Verse of the Day

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Third Sunday in Lent

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!

Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
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:

… look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies …

In the Collect, we ask God look in to our hearts, see our desire to be His children and defend us against evil.  That also means we are looking for His Help in the form of the Holy Ghost for the changing of our hearts to actually have “hearty desires” to do His Will and to be “humble servants”, not our usual and customary self centered selves.  Quite a combination of thoughts in a small bit of verbiage! It is amazing how much we can put in a short sentence if we use our words right! If we will be follow Him, He will defend us in all assaults of our enemies. [1]  If we will not accept His Help, He will not force it on us.  Back to that old, “Thy will be done.”  The question once again rises, from whose mouth does it proceed, ours or God’s? We must choose wisely, and we can only choose wisely with the help of the Holy Ghost! We must use a small bit of the wisdom we do have, to choose the help of God, through the Holy Ghost.

Today’s Epistle and Gospel share the same theme.  You must not only talk the talk, but you must also walk the talk.  

Thus, when Paul tell us to live our lives as we represent our desires to God, he tells us to make our actions match our stated desires.  Actions! Not just Dictions, but Actions! There can be a distinct difference between the two.  If you actually believe, you will act.  If you just say you believe, you will not.  Believing and saying you are believing can be diametrically opposed.  Note how many people claim to be Christian, yet do not actually act on the principles of Christ and follow His Instructions. This theme is the central theme of the Christian faith, which was first shown with Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection. He came to act for us, not just to talk or meditate, but His great plan involved action, though it was painful, it was His action that released us from the wages of sin. He gave us an example to live by, that is to live out our faith through not just the right words, but the right actions as well. We have to live our lives in a manner that reflects we believe the Gospel and is consistent with how we should act, which is contained within the same Gospel.

Think about the Gospel.

It is very important to be unified in our worship and maintain mutual support; a team always beats individuals.  That is not to take away from individuality, but rather to note that we need to remember whose side we are on and work together with our teammates. It does not matter who gets the credit, all that matters to our Lord is that we work together with other believers to get the job done and to get it done right. All that matters is that we get the job done, and work as a cohesive team with other believers to spread the Good News the best we can. If people refuse to hear the Good News, it is not our problem. We just shake the dust off our feet and move on to the next group of people.

There are two phrases particularly worth remembering, “a house divided against a house falleth” and “He that is not with me is against me.”  Middle ground exists, but it is quicksand.  Any feeling of safety there is illusory.  We must take sides.  And, we cannot keep with those who oppose the side we choose.  It is the natural part of the history of the Bible. We have to choose to follow God, as there is no other reasonable option which will give us the result following God will result in. We must decide who we will follow. One man cannot serve two masters, also fits here I find. We cannot say we love and serve one side, but serve another truly. We have to choose which one we are going to love or serve, God or mammon (things of this earth/Satan).  We cannot be wishy-washy here, we must take a stand and declare it unto the world, and let them know that we are not for their ways, but we are against their ways. We have to make it crystal clear in our actions, to tie it into the theme of acting. We have to let our faith shine in word and in deed to make it count. We do not have true faith if we do not act upon the words that we speak on our lips, of believing in Christ and His Father.

Christ himself came not to unite the world, but to divide it, father against son. He came to divide, that is that we would choose the opposite side of the world, which for them is mammon, and our side is that of God and righteousness. He came to light up the world that was for Him, and that which was against Him, to identify friend from foe. Through the Scriptures we can easily tell who is for Him and who is against Him. It is simple, who holds to the principles of Scripture is for Him. They who do not hold to them are not with Him.

You must keep constant vigilance against backsliding, for a fallen Christian is in worse shape than one who was never exposed to The Word.  The Epistle and Gospel both talk about the curious dichotomy; you are saved by faith, Jesus’s faith, and your faith alone saves you, not what you do; yet if you have faith, you must act on that faith. 

When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and repent of the sins of your former life, you are forgiven of your sins.  But, you must understand, this is not a signal to keep on sinning and keep on saying you repent.  You must truly change a new leaf and start on the new course of life with Christ, and not slip back into the old man. This is one of the most difficult challengers as a Christian, but with the help of the Holy Ghost, we can do it. You must receive the Word, hear it, and act upon it and spread it joyously to others, in order for your faith to have any meaning at all. Otherwise we will have been for the worse than if we never had heard the Good News. It is not a gift to selfishly lock up, but to share and give to others. That is the true joy of the Good News. It is most certainly more blessed to give than to receive in this case.

