Verse of the Day

Sunday, April 27, 2014

First Sunday after Easter

This is the very first issue of the AOC Sunday Report.  At the request of Bishop Jerry Ogles, the Faithful Centurion’s Sunday Report has morphed into the AOC Worldwide Sunday Report.  Bishop Jerry asks each of the parishes to contribute to the report, some as they have in the past others for the first time.  If you have any suggestions for change, please send them to Bishop Jerry or me,
First Sunday after Easter

Today was the First Sunday after Easter, the central event of the Christian year, the celebration of our Lord, “Christ the Lord is Risen!”

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 some great ones to share.  On to the On Point quotes –

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
Proverbs 10:12

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
St. John 15:14

I exhort you to watch against everything which might interfere with a readiness for Christ’s appearing. Search your own hearts. Find out the things which most frequently interrupt your communion with Christ, and causes fogs to rise between you and the sun. Mark these things, and know them, and against them ever be on your guard.
JC Ryle
19th century Anglican bishop and author
(Are You Ready For The End Of Time, p. 40)

Do not begin telling me that there is a metaphorical fire in hell. Who worries about that? If a man were to threaten to give me a metaphorical blow on the head, I should worry very little about it. He would be welcome to give me as many as he pleased. And what do the wicked say? ‘We do not worry about metaphorical fires.’ But they are real, sir, yes, as real as yourself.
Charles H. Spurgeon
19th century English pastor and author

What can we learn from citizen disarmament programs?

·      Any government which seeks to disarm its citizens is doing so not so much for citizen protection, but to smooth the way for their plundering of them. 
·      Without personal protection, the citizenry will be subject to predation by not only the government, but of those elements that were not disarmed.
·      Resistance to tyranny is a forlorn hope without the access to arms.
·      Any nation which engages in citizen disarmament has joined a special club that may rightly be called “Tyrants Are Us”.
Rev Bryan Dabney

You can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.
Robert Heinlein
20th century American author

Liberal critics... contend that capitalism encourages monopolies. The real source of monopolies, however, is not the free market but governmental intervention with the market. The only monopolies that have ever lasted did so in partnership with government support through decree and regulation.
James Gills, MD and Ronald Nash, PhD
20th century American economic commentators
(Government Is Too Big And It’s Costing You, p. 39)

Each Sunday there are Propers: special prayers and readings from the Bible.  There is a Collect for the Day; that is a single thought prayer, most written either before the re-founding of the Church of England in the 1540s or written by Bishop Thomas Cranmer, the first Archbishop of Canterbury after the re-founding. 

The Collect for the Day is to be read on Sunday and during Morning and Evening Prayer until the next Sunday. The Epistle is normally a reading from one of the various Epistles, or letters, in the New Testament.  The Gospel is a reading from one of the Holy Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The Collect is said by the minister as a prayer, the Epistle can be read by either a designated reader (as we do in our church) or by one of the ministers and the Holy Gospel, which during the service in our church is read by an ordained minister.

The propers are the same each year, except if a Red Letter Feast, that is one with propers in the prayerbook, falls on a Sunday, then those propers are to be read instead, except in a White Season, where it is put off.  Red Letter Feasts, so called because in the Altar Prayerbooks the titles are in red, are special days.  Most of the Red Letter Feasts are dedicated to early saints instrumental in the development of the church, others to special events.  Some days are particularly special and the Collect for that day is to be used for an octave (eight days) or an entire season, like Advent or Lent.

The Propers for today are found on Page 170-171, with the Collect first:

The First Sunday after Easter.
The Collect.

LMIGHTY Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Today’s Epistle came from the First General Epistle of Saint John, the Fifth Chapter beginning at the Fourth Verse:

hatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 

The Holy Gospel for this Sunday comes from the Twentieth Chapter of the Gospel of Saint John beginning at the Nineteenth verse:

he same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.

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
First Sunday after Easter
St Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church
27 April 2014, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)

The First Sunday after Easter.
The Collect.

LMIGHTY Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:19-23)

This passage should prosper our love and understanding of the fear the disciples experienced following the crucifixion, and bolster our confidence in our security in Christ. Only having heard, through a veil of ignorance, the Words of Christ that after the third day He would arise, the disciples were not expecting the Words of Christ to become a literal fact. So they hid and cowered behind closed doors.

