Verse of the Day

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

On Point
Someone asked, where do the quotes come from?  The answer is from the people who uttered them.  But, how did you find them?  Oh, that.  Some from Bishop Jerry, many from Rev Bryan Dabney, a few from other places, some from Rev Geordie Menzies-Grierson, but overall mostly from Bryan.  He always has a few great ones to share.  On to the On Point quotes –

I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not in making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.
- Benjamin Franklin
Founding Father

They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
St. Luke 5:31-32

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Ephesians 6:11

Those that trust in God have many enemies, but they have one friend that is able to deal with them all.
Matthew Henry
17th and 18th century English pastor and author

Christians who dialogue with those of other faiths are using their faith as a branch upon which to perch lightly while they survey and appreciate all the other options... governed by this approach, Christianity is a prospective; it is not truth.
Douglas Wilson
20th and 21st century American theologian, author and Classical Christian educator

True religion is heart-work.  We may wash the outside of the cup and the platter as long as we please, but if the inward parts be filthy, we are filthy altogether in the sight of God...
Charles H. Spurgeon
19th  century English Baptist pastor and author
(Morning and Evening, p. 373)

Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.
Frederic Bastiat
19th century French economist and author

The exercise of force without the restraint of law is terror.
Clarence Carson
20th century American historian

WEEDS IN ALMOST ANY SOIL—There are weeds in almost every soil. If you dig up the soil there will be found the seeds from which they grow. These seeds, however, can germinate only under the conditions brought about by sunshine and rain. There may be the seed of weeds in our nature, deep down out of sight; but should they be thrown up by some change of circumstances, we shall find evil in ourselves we never dreamed of. The Devil has neither forgotten us, nor lost our trail. If we resist him, he will flee.
625 New Bible Stories and Illustrations

HEAVENLY MOISTURE.—The Spirit, like dew, falls in mystery, giving moisture to some, while others remain dry. The wind blows where it will, but if we desire to feel a stiff breeze we must go out to sea or climb the hills.
625 New Bible Stories and Illustrations

OUR PERSONALITY.—As a human being, my personality is and remains infringeable, unchangeable, eternal. O what a weight of importance rests upon this fact! Think of it! Bring it home with due force to your own mind. I shall never be somebody else. No, my personality or identity, as a human being, as now on earth in the mortal body, shall be and remain so after death and resurrection, either glorified in Heaven o5 lost in Hell.
625 New Bible Stories and Illustrations
Extracts selected by Rev.GMG
The Propers for today are found on Page 115-118, with the Collect first:

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

 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.

Dru Arnold read the Epistle for today which comes from the Third Chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians beginning at the Twelfth Verse:

UT on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Hap Arnold read the Holy Gospel which came from the Thirteenth Chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew beginning at the Twenty-Fourth Verse.

HE kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
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 that 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 it is not God we should blame, the blame rather lies with us. We are the cause of all our problemsue to our inherent nature of pride, vanity, and other aspects of our sinful fallen nature. We need His help to help cure us of this dreadful sickness known as Sin. It is not a surprise that a lot of Jesus's miracles were healing of various long suffering people with sickness. In a way, they are of themselves allegorical, He heals us of our sins, as He healed them of their physical sickness.

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:

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:

 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?

So, what if we choose not to live our lives God’s Way, but rather our way?  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. 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 down that 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, He is 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 know 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

Bishop Ogles’ Sermon
We are oft fortunate to get copies of Bishop Jerry’s sermon notes.  Today is one of those Sundays.  Today’s sermon starts off with the collect, and like always, it will give you a lot to consider in your heart.

Sermon Notes
Fifth Sunday after The Epiphany
9 February 2014, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

 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.

