Verse of the Day

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Independence Day - Third Sunday after Trinity

One Nation, Under God will result in Liberty and Justice for all

Friday we celebrated Independence Day, 4 July 2014, Anno Domini which marked 238 years since the establishment of this country on the solid foundation of Divine Providence.  That would be God.

There is a marked tendency to think of the Fourth of July as just another holiday, perhaps special because of the fireworks.  It is not.  This day marks the establishment of the only successful Republic the world has ever seen.  It is a special country with special relationship with God.  It is not that God is on our side, but rather we are on God’s side.  If we lose that relationship, we lose the special nature of our country.

We trust you and your families had the very best Independence Day.  While you were enjoying the day, we hope you took the time remember the terrible cost of our freedom and those who paid it for us.

I commend to you Presiding Bishop Jerry L. Ogles’ Independence Day message:

Independence Day – 4 July 2014, Anno Domini (the 238th year of American Independence)

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.   (Exodus 13:21-22)
            Enshrined in the Foundation Stones of our American Republic are the biblical imperatives that gave our Founding Fathers the spiritual Light to found a nation peculiar to all the nations of the earth for Liberty, Godliness, and Union. The Light was not an `uncertain Light' but a sure and faithful Light of Truth and Freedom under which nations might find the blessings and beneficence of Divine Love. Our nation has been subject to many challenges and dangerous wars, yet, we have always endured every challenge to come smiling through unscathed and stronger than ever. It has been so because we have not forgotten the God of Providence and Love that has given breath to our national being. There has always been that luminous and glowing Light that has forever preceded us in the day of battle, and trailed at our back during the nights of our hardships. That Light is Christ!
            On the obverse side of the US One Dollar Bill, may be found the Great Seal and escutcheon of our Nation. The symbolic nature of all depicted there has a special significance to our reliance upon that Providential Hand that directed our steps from the early days of our founding. There is depicted on our National Seal a Great Eagle grasping, in his left talons, the thirteen arrows  (symbolizing the original thirteen colonies and the essential power that sustains us). In the right talons we see the olive branch consisting of thirteen leaves and thirteen fruits demonstrating that a Godly peace and prosperity is forever preferred to the resort to war which the arrows represent. Hovering over the depiction of the Eagle is affixed what we call the "Glory Cloud." The "Glory' is a luminous cloud containing thirteen stars that also represent the full number of colonies at our founding. This Glory Cloud is the same as that cloud which followed the Children of Israel at night in the Wilderness and gave the Light essential to make their way known. That same Cloud preceded them by day to lead them into the good path, and to defend against all aggressors. What would have happened to our nation if we had not had the benefit of that Light from 1776 to present? Suppose that Light were extinguished and the Cloud dissipated? What light would we then follow? Has it not already become dim to our eyes as we turn to the Malthusian philosophy over and above our primitive faith in Christ?
            On the left side of that same Dollar bill is the Great Pyramid with the Capstone floating above with the all-seeing Eye. This chief cornerstone represents the "Stone that the Builders Rejected." It has become the Chief Cornerstone of our Nation – Under God. (St. Matthew 21:42)
            We celebrate today what we WERE as a nation blessed of God. But we must also observe this day what we have BECOME and as a time of prayerful repentance to that Great and Divine Power that made us a nation most blessed among all the nations of the earth. We have ceased to follow that Glory Cloud that has attended our National Being from its inception. We have turned to gods of flesh and of precious metal instead of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We have forbidden our children to enjoy that same freedom of public prayer that most of us have enjoyed when in elementary and high school. We have opened the flood gates of immorality and enshrined the most egregious sins in our public laws. How will God respond to our national arrogance and depravity? Does He not always send forth warnings and lightnings from His Throne preceding hard judgment? Has He not sent among our coastal and interior cities the destroying wind and the whirlwind? Have enormous fires not destroyed much wealth and caused many to flee their homes? Have ravages of sexual diseases not brought many of our youth to the grave? Has He not spurred the hand of the sorcerer to supply soul-destroying drugs to our youth? Have wars raged which have depleted our national coffers and the lives of our best and brightest? Has He not given us leadership that represents our own demented values? Have we not ceased to be a Light and City on a Hill that is the envy of the world?
            This Independence Day, America, awaken from your spiritual stupor and look again to the Lord that has been our Light. Remember the grandeur and righteousness of our past years, and do not forget the depths of ruin to which we have sunk, and are accelerating, in our present age. We might remember that hymn written so long ago of the Kindly Light (John Newman):
Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!

