Sunday, September 29, 2019
Saint Michael and all Angels superseding the Fifteenth 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 for Saint Michaels, “…as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so, by thy appointment, they may succour and defend us on earth…”
Angels do God’s Work in Heaven and He Sends them here to do His Work here from time to time. Do not be quick to discount their influence and effect here. Their presence is often made known to those who need God’s help and are not open to other ways. As his wife was leaving this earth, my Uncle Jack was visited by angels. They did not say, I am an angel, but their origin and mission was clear.
That brings us to the words of the Collect for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity, “…the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation …”
When you hear the word GRACE, what do you think of?
2. Heavenly dispensation;
3. A gift freely granted;
4. The free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
The word can be any of these, it comes from Middle English: via Old French from Latin gratia, from gratus‘pleasing, thankful’ and is related to grateful.
In this case we are asking God’s help, for which He charges nothing, except our faith and loyalty to Him, to withstand the temptations of this world. We ask for help to withstand what? Actually, what we are looking for is help to not follow our own devices and desires. We are asking for help to make His Will our will. To help us to do what will make us happy. For we know that we ourselves will not do what His Will is of our own volition, but rather we must ask that God plant the seed of His Will on our hearts so we will do it.
Paradoxically, we are asking for help to do not what we want, but what is best for us. We are asking God’s Help to make us want to do what He wants us to do, so that not only will we have “fun”, but be happy! For, being happy is far more important and helps our spiritual lives more than the temporary state of fun. Fun will only last a few moments, happiness lasts forever. On the surface, it does not really seem all that reasonable, but here we are imperfect creatures with free will! The free will sometimes or rather most of the time seems more like a curse than a blessing, at least to me. For with it, I am more tempted to go the wrong way than the right way, but when I go the right way, it then comes to me that it is a blessing.
The reading from Saint John’s Revelation is more than just a brief history of the Devil’s downfall; literally, it tells us why the Devil has so much power in this world. As he passed from Heaven to Hell, he got his talons in the earth, our earth. He cut wide swaths through the firmament in which infection grows unto this day. The only cure for that infection is the Christ of God; our Lord and Savior. As long as we are His, the Devil has no power over us. As soon as we leave Christ’s protection, we are subject to the infection that is the Prince of this World.
Lest we be too quick to look to Saint Michael or any of the other saints, angels or the like, Saint Matthew recounts Jesus’s admonition that we need to believe. Believe as a little child, that is to accept Jesus’ teachings like a child accepts his parents’ directions, “Because I said so, that is why!” We must accept God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost in faith because He Said So. We cannot base our belief on intricate laws and teachings, our faith must be because He Said So. No more, no less. There are many facts, many reasonings, many of this and many of that, but it boils down to: He Said So. While a very simple song, there is much truth in:
Jesus Love me.
This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.
--Anna B. Warner, 1820 -1915
Through out the Bible, Jesus constantly tells us to believe like little children, think about that before you get wrapped up in - How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? The answer by the way is simple – However many are required.
Think also of this particular gospel when you hear the word CHOICE bandied about by those who would sacrifice their children for a fiscal improvement (a nice way to say a buck or two): But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Not much of a guess to figure Jesus’ position on abortion, is it? Or His position on the child abuse scandals in the Episcopal, Roman and other churches. It does not sound promising for those involved does it? This gospel also shows why you should treat your children nicely. If you don’t treat them nicely, then how can you expect God to treat you nicely?
Jesus tells us not to worry about earthly comfort, but eternal life. Children are the key to that life and their faith is the key to that life. We have to believe as the children do, not questioning every little detail, but to simply believe. That is what He wants for us.
Can you feel the tie between the two Collects and the reading from Revelation and Matthew’s Gospel? We need help. Our first problem is to recognize it, the second it to accept it. The Devil holds a lot of sway over this world, but if we are in Jesus’ hands we are out of reach of the Devil’s grasp. As soon as we get out of Jesus’ hands, we are prey for the Devil. Remember Peter’s admonition, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” It is critical our faith be complete, one side to another with no breach the Devil may exploit. The most sure way is to keep our faith simple. Following the KISS approach, as it were. The more complex we make it, the more the chance is that we are going to stray. Like that of a child. And, children are the key to the future, take care of them. If we do not do either of these, our future will be rather grim.
All this is nice talk, but it is hard to do. Having said that, remember, 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