Verse of the Day

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Septuagesima

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion, Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and readings for this week. Consider these words from the Collect:

… we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness …

In the Collect, we ask God who knows we should be “…justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour …”  To get into heaven we need to be accounted as perfect. Yet, we cannot be “cured” of sin nor “improved” to perfection. So how do we solve this irregularity? We know we ourselves cannot solve our dilemma.  Who can? There is a solution for us! Consider the words of John Newton near the end of his life, “Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior!” The answer lies in the latter part of Newton’s quote. Jesus is the answer to this great dilemma. Our sins are justly punished by eternal damnation, yet there is hope in our Lord. He brought us this hope by His Death upon the Cross and delivered it in the Resurrection. Without His Sacrifice one time for all mankind, there would be no hope for our eternal future. But Jesus is our hope for that eternal future. We just have to do our best to follow His commandments and to stay the course that He has set for us in our lives.

What Paul speaks of in his Epistle is the great reward we receive for holding steady to that course which God has set for us. For eternal salvation is the delivery promised to each of us by Jesus. This is our great hope that we can cling to whenever things on Earth look gloomy. If we remember the Hope that we have in Jesus, then whatever bad things may happen to us on Earth will seem small in comparison to the fact that Jesus has given us eternal life. This is the great reward for the race we run daily here on Earth. Make no mistake, like a marathon, this run requires frequent training in the Scriptures and acting upon the concepts in Scriptures. And like marathon runners, we receive a wonderful prize.  However, it is a prize that has value beyond anything on Earth. The prize is for the promise of an eternal, unending life, to be spent with our Lord and Savior Jesus. It is for the promise of a world unaffected by the tarnish of sin, unblackened by the sinful deeds of imperfect beings. It is an unshadowed world.  It shall be true happiness at last, to meet with our beloved family, our Christian heavenly family, friends and beloved pets. 

Eternal salvation is a far more valuable prize than anything we could possibly acquire here on Earth.  It is in fact a priceless treasure, truly priceless, except for the death of our Saviour and resurrection. That is the only price involved with our eternal freedom.  As the saying goes, there is no free lunch. Eternal life does not come to us without cost. The cost was Jesus’ one time sacrifice for all time for all mankind. Keep the eyes on the prize, as it were!  And realize that that prize does not come free. We have to run the race set before us and follow Jesus in order to receive our prize of eternal life. We have to be constantly focusing on this fact. 

When times get really hard, and it is tempting to give up sometimes; that is when we must redouble our efforts and focus our end goal, remaining on the path towards Heaven.. In order to stay focused on the path, we must always remember the end, the arrival in Heaven will outweigh all of the sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears we shed in this life. If we but stay the course, our time after this will be unfathomably wonderful.

Our eyes should be focused on the finish line, not our “competition.”  The only thing which counts is that we each cross the finish line.  It does not matter who our competition is, as we are not competing with anyone for our destination. We have only to concern ourselves with God’s will and focusing on getting ourselves towards the right destination.  For only you have an input in which area you will go. Not the final input, but an input nonetheless. 

So how do we run the race?  

With our eyes focused tightly on the finish line, not on those around us, wondering are they doing better than we are?  That is not a useful question.  Christianity is not about competition, about being other people to the finish line. In fact, it is about helping others around us to the finish line to the best of our abilities and if they are willing to let us help them.  

The useful question is, “Am I doing the best I can?” And we have to answer that question; if we are not doing our best, then we need to change it. And, remember this is a Team Effort. We have to want to win, and in order to win the race set before us; we have to perform actions. We need to act upon the Word of Scripture, the message, which is to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ and preach it to all nations as Christ commanded.  We must first start with our neighbors and work our way outward. It must be a team effort, we cannot all do it alone.  Each person in God’s Army has a specific talent and task assigned to them to complete their assigned mission here on Earth. We need support along the way, especially when things get tough, we need our Christian buddies to give us moral support and encouragement from the Word.   We want the Christian Team to win.  We need to give each team member all the help we can. And we need to be welcoming to each outsider who join the team, and treat them like the lifelong members of the Team. So, with that in mind, we must DO our best and not just say it, and we do that by acting upon the Word, not just reading it, but acting.

We are all so far from perfect that Holier than Thouis pretty damning praise.  Don’t even go there.  The best you can really do is not to be as evil as another, even that is pretty doubtful. But, we can do our best for our Lord; that is what really matters.

The Gospel for today, the very important parable of the vineyard, also gives us very good advice on the conduct of our daily lives and contains a crucial key to happiness.  There is the lesson that the deathbed conversion gains the same prize of eternal life as the lifelong follower, but there is a lot more in it for everyday life.  A person who comes to Christ late in life receives the same eternal benefits as a person who followed Christ from the age of reason.