You must grasp that your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your savior and your repentance is the beginning of your life as a New Man in Jesus. 

Will you slip?  Without doubt.  But, when you do, will you again repent and continue to do your best to follow the Word of God, the Light and the Truth?  All that matters is that you get up and do your best not to do what you did to slip. Life is a continuous learning process. Indeed, if you are a Christian that is what you must do.  We will always slip up in our lives, that is in our fallen nature. But we have to get up and get back on track, using the Holy Gospel to guide us like the instruments in an aircraft.  We cannot trust our feeling, but only our instruments (God’s gift of Holy Scripture).  You are called to believe and act on those beliefs to the best of your ability.  If you do not, then prepared as you were for life, you will so be prepared for the pit.  As you read Luke, remember the second half of the Book of Luke is The ACTS of the Apostles, not thoughts, wishes, prayers or meditations.

For, “blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

[1] A Collect for Peace – 1928 Book of Common Prayer Page 17

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Second Sunday in Lent

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
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:

… we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul …

In the Collect, we acknowledge to God that we cannot direct our own lives, if we listen to our “inner self” we are without guidance.  Consider the airplane flying, it orders its movements according to Polaris, the Pole Star of True North.  If a pilot flies guided by his “inner self” he soon knows only where he is: at the controls, and little else.  Like the pilot who needs to know where the True North is so he can orient himself, we need God’s guidance to move towards our goal of eternal life with Him. I had the experience of flying our Ercoupe N7543C a while back. I had to maintain altitude, heading and airspeed all at the same time. I then looked outside and re-checked my instruments. As I was flying along, I thought about how these principles of flying could be applied to being a Christian. The Holy Scriptures are our instruments and we re-check our progress in the world by the instruments of His Word to make sure we are on the right heading and not stagnating in our progress as pilgrims. God is also our infallible co-pilot, always making sure that we stay on course. If we are good pilots of our future, then we shall listen to God and His Holy Word so that we might be on course.

 It should also be noted that our life here will be a lot more pleasant if we stay on course.  Recently, I read something which said at the end of our lives, the words will be “Thy will be done.”  The question is will it be us saying it or God?  We need to listen to God and do His Will.  His guidance will bring us on a path to success in our lives, if we listen to His guidance. We have to initiate the contact/relationship with Him. He does not do it on His own. He waits for an opening into our hearts. We have to let him into our hearts in order to let him guide us. If we do not do this, then how can we expect to have Him guide us, if we are not open and ready to receive Him and His Guidance? We have to be willing and ready in order to receive His Guidance, than we have to act upon the information His Guidance gives us.

Thus, when Paul tell us to keep our bodies under control of our minds and our minds to be guided by God only, he helps move us on course.  We are to be true and honest in all our dealings, both physical and fiscal and to live our faith.  His Epistle ties in well with the theme of the collect to keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls. This is keeping us within the faith of Christ, by the help of the Holy Spirit, may we remain in faith of Him in our hearts, souls and minds. It means that we need the help of the Holy Spirit to stay on track on this life, so that we may stay the course and fight the good fight and make it to see our beloved Lord in heaven.  Being honest with others and especially ourselves is one of the most important things we can do. If we are not honest with ourselves to start, how can we be honest with others?  For only by living our faith can we demonstrate that we in fact have faith.  For professed faith with no actions when you are able to act is not real.  You must actualize what you claim to believe. One must convert their stated beliefs into their actions, in order for their belief/faith to have any reasonable meaning. Without actions, the faith that one believes is not truly real, if it is not acted upon. If you claim to believe one way and act another, you are by definition a hypocrite. We are called to be as God wants us to be, not as we would be without His guidance and help.  God does this, not that we would miss fun, but rather that we would enjoy happiness.

Keeping evil thoughts under control can be a difficult task, but we do not have to face it alone, we have the Holy Ghost in our lives and other Christians and friends that support us and guide us, that can help us battle evil thoughts. We have to remain in control of our good sides. We are in a sense like the character Gollum from Lord of the Rings, who had a good personality and a bad one. Unfortunately for him, he let his evil side possess him and it won out. Unlike him, we need to make sure our good side is winning.  We need to be willing to talk to our good friends within the Church about our problems and evil thoughts and listen to their advice, and more importantly to the Holy Ghost’s advice to combat these evil thoughts and drive away the temptations of the devil. To do that we must turn to God and the Holy Ghost and Christ for help. All of them will help us win our battles, but we first have to listen to what They say. We must truly be guided by the faith in our Lord.