The Epistle
Colossians 3:12-17

UT on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

The Gospel
Matthew 13:24-30

HE kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

       ON THE GOSPEL: We find that there are eight parables in the 13th chapter of Matthew. Though most of these parables relate directly to the Kingdom of Heaven, this parable is a mix of the Kingdom and of the World. Though all scripture point to Christ, these Kingdom scriptures relate to His Presence in the churches – or sadly, His absence. Around the end of the 19th century, there began to be propagated a great lie by politicians and their cohorts in religion that there existed a great brotherhood which embraced all men upon the earth.  The Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God – was the popular slogan behind this insidiously false claim. We are not “all God’s chillun’”! There are two, only, families upon the earth – the Children of God, or the Children of the Devil. We all belong to one or the other of these two families. While it is true that God created all living, He does not force His privileged parentage on any.  The results of this lie has been a justification for every excess in governments to collectivize their economies and societies, and to enforce the mediocrity of Communistically inclined policies upon their populations. The concept forces all – good and evil – into the lowest common denominator of value as human beings.

       Perhaps our susceptibility to deception is a result of a failure to fortify our souls with the wisdom and knowledge that comes directly from God’s Word. In the reading of many letters home from soldiers of the American Revolutionary War and War Between the States, I have observed that there is often greater faith and mastery in the Holy Scriptures evidenced in those letters than that demonstrated by most modern theologians and ministers of mainline churches.[1] Have we forgotten what one thing will assure the destruction of God’s people? Allow me to rekindle your fires of remembrance: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. (Hosea 4:6) Another factor may be that our ears have grown dull of hearing the Word of God through selective  filtration of things Godly. Jesus concludes the previous parable with this mysterious command: Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matt 13:9)

     There is an auditory disability called auditory verbal agnosia, also known as Pure Word Deafness, that is caused by bilateral damage to the posterior superior temporal  lobes. Well, there is a corresponding disability of the inner ear of the heart which has disregarded God’s full counsel with such frequency that the Voice of God can no longer be heard by that heart. That heart, calloused by repetitive sin and rejection of righteousness, has grown dull: Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. (1 Tim 4:1-2)

       So, the setting that Jesus confronts is a multitude of hearts that have been subject to fables and endless genealogies of the Pharisees and Sadducees that have stunted their understanding and removed any reference point for grasping these marvelous truths of Christ that are so completely extrinsic to their primitive minds.

       24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: We see a slightly different venue and application in this parable of a Sower and that of the prior Sower and four different soils. The Sower is still the Lord Jesus Christ, the field represent the world, and the good seed here represents the children of the kingdom. He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; (Matt 13:37-38)

       25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. It is perfectly normal for men to rest and sleep after their labors. Such rest does not make them remiss of their duties before God or man. The point seems that, despite the best efforts of righteous people, evil is bound to come from that same source it came in the Garden at Eden – the Devil himself. He works best during the hours of darkness and his seed are seeds of ruin and death. These seed sowed by the Devil are the children of the devil. “…..but the tares are the children of the wicked one. (Matt 13:38b) The one who sows these bad seed is the Devil: “The enemy that sowed them is the devil….. (Matthew 13:39a)

       26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? What do men expect of the seeds they plant? I suggest that they expect the same nature of plant to grow therefrom as the seed planted. The good seed produced good fruit. The bad seed produced bad fruit (tares). The tares are the children of the wicked one, who are filled with his spirit, live according to his principles, and are under his control. They are not a degenerate form of virtue, but as distinct as virtue and vice. They often resemble the good till the fruit begins to appear, but they are as different as wheat and tares, as thistles and roses. We are the Lord’s servants (not simply the ordained ministry, but all believers). Do we sometimes wonder why our best efforts and Godly projects are mixed with emotions of greed, jealousy, and vanity in church? The devil does not restrict his children to the gaming tables, bars, prisons, and bordellos of the city – he also sends them to church as purveyors of every indecency. Though all men bear the seeds of wickedness in their hearts, the mastermind of all wickedness is Satan. He coordinates his plans and activities with a brilliance that is beyond the mind of man to understand.  But God’s Holy Spirit is a defoliant against every parasitic weed, and plants, in its place,Trees of Righteousness and Virtue.