It is a fine lesson in “buyer’s remorse” or coveting of jobs or similar concepts.  If you got a good deal, it does not change because someone else got a “better” deal. Take what you got, go forth and be happy.  Don’t complain because somebody else got the same deal as you did sooner. One meaning of this parable is that “cradle” Christians are no more likely to go to heaven than this morning’s convert.  They just get to enjoy the Christian experience longer. However, you should not wait until the last minute to join the gang, your time here might end before you get around to it.   So, don’t wait until tomorrow to act, do it today while you still have time!

Sometimes people act like being a Christian is an unpleasant experience that they will do when they get a round TUIT.  It is not.  Christians aren’t perfect, they just have more fun being imperfect and imperfectly trying to improve!

Christ gave us eternal life.  But, we have to accept it.  Once you accept it, start living as if you will live forever.  You will and you will have to live with your actions forever!  So, Act early and Act often! 

There is but one way to heaven.

That easy to find, easy to follow, easy to hike path does not lead to the summit where eternal life in the real world awaits. Open your heart to the Holy Ghost, use His Power to follow our Lord to God who awaits in heaven.

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

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany


The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O
 LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
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:

… keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power …

In the Collect, we are asking God to keep His People (that is US) in line with His Wishes, not our own, so we might be defended by Him.  We cannot expect Him to defend us from the slings and arrows of this world if we will not line up behind Him.  This is a pretty simple concept, but one that escapes so many.   We find God being blamed by people who do what they want, not what He wants them to do. 

The truth of the matter is that the blame rather lies within us. We are the cause of all our problem due to our inherent sinful fallen nature.  We are asking for His Help and intervention in our lives, that we might be cured of this dreadful sickness known as Sin. It is not a surprise a lot of Jesus's miracles were healing of various long suffering people with sickness. In a way, they are allegorical, in that He heals us of our sins, as He healed them of their physical sickness. His miracles shows us He will heal our terminal condition known as Sin, if we will but let Him into our heart. The key word here is let into our hearts. We have to be ready, willing and able to receive Him into our hearts that we might have a transformation of our hearts, souls and minds.

Paul reminds us that God wants us to treat others as we would be treated; having “a heart of compassion, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another…”  Jesus forgave us, stood in our place, accounted us (who are guilty of capital crimes) as perfect.  Yet, we want to hold a grudge against someone for leaving us alone a few minutes too long. How is that right?

In addition to being forgiving, we are to be sharing of His Word and joyful while doing it!  Let us think about Psalm 100, the Jubilate Deo:

O
 BE joyful in the Lord, all ye lands: * serve the Lord with gladness, and come before his presence with a song. 
Be ye sure that the Lord he is God; it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; * we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 
O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; * be thankful unto him, and speak good of his Name. 
For the Lord is gracious, his mercy is everlasting; * and his truth endureth from generation to generation. 

Does this psalm not give a lot of insight into how we are to live our lives?
We learn from this psalm that we are to be a joyful people giving thanks to the Lord always. We have to always remember that it is He that created us and not us, we are not self-made men. We are God created men and it would do us well to always remember that.

Paul calls for us to let the Peace of God that passes all understanding, enter into our hearts to transform our hearts, souls and minds becoming the men and women of Christ that God would have us be. We have to of our own free will choose this for ourselves. God is not going to choose it for us. We have to take action and let Him into our hearts.

So, what if we choose not to live our lives God’s Way, but rather our way? The Gospel covers this very subject.  Did you ever notice that weeds normally flourish far above the crop plants?  While they oft succeed in growing taller and quicker, they are not useful.  A wise farmer will let them abide in the field and separate them out at the harvest. God is that wise farmer, who will sift us out before His judgment seat.  This is what Jesus is referring to in the Gospel. God is that farmer who will patiently wait until the end days to make that final determination. 

Let us not wait for that final determination to note we were on the wrong course all along.  So, while we still have time, let us repent and turn back to Him and give thanks for His mercy! Jesus reminds us that our lives here on earth can be that way.  Those who follow the Prince of this World oft soar in earthly riches far above us, but when their time here is done, their destination is not the same as ours. In the end we shall be soaring high above them in Heaven, while they will be in the Pit.

Follow God’s will and you will do well enough in earthly riches, which are transient in nature, but we will have for …ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.  (St. Matt. vi. 19, 20)

It is our actions here that count, what we do in response to the eternal life Jesus has given us.  Will we throw it away or use it wisely?

