Verse of the Day

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Second Sunday after Easter

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

Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion
Descanso, California

Todays sermon ties the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above. 

We are in the Easter Season which consists of Easter and the following four Sundays, until we get to Rogation Sunday.  This is a time we should work on centering our lives on the central figure in our religion, Jesus Christ. 
Consider these words from the Collect:

who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life

It is critical to understand Jesus is the only begotten Son (John 3:16) of God.  He is also referred to in places as The Word, the means by which God is given to the world.  But, more than that, 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3) Though the corrupted versions of the Bible (NIV, NKJV, RSV, etc) have attempted to erase His Divine Status and the role He plays in our salvation, that does not change the reality of who He Is. He is in simplest terms, the great I Am.  He was the one who brought light into this World. He has been there since before the beginning of what we understand to be the Universe.  He created this world, it is by rights His, not the rightful belonging of the Prince of this World.  He whom is begotten of the Father is who was sent to give His earthly life that we might be accounted as perfect at our own final accounting.  In addition, as we have a dire need of direction, our internal sense of right and wrong so oft lacking, He came to earth to provide us with a perfect example of what to do, while we, ourselves, so oft serve only as bad examples.  The way He acted and conducted Himself on this Earth was left as an example for all of us Christians to follow. He is the ultimate role model for us, who we should strive to be more and more like every day.  As the Collect makes very clear, we need the Holy Ghost in our hearts to more closely follow that perfect example in our daily actions.

This brings us to Peter’s point in the Epistle, Christ serves as a perfect example for the conduct of our lives.  If we are wrong and suffer for it, there is little honor; for we were wrong.  But, if we do right, that is follow God’s Will, and suffer for it, there is in fact glory, laud and honor there.  Jesus went to His earthly death on the Cross for our failures that we might be accounted as perfect.  He who is, was and always will be perfect suffered great pain that we might live life eternal.  If He did that for us, should we not follow His example and follow His Direction, counting the cost only after the work is done? He himself had to go through suffering so the miracle of His Resurrection would occur; if we have to suffer, we can be at least rest assured that He suffered too and He underwent far more pain and misery than we ever will in our lifetime.

We are after all much like sheep, following the lead of those around us; somewhat like lemmings, it seems.  We have great need of a shepherd to lead us back from the edge of The Pit and to life, back to those verdant pastures and still waters.

As Peter referred to Jesus as a shepherd, so does John.  There is a reason for this constant reference to Jesus as the Good Shepherd; He is.  He leads us to green pastures and to beside the still waters. He restores and comforts our souls, and drives the enemy from out of our souls and minds, if we let Him. He is the ultimate protector and guide. He will lead us towards the path to Heaven, we just have to make the conscious decision to follow His Directions and etch them into our hearts.

In order to follow His Directions, we have to let go of our pride, vanity and arrogance and accept His Guidance and teachings of humbleness and humility into our hearts. We have to realize that We cannot be saved without God’s influence in our lives. And the best way to let Him in is to accept His Teachings and act upon them. Continually reading the Scriptures and not only reading, but learning and digesting is the best way to grow as a Christian. To digest means to absorb.

If we absorb His Teachings, we will be more prone to act upon them. Acting is the key word here, not just talking about it, but acting. It isn’t good enough just to read the Scriptures and go on our merry way and act like we did before we read the Scriptures. We have to apply the key principles of the scriptures here in our lives and shine the light of Christ to those around us.

The Gospel notes the difference of ownership.  Our true owner will, and I might add, has, given His Life so we might be protected from the ravening wolves of this world, the Prince of this World.  We are cautioned to 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (1 Peter 5:8)  But, sobriety only gets you so far; sheep do poorly against wolves and lions.  Make no mistake, we need the help of that Good Shepherd.  That Good Shepherd calls to each of us, we need the Holy Ghost in our hearts to hear that call.  Regardless of what you have been told by those of this world, there is only One God, One Lord, One Savior.  Thus, there is only One Flock; there are many ways to follow Scripture, but they must all have the same general plan.  That is the reason for the creeds, the reason we tell all to compare what is preached against what is in Scripture.  We need to daily work towards doing a better job of following God’s Will.