      28  He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. Who did Jesus say did this evil? “An enemy!” Satan is the enemy of your soul. He seeks no other joy than to ruin your hope and destroy your soul through every means of deception available in his arsenal of dirty tricks. It is discomforting to know that he NEVER takes vacation! We would like to clean house of the traitors, but Christ reserves that duty to Himself lest we ere in our judgment. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.

       30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. Good and evil will exist side by side until the end of the world, then comes the harvest. The reapers will be sent into the four quarters of the earth to gather, first, the tares. These shall be shackled and cast into the fires. Then comes the gathering of the wheat (good seed) which is gathered into His barn (Kingdom).

 “… the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matt 13:39c-43)

       Have you heard and understood? The only proof that learning has occurred is by way of a change in behavior. Is your hearing keen to God’s Word, and does your living stand the earnest of your hearing?

Bishop Dennis Campbell’s Sermon
Bishop Dennis is a brilliant speaker.  He is able to take biblical precepts and make them perfectly understandable, even to me.  Oft he provides the text of his sermons and I take the utmost pleasure in passing them on:

My People and My God
Psalm 85, Colossians 3:12-17, Matthew 13:24-29
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
February 9, 2014

The common theme that unites the Scriptures and prayers for this morning is, the Church.  Psalm 85 refers to the Old Testament Church in words like, “Jacob,” “thy people,” “us,” and, “His people.” Matthew 13 refers to the Church when Jesus says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a man which sowed good seed in his field.” The Kingdom of Heaven and the field both refer to the Church.  Colossians 3 refers to the Church when it says “ye are called in one body.”  And the Collect for today prays for the “household” of God, which is the Church.  There is a point that is being made here, which I want to state plainly because it is a very, very important point, and it is often overlooked, and even denied by many people today.  The point is that a singular unity exists between the Church and God, and between Christians and the Church.

            Let’s begin with the unity that exists between the Church and God.  To call the Church the Kingdom of God is to say there is a relationship between the two.  As a human king rules a specific people, King God rules a people called the Church. As a human kingdom obeys and honours its king, the Church obeys and honours her King, God.  This means the Church is not a democracy, or even a republic.  It is an absolute Monarchy.  God is King; we are His subjects.  I think one of the great problems in the contemporary Church, and in the lives of many Christians, is that they think they are in a partnership with God.  They’re not. We will never really know God, and never move into deeper fellowship with Him until we see two things.  First, we are sinners who are allowed into His Kingdom only because of His grace. Second, and more relevant to the relationship between God and His Church, we are completely subservient to Him.  Our place in His Kingdom is to do whatever He says.  Ours is to obey, not partner.  Until we understand this about ourselves, our relationship with God will be shallow and perverted.

To call the Church the body of Christ  really emphasizes a relationship between God and the Church. When Paul wrote in Colossians 3 that we are all in one body he used the same image he used in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “ye are the body of Christ.”  The Church is like a body, and Christ is the soul and life of that body.  The Church draws her life from Him.  He sustains the Church.  He lives in the body.  The body lives in and through Him.  Individual members of His body, live in Christ as we live in the Church.  We are sustained as He sustains the Church.  We partake of His Spirit as we are part of His Church.  Understand that I am not saying Christians are only nourished in Christ in the public ministry of the Church.  Things like private prayer and Scripture reading are important ways by which the Lord cares for us.  But even these are done as members of the body of Christ, and in the context of being members of that body.  They are not done as isolated, unconnected individuals. What happens to a part of the body that is removed from the rest of the body?  It dies.  Likewise, a “Christian,” who removes himself or herself from the body of Christ, dies spiritually.  To remove yourself from the body is to remove yourself from Christ.