While He was yet with them, their courage never failed, but when separated from the physical presence of Christ – they were mere cowards.

You will note that Christ rose from the Tomb with a living body though different in some respects than His pre-crucifixion body. He was recognizable in appearance, but He could also pass through material barriers without any impediment.

He came to His disciples in Peace as He always comes to us. “Peace be unto you!”

His glorified body still retained the scars of His sacrifice. Did you know that when we all get to heaven, we will have perfect bodies? There shall be only One whose body is marred from suffering – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ sends us into the World as His Father had sent Him. Let us stop to contemplate on how the Father sent the Son into the World?

1) He came under humble circumstances having been born of a humble mother, and laid in a wooden manger used for feeding sheep.  That was appropriate for Christ is our Bread of Life and we are the Sheep of His Pasture.

2) Christ lived a normal life for His time and was a carpenter for his surrogate father, Joseph.  We must, likewise, labor for our daily bread.

3) He was notable in His innocence of life. When we are notoriously wicked, the whole world notices. But when we are humble and righteous, the world makes no mention of it. We, too, must live lives that are righteous and above the contempt of men.

4) He came to set the captives free, but who are the captives? Those who are burdened with their heavy sins – all of us. He preached and taught. Our true testimony of Christ will likewise set the captives free. Before we can teach others of the means of coming to Christ to lift their burdens, we must first allow Him to lift our own unbecoming yoke and burden.

5) He showed compassion to all, but greatest of all to sinners who KNEW they were sinners. We must show compassion to ALL men and, especially, those who are hopelessly drowning in a sea of sin. A drowning man flails helpless in the briny foam, unable to save himself. That burden of throwing out the life raft falls to us.

6) Christ proved Himself by His works. So must we. Though we cannot perform miracles, we have a Master who can, indeed.

7) He changed the requirements of obedience from that of strictly adhering to Commandments written on Stone Tables to that of the Commandment of Love written in the soft sinews of our hearts. That which we love warrants that we commit no sin against.

8) He was the only Man ever born without sin, and the only One who lived a sinless life. Thereby He was worthy to die in our stead for our sins. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the righteousness of God’ and “The wages of sin is death.”  If we all have sinned, we deserved to go to the cross instead of Christ. But He went in our stead so that we may have the privileges of son ship with the Father as sons and daughters of God.

9) He bore all of our sins on the cross when, at any moment, He could have come down from the cross. He was WILLING to go all the way for us. We must be WILLING to go all the way for Him and those He loves.

10) He arose from the Tomb on the third day as He had promised. That gives us the privilege to rise from our own graves if we are in Him and He in us. He is our Ark of Salvation that shall insure our living above the floods and terrors of this world.

11) He ascended to the Father and there intercedes for us with Him. He has left us as keepers of the Vineyard to labor in His stead. The teaching of the Apostles persists today though many have waxed cold and passionless in our day. Our task is to press on to the mark set in Christ by living a pure and clean life and telling others about the hope that is in us in Christ Jesus.

Have you lived the kind of life that causes men to know you belong to Christ?

On another note:

Today marks the 11th day since the sinking of the Korean cruise ship, SEWOL, on April 16th on which some 300 high school students perished. Some died of drowning, some of exhaustion, some of suffocation – but all died because the man who had the responsibility of directing them to safety was the first to abandon ship (her captain – aged 69). One young lady, PARK Ji Young, aged 22 years, remained on board to help rescue as many souls as possible. She even gave a student her own life vest. Her body was later found floating in the frigid waters of the sea.

We have a Captain of our Souls who will neither leave nor forsake us – that Captain is the Master of the Seas and His name is the Lord Jesus Christ!

One of my favorite passages from Scripture is of the perils of the Sea and reads:

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. 25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. 28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. 31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! (Psalms 107:23-31)

Personal character and conviction have changed immensely since the sinking of the Titanic when men charitably and chivalrously gave up their seats on life rafts to women and children. Men’s hearts, since the abandonment of the Christian faith by the greater society in America, have waxed more and more cold and wicked. 

