Sunday, September 9, 2018
Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
Sermon – Reverend Hap 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, “…Keep … thy Church with thy perpetual mercy; and … keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation …”
When the Collect talks about the church, it is not talking about buildings; it is talking about us. The church is not a building, it is the army of believers following God. That is the church. Each of us; all of us. We need God’s Mercy and Grace to keep us from desiring those things that are bad for us and help us to see we really want those things that are good for us.
Speaking of things, just like the Jewish based Christians of Paul’s time, it often seems like everyone has secret rituals, handshakes or hoops they want you to jump through to be really IN. Paul reminds us that all fall short, and special fancy diets, days or outfits do not change us. We are all the same sinful human beings regardless of what special fancy days, diets our outfits we partake in. That does not change who we are. God does not require any sort of fancy diet, days or outfits to be IN with Him. In fact, they are rather counter productive to being IN with Him. They are just a distraction from following Him. All He asks is that we believe on Him and His Son Jesus and do our best to follow Him. None of these fancy rituals churches have are keys to salvation. It is only by the Grace of God through our Lord Jesus we find real salvation. Our salvation is not based on the ritual, the handshake or even the slice of the circumcision scalpel. Though those churches would have you believe otherwise, they are not effective in the salvation process in the slightest. They are not needed. For the action that led to our salvation was Jesus’s death and resurrection and has already happened one time for all time for all mankind. Salvation is based on His death and resurrection that we might have eternal life, not some rituals. He is the key to our salvation. He does not require for us to have any fancy garb or rituals, only to remember His death and passion that we might be partakers of His Heavenly Kingdom. He does not ask for much, only this simple thing; that we believe on Him, which is the key to getting into heaven. His Faith saves us, and we have to have faith in Him that He did those things, and act upon that faith.
Our salvation comes one way, by the Grace of God through our Lord Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Nobody comes to the Father but by Him. He is our salvation. He is the living embodiment of the Word of God. His faith has saved us and made us whole, not our faith. But we need to act for Him to show that we have faith in Him. It is not to us to decide the salvation, but by God through His Son, who died for our sins. This is what the whole Gospel is based upon. This is the solid foundation, as Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our faith. We are not Cranmerians, nor are we Calvinists or Lutherans, but we are Christians first, who like the ideas of Cranmer, et al. We should never be identified as followers of man but of Christ and God. When one becomes a follower of man, he ends up following the Devil in a fashion; for if we serve ourselves, or follow ourselves, we tend up to end up in death. But if we follow Him, we have the gift of life as St. Paul explains For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23 KJV)
The problem with the folks that identify themselves as something other than Christian, is they start to believe more in the ideas of the person they are following, than the ideas of Jesus Christ and God, whom they are supposed to be following. They get lost in the theological rabbit hole and wander so far back, they’ve gone past where they were supposed to be, and got lost off the narrow uphill trail towards heaven, and end up on the wide downhill trail towards hell instead. They lose sight of the simple principles of Scripture and become more like the Pharisees in finding loopholes to get around. It is so easy to get lost in the ideas of the various theologians, even in that of John Calvin and Zwingli, that you forget that they were doing their best to be known as followers of Christ. They would frown upon those who identify themselves as Calvinists or Zwinglians, and not as Christians.
It does not matter whose theology you like the best, but what does matter is that you follow Scripture and God and Jesus Christ. In the end that is what will matter, not whose ideas you liked the best. Neither Calvin’s ideas nor Luther’s ideas can save, only Christ and God’s actions and words can save us and heal our souls. We must be dependent on God and not man for our earthly guidance.
We alone cannot enter into heaven without His help. We are imperfect creatures with free will, with a tendency to choose the wrong thing at the wrong time. We really need His help to get into heaven, and His help here on earth as well. We also need the help of the third God guy, the Holy Ghost. But, in order to have their help, we have to be dedicated to serving God, and not Man. If we focus on serving Man and not God, we do not have the Holy Ghost within us.
For the Holy Ghost would never have us listen to the ideas of man and not God. So, we must take care and review what the leaders of the church say, for there are many who are not listening to God, but only care to please Men to get them to come into their churches. These men are the false prophets Christ has spoken of who disguise themselves as sheep to infiltrate the Church. As the times march on, there will be more of these false Prophets. In the end, people will have to choose who they want to serve, God or Man.
That brings us to Saint Matthew’s point, one cannot serve two masters. Like that bad pun, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” You cannot travel both paths. We must choose who we will serve: God or the world. If we chose God, that does not mean we turn our back on the world around us, but rather we interface with the world using the Rules of Engagement given to us by our Lord. We prioritize our actions with Him first. Our family motto; God • Honor • Country • Familyis an example of this prioritization. First things first. Build from the inside out and the bottom up. Do not mistake this motto for perfection, we have erred and strayed from our ways like every lost sheep, probably farther than most. But we know which way is The Way and keep correcting back on course.
Prioritization can be as a simple as coming home early on Saturday night so that you get a good night’s sleep and are ready for the Sunday church service. It can be as complex as leaving a job that interferes with your honoring God, Country or Family. First things first. God can help you make that decision; but you have to make it, He can’t make it for you. He will not force use to make that decision, you of your own free will, will have to make that conscious decision and effort. The Holy Ghost will give you guidance on that front, but you will have to listen and it will be your responsibility to listen and then act upon that guidance.
Throughout the Bible we are exhorted to respect God, be honorable, work hard and take care of our families. If we do these things, following God’s Will, our fiscal standing here on earth will be sound. Follow these precepts, you will never be lacking, but you will never be inordinately wealthy, “Bill Gates rich” so to speak. For to do that requires reprioritization to wealth in the first place. Replacing allegiance to God with allegiance to wealth is a one way ticket to a destination you don’t want. Allegiance to God is a more precious and valuable thing to have, for with it comes a priceless gift, eternal life. Eternal life is a gift that mankind has been seeking for the ages, but has not found. But Jesus Christ offers that gift to us, as long as we follow Him to the best of our ability.
The last part of this reading is the one we often have the most trouble with. We are far too ready to borrow trouble from tomorrow. Every day, I pray at least twice for help with this. It is getting better; I am confident on one thoughtful level no good comes of worry, yet I have such a hard time acting on that thought. It is a very difficult thing not to worry, but it is something that needs to be done nonetheless. I find as I trust God more and act upon His will more, I worry less. There is a correlation there I believe. It is a very hard thing to do, but it must be done, to ensure our success in spreading the Gospel and being an effective minister of God. Plus, worrying less will provide other benefits as well, and help us to lead happier lives. When we do what God asks, doing our best and not just saying it, there is not a lot to worry about. Even if there is, we can relax, knowing God has everything under control and He will always give us guidance on how to proceed.
God wants you to be happy; He knows what will make you happy. God does not mind if you have fun along the way, but never pursue fun confusing it with happiness. In the end, you won’t find either.
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