So there is a deep relationship between the Church and God.  And there is also a deep relationship between Christians and the Church.  Again the image of the body serves to show this relationship.  In a living body, all of its parts depend on one another to function and to live.  A heart is useless without blood.  But blood without a heart is equally useless.  Each depends upon the other.  But more than this, the heart and the blood are part of each other.  The blood carries nutrition to the heart, the heart pumps the blood to the bone marrow, which makes the blood.  The same is true for every part of a living body.  Every mitochondria, every cell, organ, and system is part of every other part.  They create and sustain one another.  The same soul lives within them.  The same blood flows through them.  They even all came from the same single cell that they were at conception.  We look at a river and we say the water in it is part of it, and that is true.  But the cells in a body are part of that body in a far deeper and living level.  They are one organism.  They are one living being.  And that is what the Bible is trying to say about the Church.  It is not simply a group of people who happen to worship God in the same place, or happen to share similar beliefs.  It is a living body, and the people in it are related like the cells in their own hearts.

Of all the human relationships, our relationship to the Church is one of the most important.  I must add here that I am not talking about the Church we call the invisible or spiritual Church.  I am talking, as Paul and as our Lord Christ were, about the visible organised institution of the Church.  Our relationship to it is one of the most important relationships in human existence.  It is so important we can say with confidence that to be in it in the right way, is to be in Christ, and to be out of it, or even to be in it in the wrong way, is to be out of Christ.

If we had done Morning Prayer today, the First Lesson would have been from the first chapter of Ruth.  It’s a beautiful passage and I want to read it to you because it shows what I am trying to say here.  Here is Ruth speaking to her mother in law, Naomi.

Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and whither thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people will be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”

Naomi was a Jew. She “grew up in the Church,” with all the benefits and blessings of it.  But Naomi left Israel.  She and her husband moved to Moab.  This is a major sin.  Moab is not Israel.  God called Israel to settle in the Promised Land, and to live there together as His people, His Kingdom.  He did not call the Jews to scatter and wander wherever they felt like going.  So Naomi was a prodigal.  And like the Prodigal Son, Naomi left God.  She probably didn’t think she was leaving God.  She probably convinced herself she could worship God as well in Moab as in the Temple.  That’s the same argument people use today when they say they don’t go to Church because they can worship God just as well at the beach or the golf course.  But God disagrees.  God tells us not to forsake not the assembling of ourselves together (Heb. 10:25).  The assembling is the gathering of the Church to worship God on the Lord’s Day.  So God apparently thinks we cannot worship Him just as well on the golf course as in the Church.  Besides, it doesn’t matter if we can, for God says go to Church.  Remember I said earlier we will never grow in our faith until we realize that our position and relationship to God is first of all subservient.  We are subjects and servants.  He is the Monarch and owner.  We are His subjects, His slaves, His property.  His is to command.  Ours is to obey.  And God says, go to church.

Naomi, by leaving Israel is turning away from her calling to dwell in Israel and serve God as part of His Covenant people.  Naomi is like Esau, who came in from hunting and traded his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup.  He thought, “what good is it to be in the people of God, to inherit the Promised Land, to know God and go to Heaven if I miss lunch?”  And He threw it all away.  Esau left God.  Naomi left God.  And people today, who leave the fellowship and ministry of a true and Biblical Church, are leaving God.  They are walking away from the salvation and grace purchased by Christ’s own life and blood.  They are saying they don’t want it, and that is the same as saying they don’t want God.  They are modern day Esaus, who value a bowl of soup more than they value the grace and blessings of God, even more than they value God Himself.

Ruth is a different story.  Ruth is a story of conversion.  She was from Moab.  That means she was not a Jew and that means she was not included in God’s Covenant of grace.  She was, as the Bible says in Ephesians 2:12, an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. We would say she was lost.  She was outside of Christ.  She was not going to Heaven.  Again we see that to be cut off from God’s people is to be cut off from God.  But look at the change in Ruth.  “Thy people will be my people.”  Ruth was asking to be joined to the people of Israel.  She was asking to become a Jew.  More than that, she was asking to become part of the Covenant people, and she was asking God to include her in His blessing and mercy, and she realised this means to be joined to God’s people. “Thy God will be my God.”