We need help, He provides it, we need to accept it.

The key is action, in this case our action.  We need to actually accept the offered help; like the life ring thrown to a drowning person, we must grab God’s proffered help, else we profit nothing.

For there is much profit,  joy and satisfaction to be found in proper action.

When the time comes, how will you ACT?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Sunday, April 23, 2017

First Sunday after Easter

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

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

… given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth

In the Collect, we acknowledge by the sacrifice made on Good Friday by the One and Only Perfect Man, a single sacrifice, made one time, for all mankind, for all time by our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Christ of God, we have eternal life.  Malice and wickedness are pervasive; like leavening, that is yeast, mixed into bread dough, they permeate our being, worming their way into the most remote corners of our souls, hearts and minds. Tiny, wanting only to be fed so they can grow and distort our being.  We need God’s Help, in the form of the Holy Ghost, to root out all malice and wickedness so we might serve Him with pure souls, hearts and minds.  Without that help, we are destined to fail.  On the other hand, with God’s help all things are possible.

In his general Epistle, Saint John continues that thought that without God’s help, that is being re-born in Him, as Saint Paul says, becoming or putting on the New Man, we are destined to failure.   Saint John makes it clear the entity we refer to as God is a Triune Being, that is Three in One; Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  What he does not make clear is the relationship between the Three.  But, that is not surprising, no place else is it really clear either.  God is comprised of three separate entities who are of one substance and form a single entity, each has its function.  Jesus Christ is our key to life and the Holy Ghost is our key to understanding and accepting Jesus Christ.  Christ, who was there at the beginning, will be there at our end; the Holy Ghost who breathed life into this world is our key to finding Christ in our hearts.  God has made it so.

The Holy Ghost is not often talked about in the church, yet He is the key to understanding.  God sent us the Holy Ghost that we might have:

·      Comfort
·      Understanding
·      Patience
·      Insight
·      Perseverance
·      Courage
·      Understanding
·      Sympathy

He is our key to finding Jesus in our souls, hearts and minds.  Without His Guidance, Scripture seems a poorly written fairy tale, with His Guidance we find Truth, the Truth that is our Lord and Savior.  

When John relates the story of Jesus coming in to the Upper Room, note three things:

·      He came into a closed room in bodily form;
·      Then gave them His Peace;
·      He breathed the Holy Ghost upon them.

The entry into the closed room is of interest.  When we leave the Shadowlands, we will gain an optimized body with shape and form, but as Jesus demonstrated things are different in the Real World.  Different can be better or worse.  In this case, He demonstrates the better.  We will no longer be halt, blind and maimed, we will live as God has meant for us.  Quite a nice feeling.

Jesus gave them His Peace.  Not peace like the hippies, or “sex, drugs and rock and roll.”  This is a totally different concept.  Jesus brings us, like those disciples, the peace of mind and soul which comes with giving all our worry, sadness and terror to Him.  He leaves in His wake not confusion, but order and wellbeing.  With Him in our hearts we cannot fail at anything that needs be done.  His Peace.  This is a thing not lightly thought of.  It is certainly not the hand shaking service interrupting greeting of some churches.  They say ‘peace’ when they mean ‘hi.’  This Peace is what we are looking for and have been looking for since we came into this world, for it is our passport out.

That brings us to the Holy Ghost.  He is the breath of life, not just physical, whereas to die is to “give up the Ghost”, which really means to have our soul leave our body for heaven.   He is our spiritual life, for without Him in our souls, hearts and minds we cannot see the narrow road to the summit.  Without Him we see only the broad even way which gently curves downward and gets smoother and smoother as it nears the Pit.   The Holy Ghost is the key to knowing our Lord!

Without the Holy Ghost, we are lost.  With Him we find and join Jesus and are found.  Then we can act accordingly and enjoy our time here on earth to the extent it is to be enjoyed.  

For there is much joy and satisfaction to be found in proper action.

