Sunday, June 23, 2019
First Sunday after Trinity
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:
… the strength of all those who put their trust in thee; … through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee, both in will and deed…
This is a little longer Collect than usual, but in it we acknowledge God is the source of our strength, as without Him we are weak and cannot do any true good. Thus, we ask His help or grace to do His Will in both in our thoughts and actions. This is a consistent theme through all the collects, because it is based on the simple truth we cannot help ourselves and we need true Divine Guidance in order to make it into heaven. We need His Guidance to perform the actions we need to follow the course Jesus set for us.
And, what is the first action we are to take? To love one another. Saint John pointed out if we do not love our fellow creatures here on earth whom we have seen and touched, how then can we claim to have love for God, whom not one of us have seen? We do not love God if we do not love our fellow humans. Even if they have strayed a long ways off the path, we are still called to love them and help them if they want to be helped.. Jesus came to serve as the ultimate Servant, He serves as a perfect example. Even though He is the King, He has chosen to be a humble King, one who puts His Flock before His Own life. He is the model we must truly follow if we are to call ourselves Christians. We are not Christians if we are not following His example of selflessness to the best of our ability.
We are called to love individuals. For many of us, the first step is to stop hating them, for if love is the epitome of good, hate is the nadir of evil. Hate is a truly bad thing for us, it is all consuming and all destroying. First, stop hating, hate no person. Hate is not a value Christ displayed and it is not a virtue of God. Hate stems from sin and evil and from Satan. There is no individual on this earth worth hating. Ultimately hate will rot away your heart and soul until you have none left effectively. Hate is not worth the energy that it consumes. Instead of hating people, try to love them; a positive force instead of a negative force.
However loving an individual does not mean that you approve of their acts that are sinful and harmful to one’s health, spiritual or physical. This is concept which confuses many today. We cannot condone smoking or homosexual acts or abortion. Though we may know individuals who do these things, we must despise the sin, but realize these people, no matter how truly fallen they may be (Some are worse than others, but none are better. As Paul says, all fall short), are people created in the express image of God by God.
However, if they are not receptive, then we must not force it upon them, as do not cast your pearls before swine, but merely shake the dust off your feet and walk way. You never know what seeds you plant in your interactions with unbelievers or lapsed Christians which in the end may serve to guide them on to or back to the path leading upward and inward to God’s country.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
God loved us so much He sent His only Son to die for our sins. That is true love. Not that we love Him, but that first He loved us! God is the source of true love and He is the reason true love has so many wonderful qualities, so strong and enduring. So, if God first loved us, ought we also not love each other? No one has seen God at any time. Yet, He loves us and we say we love Him. If we do love one another, then God is in us, the Holy Ghost, and we are in Him. Be bold, the world will end sometime; for each of us this world ends when we leave here. Fear not, trust in God and dread naught.
Do not be afraid to love one another, regardless of what any man says. Do not fear man, only fear God, the great Judge, and Jesus the Advocate, and the Spirit, the Purifier, Guiding Light. Man can do nothing in comparison to God. And yet, God still loves us despite all our faults and having been condemned to death since the beginning of creation with the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden. God and His love will keep fear and the damage it does at bay. Love each other and act on that love.
To love one another and ACTon that love. To consider the ways we might help others and then ACTually help them. It is not a question of giving, but helping. The rich man could have helped Lazarus, but it never entered his head. The rich man, like many of us sadly, only thought of himself. Jesus illustrates perfectly in this parable what happens when we only think of ourselves and do not help or even think of others. If the rich man thought of poor Lazarus, it was to think he was an irritation or an eye sore. He could have taken pity on him and ACTually helped him, like the Good Samaritan. Instead, he just let him die, figuring that that was the end of him. Lazarus was a rather disgusting feature of his world; when he died, the rich man was pleased not to have to pass by him. Yet, it never entered into his head to help.
How is that possible?
Simple, his eye was not on the donut, but on the hole. The rich man cared about all the things that don’t count and never considered those that do. He forgot that his purpose on this planet is to make things better for those around him and not just himself. He was ultra-focused on himself rather than serving and helping other people. Instead of being a good example, he became a bad example. We can avoid his fate if we follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost. However, if you nurture and water your soul with Scripture and allow yourself to be guided by the Holy Ghost, you will have an absolutely wonderful life from now to eternity, after all if you have eternal life it starts NOW, not tomorrow. For indeed, tomorrow never comes.
It must be understood between heaven and hell there is a great gulf fixed. It is equally important to grasp the gulf is not of God’s making, but ours. It is us who keeps us from the heaven He offers freely, yet at a great price.
Put your trust in God and dread naught. Love those around you and ACTon that love. It does not matter if they are the same religion as you, but you still must love and act towards them all the same. That does not mean baring your throat to the Koran following Muslims; but it does mean treating them with kindness and charity until you must act to defend you and your way of life from them. They deserve pity, for as they follow Allah, that is the Devil, as Christ said They know not what they do.Think how you can help, not how you can “enjoy” life. Helping never means supporting those who do not feel like supporting themselves. For dependency breeds slothfulness and contempt. Dependency destroys the soul. What is does mean is facilitating a way for those who do not have what they need to earn what they need; to bring them the means of acquiring those things which they need. Those things are spiritual as well as physical. A hand up; not a hand out. You will find out the more you help, the more you enjoy real life. Whether it is helping somebody at the office, around the neighborhood or a friend, there is immense pleasure from the result of helping people, so much more than feathering your own nest, so to speak. It is not only more blessed to give than to receive, but it brings a lot more happiness into your life.
This is hard to do. We want to concentrate on what makes us feel good about ourselves right here and right now. We have to be coerced into staying on the narrow path upward and inward. But, that is where our home is.
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