Sunday, November 24, 2019
Sunday next before Advent
Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together because as is always the case there is a unifying message in the Scripture for this Sunday.
TIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As is oft the case, today’s propers are all tied together. As is usual, they call for action not just thoughts. In fact, the collect is among the most direct, asking God to stir our hearts that we might ACT in a manner which will result in good things! The collect is asking for God to inspire us to ACT to produce those good works that will please Him. It is asking for God to assist us in our actions here on Earth to produce good fruits.
Jeremiah prophesies the coming of Jesus out of the branch of David that He might unite God’s people as one under a New Covenant. Christ is the key piece to the puzzle of the Old Testament prophecies. He is the answer to all of the prophecies the Old Testament contains about our savior. He is the Messiah who is prophesied by the prophets in the Old Testament. John tells us Jesus comes to fill both our spiritual and physical hunger. Our spiritual hunger in that by His Coming, we will have the Word as our spiritual bread and drink. And our physical hunger by the fact if we follow what He says and do our best, we should have no problems getting food to eat. The collect is asking God to stir up our will. The collect also notes that when our will is stirred up by God, we will be driven to perform good works for Him. This collect is a call to action, to perform good works to advance the cause of the Gospel. In a way it is similar to Jesus’s Great Commission in that it is asking us to allow God into our hearts and go forth and do good works that the Good News might be spread. When God enters into our hearts, he will give us spiritual food and drink that will be more filling to our souls than the lembas bread from Lord of the Rings, it will sustain us on our spiritual journeys here on earth and guide us on that narrow and upward path towards heaven. We just have to let Him into our hearts and provide us with that nourishment.
Once He is in our hearts, we are to let Him stir up His Will in our hearts, to incline us to perform good works for Him and to go out and actually perform those good works. Then through these actions we will truly get our just reward. Our wills are naturally inclined towards not following Him; we need to have our wills reset towards following Him.
We have to throw off our old man, to quote Saint Paul and to put on the new armor and helmet of the new man. We have to let the Holy Ghost into us and cleanse us of our old sinful selves. For without the Holy Ghost’s influence, we cannot truly be able to willing follow Him and act for Him on our own intuition. For our natural intuition is corrupt, by the disease of sin eating away at our very souls. Only the great doctor, God himself, can cure us of this otherwise incurable disease.
Nothing else in this world will satisfy us like God and the Word of God can. He is the answer to the missing hole in so many people’s hearts and lives. There is so much evidence of this missing hole in people’s lives today. Our broken society is a reflection of the gigantic God shaped hole that is missing. Yet nobody wishes to acknowledge or recognize this hole. The church sadly has been complicit in this by allowing the devil to enter into the church. No house divided against itself shall stand and sadly that is what is happening with the modern church. We have found that no art or work of mammon can come even close to the pure satisfaction following God provides. Yet because so many people have been blinded by Satan they won’t see this. This is the only possible way we can truly be satisfied, everything else is a shadow of true happiness and satisfaction. God is the only way in which we can truly be happy, for everything else is worthless to our wellbeing, except for the joy of following Him.
If we follow our own heart and guidance, we will seek the things of this world. As explained before, the things of this world cannot compare in satisfaction value to God and the Word of God. If we set our hearts on acquiring things of this world, we will be seeking material superiority. Which leads to things like stealing, coveting, all negative attributes that go against God’s laws. These are all things that if you look at the Ten Commandments, violate them. And nothing can be gained by the things of this world that will grant eternal pleasures like setting our hearts on heaven and God.
Look back on history and see how much evil action can be laid to not only coveting but some of these other evil desires by not only persons, but nations. We can look at the examples of the early wars in Europe, and of late, of the wars started by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan for examples.
These examples show we are not truly capable of satisfying ourselves, but only Jesus and the Holy Spirit can fill the hole. This is why we truly need the Holy Ghost acting in our hearts and cleansing us of these impure thoughts. We desperately need the influence the Trinity provides in our life. Our life will be so much more rewarding and happier, if we have them involved in our lives, versus those who do not have them in their life.
As we are nearing the beginning of Advent, let us think ahead to the joy of Christmas, the birth of Christ, His entry into this world, the joy of Epiphany, His revealing to the world. Then look ahead at the horror, pain and sadness of Good Friday. This lets us see the joy of eternal life He gave us, came at a very heavy price. Jesus gave His Own Life so we might have eternal happiness and not only that but he had to go down into hell and do battle with the devil. It has been said there is no free lunch. That is true, it is better said that everything has a price. There are some things are worth paying for, some are not. Not one thing is worth coveting or stealing in the Ten Commandments sense. Be sure and pay for everything, do not steal or partake in acquisition of stolen goods. We need to always be cognizant of this and be thankful He came, lived and died for us, that we might have eternal life.
The inordinate desire, coveting, for more money can lead to theft; the desire for more prestige, to evil ambition; the desire for more power, to tyranny; the desire for a person's body, to fornication and adultery. This inordinate desire for more money is a gateway drug of sorts, leading us into more sins. Paul identifies covetousness as idolatry because it puts things in the place of God. When we put things over God’s Will, we no longer worship Him, but avoid Him.
When people serve idols, they place things above God. When you covet, you are willing to set aside God for things. In the end, that never works. And, near the end it gets pretty unpleasant. We find idols easier to deal with than God. You can make an idol; God made you. If you don’t like the idol’s rules, you change the rules. We can’t change God’s rules so we seek to change Him to an idol so we can change the rules. God stands fast and is unchanging, unlike the World which is constantly changing things to suit its sinful desires. There are some pretty big differences there. We will never be fully satisfied with things of this world, but we will be satisfied with what God provides for us.
He asks of us nothing special; but just to do our very best and not just say it. It is something that I am striving to work on more and more every day. We must keep learning and following His Word. It is a hard concept for many of us to follow, including myself, but we must all strive more and more every day to do our very best. If we study Scriptures diligently and work hard to follow them to the best of our abilities, then we will, with the Holy Spirit’s help, be charted on an excellent course.
Interestingly, He tells the disciples to “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” It seems He is talking about the sheep that He tends to, He wishes to “gather up the fragments that remain”, meaning the people apart from His flock, that “nothing be lost”, meaning that their souls may not be lost for eternity. Think about that and take what it is offered before it is no longer on the menu! And be thankful for All His Blessings in our lives, for our friends and our family that He has placed in our lives.
We are blessed and should be grateful we are in a spiritually rich group (The Anglican Orthodox Church) and in communion with some very good men and women across the Earth in the AOC Worldwide Church, who hold true to the principles of Scripture. God has blessed us all by bringing us together. I am thankful for each and every person in the AOC Church and my family and friends. At Thanksgiving, we should be thankful most of all for God sending His Son to die for us, that we might have eternal life and happiness instead of the eternal misery that comes from the separation from God.
Actions speak louder than words, when we actually use that inspiration of the Holy Ghost and a couple well thought out words with actions, we can do many marvelous things in the lives of people around us, through His Spirit and Word and we will help to fill people’s spiritual hunger, through acting through His Word, in thought, word and deed.
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
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