Error is error, wrong is not right.  But, a person’s final destination is up to God, not us. During the journey of life through the time space continuum, we need to do our best to keep ourselves and those around us moving towards God, not away from Him.  The direction is always clear, sometimes we just do not want to read the signs. So, let us trust and turn to God, our infallible navigator, if we will but listen to Him and act upon his instructions we shall navigate through every storm and trial in our lives with the least pain.

If we understand we are less than perfect, actually far less than imperfect, we have a good start.  We need God in our lives to give us direction.  We need His guidance to direct our ACTION.

Read the Bible, find out what He wants you to do, then Do It.  What can you do today to carry out His Will?  There are a multitude of things you can DO to carry out His Will, but the question is, “Will you?”

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany


Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
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:

… who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright; Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations …

In the Collect, we acknowledge that God knows the dangers, toils and snares with which we must contend, which so often keep us from the upright acknowledgement and defense of that which is true and correct.  With these infirmities, our only hope is that certain hope of His help to support us, not to get out of the problems, but to make our way through them to His Glory.

Paul points out in his epistle that as we are all here on Earth, earthly rulers are subject to God and His Rules and they ultimately need to defer to Him for their authority, not look to themselves for that authority. Their authority derives from God not from man.  He points out that whosoever rejects the powers or the knowledge that the powers they are given come from God are rejecting/resisting God himself. In this day in age that is become more and more common in the leadership of countries nationwide. We can even see it in the Governors of California and New York who are actively trying to get legislation passed that is in effect rejecting God and His Principles.

Of course, to paraphrase Solomon, this is nothing new. Man has always sought to supplant God as the ultimate authority on earth. This is the whole basis behind both communism and National Socialism. There are slight differences between both mainly the means of production, but the end result is very similar in both.  They both seek to supplant God and His Authority here on earth, and make the State a non-God based church on earth, where instead of worshiping God, they worship man, basically worshipping Satan instead.

Paul says if we are doing good then we need not be afraid of the power from God that is on loan to the rulers who are ministers of God in a way. The only people who need be afraid of them are evildoers, who the ruler is appointed to use the sword to bring before God for justice. However, if the rulers that be are not punishing evil doers put people who are good doers, then we know they are not worthy of the power that God has bestowed upon them. Again, this is becoming more and more apparent across the globe. We are not in the business of condemning people’s souls to one eternal destination or the other, that is God’s job. But, Paul points out that we can arrange for the meeting to happen, when people violate God’s most sovereign laws.

Paul goes on to say that through the authority invested by them in God, people need to pay the rulers tribute, to which it is due, the customs to custom, fear to fear, honor to honor. It goes very much hand in hand with what Jesus said on the subject “Render unto Caesar’s which is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.” There is respect which ought to be paid to the rightful people who are the representatives of God ruling the people. That respect ends however, when those representatives reject God’s authority and are no longer worthy of the respect.

This also goes back to the honor thy father and thy mother concept. As long as they are doing their best to raise you up in a Christian way and showing by example to follow Christ to get to heaven, then they are worthy of that honor. But if they are doing the opposite, then they are not worthy of the honor.  It is still worth behaving in a Christian manner to both unfaithful rulers and parents, but realize they become unworthy of that honor when they reject God and His Authority.

Christianity is not a solitary religion, one all about the individual, though it certainly depends on individuals as part of the Team lead by Christ to carry it out.  God has given each of us varying talents and varying capabilities.  We must each of us do that for the Church that which we do better than others and respect those who we work with.  No power comes from God, rather special responsibilities, leaders who lead with His Will in mind must be accorded the respect they are due by virtue of their position.  They must also lead with His Will in mind, for a leader following the ways of this world and the Prince of Darkness is not worthy of respect or followership.  We must put faith in those to whom faith is due.

Faith and action, is what Christianity is all about. Christ’s actions upon the cross the solid base that our faith is based upon. His death and resurrection is the key principle behind Christianity. Actions are a crucial element of our faith. Christ’s faith accounts us as perfect before God because of His Actions. The centurion of this week’s Gospel is a symbol of faith and what appears to be inaction is his action.  He is also the person for whom our parish draws its name.  The centurion was the basic leader symbol of the Roman Empire.  A group of eight to ten soldiers was led by a Contubern.  Ten Contubernium formed a Centuria, which was led by a Centurion.  Six to ten of these formed a Cohort, also led by a Centurion.  He was an important man, able to reward or punish at will.  He knew power and how to wield it.

When the Centurion came to Jesus, he knew who He was and His Power.  When the Centurion told Jesus of his servant’s illness, the Centurion knew all Jesus had to do was will the wellness and it was done.