The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!

Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see

The distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou shouldst lead me on;

I loved to choose and see my path; but now lead Thou me on!

I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,

Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.

O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent, till the night is gone,

And with the morn those angel faces smile, which I

Have loved long since, and lost awhile!

Meantime, along the narrow rugged path, Thyself hast trod,

Lead, Savior, lead me home in childlike faith, home to my God.

To rest forever after earthly strife

In the calm light of everlasting life.

            Please, America, remember today the God that delivered you from the hand of the oppressor. Turn to Him in prayer that our moral sense and duty be restored in the hearts of our people. Pray and fast. Repent and turn. The Light is fixed. Only our own wanderings have made it appear more dimly lit.

The Anglican Church, being founded on the principal of one nation, one church, holds patriotism and true love of country in great regard.  It is quite interesting that the majority of the Founding Fathers were members of the Church of England and transferred their national church identity to what became the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.  Like Henry VIII and Thomas Cranmer, they saw the need for a national church.  Not a captive arm of the government, but a link to God for the people of the nation.

We hold our Independence Day dear to our hearts and it is one of our religious feasts or holidays.  A proper Red Letter Day!

The Independence Day Propers are found on Page 263-264.

Independence Day.
[July 4.]
The Collect.

 ETERNAL God, through whose mighty power our fathers won their liberties of old; Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle comes from the Tenth Chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy beginning at the Seventeenth Verse:

HE LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: he doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name. He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen..

Today’s Gospel started in the Fifth Chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew beginning at the Forty-Third Verse:

ESUS said, Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Third Sunday after Trinity

Today we celebrated the Third Sunday after Trinity Sunday.  Summer is here, but more pleasant than last week with a sunrise temperature on Mount Olympus of 63°F, by the time church ended the mercury had climbed to 84°F, all under clear skies. 

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 –

On love
There are two kinds of love: we love wise and kind and beautiful people because we need them, but we love (or try to love) stupid and disagreeable people because they need us. This second kind is the more divine because that is how God loves us: not because we are lovable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but He delights to give.
Jack Lewis
The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III

On Sin
 [The demon Screwtape writes:] Even of his sins the Enemy does not want him to think too much: once they are repented, the sooner the man turns his attention outward, the better the Enemy is pleased.
Jack Lewis
The Screwtape Letters

Love thy Neighbor
[One of the most unpopular of the Christian virtues] is laid down in the Christian rule, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ Because in Christian morals ‘thy neighbour’ includes ‘thy enemy’, and so we come up against this terrible duty of forgiving our enemies.

Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. ‘That sort of talk makes them sick,’ they say. And half of you already want to ask me, ‘I wonder how you’d feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?’

So do I. I wonder very much. Just as when Christianity tells me that I must not deny my religion even to save myself from death by torture, I wonder very much what I should do when it came to the point. I am not trying to tell you in this book what I could do—I can do precious little—I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.’ There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms.
Jack Lewis
Mere Christianity

A great many people want to bring their faith, their works, their good deeds to Him for salvation. Bring your sins, and He will bear them away into the wilderness of forgetfulness, and you will never see them again.
Moody's Anecdotes and Illustrations

As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of the all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
Ezekiel 34:12

Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are children of them which killed the prophets.
St. Matthew 23:31

Remember [a] ship is like the Church. It is made for the sea just as the church is made to be in the world. But when the sea begins to get into the ship, and the world into the church, the resulting shipwreck will be tragic.
Jerry L. Ogles
20th and 21st Presiding Bishop Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide

Men who are confident of the future can bear more easily and less painfully their present troubles; but when they are outraged even by the government what befalls them is naturally all the more grievous, and by the failing of all hope of redress they are turned to utter despair.
6th century Anno Domino Byzantine official and historian

I am concerned for the security of our great nation; not so much because of any threat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within.
Douglas MacArthur
20th century American general officer and war hero
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 192-193, with the Collect first:

Third Sunday after Trinity.
The Collect.

 LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may, by thy mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Epistle came from the Fifth Chapter of St. Peter‘s First Epistle, beginning at the Fifth Verse.  Peter tells us to not be proud of what we have been given, rather to use those gifts to the benefit of those around us.  We should ask God to carry our concerns and worries so that we might to the tasks set before us. 

We must pay attention to the world around us and take care not to fall prey to the devil, for he is constantly looking for ways to help us drift off our path towards heaven.  You must understand that other Christians come from the same pool you do, humanity, they have the same frailties and problems you do.  Hang in there and do your very best, God will take care of you in the end.  There are none so poor as cannot purchase a noble death.  Never forget that. 

Trust in God and dread naught.

LL of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Today’s Gospel started in the Fifteenth Chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke, beginning at the First Verse.  This is a story of Jesus, rather than one of his stories.  The Pharisees were appalled that those who were particularly sinners in their very qualified eyes were attracted to Jesus and even worse, he talked to them, even breaking bread with them.  To the Pharisees, Jesus told the story of the shepherd who loses a sheep and searches for it.  When he finds it he carries it back to the flock on his shoulders.  He goes on to tell the story of the woman who loses a piece of silver and turns her house inside out to find it.  That story ends in a very interesting word play in English, “Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece (peace) which I had lost.”  Jesus ends the story with, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”  Having said that, there is also joy when we do not sin, but choose God’s way.  And we enjoy it more also.

HEN drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly  contained in the forewords above.

Consider these words from the Collect:

hear us; and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may, by thy mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities

The Collect starts as they often do by asking God to hear us.  It seems to me that this is rather odd a thing to ask as He hears us all the time; the problem is that when we need His Help we so rarely ask, then when He answers, we will not hear Him.  That being said, when we do accept the Holy Ghost’s Help to pray, we can expect to receive spiritual, mental and physical comfort from God.  But, as the old radio talk show personality Bruce Williams was fond of saying, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”  So, ask. And don’t be afraid to ask, as God can help us with whatever difficulties we happen to be facing. No problem is too big to help, with God’s help, that is.

When we ask for help and get it, we get great results.  But, when we get those results, who should really get the credit?  As Peter tells us in his epistle, we should not spend or time being proud of what we have been given, rather we should use those gifts to the benefit of those around us.  It is a waste of our talent to be bragging about it, but to effectively use our talents, we should just use it to God’s glory and not waste time with boastful statements. We could use the time we spend bragging about our talents more productively, such as using them to further His Glory and Word in this world. And, when we have troubles, we should bring them to God and ask Him to carry our concerns and worries so that we might tend to the tasks set before us.  We cannot do this mission alone, we desperately need His help at all times, which is something everybody struggles with. But we must ask His help and be willing to listen to what he says. Often times He answers and we do not hear, due to our selfishness, we must clear our ears and be able and willing to listen to His response to us. That is critical if we are to follow the principles our Lord has set forth for us. The biggest message in the Bible, which repeats, is that actions have more meaning than mere words. We must try to have our actions fit our words of belief.

We must pay attention to the world around us and take care not to fall prey to the devil, for he is constantly looking for ways to help us drift off our path towards heaven.  We must keep situational awareness at all times, so we do not fall into any of his traps that he has laid out for us. You must understand that other Christians come from the same pool you do, humanity, they have the same frailties and problems you do. We all are the sinful creatures in the pattern of Adam. The word pictures painted of “your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” is both vivid and true!  It is not enough to just not follow the devil and look to him for help.  We must actively turn away his so called help and look to God for Guidance, Help and Comfort.

Hang in there and do your very best, God will take care of you in the end.  There are none so poor as cannot purchase a noble death.  Never ever forget that. 