When the time comes, how will you ACT?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday

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

Sermon - Rev Hap Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon ties together the propers, that is to say the prayer and Scripture readings for this week. 

Today is Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The central event of not only the Christian Year; but of Christianity and the entire world.  Witness the terms AD and BC.  Anno Domini (the year of our Lord) and Before Christ.  Even the politically correct BCE - CE (that is to say, Before Common Era and Common Era) divides time at the birth of our Lord.  Even those who fall in that trap must recognize Him!

When you google images for the term Easter, you find 95 percent of the images, eggs, bunnies and chocolates.  That is NOT our celebration. That is NOT what Easter is about. Easter is not about finding goodies inside plastic shells. The Christian year has four main celebrations. Christmas celebrates the incarnation or human birth of Jesus, the Christ of God.  Epiphany celebrates His revealing to the Gentiles, that would be us!  Good Friday remembers, the word celebrate hardly fits here, the one time sacrifice for all mankind for all time by our Lord and Savior (that is where the word savior comes in) that we might be accounted as perfect when we stand before Him at the final judgment day.  Today, Easter is, in Spanish La Resurreccion, in English The ResurrectionThe Return to Life of Jesus, Christ of God, who returned from death, from Hell, to deliver His promise of eternal life in person!

Consider these words from the Collect:

… Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect…

In the Collect, we acknowledge by the sacrifice made on Good Friday by the One and Only Perfect Man, a single sacrifice, made one time, for all mankind, for all time by our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Christ of God, we have eternal life.  We no longer our bound to the rules of the Old Covenant whereby animal sacrifices were required. These sacrifices have never worked, as they could not provide what Christ provided in His Sacrifice. He provided a body free and unblemished from the tarnishes of sin. He was truly the perfect Lamb without blemish or spot. This would allow Him to stand in our place. He truly took our place upon the cross of sin literally and figuratively. By Jesus Christ overcoming death, we through Him, are no longer under the threat of death of our eternal soul in the Pit.  No longer can anyone condemn us to death, they may destroy our bodies, but we live on in Him and through Him in Heaven.  With an acknowledgement of the fact God sent His Son to be our Savior giving us eternal life, we go on to ask His Help so our hearts might desire good and with that Help put those desires into action so that we might accept that eternal life offered us by that same Jesus Christ.  That is what that preventing is all about.  Today we think of the word as meaning stopping something, but it also means going before one, as in this case God’s special or particular grace preparing the way for us by changing our hearts to desire what is good for us rather than things we often want that are bad for us in the end.  Without Him to smooth the road, we will not make it.

Paul then tells us, if we say we are with Christ, we must act with Him.  The Sacrifice He made for us is not free. There is no free lunch, nor in this case is there a free ticket to Heaven. There is a continual debate in many denominations whether we are saved by faith alone, or by good works. Our answer to this debate must make it clear that only the faith of Jesus can save us, His faith, not ours; then our faith in Him, our belief, our trust, in Him, not in our own selves.  If we have faith, we have to firstly believe, and if we truly believe, we will of necessity back up that claimed faith with actions or works so to speak.  So, we are saved by our faith, but our faith requires operative action upon our part. We must continually seek to better ourselves by setting our sights on Him in Heaven and guiding our actions by Him, by associating with others likeminded.  We must turn our backs on this earth if we truly face heaven.  We must use Jesus as our compass, for looking to ourselves results only in confusion.  As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:24, One cannot serve two masters.” We must choose Him or Mammon. I know which one I choose, hopefully you do as well. 

When we come to Holy Week, we find a triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, triumphant in the eyes of the beholders, beholders who really have no clue what this is all about.  The crowd, with some of the same people who later condemned Him, welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with the expectation He came to free them from the Roman yoke, to hold them up, to put their feet on the Romans’ necks.  Yet, He knew where He was going and what would happen. He was in control of the situation.  He knew what was going to happen. He would not have set the plan in motion if He didn’t know it would work. He knew that the end result would be a success, but He also knew that there would be incredible pain and suffering involved on the road to His resurrection.