Matthew gives us a fine example of faith that demonstrates how we must be guided by our faith in our Lord.  The woman who cries unto Jesus is a Gentile, just like us.  Just like us she longs for His Mercy.  In her case, she asks only for the mercy rejected by others, the crumbs of the Master’s Table[1].  This is the essence of our faith, we are not worth to dine at His Table, no more than dogs are meet to dine at our table.  Yet, what is left over is more than enough for us.  And we are content with that, knowing what miserable creatures we are.  And, even more important, even knowing what miserable creatures we are, Jesus offers to share His Table with us.  He is not content for us to grovel for His crumbs. If he offers his love for us, surely we should love Him back, by acting upon our faith? If we do not act for Him, then we do not truly believe in Him. In order to truly believe, you must act upon the faith that you have. Acting is the key principle, the key cornerstone of the faith of Christians, and Christ set this example of our faith by doing it, by sacrificing Himself for our sins on the cross. This was an example of action not just diction. Action is far more important than diction only. Diction is nice, but it needs to be paired with Action in order for it to have any sort of meaning.

It is also important to understand that if one loves God, He still has the exact same amount of love available for any other person or group.  His love is infinite, even if it wasn’t, love multiplies in use!

Recognize how poorly you do with your guidance, accept His Guidance, stay on course and accept the fruits of that action.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

[1] Sound familiar?  Check out the Prayer of Humble Access, Holy Communion, BCP Page 82.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

First Sunday in Lent

If you enjoy this, you can read the whole
AOC Sunday Report RIGHT HERE!

Rev Jack Arnolds Sermon
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:

… Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness, and true holiness, to thy honour and glory …

In the Collect, we ask God to help us to subdue our natural evil tendencies so that we can live life here His way and honour His wishes so we can be truly happy.  Without His help, we end up with what we want, not what we need. We are asking him to help us fight our human nature and follow His divine nature, we are attempting to replace our nature with that of God’s. It will be a long and difficult road that we must travel, doing this, but we are going to be much happier in the long run if we at least try. Do or do not, there is no try, Yoda is quoted as saying, and I have found it applicable here and in my own life. We have to act, not just say we are going to act, but we have to actually physically perform ACTIONS!

Want and Need; two words, used interchangeably in both our speech and thought that do not mean the same thing.  Think about that!

Following the thought of the Collect, Paul asks us to be worthy of the grace God has given us.  He tells the people when they needed him, he was there.  They need to be there for those around them.  They must not frustrate God’s work by showing up late, or not at all. We have to put in our 110% for Him, as He sent His Son to die for us and redeem us, so we should truly show our gratitude for His act, by serving others and performing actions for Him, with His Help.  We are outnumbered fiercely in this world, by the enemies of God.  We are like the men in the Battle of Ia Drang (also related to being Paul’s message, the sacrifice of Kenneth Ogles and his fellow men in the Vietnam theatre, as well as those in WWI, WWII and before, and now.), fiercely outnumbered by the enemy, they did not just sit on their hands and wait for the enemy to come. They did something about it, they took action, otherwise they were going to be overrun by the North Vietnamese. We have to always keep moving, like the article I read about Wally Kaenzig, a 93 year old man who is one of the last survivors of the Iwo Jima, he said on Iwo, the big deal was to keep moving so you didn’t get hit. We want to keep moving and avoid getting hit by the forces of evil, if we are to minister effectively.  Like them, we cannot just sit and wait, else we will be overrun by the Forces of Satan. We have to do this by doing actions that are consistent with His Word and show that we truly believe in Him and not just say we do.

