Verse of the Day

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Conversion of Saint Paul - superseding the Third Sunday after the Epiphany

The entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and readings for this week.  Consider these words from the Collects and how they work together:

… through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Saint Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world; Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same, by following the holy doctrine which he taught…

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

We will come back to Paul and how his conversion from Saul came about, but for now consider that God chose Saul of Tarsus, the primary persecutor of the very early church to spread His Gospel throughout the known world.  Saul was one of the very finest scholars and defenders of “traditional” Judaism.  He was totally dedicated to The Law and acted on his dedication. He was a good traditional Jew in every sense of the word. Yet, when God called him, loudly and brightly one might add, he acted on that call and gave his life to God.  When we look at ourselves, we find that we, like Paul, fall very short of good, thus we need God’s protection and help.  Not so much for the slings and arrows of this life, but for the subtle attacks by the Prince of this World on our souls.
Also like Paul, we find that we are called to do very important things for Him in this world. It may not be important in this world’s diluted viewpoint, but in His Holy and Great View, it is extremely important. It is a matter of losing souls or winning souls to Christ. We have to help people so that we can at least with His Help make sure that people know that they do have a choice, as we all do. That is the choice of death or Life. If we embrace Our Lord Jesus we embrace life.

When we first read in the Acts of the Apostles of Saul, “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” going to the local high priest to get a letter to allow him free hunting rights against the followers of Jesus, we wonder how could this possibly a story with a good ending?  Yet, as he and his followers walked along the road to Damascus, the Lord called Saul!  ZAP -  Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

Saul had no idea who it was that smote him blind, but he knew that whoever it was had the definite advantage, so he asked, “Who art thou, Lord?”  When he called the voice Lord, it was not that he thought it was our Lord, but rather someone way above him on the food chain.  Imagine his surprise, astonishment and indeed terror at the response, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”

Saul quickly decided he would do whatever he was told and asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”  He was genuinely terrified to discover that the Person who was addressing him was the very Person that he had been persecuting through his acts of evil. The answer to his query came quickly, “Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

And he did indeed get up and was led blind into Damascus.  When we think of faith, how oft do we remember Ananias?  Here is a fellow who knew of Saul, the evil he had done and the evil that he intended.  Yet, when told by the Lord to go to Saul and to tell him that the Lord had chosen him to deliver His Word to the Gentiles, he went.  He acted!  The Lord is the Lord of Action!

Three days Saul was blind and did not eat, on the third day[1], Ananias came to him with the Good News.  When Ananias delivered the Good News to Saul, his vision was clear, he could see where he needed to go, what he needed to do and to what end he labored. 

As soon as he saw the light so to speak, he was baptized and began to spread The Word.  It is said there are no so dedicated as the converted and the newly baptized Paul was the first of the truly converted!  Perhaps as interesting as anything is what God had planned for him, he was sent to bring The Word to the Gentiles of all people!  He was to bring The Word to people he would not have otherwise even really talked to.  Like you and I, Paul, once Saul, was called to action. And like Paul, once Saul, in our sins we are truly blind to our own faults and devices and can only see that which we wish to see. Our mind is clouded and we need other fellow believers and the Holy Ghost to unfog our mind and vision to see what He sees, and to act how He wants us to act.

This then brings us to Peter, always a Rock and always wanting to be first.  He wanted to know what he would get for following Jesus.  Actually, Jesus was very patient with him, telling him that he would be rewarded in heaven, the twelve judging or leading the twelve tribes.  That was something Peter could understand.  But, he went on to tell Peter and each of us that any sacrifice made on His behalf would be so very minor compared to the reward.  Not only in heaven, but here on earth for so long as it lasts.  The satisfaction of a job well done is beyond measure.  But, he also reminded Peter that our “place” here on earth is not of any import compared to the result of our actions, for “many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.”

So, how does all this come together?  First, Jesus Christ is a great savior.  If He saved Saul, Chief Persecutor of Christians, killer of Stephen, and turned him into Paul, the man who brought The Word to the Gentiles and wrote half the New Testament, He can save you.  But, like Saul / Paul, you have to accept that “Amazing Grace.”  If you accept His saving grace, then you have to act accordingly.

There is but one way to heaven.