A survey was recently conducted in universities across American asking the young men if they, too, would have given their seats in a lifeboat to the women and children. Amazingly, 95% said they would not even consider such a foolish act. They would take their places of safety in the boats and let the women and children perish before surrendering their own lives.

To me, this is an astonishing sign of the great depths of depravity of soul to which mankind has sunk over the past one hundred years. Why? Because, though we may profess Christ with our lips, our hearts are far from Him.

How close is YOUR Heart to Christ this First Sunday after Easter? Would you lay down your life to save a child or its mother?

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. 

We are in the Easter Season which consists of Easter and the following four Sundays, until we get to Rogation Sunday.  This is a time we should work on centering our lives on the central figure in our religion, Jesus Christ. 

Consider these words from the Collect:

Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth

God sent Jesus to be The Christ, The Messiah, The Savior, The Lamb to be sacrificed for our sin.  He gave His earthly Life, He went down into Hell, that we might be justified before God at our accounting.  Not that we might be perfect, but that we might be accounted perfect at our judgment day.  Yet we are not made perfect. Just because we are going to be accounted as perfect does not mean we are.  Thus we must ask God’s help that we can put away the infection, or leaven, of evil in our hearts so that we can serve the Living God here.  Without His Help, we cannot remove the hate and evil from our hearts.  We need His Help so we can move forward.

Paul continually tells us we must be reborn as a new person in God.  We must put on the New Man and put the Old Man behind us.  We must endeavor to leave our old habits behind as we strive to make new practices into habits.  We cannot follow the direction of Jesus towards God without the help of the Holy Ghost.  The Trinity in practice.  If you believe in Jesus, you must believe in God and you can do neither without the help of the Holy Ghost. Without the Holy Ghost, we are like men who desperately need glasses to see. Without the Holy Ghost as our correcting lens, we cannot see what He wants us to see in order to act.

When Jesus came to the disciples on Sunday evening, He breathed the Holy Ghost into their hearts.  He gave the disciples the power to pass His Forgiveness on to their followers.  As ministers of God, we follow the disciples, but we have not the power to forgive, except as we find in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  We do have the ability to tell you that if you repent, that is “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life,” then God will forgive you.  Through our Lord, if you repent, He has forgiven you.

The key word here is repent!  We must “go and sin no more!”, as Christ told the lady who was an adulterer. We repent not only in word, but we must repent in our deeds also, so that we can truly show the world that we have faith. If we do not repent, then we do not have faith in Him. We must have faith in Him, so therefore, we must truly and earnestly repent of our sins and do our utmost best to “go and sin no more.” That is all that He asks, is us to actually DO our best, not just say that we are doing our best.

So what to take from all this?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3.16

If you get that, you have the Holy Ghost in your heart.  If you open your heart, He will breathe the breath that sends The Comforter to you. Then you shall have the knowledge to act the way He wants you to act. You will have surefire knowledge of the course that He wants you to take.

When the time comes, how will you ACT?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

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:

Psalm 103, Isaiah 43:1-12, Luke 24:36-49
First Sunday after Easter
April 27, 2014

This morning’s Scripture Lessons have the common theme of witnessing the mighty acts of God.  Psalm 103:7 says God “showed His ways unto Moses, His works unto the children of Israel.”  “Ye are my witnesses,” God says to Israel in Isaiah 43:10, “that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.”  Luke 24:48 records the words of Christ to the men who would soon become the Apostles, “ye are witnesses of these things,” meaning His death and resurrection.

I want to concentrate on Christ’s words in Luke 24, because they address the men who would become the foundation of Christ’s Church.  It is they who preached the Gospel of Christ, they who wrote the Scriptures, they who formed the faith and practice we still believe and practice today in the Anglican Orthodox Church.  It is important to us to know that these men were witnesses to the things they spoke and wrote about, and for which they eventually suffered and died.  They saw “these things.” Thus, John wrote that the Apostles declare “that… which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands handled” (1 Jn. 1:1).  “That which we have seen declare we unto you” (1 Jn. 1:3).  Peter, in Acts 2:32 was speaking of the resurrection of Christ when he said of himself and the other Apostles, “we are all witnesses.”