Those around us are watching our actions in the time of testing.  God is also watching us in the time of testing to see how we perform with the talents He has given us. Make no mistake it is a hard battle we are fighting, against the forces of wickedness, of the Devil all across the globe. Our actions will show whom we truly serve, the forces of God, or the Forces of Satan. Which side will you serve? You in the end have to choose one side or antoher. Pick the winning side now, which is the Forces of God, and you will have a rich everlasting life. The key to winning this battle for souls is to never ever ever give up and to trust in God and Dread Naught. We have been given eternal salvation by Jesus’ sacrifice, the understanding of the Gospel by the Holy Ghost.  We are at this time dying here on earth, yet progressing towards eternal life in the next world, in Jesus’ world with His help. While we may never be wealthy here on earth, our actions can make our fellow Christians wealthy in spirit beyond measure.  

If you claim to be a Christian, you know what is right.  If you are a Christian, you do what is right, you don’t take a vote to see what the right course of action might be.  Right does not change with public opinion and we must do the right thing. In fact the public opinion often times is rather in the wrong, see peoples opinions on homosexual marriage and abortion to reference this. This is because of our fallen nature. We must go especially against the grain to become Christians. The truth does not change, as it is the constant that never changes. God is the Truth, The Word and the Life of this universe. The Truth is God, and like God, the Truth never changes.  It is our actions that count, in good times or bad.  We are Christ’s ambassadors to this world; unfortunately we do not have diplomatic immunity. 

When the devil attempted to tempt Christ, he shows how little he knows of Him.  If we emulate our Lord, it shows how little the devil will be able to tempt us with his deceit. If we follow Him we will be able to withstand any temptation that arises as our Lord showed for us in the desert 2,000 years ago.

Consider how little the devil really offers you and how much Christ offers, the temptation is ever so much less.  The devil is often referred to as the deceiver or dissimulator.  His forte is deception, he seems one thing, is another.  He offers what he has no intention or ability to deliver.  He ignores the inevitable result of accepting his proffered help or inside track.  Jesus has more for us than the devil can ever hope to offer, the promise of eternal life with Him and His Father. The devil can never offer us anything close to that. We have to remember this next time the Deciever comes and tempts us for earthly riches and treasures. We also have to remember that mammon cannot make us happy, only serving God can make us truly happy. Mammon might offer a fun factor, but only serving God can have true happiness and bliss that comes from serving Him. 

He clearly knows Jesus is the Son of God.  There is no doubt in his mind.  So, having understood that, consider what he offers Jesus in temptation. 

Remember, Jesus has fasted 40 days OF HIS OWN CHOICE; now comes the devil daring Him to show His Power by turning the stone into bread.  This to the Son of He who delivered manna daily to the Jews in the wilderness for 40 years.  

Cast thyself down and let angels catch thee; this to He who walked on water.

Up to the mountain lookout – Here is it all yours if you worship me.  This to He who as it says in Psalm 95:

In his hand are all the corners of the earth; * and the strength of the hills is his also.

The sea is his, and he made it; * and his hands prepared the dry land.

O come, let us worship and fall down, * and kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For he is the Lord our God; * and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

The devil promised Jesus nothing that was his to give, nothing that would help Jesus in the real world beyond the Shadowlands.  He never does.  The devil is all about shortcuts.  Remember, if the shortcut was the best way, it would not be a shortcut

The temptation of Jesus is no different than his attempt to tempt us!  The devil never delivers what we need, only what we, in our imperfect want.  Remember as little as the devil understands of Christ, the same way, as we are in God, so he understands little of us.  He will never offer you real help.  Remember that and the temptation is ever so much less.

Or, as my grandfather said, “Keep your eye on the donut, not on the hole”

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Quinquagesima Sunday - Want to know what it means? Read to the end!

Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
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. 

Enjoy this?  Read the entire AOC Sunday Report RIGHT HERE!

Consider these words from the Collect:

… that all our doings without charity are nothing worth; Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity …

In the Collect, we acknowledge to God that if we have not charity, nothing we do is worth anything; we then ask Him to send the Holy Ghost into our hearts with the precious gift of charity.  Webster tells us that Charity is love; universal benevolence; good will; the word which properly denotes love. What it really means is Love in Action! Like many areas of our Christian development, we will never fully get there. But we shall make progress so long as we do not give up! As Winston Churchhill once said “Never, never, never, never EVER GIVE UP”. So should we never give up in our Christian development. We may stumble and fall at times, but if we get up and keep going and return to our Lord, then all will be well in time.[1] Properly understood charity is the Love of God, that perfect love, to which man should aspire. Charity is not giving oodles of money away to an organization, hoping to make yourself look better, like many modern “philanthropists.” Charity is the purest form of love there is, with no self-seeking motivations, but just the goodness of God in it, and this is the love that God gives to us to give to others. It is to help people with the love in your heart that Christ and God has given us, to enable us to act on His behalf here on this Earth. Love is not selfish or wasteful, but kind and abundant. We are to be agents of good change, not that of bad, and with Charity, we will act with love towards one another.  If we do not have love in our hearts towards one another, how can we expect to be able to have any positive change on the world around us?