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

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

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

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

[1] This Third Day thing is a theme, is it not?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

The entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
New AOC Congregation in Savusavu Fiji Islands

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

… hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace …

In the Collect, we are asking God to listen to us and give us His peace in our hearts.  God is perfect.  His hearing is perfect.  It is not His hearing that is in need of help.  He hears us clearly when we pray, God always hears us when we call Him.  This Collect is really to remind us that when we pray to Him, we need to listen to Him.  Too often we ask Him what to do, when He tells us what He wants us to do, it is not what we want, so we don’t hear.  After all, there are none so deaf as those who will not hear.  So, the question is not, Does God hear our supplication?  Rather the question is, Do we hear His answer and abide by it?  Do we listen when His answer is not what we want but what we need? We think that he doesn’t answer, but that is often because we are deaf to His answer through our own condition of being poor, sinful creatures that need His forgiveness desperately. What we really need to do is stop our wanting thoughts and to listen to what we need, His Guidance. We need His Guidance to stop the evilness that lies within ourselves and to control it, to mitigate it, so that we can do good things for Him. Without His Guidance, we cannot ever hope to be good and righteous. To do that, we must open our hearts and minds; and let Him in. He will not force His way in. It takes action on our part to let Him in.  If we open our hearts and minds, then we will hear Him. Will we let him in to our hearts for this to happen? It has to start with us letting Him in, and then we will hear His answer loud and clear.

We all have some talent; each has something they do better than others.  Paul reminds us for the church, on any organization for that matter, to succeed, we must do what needs to be done, working hard, honestly, cheerfully, looking for no public praise, being kind to all.  Everybody needs to utilize their talents according to the needs of the church, not to somebody elses talents, but their talents. Everybody has a talent of some sort, be it musically, talking (being good with communication). Almost anything else that can be used for His Glory is a talent. Sometimes, we fail to remember that for the team to be successful, each person needs to do the job they do best to the best of their ability; not necessarily the one they like best the way they want to do it at the pace they enjoy.  It is not good enough to just say you are doing your best when you are actually doing your half, quarter or not at all best, but full “best” ahead as it were! The reward of a job well done in and of itself should be sufficient.  And knowing you did your best is what really counts, not just getting recognition from others, but the satisfaction in your heart of knowing that with God’s Help you accomplished a large task, is one of the best feelings in the world.  It does not matter to God who gets the credit, what matters to Him is that we get the job done and to do it right! We should not be giving of ourselves to God, so that we can get praise and recognition.  That is not giving; it is selling. And that would not be truly giving from the heart as is God’s desire.  That would be using the talents He has loaned to us for our own wants and ends, which would not be becoming of the Christians we are called to be, the New Men we are called to be. If we get praise and recognition as a result of our actions, then it is fine, as long as we keep in mind why we performed our actions and who helped us.

At the same time, though we should not look for praise for our own work (though we may appreciate it, we should not dwell on it too long, lest we get swollen heads!), we should look for reasons to praise and encourage others.  We need to recognize hard work, sacrifice, thoughtfulness and talent in others, remark on it and praise the use thereof!  That which is rewarded most is that which grows best. Reward the good, so that we may reap the goodness of our works!

Even God Himself, looking on His Son’s baptism remarked for all to hear, “Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

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

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

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles and The First Sunday after the Epiphany

The Epiphany,
or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles

What a long title for a simple thought.  The Epiphany is the title of the feast recalling the arrival of the Magi to pay homage to the Lord Jesus.  Epiphany means revealing or becoming aware.  Our Lord was revealed first to the Hebrews through the shepherds.  The first gentiles (non-Hebrews) to whom He was first revealed were the Magi or Wise Men who came from afar to pay Him honor.

Epiphany is a fixed day, it is always the Sixth of January, twelve or thirteen days after Christmas Day, depending on how you count.

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, with the Collect for the actual Sunday read also.  Some days are particularly special, such as the Epiphany, and the Collect is read for eight days (the legendary Octave) The Propers  for the Epiphany are found on Page 107-109 with the Collect first:

The Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ
to the Gentiles.
[January 6.]
The Collect.
 GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be said daily throughout the Octave

The Epistle for the evening came from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, the Third Chapter beginning at the First Verse:

OR this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

The Gospel for the evening came from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the Second Chapter beginning at the First Verse:

HEN Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Thought for the Day
At least in Descanso, the Epiphany service was not much different than that first Epiphany.  Except this time there was one wise woman and two wise guys!  Most important, Jesus was there!  We had a great time worshipping.  Join your local service some time, it is a lot of fun.  It seems as if there is always plenty of room in the inn when there is church service going on.  Cold outside, though!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He comes!
Be of God - Live of God - Act of God
The First Sunday after the Epiphany

Today was the first Sunday after the Epiphany and Second Sunday of the New Year 2015.