There was no question in his mind, the Centurion knew Jesus. His action was the seeming inaction of acknowledging his unworthiness and telling Jesus, “I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.”

We are all unworthy.  The best of us is not worthy that He should come under our roof; yet we know if He will speak The Word only, our souls shall be healed and all will be accounted well before God.  That is all He asks, “Let Me speak The Word only.”

There is but one way to heaven.

That easy to find, easy to follow, easy to hike path does not lead to the summit where eternal life in the real world awaits. Open your heart to the Holy Ghost, use His Power to follow our Lord to God who awaits in heaven.

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

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Third Sunday after The Epiphany


Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion, Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and readings for this week. Consider these words from the Collect:

… mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us …


In the Collect, we are asking God to set aside our failures and protect and aid us in all we do with His strong hand.  God is perfect, thus so is His counsel.  When we acknowledge our imperfection and ask Him for help, we should look to the written record of His Son, our Savior; the ultimate example of perfection and we should be doing do our best to follow Him, by being honest, hard working, peaceful and helpful.  When we do this, we will prosper; not only in this world, but in our hearts. And not only our hearts, but doing these things will make things better for those around us, too.  When we pray for His Help, we need to listen for the answer, then act on it, not ignore it because it is not the answer we wanted. This is a very common theme throughout the collects and by extension, the Bible. As we have always the same problems, we have the same need, which is to turn to God for help! Therefore, the theme will be similar, asking God to open our hearts, souls and minds to Him, that in Him, we might get the help for our sinful bodies and souls.

Why the continuous emphasis on action? Simple.  The line of time stretches from the far distant and unfathomable past to the far distant and unknowable future.  Yet, God is there, He has always been there and He will always be there.  He is in the past and He is the future.  Where His finger touches that line of time is today.  That is where we live; it is the only place where action can happen in our time space continuum.  Today. Not tomorrow nor the past, but today. We can’t go back in the past or go forward to the future and act there, our actions have to be done in the present. That is why worrying does nothing productive. Therefore, let us not worry about the past or the future but think about what we can do and act within the present time. We can, however, learn from our past actions and improve on areas where we fell short. Let us keep ourselves busy doing God’s work, so that we have no time at all to worry or fret, but act. The time we spend worrying or fretting is time taken away from possible actions we could perform in the present.

God, our God, is a God of Action.  No less is His Son one of action.  All throughout the Bible, you find Jesus doing things, not just talking about them.  His faith, shown in the action of His giving His Life that we might live, speaks through His actions. His whole ministry can be summed up in one word, action.  No matter where you turn while reading the Bible, what you find is Action, not Diction.  Recall the second half of the Book of Luke.  It is known as the Actsof the Apostles, not thoughts, not prayers, not meditations, not wishes or anything else; The ACTS.  He expects us to act in our lives, not just talk.  Talking is nice, but acting shows people where your heart clearly lies. 

The Gospel provides a great example of how our God is a God of Action.  In the Gospel we see Jesus performing His first documented earthly miracle, turning water into wine at Cana.  He was at first apparently reluctant to perform it, telling his earthly mother that it was not the right time for Him to perform miracles. Mary chose to ignore this and instead placed great faith in her son by instructing the servants, “Whatsoever he saith to you do it.”

She had great faith in Him that He would perform a miraculous action. Mary truly had the faith Jesus talked about which could “move mountains.” When He referred to this, He was not talking about moving mountains in the physical sense of sorts, but obstacles which get in our way in life.  That is the faith we need to have in Him and God. We need to have faith that He will help us overcome those mountainous obstacles, we just have to let him into our hearts.

His actions created a wine so good, it caused the governor to remark that usually they set out the best wine first, then when the partygoers get more drunk they bring out the worst wine. But the wine that Jesus created was so good, he said, “You have saved the best for last” in effect.

The whole point behind the Gospel is that Jesus, and God, is a person of action not just diction. Jesus could have chosen not to do anything or tell the servants anything. But He chose to honor His mother’s request and perform a miracle that set off His earthly ministry. When faced with the opportunity to act He always acted. This was the first of those times when He was faced with a decision point. You will note in all of his miracles He chose to act.

This shows that if we are to become like Christ, we are also to be men and women of action and not just diction.  There are too many in this world who to paraphrase President Trumps’ inaugural address “They talk the good talk and sit around on their hands and do nothing.” It is all too easy to say the right words at the right time; however it is harder to perform the right actions at the right time.

Actions truly show our character more than words ever could.  So, it is important we pray for the Holy Ghost’s guidance to craft our actions that the light of Christ might show forth through us and when we reach critical decision points, we might make the right choice and action at the right time.