Paul tells us no matter our gifts, talents and so called accomplishments, without the Love of God, we are nothing and have done nothing. He is the reason that we are here in this life and He is the one we must act for.   It must be clear to us that our understanding here on earth is limited, we will never here see the fullness of God’s plan, yet the part most clear is the love we are to have one for another, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, for no reason other than we know that is right so to do.  It does not matter to us we will never see the fullness of His plans, each of us are a small piece of a much bigger plan. And all of us small pieces work together to fulfill the bigger plan. We only need to find our part in the plan and act upon that, again with Charity in our hearts. Charity is vital to our Christian life. We need to have it within us to perform good works for Our Lord.  For if we do not have true love or Charity within our hearts, we cannot act for God. When Paul talks about God’s great plans, he uses the phraseology “through a glass, darkly”, which is very interesting inasmuch as CS Lewis uses a variation to describe earth as compared to heaven.  He calls the earth The Shadowlands and says in heaven all is clear and bright, not dark and muddled as here on earth.  So, here our understanding is limited, it will not always be so. That will be fulfilled when we pass the Pearly Gates into heaven, and in order to do that, we have to have faith, and have good works acted upon with charity. If one of these ingredients are missing, we are not acting according to what He wants for us. So, we have to believe with all our heart in God and Christ, and act upon that belief with great Charity.

As they were coming in to Jericho, Jesus told the disciples of what was to come, yet they could not grasp their leader would submit to such treatment on their behalf.  He was the Conqueror; in a sense they were right, He came to conquer death for us, not the Roman Empire.  As they went along, they encountered the blind man who was, like many of us are, blind.  His blindness was of the eye, not the heart, he knew the power of God, and of love. The blind man who wanted his sight and knew Jesus had The Power.  He cried unto the Lord and was rebuffed by His People.  Did he give up?  No, he cried the more.  As we should not let others discourage us from following the Lord, indeed we should increase our prayers and serving fervently. When Jesus heard him, he turned and asked what the man wanted.  MY SIGHT!  No generalizations, no beating about.  The blind man asked of Him what he truly wanted.  Ask and it shall be given unto you.  He lacked sight, not vision.  Nor, it might be added did he lack faith. We should ask God to have to sight and hearing that we might see, hear and act upon the Word. To some, the faith he had might seem a blind faith, but it was one that he acted on and gained what he lacked.  Will we have the faith to act?

True love is Faith, Hope, Charity[2].

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

What is Quinquagesima?
Quinquagesima, or, in full, Quinquagesima Sunday, is the name for the Sunday next before Ash Wednesday in the Catholic (Universal or Whole) Church Calendar.

The name Quinquagesima originates from Latin quinquagesimus (fiftieth), referring to the fifty days before Easter Sunday using inclusive counting, which counts both Sundays (normal counting would count only one of these).

Since the forty days of the Lenten fast included only weekdays, the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, succeeds Quinquagesima Sunday by only three days. The earliest Quinquagesima Sunday can occur is February 1 and the latest is March 7. The Roman Church no longer observes much of the Christian Year, including Quinquagesima and the two immediately before it — Sexagesima and Septuagesima Sundays.

The contemporary service books of many claiming to be Anglican provinces do not use the term but it remains in the Book of Common Prayer.

The 17-day period beginning on Septuagesima Sunday spanning Sexuagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays was intended to be observed as a preparation for the season of Lent, which is itself a period of spiritual preparation for Easter. In many countries, however, Septuagesima Sunday marks the start of the carnival season, culminating on Shrove Tuesday, more commonly known as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.

[1] To quote Winston Churchill, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”  (29 October 1941)
[2] The three Gloster Gladiator fighters Faith, Hope and Charity defended Malta against the Italian Air Force during the early part of the siege of Malta in World War II.  Legend has it that all three persisted and of the three, Charity never failed.