect:

… we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul …

In the Collect, we acknowledge to God that we cannot direct our own lives; if we listen to our own selves we are without guidance.  Consider the airplane flying, it orders its movements according to Polaris, the Pole Star of True North.  If a pilot flies guided by his “inner self” he soon knows only where he is: at the controls, and little else.  Like the pilot who needs to know where the True North is so he can orient himself, we need God’s guidance to move towards our goal of eternal life with Him. I have been working towards my Private Pilots License for the past few months. In flying my aircraft, I have to maintain altitude, heading and airspeed all at the same time. I look outside and re-checked my instruments against what I am seeing to ensure that I am remaining on course. Looking back on these experiences, I thought about how these principles could be applied to being a Christian. The Holy Scriptures are our instruments and we re-check our progress in the world by the instruments of His Word to make sure we are on the right heading and not stagnating in our progress as pilgrims. God is also our infallible co-pilot, always making sure that we stay on course. If we are good pilots of our future, then we shall listen to God and His Holy Word so that we might be on course.

We, of course, need to rely on God and His Word to keep on course, as noted in the collect, we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves. If we had a power to help ourselves from within us, then Jesus would not have needed to come die for us, we could have just used this magical power to help ourselves.  But the reality is, we do not have any such power and as such, are dependent on God to help us keep on course. We are dependent on His Guidance to steer us through life.   We are also dependent on Him to as the collect says, keep us outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls. When we fail to listen to that guidance, our problems occur.

It should also be noted our life here will be a lot more pleasant if we stay on course. There may be temptations of a shortcut thrown in our path, but that shortcut will in the long run not be a shortcut at all. It will be a long cut.  So, we must do our best to let God into our hearts and help us to tune out these temptations. Lent is one of the best times of the Christian year to help us to renew this focus.  A while back, I read something which said at the end of our lives, the words will be “Thy will be done.”  The question is will it be us saying it or God?  We need to listen to God and do His Will.  His guidance will bring us on a path to success in our lives, if we listen to His guidance. We have to initiate the contact/relationship with Him. He does not do it on His own. He waits for an opening into our hearts. He will not force His way in. He waits until He we are ready to receive Him willingly.

We have to let Him into our hearts in order to let Him guide us. If we do not do this, then how can we expect to have Him guide us, if we are not open and ready to receive Him and His Guidance? We have to be willing and ready in order to receive His Guidance, then we have to act upon the information His Guidance gives us.

Thus, when Paul tell us to keep our bodies under control of our minds and our minds to be guided by God only, He helps move us on course. This ties in very well with the collects request for God to keep is outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls. It links the theme of both spiritual and physical moderation extremely well.  We are to be true and honest in all our dealings, both physical and fiscal and to live our faith.  His Epistle ties in well with the theme of the collect to keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls. This is keeping us within the faith of Christ, by the help of the Holy Spirit, may we remain in faith of Him in our hearts, souls and minds. It means we need the help of the Holy Spirit to stay on track on this life, so we may stay the course and fight the good fight and make it to see our beloved Lord in heaven.   Living the faith requires us to restrain our bodies and our minds from doing foolish/evil actions which hinder our walk towards heaven. This is a very difficult task and one we will slip up from time to time on, but as long as we repent and return back to the course God has set, all will be well.

Being honest with others and especially ourselves is one of the most important things we can do. If we are not honest with ourselves to start, how can we be honest with others?  For only by living our faith can we demonstrate that we in fact have faith.  For professed faith with no actions when you are able to act is not real.  You must actualize what you claim to believe. One must convert their stated beliefs into their actions, in order for their belief/faith to have any reasonable meaning. Without action, the faith that one believes is not truly real. If you claim to believe one way and act another, you are by definition a hypocrite. We are called to be as God wants us to be, not as we would be without His guidance and help.  God does this, not that we would miss fun, but rather that we would enjoy true happiness.

Keeping evil thoughts under control can be a difficult task, but we do not have to face it alone, we have the Holy Ghost in our lives and other Christians and friends that support us and guide us, that can help us battle evil thoughts. We have to remain in control of our good sides. We are in a sense like the character Gollum from Lord of the Rings, who had a good personality and a bad one. Unfortunately for him, he let the evil side possess him and it won out. Unlike him, we need to make sure our good side is winning.

We need to be willing to talk to our good friends within the Church about our problems and evil thoughts and listen to their advice, and more importantly to the Holy Ghost’s advice to combat these evil thoughts and drive away the temptations of the devil.  As we have discussed before, Christianity is not a hermitic religion, but a social one. Christianity did not flourish because its followers were hermits, it flourished because its followers evangelized the religion throughout the known world. It requires believers to support each other to help spread the Word and also to help fellow believers stay within the guidelines that God has set for us. To do that we must turn to God and the Holy Ghost and Christ for help. All of them will help us win our battles, but we first have to listen to what They say. We must truly be guided by the faith in our Lord.

Matthew gives us a fine example of faith that demonstrates how we must be guided by faith in our Lord.  The woman who cries unto Jesus is a Gentile, just like us. Just like us she longs for His Mercy. In her case, she asks only for the mercy rejected by others, the crumbs of the Master’s Table[1].  This is the essence of our faith, we are not worthy to dine at His Table, no more than dogs are meet to dine at our table.  Yet, what is left over is more than enough for us.  And we are content with that, knowing what miserable creatures we are.  And, even more important, even knowing what miserable creatures we are, Jesus offers to share His Table with us.  He is not content for us to grovel for His crumbs. If He offers His love for us, should we not love Him back, by acting upon our faith? If we do not act for Him, then we do not truly believe in Him. If you truly believe, you are compelled to act upon the faith you have. Action is the key principle, the cornerstone of the faith of Christians.  Christ set this example for us by doing, that is action.  This is seen throughout Scripture, but nowhere is it as clear as His Action of sacrificing Himself for our sins on the Cross. This is the prime example of action not just diction. Action is far more important than diction only. Diction is nice, but it needs to be paired with Action in order for it to have any sort of meaning.

It is also important to understand if one loves God, He still has the exact same amount of love available for any other person or group. His love is infinite, even if it wasn’t, love multiplies in use!

Recognize how poorly you do with your own guidance, accept His Guidance, stay on course and accept the fruits of that action.

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.

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]Sound familiar?  Check out the Prayer of Humble Access, Holy Communion, BCP Page 82.

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