Sunday, December 1, 2019
First Sunday in 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.
The First Sunday in Advent
LMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
¶ This Collect is to be repeated every day, after the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas Day.
Today’s Collect, like almost all of them, starts out asking God’s Grace, His Help, His intervention to allow us to turn our backs on evil and our own desires that we might make His Desire our desire. This theme is constant through ought most of the collects for the simple reason that it is truth. And it is the truth that without God’s intervention in our lives through the help of the Holy Ghost we are doomed to fail. If you will understand how short we fall in our “natural” desire, you will understand to cast off the works of darkness and don the armour of light, we must turn to Christ, who came to visit us, born in a simple and humble inn in Bethlehem. As His manner of birth, we must be humble as well, not boastful and proud like the rich, but meek and lowly, to embrace light and cast off the works of darkness. We have to let go of our pride in order to be humble and be able to cast off the works of darkness. Though He came in a rather humble manner, He shall return in a glorious and majestic manner, a rather stark contrast to His original incarnation, leaving no doubt who has come to lead us. Consider also that when Jesus came into this world, He knew precisely and exactly how He would leave and the pain and suffering it would entail. There was no way to justify in His mind that while there would be 99 percent casualties, it would not be Him. He knew exactly what would happen, yet He came anyway. He came for us. He came that we might not have just eternal existence, but eternal life and freedom.
The whole point of the Collect, Epistle and Gospel is that we must embrace light and reject the darkness. We do this by allowing the Holy Ghost into our hearts, to shine the light in our hearts and expel the darkness. It is a true and bright light which will cleanse our hearts of the inner darkness and will send the darkness scattering like insects. Only then can we truly don the armor of light. We need to train our brains and minds and souls in this way, so that we can act for Christ. This constant battle will occur for the rest of our lives until we are called home to join our friends and family who have gone before and Christ and His Father. We have been called to do these things, as sons and daughters of God, but only with a conscious effort on our part to accept Him and more importantly to listen to Him, can we do these things. To do these things we have to live it. Not just say we are living it, but physically perform the actions needed to live it.
This brings us straight to the Epistle. Paul tells us we need to live the life we aspire to. He wastes little time on the don’ts which the Jews were famous for getting around, but goes right to the dos; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. By going through the dos, Paul is saying we need to let in the light and allow the Holy Spirit to expel the darkness. We cannot hope to accomplish any of the dos if we do not have the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Following God requires that we reject the dark and cling to the light. The light of the Holy Spirit will burn away the darkness in our souls, if we will but let Him.
Paul cautions us to not borrow for what we do not need that we might owe others nothing but our love. To know the difference between want and need. This is sound advice sorely needed in this country these days. If we do, we are ensuring that we will not have a worldly obligation to any who might hold that over us to influence our path away from that Christ set out for us. We ideally owe no man anything but that of our love. Paul asks us to love our neighbors, by love he means to take care for them as we would for ourselves or our own close relations. Not necessarily to “give” them money, but to help them to attain self-sufficiency that they might prosper both in soul and body.
This takes us right into the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. We must not be for God in speech only, but in deed. When Jesus came into this world, He came knowing the true purpose of His coming, He came knowing how He would leave, He came knowing the cost at which our souls would be accounted at perfect. He knew what He had to do to save our souls for eternity. His whole ministry, including his death and resurrection, can be best summed up in one word; action. He consistently backed up His Message with actions and not just words. This is a pattern for us to follow as believers; we are called not just to say good words, but back those good words up with actions. The story of Palm Sunday is the same as that of the Nativity. For on Palm Sunday, there was joy in the crowd at the arrival of the Savior, much as there was in the stable at the arrival of the Child Jesus. Yet, many in the very same crowd who cried “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday were there early on Good Friday. For what did they cry then?
“Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”
Pilate asked for them to cry for mercy, they cried for vengeance on their Lord and Savior!
A swift 180° turn from “Hosanna to the Son of David.” How quick are men to turn upon a good thing. As Charles Spurgeon said "It is an astounding thing and a proof of human depravity that men do not themselves seek salvation. They even deny the necessity of it and would sooner run away than be partakers of it." This is due to our natural inclination to choose the fruit of death rather than the bread of life, which comes from the Baker of Life, Jesus Christ.
The Bread of Life is Christ’s sacrifice for us, and every time we partake of it in Holy Communion and listening to the Gospel and the Epistle, we must always remember the cost of our freedom from death. This Bread did not come to us without a cost namely His Death and resurrection. It also comes with conditions, namely that we profess Christ as Our Saviour and to put Him first in our lives, love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves. We have heard this before in the Summary of the Law. This is what the Law of God condenses down to, and this is what all laws we set forth must be based upon, for there is no other rational or foundational base so great and solid as Christ. He must be the Chief Cornerstone in our lives, if our lives are to have any meaning. There are those who He is not chief in, and they are those who may vainly profess His name with their lips, but not in their actions. This is a great sorrow for them. They have not kept the Word of God in their hearts, though they may shallowly profess it with their lips. It is action, not diction, that counts!
We must not be like them. We must put on the great Armour of Light and so reject our former lives of sin and vanity. We must switch from our old selfish lives to a new unselfish, Christ filled life. It is something we always struggle with, but God never gives up on us. We can be comforted by the assurance He will never give up on us. We just have to never give up on Him and do our very best to follow what He says. As long as we repent from our sin and turn back to God in our private prayers and devotion, he will wipe our slate clean. I know I have a hard time keeping on the straight and narrow path, so I am glad He left the Scriptures to guide us.
Through following His Word and Instructions, we shall be given a greater reward than anything existent on the Earth; past, present or future, that gift of immortal life, life for all eternity, that will outlast this physical world. To don the armour of light is not merely putting it on, you must utilize the helmet, the buckler and sword (Scriptures and Christ’s teachings). You need the whole complement of weaponry to go into combat with the Prince of Darkness in this fallen world. And you not only need the complement of weaponry, but we need to train with these weapons. The best way is to be reading Scriptures regularly and discussing the meaning of it with your fellow believers. This way you can ingrain the Scriptures in your heart and be ready to do battle with those who follow the Prince of this World.
Make no mistake, we are engaged in a World War with the Prince of Air, the Prince of This World, for the souls of men, starting with our own, a World War which has been going on since the beginning of time. But we know the ending is in our favor for certain, for the Book of Revelation tells us so.
As individuals we may not experience victory here on earth. We may struggle with problems in this world and our own, our whole lifespan on this planet. We may not see and savor that victory here on earth; but we know in the end He will be victorious as we know the Savior. We will win, for we are on His Side.
Cast off the dull worn robes of darkness, which lack luster, give no warmth, protect not from the heat, and put on the shining glorious armour of light. So kitted up, we walk in light, not in darkness where we may stumble and fall. Unlike moths, for us light is life, not the destruction of darkness.
Come, put on the Armor of Light and go forth to destroy that last enemy, death!
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
 It is not that worldly wealth is, in and of itself, bad, but rather the attitude it can bring, one of self-worth beyond that which is correct. Wealth often brings to us a “better than thou” attitude, which soon turns to “Holier than thou.” The kind of thing that was referred to when Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Mark 10.25