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 –

Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.
James Thurber
American writer

Few skills are so well rewarded as the ability to convince parasites that they are victims.
Thomas Sowell

Creative Evolution
One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences. When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest. If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children. The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost. Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen?
Jack Lewis
Mere Christianity

He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.
Mr. Beaver
Chronicles of Narnia

Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
President George Washington
Farewell Address, 1796

Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you - not because they are nice, but because you are.
Author Unknown

I've seen men die because they were sure that what should not happen, would not.
Robert Jordan

What at first was plunder assumed the softer name of revenue.
Thomas Paine

The World
If you do not take the distinction between good and bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really bad, and God really good, then you cannot talk like that. You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary to His will. Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, ‘If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realise that this also is God.’ The Christian replies, ‘Don’t talk damned nonsense.’ For Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the world—that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colours and tastes, and all the animals and vegetables, are things that God ‘made up out of His head’ as a man makes up a story. But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.
Jack Lewis
Mere Christianity

The Bible
Unless the religious claims of the Bible are again acknowledged, its literary claims will, I think, be given only “mouth honour” and that decreasingly. . . . It is, if you like to put it that way, not merely a sacred book but a book so remorselessly and continuously sacred that it does not invite, it excludes or repels, the merely aesthetic approach. You can read it as literature only by a tour de force. You are cutting the wood against the grain, using the tool for a purpose it was not intended to serve. It demands incessantly to be taken on its own terms: it will not continue to give literary delight very long except to those who go to it for something quite different.
Jack Lewis
Selected Literary Essays

We have all heard people foolishly joke that when they die and go to Hell, they will hold a great party because all of their friends will be there as well. These careless jokes reflect the almost total absence of belief in the reality and the horror of an eternity in Hell.
Dr. Grant Jeffrey
20th and 21st century Canadian Christian author
(Journey Into Eternity, p. 221)

I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle - victorious.
Vince Lombardi

The wicked, through pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
Psalm 10:4

He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.
Proverbs 13:20

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Isaiah 5:20

Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God.
St. Luke 12:8

Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law?
St. John 7:19

A church in which the Bible is not the standard of faith and practice... in which repentance, faith, and holiness are not prominently put forward as essential to which forms, and ceremonies, and ordinances not commanded in the Bible are the chief things urged upon the attention of the members— such a church is in a very diseased and unsatisfactory condition. It may not formally deny any article of the Christian faith. It may have been founded originally by the apostles. It may boast that it is catholic. But if the apostles were to rise from the dead and visit such a church, I believe they would command it to repent, and have no communion with it till it did.
JC Ryle
19th century Anglican bishop and author
Knots Untied, p. 235

There can be no greater crisis for a nation than a spiritual or religious crisis, because it has to do with the identity and character of the nation. It touches the spirit, the will and the morale of a people, and it must be evident that these things are of primary importance. The spirit takes priority over everything else. If a nation has vision and the will to strive for its realization, these spiritual qualities will ensure its survival... But whatever natural or material resources a nation may have, if it lacks these qualities of the spirit it will fail.
David N. Samuel
20th and 21st century former Presiding Bishop of the Church of England (Continuing)
The Church In Crisis, p. 126

Satan seizes and directs all the mighty forces of this world! War is seized... and is no longer the patriot’s struggle for freedom or the defense of home and native land. Instead, it becomes the tool of despotism; it crushes liberty and enslaves freedom. War carries on a campaign of lust, rape, cruelty, desolation, and death... Money... is diverted by Satan for selfish and unholy purposes... Men become illustrious and esteemed... when they are money-getters and money- keepers. Education... becomes a source of pride and ungodly power... Under the guise of Christian learning, education becomes the most powerful ally to Satan by unsettling faith in God’s Word and opening a wide door of skepticism in the temple of God.
EM Bounds
19th and 20th century theologian and author
Guide to Spiritual Warfare, pp. 72-73
Those that bind up their happiness in the favor of men make themselves an easy prey to the temptations of Satan.
Matthew Henry
17th and 18th century English pastor and author

Yet, partisans on the ‘winning’ side of this faux [election] campaign will celebrate their ‘freedom,’ if for no other reason that they got to choose their dictator. Americans, except the elite, will be the losers again. They will remain debt slaves, tax donkeys and work mules for the owners. They will watch their dollars become more worthless than they already are, become poorer and more dependent, and soothe their pain with the bread and circuses provided by those in control – alcohol and sport. They will cheer on their gladiators, their teenage sons dying in foreign lands, and not even notice they are being strip-searched daily and their phone calls, email and Facebook feeds monitored. While the spokesman for the owners will change, the owners will not...because most voters on both sides are too lazy, ignorant or disinterested to go further than campaign rhetoric.
Jim Karger
21st century American lawyer and author
When We Wake Up November 7th... Nothing Will Have Changed, 8-29-12

Liberty ... is a political situation denoting the lawful capability of the citizen to defend himself and his near and dear without interference from the state.
Colonel Jeff Cooper
20th and 21st century American patriot and firearms expert