Here is the conclusion and point of the sermon.  You cannot be part of the spiritual, invisible Church, without also being part of the organic, visible Church.  In other words, God cannot be your God unless His people are also your people.  I know there are certain exemptions.  A person who lives on the proverbial desert isle, who one day reads His Bible and becomes a Christian, is part of the Invisible Church though not part of a visible local congregation.  Though, in a sense, we could say he is the visible, local congregation.  A person who lives in a spiritual desert isle, where there is no viable, Biblical Church to join will have to be a long distance member of a sound Biblical congregation.  But these are exceptions.  For most of us, a Biblical church exists within driving distance.  It may be hours of driving, but it is within range to make it to Church at least sometimes.  But I have gotten off the topic.  So let me close by saying your relationship to your fellow believers in the local church is one of the most important relationships in your life.  It is so important that it can be truly said that to shun it is to shun God.  And whatever reason a person may have for shunning it, that reason is no better than Esau’s lunch.  Value that relationship.  Nurture it.  Treasure your Church.
+Dennis Campbell

Bishop, Anglican Orthodox Church Diocese of Virginia
Rector, Holy Trinity Anglican Orthodox Church
Powhatan, Virginia
Roy Morales-Kuhn, Bishop and Pastor - St. Paul's Anglican Church - Anglican Orthodox Church
Bishop Roy is pastor of the biggest AOC parish West of the Mississippi and is in charge of the Diocese of the MidAmerica. 

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
9 February 2014

Ps 112          1st Lesson    Hab. 1:12-2:4, 9-14     2nd Lesson   Luke   12:35-48

The psalmist wrote about the man who would be blessed.   What type of blessings would he have?   What things did he do to receive these blessings?   Why was important to know about these blessings and from whence they came?

We don’t naturally do good.  We tend to take care of self or self interest first, sometimes just to the point of nothing else.   Why should we help others?  What have they don’t for us that they should deserve some type of goodness or help?

The first thing that the psalmist tells us, the one who honors or has respect for the Lord and seeks the goodness of the Lord’s commands, he shall be blessed.

There will be blessings for being upright and honest.   Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.  In other words, he who is upright, kind and generous, who is honest and just in all things concerning daily life, he will have good come to him.  And how about a legacy.  Surely....a righteous man will be remembered forever.

The next verse gives us hope in an unsettled time. “His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.”   Nothing will add terror to his heart, he can look at the future and not fear it.

The man who has been blessed is to share with those less fortunate and in doing so will bring honor on his name.  We don’t give to the poor to call attention to ourselves; we do it because we have been blessed. 9 He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour.

The psalms cover praising God, remembering his glorious majesty, looking to a future of hope and peace, asking for guidance and wisdom.  There are so many life dealing object lessons in the psalms, I recommend a daily reading of one or two of the psalms a day.  In many of these songs (psalms) that David wrote the form is very familiar. There is a part that may deal with the sadness or distress that is invading David’s soul. Then there is the joy and redemption that is revealed or longed for in the Lord.  David will point out that many follow their own way, to their destruction, but he will follow the Lord.

Try reading through the Psalter each month. The Psalter for each day is listed as day one, two, etc.  Psalm 149 & 150 are on day 31. If you alternate morning and evening readings, just once a day you can read all 150 in a two month period. Each time you read a psalm you will find something different. Each time you include the psalm in your daily reading you enrich your devotion time with the Lord.

They are so meditative, being written mostly by David, who spent hours watching sheep and being on guard for predators.  He sat for hours watching the natural wonders of the heavens. He noticed the patterns in the stars; he noticed the waxing and waning of the moon, the yearly parade of stars that would appear like clockwork over his head. David wrote of these greater and lesser lights {sun, moon, and stars} in a number of his psalms. The natural order spoke to him of a supernatural order, the Master, Creator, Almighty God the Father of the Universe. 