Trust in God and dread naught. For there are sufficient evils to the day thereof, as Christ said (Matthew 6:34 KJV)

When Saint Luke tells that Jesus not only talked to “sinners” but broke bread and ate with them, he related a story that was a particular concern to the Pharisees.  They were quite appalled that those who were particularly sinners in their very qualified eyes were attracted to Jesus.  They knew a sinner when they saw one (except in the mirror) and were quite certain sinners would never get in to heaven.  But, not only did Jesus appeal to the sinners, He even talked to them.  My goodness, He went so far as to break bread with them and engage them in conversation at meat!

This really bothered the the Pharisees who thought they knew everything there was to know about the Law. They counted upon the Law saving them. They were wrong, as it is Our Lord Jesus who saves, and the fact he talks and engages the sinners, meant that He cares for each person in this World deeply, and loves them enough to die for them. All they have to do is accept Him and follow Him. The Pharisees just could not grasp this.

With a clear view of the inner most thoughts of their hearts, Jesus the Pharisees the story of the shepherd who loses a sheep and searches for it.  When he finds it he carries it back to the flock on his shoulders.  He goes on to tell the story of the woman who loses a piece of silver and turns her house inside out to find it.  That story ends in a very interesting word play in English, “Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece (peace) which I had lost.”  Jesus ends the story with, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

 The moral of the parable is that Jesus is all about saving the sinners, not those who are already “righteous.” But for us, there are none who are already “righteous.” I liken the church as a hospital for sinners. And all of the saints were sinners in the past too, to paraphrase my mother. Having said that, there is also joy when we do not sin, but choose God’s way.  And we enjoy it more also. So it is preferable if we do not sin in the first place, but if we can’t do that, then God finds joy when we truly repent and turn back to Him and ask for His help and be willing to listen.

Notice Jesus’ actions when He finds a lost sheep, He carries it back to the flock on His shoulders with a smile on His face. He rejoices in each lost soul saved. This is what the Church is about, bringing lost souls to Our Sheppard of Souls, Our Savior, Our Advocate, Jesus Christ, to His Kingdom of Heavenly Joys.

Heaven is at the end of an uphill trail.  The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.

The time is now, not tomorrow.  The time has come, indeed.  How will you ACT?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

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:

The Bible and Life Healing
Romans 12:2
Third Sunday after Trinity
July 6, 2014

“Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Romans 12:2

I have been talking about healing in the human soul.  By that I mean healing of the inner person that affects the direction and quality of the whole person and the whole life.  I am talking about healing lives from the inside out.  Last Sunday I said all real healing begins with the atonement of Christ.  He forgives our sins and puts us on a new path in life that leads to wholeness and wellness of life.  I also said deciding to follow Christ is the beginning of healing, not the end.  There are many surgeries and therapies and medications yet to come.  And, just as in physical healing, we must take our treatments in order to get well.

We all have a natural tendency to adopt behaviours that are self-destructive.  We allow these behaviours to become habits, and we allow these habits to become life-styles.  Sometimes, when we get so deep in them we grow weary of their destructive influence and results, we want to change.  We want to heal our lives.  We think healing is simply a matter of changing our behaviour. But we find our behaviour doesn’t change until we change our minds about that behaviour.  I am talking about life changes here.  I am not talking about just not drinking coffee before bed so you can sleep better.  I am talking about much more serious things.  And before we can make radical changes in our lives we have to make radical changes in our minds.  We have to change the way we think.  We have to change what we think about.  We have to change our values and goals and hopes.  Otherwise we will continue to fall back into the same old patterns of life that tear our lives apart and make us sick in our souls.

So I am making a claim that a major part of God’s treatments for healing lives is mental.  It involves changing the way we think, and what we think about.  When we let God change our minds, our lives will follow and we will begin to experience wholeness and wellness in life.

I need to make clear here that I am not saying God wants to heal every physical disease.  I am not saying He wants to make you wealthy in the goods of this world.  I am not saying He is going to avert the hard things of life so you will never experience sorrows and trials and tribulations that are a natural part of life.  In fact, it is because others preach such things that I have decided to attempt to counter their claims with Biblical truth.  That is one of the purposes of this series of sermons.  But the other purpose is to show that there is help in God in this life.  There is hope for change and healing in our beings, our souls.  And there is hope and help for living a better life that leads us way from destructive ideas and actions and replaces them with edifying and constructive thoughts and behaviours.