. . . The slaughter perpetrated... by people who are legally armed by their state doesn't really interest anybody. What shocks the enlightened world... is not the millions slaughtered by states, but rather, those exceptions to the rule in which individuals— not regimes— perpetrate the slaughter. The authors of the American constitution wrote a document about as close to perfection as is humanly possible. They understood well that the first stop on the path to slavery is to rescind the citizen's right to defend himself, leaving him alone, helpless and vulnerable to the 'kindness' of the regime. Wherever a regime has become totalitarian, its first step is to disarm its citizens. We automatically assume that the state is a responsible power acting, first and foremost, for the benefit of its citizens. We feel good thinking that there is a big brother out there with whom we can deposit the responsibility for our fate. When a shocking shooting spree... takes place, nobody seriously checks what violent films children are watching. Nobody talks about training armed citizens to prevent more of these insane shootings. The easy solution – the solution that does not require taking responsibility – is to deposit arms and responsibility in the hands of the state... It is easy to slide down the slippery slope of totalitarianism. The loss of the ability to protect oneself is the loss of liberty.
Moshe Feiglin
20th and 21st century Israeli statesman and author

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 or our Deacon Striker.

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 are found on Page 109-111 with the Collect first:

The First Sunday after The Epiphany.
The Collect.

 LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people who call upon thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ
to the Gentiles.
[January 6.]
The Collect.
 GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be said daily throughout the Octave

The Epistle for today came from the Twelfth Chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans beginning at the First Verse. Paul asks not only those long gone Romans, but us, as well, to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”  He tells us our home is in heaven.  Life here is not the end, rather the stepping off point, either to heaven or hell.  Thus were are “not conformed to this world: but to be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that we ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  Some of us may be better than others, but all fall short of the minimum standard.  Through Christ we attain eternal life.  In the meantime, each of us should not “think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”  Each of us has a place in the church, a reason to be and job to do.  “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

 BESEECH you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

The Gospel for today came from the Second Chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke beginning at the Forty-First Verse.  It tells the story of when Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem after the Passover Feast in his twelfth year.  When they were done, the family group, for they likely traveled with their extended family for safety, left together.  After the first day’s travel they stopped for the night and could not find Jesus.  So, fearing the worst, they headed back at night for Jerusalem.  Braving robbers and worse, they made their way back.   After looking for three days, they went to the temple, where lo, they found him.  He was among the learned men “both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.”  His parents were amazed and confounded.  He asked them why they worried and why they did not understand that he was about his Father’s business.  It is noteworthy that Jesus at twelve was able to “hold his own” with the learned scholars of Judah.  He was able to out reason those who lived to dissect the Law.  “A little child shall lead them,” (Isaiah 11:1-10)

OW his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

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 The Epiphany
11 January 2015, Anno Domini (in the Year of Our Lord)

The First Sunday after The Epiphany.
The Collect.

 LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people who call upon thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ
to the Gentiles.
[January 6.]
The Collect.
 GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
¶ This Collect is to be said daily throughout the Octave

t the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2 And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me. 6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe unto the world because of offences for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! 8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be east into everlasting fire. 9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. 10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost. 12 How think ye! if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray! 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. (Matthew 18:1-14)

Who, indeed, is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? What motivates the question? Is it a covetous and proud spirit?

Man wants to always have the prominent position.  Little children could care less about position – they simply desire the company of someone who loves them and whom they love.  Three points:

Jesus shows the conditions for entrance of the Kingdom by example:

Jesus here sets an excellent example for us: He does not use the old approach of parents – "Because I said so!" He sets an example of a little child. Let a little child teach them…..Isaiah 11:6

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them,

Notice that the little child does not recoil from the arms of Jesus. The child, though not having known Christ for more than a short few minutes, trust this heart of His implicitly.

Children are generally excellent judges of character.

This is the manner and state of the Kingdom of Heaven – it is like the innocent heart of a little child and, yet, there are those in it who wish to be first in the Kingdom.

Those who wish to be first will always persecute those of less stature. They will forbid, as much as possible, others from coming near to Christ. This is demonstrated also in Mark:

10:13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. 10:14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. 10:16 And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.

He shows the conditions of entrance into and eminence in His kingdom by a living example.

There were always children at hand round Him, when He wanted them.

Their quick instinct for pure and loving souls drew them to Him; and this little one was not afraid to be taken by the hand, and to be afterwards caught up in His arms, and pressed to His heart.

The discussion of the disciples made a certain presumption which was not entirely correct. They presumed that each present would be in the Kingdom of Heaven. We know this was not true for at least one among them – namely, Judas Iscariot.

Greatest in the kingdom? Make sure that you go in at all, first; which you will never do, so long as you keep your present ambitious minds.'