If you read the first three chapters of the letter to the Romans, you will see a similar use of the natural world being used to point to the supernatural wonder; God the Father, Jesus his Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The pagan, the non-believer has no excuse to not know God. His Universe, His Creation speaks of Him, every precise creation. Let us look at the butterfly. The butterfly, from egg, to larva (an eating machine) to cocoon to a completely transformed creature, a flying insect of great wonder, that drinks its meals, not destroying it as it did as a larva; this all speaks of a divine creator. How can a butterfly be chance, or an evolving mistake ?  It takes some faith to believe in a science that as of yet has the answers to creation or at least origin of this natural world.

Psalm 119:105 ff   “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws.”      

If we reflect on this verse we don’t necessarily see so much significance to it. We have grown up in a world of artificial light. We have street lights; lamps in our homes, our vehicles have headlights, small powerful flashlights, so we are pretty much able to conquer the darkness. Now read the verses with the idea of NO artificial light.  There are still places on this earth where darkness is still a real danger.

When David was writing this he was pointing to the ever illuminating Word of God, that lamp, that light which would help him in the darkest of nights to find the way. Yes we are talking spiritual, but it was well illustrated by the deep black darkness that occurs even to this day, where there is no artificial light.  Now we can sing that chorus with a deeper understanding:  ....”your word is a lamp to my feet that I might not sin against thee, that I might not sin, that I might not sin, that I might not sin against thee.”

Let us pray:

lmighty God and heavenly Father; Open thou our eyes that we may see ourselves to be sinners in thy sight, partakers of a fallen nature, and actual transgressors against thee.  Enable us to realize our continual need, both of thy pardoning mercy and of thy quickening grace, and to receive Jesus Christ as the only Savior of our souls.   May we trust in his atonement, and rely on his intercession, as our only hope.  Rejoicing in thy free salvation, and renouncing our own righteousness, may we walk in the way of thy commandments, serving thee faithfully, and striving against every sin; through the grace that is in Christ Jesus our Lord        Amen

Rev Bryan Dabney of Saint John’s Sunday Sermon
We are fortunate to have Bryan’s Sunday Sermon.  If you want people to come to The Truth, you have to speak the truth, expouse the truth and live the truth.    This is really a good piece and I commend it to your careful reading.

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

As Christians, we know from our study of the scriptures that God has called on all men to receive his free gift of grace (see St. John 3:16). We also know that those who choose to reject his gift of grace are, ...condemned already because [they] hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (St. John 3:18). And further, while we know that God is love beyond our understanding of that word (I St. John 4:8); he is also holy, just and righteous. And because he is these things, he expects humanity to be likewise. When God told Abraham, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect (Genesis 17:1), he was setting forth the standard by which all would be judged of him. Yet being perfect is not something that mankind has the capacity to do under the best of conditions unaided by the Holy Ghost. So we should not be surprised that there is absolutely no hope of pleasing God without a new nature— without being born again. There is but one way to receive God’s free gift of salvation, and that is to believe on the name of Jesus Christ as your Saviour and live in accordance with his word and commandment. If we are living in disobedience then we will suffer the wrath of God. The apostle Paul warned of God’s wrath in several of his letters.

In his epistle to the Romans he noted that, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them (1:18-19).

To the church at Ephesus he wrote: For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye partakers with them (5:5-7).

In our epistle lesson for today St. Paul admonished the Colossians to, Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience (3:5-6).

And in his first letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle penned the following words of comfort: For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ (5:9).

The first three passages tell us in no uncertain terms of God’s coming judgment as he has promised to punish the wicked, not for their ignorance of him, but on account of their knowledge of him; while in the last one, God will preserve and save all who are his in Jesus Christ from his wrath to come. Consider the following hypothetical situation.

Imagine, if you will, that there is a raging fire approaching your town; and while it is some distance away, you can see a smoke cloud rising over its location. So being a good citizen, you pick up the phone and call the local fire department. After looking at the smoke cloud, the fire chief says, “Well, that could be anything from a farmer burning off a field to another citizen burning some trash. We’ll just wait and see.”