These men saw, heard and touched Jesus. They were there when He turned the water into wine. They were there when He stilled the sea and walked on the water.  They saw Him restore the sight of blind Bartimaeus. They saw Him cast out the demon they could not exorcise, the one Jesus said only comes out by much prayer and fasting.  They saw Lazarus walk out of the tomb, still reeking of death and decay, but whole and well and alive again.  They saw Christ betrayed, arrested, “crucified, dead, and buried.”  They saw Him die.  They probably helped Joseph of Arimathaea remove His body from the cross and lay it in the tomb.  They touched His cold, lifeless flesh.  There was no doubt about His death.  The Romans knew how to kill, and nobody ever came down from the cross alive. In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens wrote, “Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am about to relate.” The rest of the story will make no sense if that fact is not grasped.  The same is true of the Bible.  Christ was dead, and none of the Bible will make any sense to you until you really grasp and accept that fact in your soul.  He was truly “crucified, dead, and buried.” But, just as they saw Him dead and buried, they also saw Him alive again. They saw the risen Christ.  They saw the empty tomb, the angelic messengers. They saw Him in the upper room which we read about in Luke 24 this morning.  They saw Him ascend into Heaven.  They were witnesses to these things.

But they didn’t just see what He did, they also saw what He was.  They saw His compassion, generosity, power, and His genuine and complete goodness.  They saw that He is the Light, and the Life, and the Power and the Glory.  They saw that He is God. They saw that in Him God was present with them.  He truly was, is, and ever shall be Emmanuel, God with us.  They saw that He is the Truth.  When He spoke, God spoke.  What He said, God said.  What He was, God is.  They saw Him give Himself on the cross to save us, to bring us back to God, and they knew that by His blood their souls were made clean.

The Apostles saw all of these things, and they bear witness of what they saw.  But, as John reminds us, they also heard Christ.  They declare what they have heard.  And what words they heard from the lips of Christ.  Words like:

 “I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”  “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.” 

And, some of my favourite words, from John 14:

Let not you heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.  Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”

One day soldiers were sent to arrest Jesus, but they heard His words and let Him go free. Questioned by their superiors, they said, “Never man spake like this man (Jn. 7:46).  One day when many turned away from Christ, He challenged the disciples, saying, “Will ye also go away?”  Simon Peter answered for all of them, and I hope, all of us, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68).  “Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” said the disciples when Christ spoke to them on the Emmaus Road.  The Apostles heard these words, and declare them unto us.

When Christ told the Apostles that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name, He was implying that they were the ones who would preach it.  In fact it is implicit in Luke 24:48 that, as His witnesses, they would tell others what they saw and heard in Christ.  If we look back at 1 John 1:3 again we see this clearly stated, for John wrote, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.  To a great extent, the New Testament is their declaration.  In it the Apostles declare “all that Jesus began both to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1).  And so we have in the New Testament the testimony of these witnesses.  They are telling us what they saw and heard and touched in Jesus.  And this is the purpose of their testimony; that we may believe and be saved. They wrote, as Isaiah said, “that ye may know and believe [God].” This is what the testimony of Scripture and the witnesses want from you; see, and believe.  Believe and be reconciled to God.
+Dennis Campbell
Bishop, Anglican Orthodox Church Diocese of Virginia
Rector, Holy Trinity Anglican Orthodox Church
Powhatan, Virginia

Rev Rick Reid of Saint Peter’s Sunday Sermon
We are happy to have a sermon from Reverend Rick Reid, minister of Saint Peter’s, whose congregation is right at the Worldwide Headquarters of the Anglican Orthodox Church.  Rev Rick has all the resources and challenges right at hand.  This sermon is not in the usual expository style common to the Sunday Report and the AOC, but I think you will enjoy it.