What a child is naturally, and without effort or merit, by reason of age and position, we must become, if we are to pass the narrow portal which admits into the Kingdom of Heaven. "For broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction,  and many there be they go in thereat.”

Before becoming the star of the team, be certain that you first make the team!

The child is, by its very position, lowly and modest, and makes no claims, and lives by instinctive confidence, and does not care about honours, and has these qualities which in us are virtues, and is not puffed up by possessing them.

That is the ideal which is realized more generally in the child than analogous ideals are in mature manhood. Such simplicity, modesty, humility, must be ours.

We must be made small ere we can enter that door.

And as is the requirement for entrance, so is it for eminence. The child does not humble himself, but is humble by nature; but we  must humble ourselves if we would be great.

After answering the question of preeminence in  the Kingdom, Christ goes on to express our duties and responsibilities for little ones in vv 5 & 6.

5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me.  6  But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

The subject, then, of these verses is the blessedness of recognizing and welcoming Christ-like lowly believers, and the fatal effect of the opposite conduct.

To 'receive one such little child in My name' is just to have a sympathetic appreciation of, and to be ready to welcome to heart and home, those who are lowly in their own and in the world's estimate, but princes of Christ's court and kingdom.

"In my Name"

'In My name' is equivalent to 'for the sake of My revealed  character,' and refers both to the receiver and to the received. The blessedness of such reception, so far as the receiver is concerned, is not merely that he thereby comes into happy relations with Christ's foremost servants, but that he gets Christ Himself into his heart

When a person is an agent for a company, he acts in the name of the company and in the best interests and purposes of the company. When we act in the Name of Christ, we act in every way as much as if it were our Lord Himself giving the directions.

Christ summarizes the honor and dignity of His 'little ones.'
14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.'

If God wills a thing, it will surely come to pass. Even the smallest and weakest among us, devoted to Christ, will not perish, but have ever-lasting life. 

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

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

As imperfect creatures with free will, we will never figure out what we should be doing, let alone do it, on our own.  That was the part of the reason God sent the Holy Ghost; that we might listen to Him and understand. He will give us the knowledge to figure out and know what and how we are to do the things we need to do here on Earth for Him. Not just understand The Word that had been spoken to us through Jesus and the Scriptures, but to understand what we should do, hence the prayer to figure out what we need to do, then give us the power or strength to do what we are supposed to do.  We might have some difficulties, some nervousness, some stumbling, but in the end as long as we do our best to follow His will, and not worry, things shall be ok. Because then we will be on the path to eternal life and happiness, as he wants us to be happy. To be on that path and not just think or talk about being on it. We need to actively follow Our Lord and not be passive about it, but actually physically do it. We need to act, using the Scriptures as our Holy Handbook for our actions within our lives. He did not mean for us to simply read it only, but to digest it and use what we learned in the real world.

After all isn’t that what the school system was supposedly put in place for? University, the words comprise it are “Una Veritas”, meaning “One Truth”, as it was supposed to be a place of Godly learning, where one would learn the “One Truth”. The school system was intended that we might have Godly children growing up in the faith, therefore strengthening them as men/women of great moral character. If we put back the Scriptures in our schools and held the kids to the standards of those Scriptures, then we would find ourselves on a moral higher ground. The Scriptures are the only true truth, as they are based on the Word of God, who is truth in every sense of the word. It it something should use to help develop ourselves in life, to use a term from the Japanese, kai-zen, or continuous self improvement.

The first thing tsunami watchers would tell people, is at the first sign of a tsunami approaching, go to higher ground. Therefore, I would like apply that same principle to our lives. At the first sign of any sort of evil, temptation or sin, that we headed to the higher ground that God lives on and seek him out, rather than wait for the wave of evil to envelop us. We also have to recognize the signs that we are in trouble and immediately consult Him and His Word and figure out an action plan according to the principles in Scripture.

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

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

So once we find out what God wants, we often rationalize our way around it.  Think about the 613 Mosaic laws and the Pharisees who made a good living telling people how to comply with them to the letter and still do just what they wanted to do.  So, then even if we find out what God wants and decide to actually do it instead of avoid it, we are faced with the often huge problem of where do we get the strength to accomplish this task.  The answer is circular, from God.  He never asks us to do anything we cannot do good enough for Him if we rely on Him.  Never.  End of that discussion.