Hours later, you see the cloud drawing closer and you notice that it has expanded, so you take a few pictures of it to show the chief and the town council. They look over the images you took and, without going to see for themselves, they simply take the fire chief’s advice, “Old so-in-so here is just a wee bit excited and overly anxious. It is not a threat. It won’t come this way.” None of them seem interested in taking the time to go and look, nor do they see the danger as reflected in the images you supplied.

Of course, the fire is drawing nearer by the minute. You press them to take action, but they treat you as an alarmist. Needless to say, the fire will continue to spread, eventually reaching the town. To rephrase the noted Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, “People never believe in wildfires until the flames actually overtake them.” The public officials knew there was a fire. They knew because anyone can look at a smoke cloud and reason that, “where there is smoke, there is flame”. They could see from the pictures that there was a fire and that it was pretty large in size. Though they were not ignorant of the fire, they were, however, influenced by a powerful figure to ignore its potential harm.

Our hypothetical illustrates a fatal flaw in man’s character regarding his “so- to-speak” ignorance of sin as well as his seeming inability to recognize its principal agent. That is where Satan and his messengers come in. They have sought over the millennia to deceive as many souls as they can by fostering within them a state of denial concerning the truth of God’s word written. In the Old Testament, the Devil convinced the majority of people in Israel to reject the word of the prophets; while in the New Testament, he managed to turn many of the Jews against the words and works of our Lord at his first advent, as well as the ministry of the word since his ascension.

But no man can truly plead ignorance of God’s presence much as the town council in our hypothetical situation could not plead such with regard to the approaching wildfire. Again, the apostle Paul reminds us, For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse (Romans1:20). God says that by virtue of his creation, humanity can see his handiwork which has been affirmed by the variety and complexity of the things that are before them. As the noted British scientist, Lord Kelvin once opined, “Mathematics and dynamics fail us when we contemplate the earth, fitted for life but lifeless, and try to imagine the commencement of life upon it. This certainly did not take place by any action of chemistry, or electricity, or crystalline grouping of molecules under the influence of force, or by any possible kind of fortuitous concourse of atoms. We must pause, face to face with the mystery and miracle of creation of living creatures.”

And yet, in the face of all that God has done in nature, the unregenerate block such from their thoughts, and why? Sir Arthur Keith explained: “Evolution is unproved and unprovable. We believe it because the only alternative is special creation which is unthinkable.” And Julian Huxley once said: “I suppose the reason we leaped at The Origin of Species was because the idea of God interfered with our sexual mores.” Notice the key words in each quotation regarding rejection of godly understanding: that it was, “unthinkable,” and that it, “interfered.”

Every sinner would rather not think about the existence of God especially when he or she is living in disobedience to his expressed word and commandment. Does the adulterer contemplate God’s wrath while in the act of adultery? Does the murderer remember the commandment of God, Thou shalt do no murder? Does the burglar, the robber, the thief as well as the greedy in politics, gaming, and business dwell on, Thou shalt not steal? But to a person, they know that what they are doing is wrong. Every sinful and inordinate desire is condemned, and if persisted in will result in a separation of that person from God eternally.

We should not be surprised at the lengths to which the wicked will go in their denial of the one true and living God. They will embrace every false notion of God, and bow before every image or idol that comes along. And on account of those behaviors, God will darken their hearts in agreement with their choice to reject him as the God of all creation and the Saviour of their souls (Romans 1:21- 23). They will then be open to worship and serve the creature more than the Creator (Romans 1:25). That creature— that created being— is the Devil. And Satan desires worship from mankind. Over the ages, he has sought to redirect to himself all the worship and glory which mankind was supposed to render to the Godhead. And that, dear friends, has been and remains the basis for all idolatry.

St. Luke’s gospel account of the temptation of our Lord in the wilderness supplies us with Satan’s testimony: All this power [speaking of the kingdoms of the world] will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore, wilt worship me, all shall be thine (4:6).