As He saw the road ahead was filled with obstacles, the pain and suffering, so too, do we know that it will be filled with hard times and suffering also. But like He, we must persevere on the straight and narrow path, refusing to ever give up. He never gave up on us, why would we give up on Him?  When we are in trying and very difficult circumstances let us remember Our Lord’s circumstances. When those who had followed Him abandoned Him, including Peter who denied him three times. Add to this being betrayed by one of those He had included in the ranks of the Apostles, who had been seduced by the greed of earthly treasures. Then on top of this, His unfair trial, then His painful death upon the cross for us all. Then He had to descend into Hell and do battle with the Devil.

Compared to all of this, are any of our circumstances even close? Can any of them truly compare to the sadness, despair and agony our Lord felt in Holy Week, with the Dramatic Conclusion on Good Friday. The answer is no, no matter how hard and trying our circumstances are, we cannot even come close to the magnitude of pain He felt. We must remember how hard things were during this week for Him, especially as He knew precisely what would happen to Him.

The week built towards the First Day of the First Week of the New Covenant.   Jesus knew what He was doing.

Reflect on this, during World War II on D-Day, the first waves were National Guard and new recruits.  No veterans of Torch, Norway or Dieppe.  Why?  Because all the soldiers were patriots and all were ready to defend their country; but like Peter, the new guys did not know what that really meant.

Crucifixion, a cruel painful death.  Painful beyond our comprehension.  Think about the mechanics of being nailed to a cross.  Think about that.  Then think about the descent into hell to do battle with the devil.  Think about that.  No matter what you imagine, like D-Day the reality exceeded the expectation.  

Yet Jesus, being God, knew exactly[1] what He was volunteering for.  And He rode towards the sound of gunfire with full and certain knowledge of His Death and also of His Resurrection. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  John 15.13

Jesus went with full knowledge aforethought where no one would go – FOR YOU, FOR ME, FOR US.  That is Good Friday’s lesson. 

Today, The Resurrection, Easter or as it is called in Spanish, Dia de la Resurreccion, is the day that the promise of everlasting life was delivered. It is the completion of the sacrifice He made for us on Good Friday, it is His triumphant return from the depths of Hell, having procured an eternal victory for all of those who would truly follow Him and act upon His name. He went for us with full knowledge of where no one but Him would go, so that we may have eternal life. Dwell on that and think of how much love He truly has for us, that he went and endured significant and terrible emotional pain for us.

This one perfect sacrifice, one time, for all time and for all mankind was made for YOU.  All you need to do to get the benefit is follow Christ.  So, what does that mean?  See John 14.23:  Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

It is not attending church that makes you a Christian, it is doing what He asks of you.  Going to church just gives you help and encouragement.  It makes you part of a team, part of a coherent unit.  After all, the more people there are in a group like the church, the more stable it will be. And more stable also will our spiritual lives be if we have friends and family involved in it as well, to keep us on that straight and narrow path.

Today, you have a choice, just like every day.  Today you can be a Chreaster, that is one who celebrates Christmas and Easter and does not live the life or you can be a Christian.  One who follows Christ. There is a difference between the two and it is big. The key in the difference is actions and faith. You have to have faith in Our Lord and you have to act for our Lord. This will determine if you are a Christian truly or only one in name.

If you choose being a Christian, be prepared for constant failure and shortfall of goal.  So long as you do your best and never give up Christ will account you as perfect when it counts.

Today, the first day in Eternity or another day off your life towards death.  Your choice.  Jesus made His, you make yours.

When the time comes, how will you ACT?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

[1] This is so very important to remember, Jesus knew EXACTLY what He was doing.  Yet, He did it anyway.  He went through with all of this knowing ALL.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Saturday of Holy Week

Holy Saturday

The Jewish Council remembers Jesus' vow to return and has the tomb guarded and sealed with a heavy stone. Second day of death. From the time Jesus left his body on the cross until the resurrection, little is known.  It is said in the Apostle’s Creed that “He descended into hell”, where he did battle with the Devil for our souls, a battle the Devil was destined to lose.