So, when we act, how should we act?  To the extent you are able, attempt to do good to all. Always do the right thing when you are faced with that choice. Sometimes that choice is harder than others to be made, but it must be made all the same. We are not Christ, but if we do our best emulate His earthly actions, we do well.  If you treat your enemies with respect and kindness, you oft make them your friends, by treating them with respect and kindness. Like many other things Jesus taught it is easy to say and hard to do. But we must do our very best to do this, for we shall become better people of His Flock for doing so.  We have the right of self-defense, not of vengeance.  Bring them up, don’t lower yourself. That is the goal, to raise us all up and not lower ourselves to the low standards of this world, but to raise those around us to the heavenly standards.

Like Jesus at the well, remember that your purpose is to help bring people to salvation. We are not called to do any action that would push people always from salvation, but rather to lead them by example towards that salvation. Any step you take today may have future consequence.  Your witness, your testimony, your actions can bring people to the point they accept the Holy Spirit or not.  Your interface may only be one small step; but do your best to make it a step towards God, not away. Therefore, let us think about our actions and the possible consequences they could have for people turning to or away from Him.

Error is error, wrong is not right.  But, a person’s final destination is up to God, not us.  Fortunate for each of us, it should be considered.  During the journey of life through the time space continuum, we need to do our best to keep ourselves and those around us moving towards God, not away from Him.  The direction is always clear, sometimes we just do not want to read the signs. That is why we need the Holy Ghost’s help to read those signs and keep on moving in the consistent direction towards heaven.

If we understand we are less than perfect, actually far less than imperfect, we have a good start.  We know we need God in our lives to give us direction.  We need His guidance to direct our ACTION.

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 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!

Read the Bible, find out what He wants you to do, then Do It.  What can you do today to carry out His Will?  There are a multitude of things you can DO to carry out His Will, but the question is, “Will you?”

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

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Second Sunday after The Epiphany



Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion, Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and readings for this week. Consider these words from the Collect:

… God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth; Mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life …
 
In the Collect, first we acknowledge God’s place in the universe, that is He is the ultimate ruler of all things.  Thus, the civil authorities of each country, state, county and locality govern with His Authority, so long as they do His Will, whether they be Christian or not.  It is His Authority that is the source their powers and not their own determination. They do not have the power to grant themselves the power that God grants them.  And also this power that God gives is not to be abused for self profit or their own means, but to better the country and the people within it. Our Constitution, which serves as the skeleton or foundation of all our laws gets its authority from the Declaration of Independence.  Where, pray tell, does the Declaration of Independence get its authority?  From our Creator.  Acknowledged right there in plain English.  It needs no explanation, merely a grade school reading ability!  We go on to ask God to listen to us and give us His peace in our hearts.  God is perfect.  His hearing is perfect.  It is not His hearing that is in need of help.  It is our hearing. He hears us clearly when we pray; God always hears us when we call Him.  This Collect is really to remind us that when we pray to Him, we need to listen to Him. It is our hearing which is need of help, not His and the help we need can only come from Him!  Too often we ask Him what to do; when He tells us what He wants us to do, it is not what we want, so we don’t hear.  After all, there are none so deaf as those who will not hear.  So, the question is not, Does God hear our supplication?  Rather the question is, Do we hear His answer and abide by it?  Do we listen when His answer is not what we want, but what we need? He always answers, but do we always listen? We need to be always listening when He responds back and then act upon what He responds with. 

To truly follow Him, we need to truly listen and take His Guidance to heart. Without following His Guidance we cannot truly say that we are His Followers. We need to listen to His Guidance and then act upon it. The key word being act. We need His Guidance to stop the evilness which lies within ourselves and to control it, to mitigate it, so that we can do good things for Him. Without His Guidance, we cannot hope to withstand the evilness that lies wthin us. His Guidance comes in the form of the Holy Ghost. Without His Guidance, we cannot ever hope to be good and righteous. To do that, we must open our hearts and minds; and let Him in. He will not force His way in.  It takes action on our part to let Him in.  If we open our hearts and minds, then we will hear Him. Will we let him in to our hearts for this to happen? It has to start with us letting Him in, and then we will hear His answer loud and clear.  That is why the Holy Ghost is here, to help us and guide us upon the rocky narrow and uphill path towards heaven. He is there, always there, we merely need to let Him in!  Without Him, Scripture is so much foolishness, with His Insight, it is perfectly clear.

