Sunday, August 19, 2018
Twelfth Sunday after Trinity
Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
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.
Consider the words of the Collect, wherein we ask God who is … more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask …
For the first time in a long time, this collect acknowledges that we are continually pray to God, asking Him for what WE want. Yet, how oft do we listen to Him when He responds with what we need? If we will listen to Him and DO what He asks, He will give us more than we have need of, more than we ask for, more than we can even desire. The point of the collect is that He has unlimited resources for this and also able to forgive us for things of which are bearing on our conscience. Yet, it requires us to listen to Him, then ACTon what we are told. When we ask His forgiveness, when He gives it, we need to accept it and live it; if we live in the past, we never will benefit. We have to accept it in the present. The present is the only realm of time in which we have complete control of our actions and thoughts and can influence people around us. We cannot influence things in the past or in the future, we can only do our part in the here and now. The Line of Time stretches from the unfathomable past, back to The Beginning, all the way to the unknowable future, all the way to The End. God is in both places all the time, thus He knows The Beginning, as well as The End. But, where God’s finger touches that line lies The Present. Right now; where we live; the only place we, as humans, can live.
The past has already happened; we cannot change the past. The future has not yet happened, but can only be influenced through our actions in the present. So that brings us to the present, which is the most important part of time, the only place where we can act directly for Him. We have to remember the only time in which we can influence our action with the help of the Holy Ghost is within the present. We just need to remember the past for our future actions; if there was any bad we did in the past, we just need to not repeat it. We can learn from the past and use it as object lessons, but we must not stay there. We need to keep moving forward. We will never be in tomorrow, and we can never go back to the past, but we are always within the present. We must prepare for the future, but not live or even live in dread of there. So, then let us accept His forgiveness now, not tomorrow, not yesterday, but today.
God gives us guidance through the Holy Ghost, if we will but accept it. He gives us the power to act in the spirit of The Law. The Law or actually 613 little laws turned out to be in of itself a death sentence. The Jews could not, or would not, comply with the 613 Mosaic Laws, which brought them death. The Law brought Death, but the New Testament of Jesus Christ brought to us Life, true everlasting life.
The Jews only cared about not violating the Law, not about the spirit of the Law which was intended. Following the letter of the Law does not save an individual, following the spirit of the Law is what counts. If you follow the spirit of the Law, you are following what the Law was meant for. Jesus is the ultimate embodiment of the Law. As the embodiment of the Law, He gave us the important bits of the law, when He gave us the summary of The Law, which through Him would bring life, everlasting life and happiness here on earth:
HOUshalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
Only two laws to comply with, which though simpler, are harder:
1. Love God
2. Love your neighbor like yourself
Think about it, if you do those two things, you will find you need no other real moral guidance. Loving God and loving your neighbor like yourself will greatly improve your life and others around if you consistently follow it. The Summary of the Law is the spirit of the New Testament, which is we are to love God and love our neighbors. These are both things seemingly contrary to our sinful nature, but with the help of the Holy Ghost, they can be overcome. And they are also both things that will greatly improve our lives here on Earth. If not in a monetary sense, most certainly our lives will be improved spiritually if we follow the Summary of the Law. If you understand the Big Picture, you know what to do on your part of the Little Picture to make your world line up with His World. Just like the sight picture on a rifle, lining up the sights with the target. We want our sights to line up with His Picture. We want our sight picture to be the same as His. The problem is just like the Jews, we cannot perfectly follow those either. Because we come from the same common ancestor, Adam, we have the curse of free will. We often exercise this free will poorly, rather than in the way God intended, which is to focus on Him. But we can at least do our very best to follow those directions and change course whenever we aren’t headed in the right direction. That is where the Holy Ghost can be so useful for us, inputting change of course corrections to us. We just need to listen to His input and then act upon it accordingly.
In the Gospel, Jesus helped a deaf man with an impediment of speech. We are like that deaf man, who cannot seemingly hear God’s commands, or won’t. We have a speech impediment in that we often utter incorrect or outright sinful words in our day to day lives. We are asking for Him to heal us of both spiritual impediments. Without His help, we cannot be cleared of our spiritual deafness and uncleanliness. And like that deaf man, if we will allow Him into our hearts, Jesus Christ will remove that spiritual block that causes the spiritual deafness and uncleanliness. The key phrase here is that we have to allow Him into our hearts. He won’t come in uninvited; we have to on our own will, willingly invite Him in. Only then can He start the cleansing process.
Only Christ can purify our hearts, souls and minds. However, before He can do that, we have to make the conscious effort to let Him into our hearts. He does not enter into hearts where He is not wanted. Only with that continual, conscious effort, can He dwell within our hearts and save us. It is through His faith, His sacrifice we are saved, but we must show that we are with Him, by acting for Him. This is a continuous process that will go on for the rest of our earthly lives.
Doing our best is all that God asks of us, not just saying we are doing our best when we aren’t. But, happily for us Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf accounts us as just before God. So, now we know that, who do we tell about it? Do we let people know, or do we hide our allegiance to the Lord? If you hide your allegiance, you really have none. Thus, we must be open about our allegiance and share the Good News with others, so they in time may come to seek the joys of His Kingdom. They may not understand right away, but the seed of the Lord may germinate and grow within them, so that within due course they may understand the Word and come to seek Him. A seed does not instantly become a large sycamore tree, it takes years of watering and good sunshine for the plant to growinto the large tree. It is the same with us, it takes years of good spiritual food and drink (Holy Scripture and the Holy Ghost) and of being with fellow believers who are learning along with you to grow spiritually. We have to remember this every time we are preaching to the Word to an audience who may not have received much nurturing. We may not see results right away, but the Holy Spirit will plant the seed and over the years, with constant nurturing, that seed will grow into a great Sycamore tree of the Spirit.
The Holy Ghost is a large part of our spiritual lives. Without Him, we could not be considered one of Christ’s sheep. We have to let Him into our hearts and lead the transforming and renewal of our minds. Without His help, we cannot adequately follow Him. In other words, we are doomed without the help of the Holy Ghost, which will give us His guidance and advice in conducting our church, professional and personal lives.
When Jesus opened the ears and mouth of the deaf mute, He did for him what the Holy Ghost will do for us, if we will but let Him open first our ears to hear, then our mouths to testify, communicate and direct. We must lead people to God, not try to push them. Thus, we need to strive, each of us, to follow God more closely so we can pull on the lead rope. Leading requires being in front of the people you are attempting to lead, having them follow your example towards an objective. Study Jesus’ life, He is a perfect example of a leader. We cannot ever be perfect, but we can strive for that perfection in our actions.
Action counts. For by their actions ye shall know them.
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
Herein lies another problem. If we pray, it seems we continually pray for what we want and we oft want things that are contrary to our actual needs. Imperfect creatures with free will, a bad combination in itself, we continually use and understand in our hearts two words: needand want, to mean the same thing; when in fact they often mean two diametrically opposed things. Thus, amongst other things and perhaps before, we need to pray for the Holy Ghost to help us to understand the difference and ask for what we need.
Here we are again, back to the old Action, not Diction, is what counts!