Much of this life healing begins with the way we think.  We can easily see this in the relationship between doctrine and practice in church.  If you adopt the doctrine that Christianity is a feeling, you are going to adopt practices designed to work feelings in you.  We see this in much of the contemporary church movement, but it is nothing new.  It was a major problem in the Apostolic era, as we see in the New Testament books of First and Second Corinthians.  If we think Christianity is all about getting our miracles from God, we are going to spend our time praying for miracles instead of doing the things that promote faith and holiness of life.  A person whose marriage is drifting will simply pray for a miracle to bring it back together instead of doing the things that strengthen the marital bonds.  A person whose faith is weak will pray for a miracle from God to infuse faith into him rather than doing the things that cause faith to grow.

So, if we want to see our lives changed, if we want to see our lives healed, different, better, we need to know that healing begins in our minds.  Romans 12:2 tells us, “be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds.”  And this renewing of your mind is primarily accomplished by spending time in the Bible.

I know people who have listened to pop music daily for decades.  They know pop.  They can tell you who wrote the songs, what bands performed them, and what years they were produced.  And, of course, they have memorised every word.  They know them so well, they can recognize a song if you play only a few notes of it.  They are immersed in pop music.

Do Christians know our Bibles that well?  There is an old joke about a minister who announced the sermon for the day was about the sin of lying.  He then said, “Raise your hand if you have read the Old Testament book of Second Hezekiah.”  Of course many in the congregation raised their hands, and the preacher said, “You are the ones I want to talk to.  There is no Second Hezekiah in the Bible.”

I am suggesting that we need to immerse our minds in the Bible the way some have immersed theirs in pop music or football or literature or art.  There was a time when young children memorised the book of Psalms by singing them daily.  There was a time when the supposedly illiterate common man memorised vast portions of the Bible,  including whole books such as the Gospel of John.  Some, of course did this because they were forced to, but others did it because they loved the Bible and they wanted it to shape their thoughts and attitudes and way of life.  Those who let the Bible shape their thoughts found that it also shaped their lives.  It made them whole and strong in the soul, and that wholeness made them strong in life.  It enabled them to develop healthy, constructive life-styles.  It enabled them to face the trials of life with faith and hope rather than despair and depression.  If you want healing and wholeness in life, if you want to overcome destructive thoughts and behaviours, if you want to replace them with constructive thoughts that turn into healthy lives, turn to the Bible.  Spend time in the Bible.  Do it every Sunday.  Do it every day.  It is the primary means of life healing.

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.

Third Sunday after Trinity

In our gospel today (St. Luke 15:1-10), our Lord reminded the scribes and Pharisees that God desires all to come to true repentance and be regenerated. It does not matter what a person did before this new birth, only that one accept Jesus Christ as Lord and confess his or her sins to God in his name. If such a confession is made, then God will accept that person as his own child and love him as he loves every other regenerate person. Afterward, said regenerated person must seek daily to obey God’s commandments.

With that in mind, why was it so hard for the teachers of the law to understand these parables? Weren’t they the children of Jacob? Did not the Saviour come to seek and save the lost of the house of Israel? Important questions no doubt, and Scripture has the answers for all who will listen.

First, let us consider the following charge by our Lord, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil (St. John 8:42-44). The Bible plainly states that we are involved in a great spiritual war and that we have to take a side. Unlike warfare in our earthly sphere, there is no middle or neutral ground. You will either be in God’s camp, or you will— by default— be counted within the camp of the Satan. Down through the ages, God has called on those who are his to come out from among the heathen and be separate (see Deuteronomy 28:1- 68; II Corinthians 6:14-18).