Paul reminds us each of us have our individual talents and we must work together with each of our individual talents to help the Church further its cause. For the church, or any organization for that matter, to succeed, we must do what needs to be done, working hard, honestly, cheerfully, looking for no public praise, being kind to all.  Everybody needs to utilize their talents according to the needs of the church, not somebody else’s talents, but their talents. Each and every one of us has a talent of some sort, be it musical, talking (being good with communication), sweeping, taking out the trash, there is no end to the need. Almost anything else can be used for His Glory, to further His Work, His Goals, is a talent. Each and everyone has a unique talent and or gift that can be used to further His Will on Earth. Sometimes, we fail to remember for the team to be successful, each person needs to do the job they do best to the best of their ability; not necessarily the one they like best the way they want to do it at the pace they enjoy.  It is not good enough to just say you are doing your best when you are actually not doing your best, but go full best ahead as it were! The reward of a job well done in and of itself should be sufficient.  And knowing you did your best is what really counts, not just getting recognition from others, but the satisfaction in your heart of knowing that with God’s Help you accomplished a large task, is one of the best feelings in the world.  It does not matter to God who gets the credit, what matters to Him is we get the job done and to do it right! In the end it shouldn’t matter who did which job, as long as it is done right for God, that is all that matters. The satisfaction of a job well done is one of the best prizes we can ever receive.

At the same time, though we should not look for praise for our own work (though we may appreciate it, we should not dwell on it too long, lest we have to start shopping for size fourteen hats for our swollen heads!), we should look for reasons to praise and encourage others. We need to recognize hard work, sacrifice, thoughtfulness and talent in others, remark on it and praise the use thereof!  That which is rewarded most is that which grows best. Reward the good, so that we may reap the goodness of our works! That is how we can encourage other fellow Christians and our other friends to grow and learn, by the encouragement. This encouragement will help sprout the seed for more of the good work around us to continue to flourish.

Look at John the Baptist, out in the wilderness; not in the fancy building, the gold-plated temple, but out where he could prepare straight the way for the Lord. He was out where the people were, he came to them, rather than wait for them to come to him in a fancy building. He was on a mission to pave the way for Jesus to come and preach and ultimately for His Death and Resurrection. Smoothing the path so to speak, making ready the hearts and souls of the people for the coming of the Lord.  He did not point at himself, rather he pointed the way towards God incarnate[1]!

By the way, how necessary is praise to miserable human beings?  God Himself, looking on His Son’s baptism remarked for all to hear, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

How oft do we praise the actions of others?  Too often we are quick to criticize the failings of others and over analyze their failings. Sometimes when we think of people we know, all we can think of is their failings and forget everyone has their good parts as well, for each of us has been created by God. It is in our nature, part of our human nature, our free will condition that we must fight against with His help. We must understand while it is valuable to know when we fall short, people strive the hardest for praise of those whose opinion they value.

When you hear those words, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, remember to use them yourself.  Lead others to God, don’t just point the way.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God


[1]Incarnate, literally in the flesh.  Carnebeing a Latin derivative meaning flesh.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

First Sunday after The Epiphany


Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion, Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and readings for this week. Consider these words from the Collect:

…grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same…

As imperfect creatures with free will, we will never figure out what we should be doing, let
alone do it, on our own.  We are confused beings who get into trouble left to our own devices. Without an external source of help, we will never be able to follow God on our own.  God sent the Holy Ghost that we might listen to Him and understand. He will give us the ability to figure out and know what and how we are to do the things we need to do here on Earth for Him. Not just understand The Word spoken to us through Jesus and the Scriptures, but to understand what we should do; hence the prayer to figure out what we need to do, then give us the power or strength to do what we are supposed to do.  He will help us to understand how to implement the concepts found in Scripture in our day to day lives and live the Word. We might have some difficulties, some nervousness, some stumbling; but in the end as long as we do our best to follow His will, and not worry, things shall be ok. We may not perform perfectly, but as long as we are striving to be on the road to perfection and to do our real best, then that is all that God asks of us. Because we will be on the path to eternal life and happiness, as he wants us to be happy.  To actually be on that very real and difficult path and not just think or talk about being on it. We need to actively follow Our Lord; not be passive about it, but actually physically do it. We need to act, using Scripture as our Holy Handbook for our actions within our lives. He did not mean for us to simply read it only, but to digest it and use what we learned in the this world.

After all isn’t that what the school system was supposedly put in place for? University, the words comprise it are “Una Veritas”, meaning “One Truth”, as it was supposed to be a place of Godly learning, where one would learn the “One Truth”. The school system was intended that we might have Godly children growing up in the faith, therefore strengthening them as men and women of great moral character. If we put back the Scriptures in our schools and held the kids to the standards of those Scriptures, then we would find ourselves on a moral higher ground.  Scriptures are the only true truth, as they are based on the Word of God, Who is truth in every sense of the word. It is something should use to help develop ourselves in life, to use a term from the Japanese, kai-zen, or continuous self-improvement. This word describes the essence of the Christian faith. To live the Word requires self-improvement each and every day of our lives. We need to ask ourselves at the end of each day, what did I do right today and what did I not do right? And figure out with the help of the Holy Ghost how to correct our wrongs and go on to the next day and do our best to do better.