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

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

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

When we look at the Gospel today, aside from the historical function telling us that Jesus was in the temple bringing the light of the gospel to the rabbis, I am reminded there are other lessons.  It is not that we want to micromanage your life, but keep your friends and family informed of what you are doing and where you are going.   Jesus’ earthly parents risked life and limb going back up the road to Jerusalem at night.  But, that was their duty as parents.  A duty which must have been done, no matter the cost. The lesson here is to keep your family and friends well informed of what you are doing, rather than going off on your own, figuring you can handle it. Except most of the times, we cannot, as we are not like Jesus, we are not the Son of God, but rather mortals adopted into God’s Family. There are sometthings we cannot do on our own without His Help and without the help of our family and friends.

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

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

Duty –
God • Honor • Country • Family

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

He comes!
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:

First Sunday after Epiphany
Genesis 18:1-3, 9-14 • Matthew 7:24-28 • Psalm 58
January 11, 2015

God is speaking.  This is not an unusual event.  God speaks to us every time we read the Bible.  The Bible is the Word of God, and in its pages God tells us what He wants us to believe, and what He wants us to do.  Do not expect God to speak to you in dreams or visions or feelings.  Expect Him to speak through the Bible.  That’s why He gave it.

But in Genesis 18, God is speaking to Abraham, and Abraham doesn’t have a Bible. There is no Bible at that point in history.  So God speaks to Abraham in various ways, as He does to many people before the Bible is completed.  We sometimes envy the people God spoke to audibly, or in dreams and visions, but we are actually the ones to be envied.  They had only bits and pieces of God’s revelation.  We have the full revelation of God.  We have far more “light” than they had. I think every one of them have would gladly traded his visions for a Bible.

In Genesis 18 God appears to Abraham as Three Men.  Obviously this is a revelation of the Holy Trinity, the Triune God.  Abraham probably doesn’t understand it, but he knows this is God, standing before him, sitting by his campfire, sharing a meal with him.  And God has a message for Abraham, and for Sarah.  He says:

 “I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life: and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son.”

This is a restatement and re-verification of God’s earlier promise to Abraham, to make him a great nation, with descendants like the stars in the sky, and all people of earth will be blessed in him.  Sarah is in the tent during this time.  I don’t know whether she is there out of decorum, or out of a sense of holy fear at the presence of God, but I admire her for it.  Decorum in the presence of God is a good thing.  Holy fear in the presence of God is a good thing.  Today people saunter into the presence of God as casually as they walk into a shopping mall.  But Abraham bows to God and treats God as someone high and holy and special.  Sarah remains in the tent.  Many people could learn from their example.

But Sarah also laughs.  Not a happy laugh, a derisive laugh that expresses scorn and disappointment.  Why?  Because it has “ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women” (18:11).  Sarah’s monthly issue of blood has ended.  As long as it continued, she probably believed God would give her a son.  But when it ended, her hope, and probably much of her faith ended too.

The words, “according to the time of life,” are very significant  Sarah is in the time of life when women no longer bear children.   Conception seems completely impossible to her.  But not to God.  God designed, created, and sovereignly controls every cell in every human body.  He can open a womb, or close it.  He can make it conceive, or He can prevent it from conceiving.  He can even make a virgin’s womb conceive.  God has intentionally waited until this time of life to give Sarah a son so she, and all the world will know this child is a miracle child, not an accident.

When God does something, He does in His own time and in His own way and for His own purposes.  Our job is to trust Him, and to have faith.  Our job is to live quiet and holy lives.  Our job is to obey His commandments, and leave the rest to Him.  As Robert E. Lee is believed to have said, “Duty is ours: consequences are God’s.”  As an old Gospel song says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”  That’s what Sarah needs to do.  Don’t we all?

Psalm 58 begins in sadness.  It is the cry of people suffering under crushing oppression.  Evil people are in control.  Their minds are not set on righteousness.  They imagine mischief on the earth, and their hands deal with wickedness.  The ancient Hebrews were  constantly invaded by Canaanite tribes, who wanted the Jews annihilated.  I can imagine the Jews crying out, “Break their teeth, O God.”  “Let them fall away like water that runneth apace.”  I can imagine our own ancestors, down through history, sometimes gathered around hearth and home, sometimes gathered around the fires of army camps, reading this Psalm, wondering when God will rise up and finally conquer evil.  During Christmas we often sing an old song that says, “Then in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth I said, for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good will toward men.”  That song captures something of the despair this Psalm expresses.

But, as surely as God gave Sarah a son, so will He also deliver His people from the hand of evil.  Psalm 58 closes with a picture of God coming to earth to crush evil and punish evil doers.  It also pictures the great relief of those who suffer and wait for God’s justice.  “Verily there is a reward for the righteous.”  “There is a God that judgeth the earth.”

There is another point in today’s readings.  It is made in Matthew 7, the close of the famous Sermon on the Mount.  Build your house on the rock of the word of God.  The life, the family, the nation, the culture that is built upon the shifting sands of human folly, cannot stand the storms of life.  We are seeing this truth graphically illustrated in our own country.  A few generations ago, I would have said America is drifting away from the faith that gave its identity and power.  Now I would say we are not drifting away, we are intentionally sailing away under full power.  We are angrily chopping away at the very roots of our culture.  If we continue as we are, one day the beautiful tree supported by these roots, will crash to the ground and die.

Likewise, the life, or culture that does not stand on the solid rock cannot stand in the day of God’s wrath.  His wrath will come like a hurricane to a straw hut on a sandy beach, and it will wash away every trace of it.

This is not a cause for fear for the Christian.  The life that is built upon the rock will stand the storms of life, and the day of God’s wrath.  It is evil that will fall.  Like the Flood, God’s wrath will wash away evil.  By His grace, His people will be saved.
Here is the point.  God, who keeps His promise to Abraham and Sarah, who miraculously gives a child to Sarah, whose word is a rock and a hiding place for His people, now and forever, will rise up and bring evil to a swift and terrifying end.  Therefore, trust in Him.
+Dennis Campbell

Bishop, Anglican Orthodox Church Diocese of Virginia
Rector, Holy Trinity Anglican Orthodox Church - Powhatan, Virginia

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 Epiphany

The Old Testament lesson for today (I Samuel 1:21-28) presents a mother who vowed to the LORD if he would give her a son she would give him over to his service all the days of his life. How often do people make vows to God and fail to keep them? We are admonished in Scripture to fulfil our promises to the LORD. Hannah did as she had vowed, and because of her faith in the LORD, she received five other children that she had not asked for (I Samuel 2:18-21). God supplies more than we ask or could conceive in our mind’s eye, we need only trust in him and keep his word and commandment.

So then, how did the LORD make use of this child who had been lent to his service? Samuel was trained by Eli the chief priest of the tabernacle to minister before God. It was in that capacity that God came and spoke to Samuel. He informed him about the nature of the chief priest’s sons as well as Eli’s failure to deal with them (I Samuel 3:8-18). Eventually the LORD permitted the ark of the  covenant— over which Eli and his sons were charged with the care of— to be captured in battle by the Philistines which also included the deaths of Eli’s sons (I Samuel 4:11). Eli himself died after hearing the news that the ark had been captured and his sons slain (I Samuel 4:18). It wasn’t long after they had captured it that the Philistines returned the ark to the land of Israel. The LORD put upon them a terrible plague and he humiliated their god, Dagon, whose image was found dismembered and face down before the ark in their temple at Ashdod (I Samuel 5:1-12).

The return of the ark to the Israelites, though initially a joyous occasion, turned to tragedy when some of the men looked into the ark which resulted in the LORD’s judgment upon that whole region of Beth-shemesh (I Samuel 6:14-21). Afterwards, the ark was carried to Kirjath-jearim and the house of Eleazar who kept it safe for twenty years (I Samuel 7:1-2). It was at the end of this period of safe-keeping that Samuel again is mentioned, but this time not only as a priest but as a judge also (I Samuel 7:3-17). He encouraged the people to come back to the LORD their God. He called on them to put away the false gods of their rebellious past and accept the one true and living God who had delivered them on so many previous occasions. And this they did in response to Samuel’s preaching (vv.3-4).

The Philistines sought to take advantage of the Israelites at that time, but God stood up for them and discomfited the Philistines so that the Israelites were able to chase them off and, as the Bible tells us, the Philistines came no more into the coast of Israel: and the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The Israelites even got back territories which the Philistines had seized in time past when they were in rebellion against God (vv. 10-14). Even Israel’s arch-enemy the Amorites were at peace with them during the administration of Samuel. That last point is affirmed by Proverbs 16:7 which states that, When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Samuel served as a judge over Israel until near the end of his life when the representatives of the people came to him with their request for a king. They told him that he was old and that his sons were unjust so they wanted a king to rule over them (I Samuel 8:1-5). Samuel was unhappy with their request but he nevertheless took it to the LORD (v.6). The message which he received of God made plain that the people were not rejecting Samuel so much as they were rejecting the LORD himself. Consider God’s reply to Samuel: Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them (v.7).

The LORD then instructed Samuel to tell them in no uncertain terms just what having a king would mean. Often people are deluded into believing that government is a great house of good and that one need only have the right doorkeeper and then all of its benefits will flow out and down to them. What such persons do not understand is that the great house of government is a store or hold for them that administer it, and with the right amount of power they can fill it and keep it full even to the detriment of the people under them. God’s omniscience foresaw this, and through Samuel he tried to warn the people of their folly. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people before and since have rejected God’s counsel. From an historical perspective, governments tend to be rapacious, grasping and dictatorial and such is made plain within the pages of Scripture. God laid out in very clear language just what a king would do TO the people (vv. 9-17). He then closed his warning with these words, And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day (v.18).In spite of his warning, the people called out for a king over them which the LORD then approved (vv. 19-22).

Samuel then went on to anoint the LORD’s first choice for a king: Saul of Benjamin (I Samuel 10:1). Later, he appeared before all Israel gathered at Gilgal and sacrificed on their behalf (I Samuel 11:15) and afterwards presented to them their king with a very telling sermon (I Samuel 12:1-25). He reminded them that he had done what their elders had asked of him in seeking of the LORD for a king to rule over them, and that he had done them no harm, and that he and the king were witnesses of their agreement of such (vv. 1-5). He then proceeded to recount for the people the mighty acts of God on their behalf from the time of Moses and Aaron and the several judges which had served Israel so well even unto that very day (vv. 6-11).

He also presented the reality behind their request for a king. And, as we all should know, the reality of a request can turn out to be a bit more than we might have imagined. As Charles Stanley once said, “God knows both sides of our requests.” That is why John Chrysostom’s prayer with which we close Morning and Evening Prayer is apropos: “Fulfil now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them...” When we pray that prayer, we are putting our requests in God’s hands to grant, or not to grant to us those things as he sees fit. This did not happen in the case of the Israelites regarding their desire for a king as they were rejecting him who was their true king, even the LORD their God (v.12). To confirm these things, Samuel prayed to the LORD and he sent thunder and rain upon the land at an uncommon time for such as it was the harvest season (vv. 16-18).

Samuel then closed his message to the people with words of encouragement that if they would serve the LORD and turn from their wicked ways that he would not forsake them and would be pleased with them (vv. 20-22). He said that he would continue to pray for them and teach them the right way to go to which he added one final caveat: Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king (vv.23-25). Samuel’s closing message holds true even today. God will judge a people for not only their personal misdeeds and sins, but corporately for those of their rulers. From Genesis on, there are accounts where the LORD brought his righteous judgments upon wickedness of every sort. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Nineveh, Babylon, and Jerusalem on two occasions (along with many others for which little may be noted in history but who were well known to God) are perfect examples of God’s judgment falling on those who would continue in sin and think that he does not see nor care. Samuel’s witness is one that every living soul ought to read and heed before thinking that human government, administered by imperfect souls such as themselves, will solve their problems apart from divine Providence. Needless to say, the books of Kings and Chronicles illustrates that last point plain enough.

Consider the words of II Chronicles 36:15-16 wherein it was written, And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place; but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy. No remedy? None! Those who survived Nebuchadnezzar’s assault and conquest of Jerusalem were carted away in captivity with only the poorest of souls left to tend the fields and farms about the land. If God would do that to those he called his people will he do any less to those who are openly and aggressively acting against his will and purpose? Samuel has already supplied us the answer if you will hear it— No, God will not!

Samuel was used of God to take the throne away from Saul for his disobedience and willfulness (I Samuel 15:1-35). Samuel was called of God to anoint David the son of Jesse to be king over Israel (I Samuel 16:11-14). Some years later, on account of Saul’s final act of disobedience at Endor, Samuel was permitted to rise from his rest in Paradise to communicate God’s judgment on Saul which resulted in not only his death and the deaths of his sons at the Battle of Mount Gilboa, but the defeat of the Israelite army by the Philistines (I Samuel 28:1-19; 31:1-7).

So when we consider the life of Samuel, we learned that he was a priest, a prophet and a judge over Israel. He was a godly child whose mother had prayed for a son whom she promised to lend to the LORD all the days of his life. He sought to do God’s will even in difficult times. He had heard the voice of God as a youth and ever after as an adult. Even in death, the prophet was permitted to do something not recorded before or since in the Bible— to return from the lower world— and his place of rest— to the land of the living as a spirit and speak directly with those of the living. Samuel’s testimony to us is one that we as Christians should read and heed. Every word of Scripture is inspired and acceptable for our use and instruction (II St. Timothy 4:16-17), so then let us live as people inspired of God to seek his will for as the young prophet said to God when he called to him, Speak; for thy servant heareth (I Samuel 3:10).

Let us pray,

ather, we pray for wisdom: that we might be wise to evils of this world and avoid them; we also pray for knowledge: that we might come to know thee better and what you would have us to do in thy service; and we pray for understanding: that whereas the scriptures are a sealed book to those who are in unbelief, that we who are of the faith may come to know the truth contained within thy word and so conform our lives to that knowledge for our eternal good and thy greater glory; all of which we pray in the name of thine only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Have a blessed week, Bryan+