And the apostle Paul also confirmed the same when identified the forces behind idolatry: What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God... (I Corinthians 10:19- 20).

All of which is in line with the First and Second Commandments of the Law state, I am the LORD thy God... Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them... (Exodus 20:2-6).

We ought to disabuse ourselves of the false notion that humanity has somehow changed from the time of the apostles— or from the time of the expulsion from the Garden. Mass man— or the bulk of unregenerated humanity— worships all sorts of things. You name it, and it can become an idol. But when human beings fall into idolatry, God takes away his hand and the evil one comes and infuses his wicked nature into those who have fallen under his spell. And wickedness knows no limits.

Long ago, God established boundaries regarding the relations between men and women (see portions of Leviticus 18-21). So, when people choose to act in ways that are beyond God’s laws for life— idolatry, whoremongering, inordinate desires of the flesh, etc.— they are, in essence, replacing the will of God with their own. At that moment they have become as gods (Genesis 3:5), and in so doing they will suffer God’s wrath. Yet in spite of that inflated view of himself, mortal man has no power to set aside his sins. And so for the unregenerate to assume that they have such power via their ability to create their own rules for life is not only arrogant, it is absurd. What gives the unregenerate any reason to believe that their laws are bidding upon the Universe, and by extension, upon the very words of God himself? They have willfully forgotten that original sin has rendered every human being incapable of being forgiven and redeemed apart from a heart-felt confession of those sins to God the Father in the name of his only begotten Son.

It is vitally important that Christ’s ministers teach the whole counsel of God to their congregations, as the apostle Paul proclaimed, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:16-17). Unfortunately, a growing number of preachers will not mention the judgmental aspects of God’s word for fear of scaring off some of their church members. In that cause, they are content to preach the false gospel of universal acceptance. This message appeals to the unregenerate who salve their souls with such. They have convinced themselves that a veneer of godliness is sufficient to warrant God to grant them salvation. They also believe that they are somehow different from those who have no veneer at all. But all that their veneer of Christ does is mask their true spiritual nature. They have been so deceived by the evil one, and so hardened against God’s word written, that they have stopped their ears concerning his warnings regarding their particular lifestyle choices. Just as the town council from our hypothetical did not want to face the fact that there was a massive wildfire approaching; likewise, those who are so fondly attached to their sins do not want to hear about that fiery eternity which awaits them if they do not repent and turn unto to Christ.

Friends, I ask you to recall that moment when you came to accept the Lord Jesus as your Saviour. You came to see your old life as God saw it: filthy, rotten, and depraved. You had to admit that you had been slaves to the evil one. You had to face the fact that you were dead to God. But when you came to know the Lord as the Saviour of your souls, everything changed. You were transformed. You were made whole in the eyes of God. You were born again of the Holy Ghost. You became citizens of God’s coming kingdom and your names were inscribed in his Book of Life (Revelation 21:27).

St. Paul tells us as much in his first epistle to the Corinthian church: Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived... And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God (6:9-11). And in his epistle to the Romans we are comforted with the following, There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (8:1).

We Christians have been called to proclaim the “good news” of Jesus Christ to all, that they might come out from among the wicked and be made clean by the blood of Christ. We also have been called to remind those of our fellowship that a new life in Christ excludes a continued participation in wickedness. God has called us to make a new beginning— a fresh start— so if we have been born again, we will abstain from all appearances of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22). Only then can we avoid the wrath which is to come: that all-consuming fire of our righteous and holy God.

Let us pray,

ather, we thank you for your free grace; and so comfort and fill us with the Holy Ghost, that we might daily communicate the good news of salvation to others, that they too might also escape thy wrath to come; and this we beg in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Have a blessed week, Bryan+

[1] Would one consider this may be the natural outcome of a dearth of reading material, most people not being able to afford many books and selecting the most necessary first, spent most of their time reading the Bible?  I know my life and outlook have changed the more Scripture I have read.  Today’s seminarians go to school to learn that the Bible is not the Word of God.

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