The first thing tsunami watchers would tell people, is at the first sign of a tsunami approaching[1], go to higher ground. That same principle applies to our lives. At the first sign of any sort of evil, temptation or sin, head to the higher ground in which God lives and seek Him out, rather than wait for the wave of evil to envelop us and get over our heads. We also have to recognize the signs we are in trouble and immediately consult Him and His Word and figure out an action plan according to the principles in Scripture.

We are asking God to help us know what we should do and then help us to do it right.  Seems pretty simple, but is the root of almost all our problems. It is harder to do what is right than what seems easy to us.  First, even if we ask God what He wants us to do, “There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.”  Then, if we hear what He wants us to do, and hear it correctly, we often find it “too hard.” Do you recall this quote from GK Chesterton:

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”


So, once we find out what God wants, we often try to rationalize our way around it. Note the word try. There is no good way to rationalize our way around what God wants in the end. It is impossible to rationally get around the concepts found in the Summary of the Law. Think about the 613 Mosaic laws and the Pharisees who made a good living telling people how to comply with them to the letter and still do just what they wanted to do.  So, then even if we find out what God wants and decide to actually do it instead of avoid it, we are faced with the often huge problem of where do we get the strength to accomplish this task?  The answer is circular, from God.  He never asks us to do anything we cannot do good enough for Him if we rely on Him. Never.  End of that discussion. 

Now, once you have managed to get this far, you gain the power needed to become one of Paul’s New Men, a person who has accepted God’s Grace, turning to God and relying on Him for guidance, strength, courage and perseverance. To do that, we need to turn outward.  Not think of ourselves, but of God and our fellow Christians.  Speaking of that, one of the tools God gives us to get things done is a Team; that Team is fellow Christians.  So, we need to work together as a Team.  Think not of your glory, but that of God.  President Reagan had a sign on his desk which read:

“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit.”

Paul tells us not to concentrate on our status, position or grandeur, but to see what we can do to help.  Just like our body would not function if all parts were brains, neither will Christ’s Team function if everyone is concerned about their position.

When we look at the Gospel today, aside from the historical function telling us that Jesus was in the temple bringing the light of the gospel to the rabbis, I am reminded there are other lessons.  It is not that we want to micromanage your life, but keep your friends and family informed of what you are doing and where you are going.   Jesus’ earthly parents risked life and limb going back up the road to Jerusalem at night.  But, that was their duty as parents.  A duty must be done, no matter the cost. The lesson here is to keep your family and friends well informed of what you are doing, rather than going off on your own, figuring you can handle it.  If we get into emergencies or serious trouble then we will have wished we had informed others of where we are going. That is why it is good to keep your family and friends informed of where you are going and what time you are expected to be back.

Except most times, we cannot, as we are not like Jesus, we are not the Son of God, but rather mortals adopted into God’s Family. There are some things we cannot do on our own without His Help and without the help of our family and friends.

Duty means to do what you are supposed to do, then count the cost.  There is no sense of duty if you are merely doing what is easiest for you at the time.  While doing your duty will in the end be the right thing, thus the easiest thing, it may not seem so at the time.  Doing one’s duty can result in one’s temporal death, the end of their time here on earth. Not an easy way on the surface. But, recall that what seems like that easy downhill path leads to The Pit, it does not lead to the summit.  Our country is where it is today because of those who preceded us, those who did their duty.  It will not keep going up if, as a country, we stroll down that wide smooth downhill boulevard.  We must struggle to stay on the narrow path, which leads to the summit.  

Look back at those who stepped forward when the country called, Concord, Veracruz, Gettysburg, San Juan Hill, Chateau Thierry, Pearl Harbor, Normandy, Peleliu, Bastogne, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Chosin Reservoir, Ia Drang Valley, Khe Sanh, Hanoi, Laos, Cambodia, Basra, Kabul, Bagdad and countless unfamiliar names in Southwest Asia. In them, you find a unifying theme of Duty, doing what you have to do, no matter what it takes, then count the cost. Those who fought for our country did it out of duty to their country and God and to protect their family. We must emulate their purpose and serve God dutifully. Christ is the ultimate example of this, the only begotten Son of God, yet doing His duty to die for us, which is what God needed Him to do, to save us from eternal hellfire.  So, it was His Duty and He did it with honor. 

Through duty, we too might have a noble death and welcoming in heaven.  We must do our duty to God, to Honor, to Country and Family. Sometimes we will fall short, for we are imperfect creatures with that darn free will.  Thus, at times we choose the wrong path or our strength falls short or we just cannot do what is needed of us.  Then, we need to reset and restart towards the goal God has set for us.

But, back to the Gospel and the parents’ arrival at the temple, where lo, they found him. He was among the learned men “both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.”  His parents were amazed and confounded.  He asked them why they worried and why they did not understand that he was about his Father’s business[2].  It is noteworthy to see Jesus at twelve was able to “hold his own” with the learned scholars of Judah.  He was able to out reason those who lived to dissect the Law.  “A little child shall lead them,” (Isaiah 11:1-10)

He comes!


[1]This, by the way, is the tide going out at an abnormal time, rate and distance.
[2]Note also the tremendous advantage that God has over the Devil.  Not only did God make both man and the Devil, but He has actually been a man, the Devil only read about men and thought about men and contemplated men. In Jesus, God has been a man.  Note - in this instance, He learned about the compassion, worry and duty of parents towards their Son!  The Devil, not so much.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Epiphany

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Through the leading of the star, the wise men from Persia (modern day Iran) were led to seek the Christ Child. This was the “revealing” of Christ to the Gentiles, and the first such event. Though Jesus mainly ministered to the Jews of Israel, it is important to note He ministered to the Roman governor and the Faithful Centurion (from which our parish gets its name) whom were Gentiles.

Though the Apostles in the early church did not think that ministering to the Gentiles was worthy, through the actions of St. Paul, The Word began spreading to the Gentiles. Paul says in his Epistle that the time has come that we should start spreading to the Gentiles, and bring our gifts (talents) to His Service (as our talents are on loan from God, as Rush Limbaugh says) and use them accordingly to further His purpose on this planet.

Paul also said that he was charged by God to bring The Word to all, not just the Jews. The time was now ripe to expand past the original target market (the Jews), and to spread it to all. He said that he wished to explain the mysteries (The Word) of God to all, including the Gentiles, that they might see and hear The Word.

In the Gospel, Herod tries to entice the wise-men to find the Christ child and report His whereabouts to him so that he could as he claimed “that I will come and will worship him.”, but like most modern leaders of the world today, his words were duplicitous in nature. “I will come and worship him” translated to that he would come and murder Christ, as he did the Holy Innocents, while Christ was in Egypt.

The wisemen, however, fortunately, were warned in a dream, after visiting the Christ child, by God, of Herod’s true intentions, and went home a different way, that they would avoid a confrontation with Herod.  They brought him frankincense, incense and myrrh. In a way, they did what Paul talked about and brought Him “gifts” for His Service. Now we do not know if these gifts were ever used in Christ’s life. But, like present time gift giving, it is not necessarily the gifts that are important. It is the thought and the meaning behind the giving of gifts that mean the most.

Now in this troubled time, we must be ready to bring our talents to Him, to use for His Glory and to Spread His Word. In this time, we must spread The Word and without ceasing praise Him and His Majesty. In order to institute a turnaround of the moral decay, we must first act. If we do not act, how can we expect to stem the tide of the moral decay. We must act with steadfast purpose.

This may require some courage on our behalf, as we will be mocked and perhaps in this troubled time, may come a day, where we like the apostles are thrown in jail. However scary this time may be for spreading His Word, no matter how hostile it is, we must do it anyway. We must be like the men who brought freedom to this land, who defended our country when its freedom was threatened in all its wars from the War of Independence, through to the present, having been reading recently a lot on World War II, I think of the fear that must have gone through the hearts of those who participated in the amphibious assaults of D-Day, Tarawa, Peleliu, Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.  Yet, they did what was to be done.  Proper action under very fearful circumstances, doing what must be done.

The important thing to remember about these men is they showed steadfast purpose and courage. It was a nerve racking thing as one approached a foreign beach of an island/land, not knowing what hell the enemy planned. But, the important lesson is that they stepped their boots forward into danger, knowing they would most likely pay for this advance with their lives.

As they stepped forward into danger, we must step forward into this hostile world, and charge forward against the fire of the hostile media and people, whose hearts have been turned to stone. We must charge against them, using The Word as our defense and our offense against Satan. The greatest defense is the best offense. And we truly have both in The Word of God. We must remember that God wants everybody to follow Him, not just certain ethnic groups (like the Jews), and we must concentrate on spreading His Word, through bringing our Gifts and Talents to His Service.

He comes!
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God