Secondly, consider the mindset of the scribes and Pharisees. They looked upon their fleshly connection to Abraham as a sort of free pass into God’s kingdom. They also believed that sinners and publicans were outside the love of God. They spoke of those hapless folk as if they no other recourse but to sin: that once in their sins, they would remain in their sins. Our Lord spoke of their arrogance when he said, The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not... all their works they do for to be seen of men... whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted (St. Matthew 23:1-12). He then pronounced a series of stinging indictments upon them as well as their ancestors when he said, But woe unto you , scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in... for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith... you are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye outwardly appear righteous... but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity... Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell (St. Matthew 23:13- 39)?

It would seem that their slavish devotion to their tradition along with their lack of humility before God prevented them from realizing that their Saviour—God robed in flesh— was rebuking them for their extra-biblical notions and their lack of faith. Scripture advises us to, Study to shew thyself approved unto God... (II St. Timothy 2:15). It also tells us that a wise man rebuked and instructed in the word will increase in knowledge, for he will recognize his error and turn away from it to righteousness (Proverbs 9:8- 9). Our Lord sought to convict his critics in their hearts, but they would not turn unto him in godly wisdom. They had already been overtaken by Satan, who snatched the words of truth from their hearts at the moment it was communicated (St. Matthew 13:19).

Thirdly, we need to understand that Satan blinds men’s minds to the truth of God all the while offering a false sense of security to his charges. We have expressions here in the South such as: “he (or she) has a skeleton in the closet;” “don’t air your dirty linen in public;” “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones;” and “it’s a dirty bird that dirties in its own nest,” are just a few of those which have been passed down from generation to generation. Those expressions have their foundation in the universality of mankind’s propensity for sin as everyone has done things which they, to a greater or lesser degree, have come to regret. Only the arrogant and the prideful would attempt to “sweep such remembrances under the rug” without some form of contrition, or act of expiation. Many count time itself as an ally. For with its passage, the memory of their errors seems to fade and are of no real importance to them. How often have the unregenerate sought to apply their faulty reasoning to God thinking that he does not see what they have done, or are now doing? So when our Lord preached to the sinners and publicans of our gospel lesson, they responded to him by repenting of their evil deeds. They knew they were unclean as did the scribes and Pharisees. But the real difference between the former and latter was that former recognized their sins and sought a remedy, while the latter did not recognize that they too were sinners: as much if not more so than those whom they had labeled sinners and publicans.

In our epistle today (I St. Peter 5:5-6), the apostle wrote, All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Our gospel lesson clearly illustrates that point. Those sheep that appeared to have no need of God’s salvation did not realize that they too needed the shepherd. They thought they were safe. The same might be said of the nine pieces of silver that technically were in hand. While the scribes and Pharisees believed they were the safe sheep or secure coins, the reality of their spiritual states was quite different. The prophet Isaiah (53:6) once admonished, All we like sheep have gone astray; and we have turned every one to his own way... And St. Paul advised the Roman Christians (3:10-12), As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. If the scribes and Pharisees had been godly persons, they would have heard the words of Christ and recognized that they themselves were lost sheep and lost coins as well.

God’s only begotten Son came to seek and save the lost. And we were lost before we received the gift of grace through faith in Christ, who has paid our debt with his own blood, freeing us from the bondage of sin and death. We are therefore found: redeemed unto life eternal as saints of the Most High God. It was nothing that we did ourselves. Our salvation was accomplished in toto by our Lord’s finished work at the cross.

The scribes and Pharisees were not looking for a personal Saviour of their souls, especially one who would embrace sinners and publicans. They were looking for a conquering Messiah and a collective redemption based upon their kinship to the Patriarchs. They did not reflect upon the law of Moses except to point out the deficiencies of others, but not themselves. Their hardheartedness and lack of humility reflected their true spiritual natures. Without a doubt, those who were lost were those who believed they had no need of a Saviour. The prophet Micah gave us God’s expectation on this matter when he said (Micah 6:8): He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Let us close with the first verse from the hymn Amazing Grace: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” May our good and gracious God open your eyes to see yourselves as you really are and to turn your hearts to true repentance in the name of his only begotten Son.

Let us pray,

oly Father, assist us as we carry the gospel to those around us; that such as will hear might also turn unto thee and be saved; for this we ask in the name of him who came to seek and save the lost, even our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Have a blessed week, Bryan+

No comments: