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Sunday, August 9, 2015
Tenth Sunday after Trinity
Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together.
Consider the words from the Collect, wherein we ask God to give us … be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and, that they may obtain their petitions, make them to ask such things as shall please thee …
Once again, this Collect is kind of a follow-on to last week’s Collect. First, we ask God to hear our prayers, this is funny in that He always listens intently to us when we pray and we very seldom listen to Him when He answers. It is an odd paradox, He listens but we never seem to listen. It seems as if at times we should pray that we should listen not Him, as He always listens! Nonetheless, we ask His help to ask for those things we need, not those things we want and are bad for us. We need to be humble when we ask.
What does that word mean?
According to the dictionary, to be HUMBLE means to be:
Modest - unassuming in attitude and behavior
Respectful - feeling or showing respect and deference toward other people
Lowly - relatively low in rank and without pretensions
We cannot change what is our station in life, but we can change our attitude towards God. He is God, we are not. We are His creatures, imperfect with free will. We must recognize that when we ask for His Help. We badly need the guidance from the Holy Ghost so we can ask for what we need, instead of what we want. NEED and WANT are two four letter words that are used to oft interchangeably that do not mean the same thing. People often use these four letter words erroneously, thinking they mean the same thing. They do not and cannot. Needs are vital for our spiritual health as well as physical health. Wants are nice things to have, but they are not vital for us to survive. When we think we “NEED” something, we have to ask if it fits the above definition “Is this vital for our ministry/life here on earth, or is it something that is just nice to hav , but not a critical item?” We have to see if what we need is something we truly need, or just a want. Too many people do not perform this need analysis and as a result suffer for it physically and spiritually.
While our needs must be fulfilled, there is nothing wrong with wanting, just so long as you want things that are good for you. Once again, we are asking God to help us to want the right things that will be good for us and help us develop in our Christian lives. Paul reminds us that though each believer is different, throughout all the believing peoples of the Church the same God, the same Spirit, the same Christ works all in all and through all His work is done and accomplished. When we are setting off to do work for the church, we have to keep in mind that those believers we serve and help believe in the same God we do, and they are filled with the same spirit.
Paul reminds us that we each have differing talents, but if we use them to the Glory of God, without concern for who gets the credit, all will be well. I can think of no finer example of this than the Marines serving on Peleliu with Eugene Sledge, in the 3rd Batallion/5th Marines. I was reading his memoir, With the Old Breed, when I realized in my reading, none of the Marines he served with cared a bit who got a credit, but all they cared about was helping their fellow Marines get the objective done. They didn’t do what they felt like, at least not the good ones. They did what was right without thought as to who would get the credit. Their main thoughts were to work as a team to defeat the Japanese. So too, must we work with our fellow Christians, as the Marines did on Peleliu, using each of our talents to further His work and to defeat the forces of Satan. There may be a lot of hardships to endure, just like the Marines endured, but if they could endure the hells of Peleliu, then surely we can endure whatever Satan can throw at us, if we just trust in Him and listen to Him. Do what you can, not what you feel like. Ignore what you feel like doing and do what God wants you to do. We will profit from doing what God wants more than if we did what we just felt like doing. What we feel like doing often does not align with what God wants for us, which can result in negative consequences for us. However, if we do what He wants for us, there will be positive consequences.
If you will but read the Bible, what God wants you to do will be clear. If you do your best to do His Will all will be well with you. Death is a pretty hollow threat if you do your duty. The people of Jerusalem would not have been in the pickle they got in when 70AD came along, had they only done what God wanted. But, it was too hard for them. In 70AD, what had been so hard seemed pretty easy compared to the fix they were in, but by then it was too late. By that time they were left with only “There are none so poor as cannot purchase a noble death.” But, for most of them by that time they had no will. It left when they failed to follow God’s will.
It is an object lesson for us, to do what we can in the here and now and not worry about tomorrow. And also we shouldn’t complain if it is too hard for us, because being on God’s side, nothing is too hard for us. We should ignore these thoughts and turn our attentions to what God wants for us. We must learn from the past mistakes of our spiritual forebears and resolve not to repeat those same mistakes. If we are ignorant of our spiritual past, we are doomed to make those very same mistakes.
When Luke wrote of the sales in the temple, he had a point. The point was not to preclude jumble sales at church. He was not abhorring the sales, but the cheating in the name of God. This Gospel does literally preclude cheating people at those jumble sales! You must understand the temple hawkers were selling perfect defective “sacrificial lambs” which would be recycled over and over. In their very successful effort to make money they were defrauding the people and insulting God in His own House. It should also be pointed out that a church should be a place of worship. It may be a Prophet Center, but not a Profit Center. If the building needs constant commercial enterprise, then perhaps the emphasis is on the wrong center. All of these churches that emphasize quantity over quality should be suspect. It does not matter the quantity, as long as you have a base of quality believers that serve the One Triune God. A church should be funded for its needs by its members and its wants should come much later, if not in fact unheeded. A church is about Him, not about IT. It should not be a self licking ice cream cone, but a center to help the believers walk in Christ, not focusing on the physical and material plant on earth, but on helping us on our own “Pilgrim’s Progress” towards heaven. If it focuses on anything but that, it is a stumbling block to believers. We are not called to be a stumbling block, but to be guides, to be lanterns shining in the darkness, to be as a light cloud amidst the darkness of this world.
Do what you are supposed to do when you are supposed to do it. That is duty. It does not matter how you “feel” about black or white. Black is black; White is white. Do your duty. Work as hard as you can, do the best you can, trust in the Lord. By the way, cheat no one. If you follow that, you won’t need to be told, “Particularly in God’s House.”
Action counts. For by their actions ye shall know them.
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
 The concept of being truthful in the efforts we make to spread The Word is not a separate subject by any means, but would take more time to talk about than we have time for here. Suffice it to say that we must take every care to spread The Truth and not what our audience, whoever that may be, would like to hear. When we bring our “sacrifice” to the “temple” we needs make certain it is in fact as perfect as we can make it. This is so hard that one of the recurring themes of the Collects is asking for guidance to ask for the right things.