What the Cross Should Mean to Us

Christ is Risen, The Lord is risen indeed! Did you know the cross is the most widely known religious symbol in the world? You see the cross on churches, you see people wearing cross necklaces, pins, and all kinds of jewelry. We sometimes see athletes make the sign of the cross during sporting events. The cross has many different meanings to many different people. But what does the cross mean to you? History and more importantly, the Bible, tell us the cross wasn’t always such a popular symbol. During the days of Jesus, the cross was a symbol of shame and embarrassment, a symbol of warning and terror to the occupied people of Israel. The Roman Empire used the cross as a means of execution, and it was considered to be an extremely shameful and painful way to die.
The Roman emperor Constantine[1] is credited with allowing Christianity to exist as a recognized religion. Christian sources record Constantine experienced a dramatic event in 312 AD, at the Battle of Milvian Bridge after which he claimed the emperorship in the West. According to these sources, Constantine looked up to the sun before the battle and saw a cross of light and written in Greek "Ἐν Τούτῳ Νίκα" ("by this, win!"). Constantine commanded his troops to adorn their shields with a Christian symbol (the Chi-Rho), Kie-Row, and thereafter they were victorious. The cross was not common in religious art until the fourth century, when everyone who had ever seen a live crucifixion had died.

But what does the cross symbolize to you? For one man in the early first century, the cross began as a symbol of death, but then became a symbol of life, and forgiveness. Jesus was led out to be crucified along with two criminals. When they came to a place called “the Skull,” the Roman soldiers crucified Jesus, with one criminal on his left, and one on his right. Here a prophecy is fulfilled: Isaiah had foretold that Jesus would be numbered with the transgressors. When Jesus was hung on the cross, he was lowered to the level of a criminal. He was brought down to the same level as those other two criminals, and everyone else who had ever been crucified.

Many people were mocking Christ, including these two criminals. (I paraphrase now from St Luke’s Gospel), one of the criminals said: aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself, and us!” “If you’re the Messiah, the Son of God, like you say you are, why don’t you get out of this situation?, and get us out of here too! This criminal blasphemes Christ, mocking his claim to be the Son of God.

The way this criminal blasphemes the Messiah reminds us of how many in our world today blaspheme Christ. Jesus is the Son of God? I don’t think so. Why doesn’t he prove it? Why doesn’t he do something to prove that he is the Son of God, someone I should worship? Prove it!”

Some people today mock the idea of Jesus being the Saviour of the world, just like that criminal hanging next to Jesus. Unfortunately, we sometimes have more in common with that criminal who mocked Christ than we would like to admit. In the eyes of God, all of us really, are criminals. All of us have led lives of disobedience and rebellion against God. Do things this way, God says. And we say, No, I’ll do things my way instead. We live lives that violate God’s will, over and over again. You and I are criminals in the eyes of God. When things don’t go our way, we begin to have fears and doubts.

We are sinners, and ultimately, it is because of our sin that Jesus suffered and died on the cross. It wasn’t the Jews. It wasn’t the Romans. But it was us, our rebellion against Him, our sin… that’s what put Christ on the cross. That’s why he suffered, taking the punishment that we deserve for our sin.

But listen to this, one of the criminals has a change of heart. Instead of continuing to mock Christ, he grows silent, and then he rebukes his fellow criminal:  40 Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise

A change of heart takes place in this criminal. He starts to defend Christ. He confesses his sinful life; we are getting what our deeds deserve. He even acknowledges that Jesus is innocent.

What was happening in the heart of this criminal? He was repenting. The Holy Spirit was working in him. Perhaps, as he hung from the cross, he realized the depth of his sin.

Perhaps he remembered all the things he had learned about the Messiah when he was younger, the idea of a suffering Messiah, a Messiah that would be mocked. As he hung from the cross, the Holy Spirit led him to repent, to believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

He defends Christ. He confesses his sin. And then, he turns to Christ, and says, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. In other words,    I repent of my life as a criminal. I repent of my mockery. I believe that you are a king, the Messiah who was to come. I believe that you have fulfilled the Old Testament prophesy. I believe that you are a King who shows mercy. Forgive me for the life I have led. Forgive me for the way I mocked you. When you come into your kingdom, have mercy on me. Lord, remember me.

These words of repentance are also our words, aren’t they? As we see Jesus die on the cross, we also pray, “O Lord, forgive me for my life of rebelling against you. Forgive me for doubting you and questioning you. Forgive me. Have mercy on me. Remember me, when you come into your kingdom.

And Jesus, even though he was being shown no mercy… showed mercy to that criminal. Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Crucifixion was often a two or three day process. But Jesus tells this man, today, this very day, you will be in paradise, heaven that wonderful place where those in Christ go. This very day, you will be there, and you’ll be there with me, your Messiah, your King. Jesus gives to this man an unconditional pardon; he completely and totally forgives him, and gives him the hope of eternal life.

Why?, because, at that very moment, Jesus was dying for that criminal’s sins on the cross. At that very moment, Jesus was dying for all that man’s criminal acts against society and against God. Jesus was paying for that.  All that mockery, Jesus was paying for that too. What amazing love, that as Jesus suffers for this man, he offers him forgiveness, an unconditional pardon, the sure hope of eternal life.

Jesus does the same thing for us. How is it that Jesus can say to us, Without a doubt, you are forgiven? I am with you always, and someday, you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus says that to you, how?

Because on the cross, Jesus took all of our sins away, past, present, and future. All the different ways we have rebelled against God, Jesus, paid for those sins. Jesus offers to us an unconditional pardon, a clean slate, the sure hope of eternal life with him.

What did the cross mean for this criminal? At first, I’m sure; it was a symbol of shame, terror and death. It meant that he was found guilty and was paying the price for his sins. But now, because of what Jesus said to him there, the cross takes on a new meaning for him. Here is where he meets his Saviour. Here is where he confesses his sin. Here is where he receives a wonderful pardon from the Son of God. The cross is where he receives his salvation.

What should the cross mean to you? All kinds of things should come to mind. You see, we are all that criminal at Calvary. And as we consider the sins in our lives and wonder, can God really forgive us? Then, remember the cross. There Jesus calls out to us, and assures us that we are forgiven, that we will be with him in paradise.

Every Sunday morning, you hear God forgives you. It’s because of the cross. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, these are God’s gifts to you, made possible only by the cross. Why is it, that God hears our prayers? How can we be so confident that God really does love us, and that there is a place in heaven for us? It’s because of the cross.

May the cross always remind us of Jesus Christ, and of his death, and passion. But most of all, the salvation that is ours because of His mighty resurrection on that Easter Sunday. 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.

First Sunday after Easter

In Revelation 1:4-20 we read of the apostle John’s commission to the seven churches which are in Asia(v. 4) wherein he was instructed by our Lord to, Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter (v. 19). From the beginning, God has utilized both the prophets and the apostles to communicate to mankind his firm intention to bring an end to the wicked powers which now hold sway over our world. In the Old Testament, he gave the prophet Amos to write: Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets (3:7). To the prophet Isaiah he said, Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses... (44:8). And to Zechariah, he posited the query: Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity... ? (7:7).

In St. Matthew’s gospel, our Lord prophesied concerning the end of days (24:1-24), wherein he explained the course of events that would transpire prior to his glorious appearing; after which, he reminded the disciples, Behold, I have told you before (v. 25) signifying that he had discussed this with them earlier in his ministry. St. Paul noted that believers should not be soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand... for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed... (II Thessalonians 2:2-3). St. Peter noted in his first epistle that, the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer (4:7). St. Jude admonished all to, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts (vv. 17-18). The Bible tells us that, All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (II St. Timothy 3:16-17). And so it follows, that the Book of Revelation— like every other book of the Bible— has been given to us for our edification and enlightenment. Unlike the Old Testament book of Daniel, it is not a sealed book (22:10) as our Lord would have us to read it for our eternal good (Revelation 1:3).

With that in mind, let us examine the messages he gave to the beloved apostle concerning the seven churches of Asia Minor. We will also see how they apply to the churches of today.

To the church at Ephesus, our Lord applauded their works and their patience and how they had rejected the false and deceptive among them. He also chided them for their turning away from their love for the gospel. As Matthew Henry noted, “Those who have much good in them may have something much amiss in them, and our Lord Jesus, as an impartial Master and Judge, takes notice of both.” It would seem that in their zeal, the Christians at Ephesus had lost sight of the purpose for their zeal. This is something every believing church body must keep ever before them: that the object of our worship is God through Christ Jesus. Our works will be meaningless without the imprimatur of Christ upon them as we are not working for ourselves but for him.

