Verse of the Day

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Second Sunday in Lent

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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.

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