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Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
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.
The Second Sunday in Advent
LESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
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.
The Collect and the Epistle and the Gospel all tell us we are to learn from Scripture and to place our hope and trust in God, not man. They tell us God provided Scripture so that we might learn from the history of old believers in the Old and New Testament. As the saying goes, if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it. It is the same with Scripture; for much of Scripture is history.
Scriptures have been given to us as a tool for learning so we might become wiser through the Holy Spirit, whose guidance as we read and study Scripture will allow us to come to a fuller understanding of the meaning it should have in our daily lives. The key concept is learning, learning by growing closer to the concepts found in Scripture and finding out how to learn from the mistakes we have made. Scriptures are here for our personal and spiritual development. The guidance of the Holy Spirit is necessary for us to read the Scriptures and implement the concepts found in them in our day to day lilves.
We need His Influence in our hearts in order to understand what we are preaching; to live what we are preaching, in order for our faith to have any meaning. Then we also have to live what we preach, other wise we become hypocrites. People will very quickly notice if our actions are not congruent with our professed belief. There are far too many people today who live in a hyopcritcal manner. We must not become like one of them.
Following that point, if we do not have understanding or act upon our preaching, how can we ask others to follow God, when we ourselves are not? We can’t lead people towards and following God if we do not do that ourselves. It simply isn’t possible to lead people towards God if we aren’t following Him ourselves. We must strive to avoid hypocrisy, to live a geniune life following His commandments He has set for us and to be a beacon to guide others to Him. We are not an icon or image of Him, but merely pathfinders, and once we find the path, we guide others to Him. We do not posess any special powers as ministers of the Lord, except as we have the Holy Ghost within us, directing us. And that special power is not of our own to claim, but He who sent Him. We are merely being allowed to have Him within us and we should not boast of any deeds done with His Inspiration, but must simply point back to the source who sent Him. We cannot claim any credit on our own for the power He has bestowed upon us to perform great good works for Him. He works not only in ministers, but in each and every member of the church. For, each of us is an emissary of Christ to the world.
He gives each of us in His Church special talents, so members of the Church may use these talents in conjunction with one another to bring people to Christ. As in a professional workplace, each member of the Church has a special talent, used in conjunction with other people with each of their own talents, which can be used together to bring people to Christ. We each have our function, just like each part of our body has a function and each individual part is needed for its specific function to work as a whole. If we all had all heads, it would not work out well for us. But like our body parts, we are each called to a separate talent to make up the whole church.
For when we all work together the Church becomes team, each and everyone in it, the clergy and the lay people all having the common goals of spreading the Gospel to those who are in need of it and tending to those who need help. We become an unstoppable force, doing good in His Name. This is all made possible if we read and act upon the precepts of Scripture with the help of the Holy Ghost.
We must act upon the words of Scripture and the sermons we hear, so our faith will be manifest to all those watching us. We will make mistakes and sin, as we are imperfect beings; if we admit our wrongdoings to God, and come back to Him, all shall be forgiven and we shall have a fresh slate on which to start anew.
In the Epistle, Paul tells us Scripture was written so we might have hope, even in times of darkness. Times like these with unbelievers in high places doing their best to defile and ridicule our faith can try our souls. We must treat others as Christ taught us, with respect and humility, no matter our personal feelings/opinion on them and how they conduct their lives. If we are kind to them, we may plant a seed in their lives for the better, causing perhaps a change for the better in them. We do not know what impact our actions may have in the future; we can only hope they may influence an individual for the better. It may not be until way later we find out what measurable impact we may have had on these peoples lives. It takes a while for seeds to germinate and grow into large and wondrous trees, it is the same with the seeds we plant spiritually. We have no idea what our actions will inspire others to do. That is also why we need to be extremely careful in how our actions influence others. We want to be a positive influence, rather than a negative one.
This is where applying the love thy neighbor as thyself concept plays a big part. For if we follow Christ’s Summary of the Law, our actions are more likely to cause a positive impact on others around us. If we follow ourselves instead of the Holy Ghost, we are more likely to cause a negative impact to others around us.
Turning to the Gospel, Saint Luke describes the signs of the Second Coming and how we are to prepare for it. We are not to be caught unaware of the signs; if we read the signs, then we shall be prepared to meet our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. At the same time remember Christ’s words in Matthew 24:36 - But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. This means every day we have to be active in our faith, and not brain and faith dead like so many around us today. We have to be spritually aware of our spiritual surroundings, much as a good and safe driver/motorcyclist must be aware of the cars around him and possible hazards in the road at all times.
We have to use the tools given to us by God; Scripture, our faith and our friends in the faith to combat the evils of this world. They are given to us for learning the faith and for defending the faith from the multiple assaults of the wicked one. We must do our best to make this world the best place we can. If we study, digest and use Scripture in faith, we will have hope in these times of darkness; we will go forth and spread the Good News, which will give us satisfaction and hope for people; therefore renewing our spirit and vigor and the knowledge that in the end we will triumph, will fill our hungry spirits. It will renew our sense of purpose and redirect our focus outward instead of inward.
Our hungry spirits can only be satisified by God’s Goodness and His Word and His Love, of which He has infinite capacity; nobody is stealing anybody else’s share, as God has more than plenty to go around for all of us! In fact, the more of God’s Love you take, the more there is for others! So we must concentrate then on sharing the Gospel and God’s love, so others might finally find true happiness, as we find ours, in serving the Lord for the rest of our days. We also have to concentrate on living a genuine Christian life and not a shallow Christian life; showing the way to Christ for others to see and follow.
The common theme through the Collect, Epistle and Gospel is that if we have hope and trust in God, we must dread naught, and carry on, empowered through them in our daily lives here on Earth until we are called to our heavenly home. These are actions we must take; not mere thoughts or words, actual actions!
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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