The church at Smyrna was recognized by our Lord to be a faithful body of believers who were under persecution. He advised them to Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer (2:10). Those who face persecution are often burdened with fearfulness, and fear can diminish faith if it is allowed to grow within the body. Our Lord’s victory at the cross vanquished the fear of sin and death, and so it is fitting that all who are born again in his name are also victors with him and co-heirs of God’s kingdom. Therefore, our Lord expects us to live that victory which he has won for us on Calvary’s cross.

The church at Pergamos was chided by our Lord for its embrace of the doctrines of Balaam, and the Nicolaitanes. The former involved the worship of idols and included many false teachings relative to worship and church order. The latter speaks of the formalizing of a priestly hierarchy that lorded over the laity. Our Lord desires that we reject those human traditions which violate his moral and ethical laws. We must therefore worship the Godhead with reverence. We must adhere to the established order for the administration of the word through the offices of the bishop, the priest or presbyter, and the deacon. Consider the admonition of Bishop Ryle: “We must be careful that we do not give ministers a place and honour which does not belong to them. We must never allow them to come between us and Christ. The very best are not infallible. They are not priests who can atone for us. They are not mediators who can undertake to manage our soul's affairs with God. They are men like us, needing the same cleansing blood, the same renewing Spirit, men set apart to a high and holy calling, but still, after all, only men. Human nature, alas, always prefers a visible minister to an invisible Christ. Nor must the minister, or any Christian, desire to be great in the eyes of men, but rather great in the eyes of Christ. His aim must be not so much to rule the church as to serve it, not a master but a servant.”

The church at Thyatira was a mix of the profane and the godly. Our Lord recognized their good qualities, but he rebuked them for permitting their faith and practice to become linked to harlotry and idolatry. There is no substitute for offering God what he expects. Denying our Lord the proper worship he desires will not bring us a blessing but a something far less. The introduction of women priests, and other persons with sordid and licentious beliefs can only mark a church body as being more akin to Sodom than to Christ.

The church at Sardis was referred to as partly dead and partly alive. Our Lord advised them to be watchful and strengthen the things which remain. A dead church will not listen to our Lord Jesus Christ because Satan has gotten a foothold there, while those that are alive will heed his calling. The dead church is liken unto the whited sepulchres that outwardly appear pleasant, but are inwardly filled with dead men’s bones. These churches contain many spiritually dead souls who are pretending to be spiritually alive. Their lack of a proper biblical understanding and their acceptance of those godless tenets of Modernism reveal them to be more akin to a mausoleum rather than a fold of the living Christ.

The church at Philadelphia was blessed of our Lord on account of their true and abiding faith in him. All who worship the Godhead in Spirit and in Truth, who heed his warnings and trust in his word will one day receive his reward of an open door and his divine preservation from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth. Our Lord has said that evil shall not prevail against his church, and in that we should take much comfort. Keeping ourselves in the word and remaining faithful will open the door of God’s blessings to us, but we have the added benefit of being kept from the terrible time to come when the whole world will fall under Satan’s great deceiver— the Antichrist.

The last church mentioned was Laodicea. It was rich in the things of this world and believed it needed nothing else; but to our Lord, it was a church that was wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. Those of Laodicea were— as their name is interpreted— judges unto themselves concerning the things of God. The current version of Laodicea is no different. Nevertheless, if Laodicean Christians think that they can manipulate Scripture to suit their jaded opinions and earthy desires, it will not be long before they fall completely away from their standing as a godly church, and thus be transformed into a synagogue of Satan.

The seven churches are also seven witnesses. They are witnesses on behalf of our Lord in either the positive or the negative. As to the former, they proclaim the gospel of peace to a sin darkened world. As to the latter, they are objects of warning as our Lord will judge all unconfessed offenses with severity. Today, we have a choice to take to ourselves those godly characteristics of the seven churches of Asia and live by them, or else succumb to their several evils. God has given us his word, so there is no excuse on our part for not following it. Purpose then in your heart today to be obedient to God’s will and commandment so that you might have life and have it in abundance.

Let us pray,

ather, assist us as we walk the pilgrim’s path of this mortal life; that in all things we might stand for the truth of thy word written and reach out to others that they too might do the same; for this we ask in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Have a blessed week, Bryan+

[1] Constantine, credited with bringing Christianity into the governmental mainstream was also the first Briton to be emperor, having been called to the position from the English town of York, then the most significant city in the island nation.