Verse of the Day

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Eleventh 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 and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction.

Consider the words from the Collect, wherein we ask God … who declarest thy almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity; Mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we, running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure; …

Once again, this Collect is kind of a follow-on to the last few weeks’ Collects.  First, we acknowledge God’s power which is manifested not in terror but in mercy and pity on our failures. We note God has chosen to use His great power to grant kindness to us and not the punishment we truly deserve, due to our corrupted nature. This is important to note; with all the power in and of the universe, God chooses to manifest His Power by showing infinite mercy and kindness to us, not in causing us more tears. He is far kinder to us than we could ever possibly deserve. We do not deserve what He has given us, with the death and resurrection of His Son, the gift of eternal life.  He has truly bestowed upon us a limitless, priceless gift.  We would expect Him to be otherwise, given our fallen nature He had no reason otherwise to do it, but through His Great Mercy for us, He sent His Son to die for us that we might be freed from sin. This is a wonderful example of His Mercy.  He does not act as a human would in His position, but rather being a merciful and mindful God to us. He realizes our struggles and gives us resources to us to help with those struggles. The Holy Ghost and the Scriptures are these resources. They are our valuable navigation aids to keep us on the course towards heaven. Without them we are like the aviator or mariner, who without navigational aids, is soon hopelessly lost. So too, are we hopelessly lost without the aids of the Holy Ghost and Scripture.

Thus, the Collect goes on to ask His Help in following His Commandments so we might gain the good that comes from that following. This is a unifying theme found through ought all of the collects for a good reason. In order to get the good which comes from following Him we first need to follow them. Following requires active action.  And we would hope we recognize the good that comes from acting and choose to continue to act for Him as opposed to our natural tendency to go astray. Following His Commandments is a sure way to stay on the course set for us, if we follow the Scriptures and His Commandments and take them to heart. To take them to heart we need to make sure our actions are consistent with His Commandments, and not just say we are following them when we are not. 

As imperfect creatures with not just free will, but manifold, perhaps rampant free will, the norm is to choose what we want, not what we need, then we come to calamity.  We are each grievous sinners, some worse than others, none better. Yet, we all come before God equal in our sinful state.  In equally big trouble, some more, none less. We are all equal by virtue of the fact we are hopeless sinners without the saving grace and faith of Christ.  It is only through His Faith we are saved.  And not our faith, but the faith of Christ who dwells within us.

This is the point Saint Paul is making when he says that first he gave unto us[1]that understanding he got directly from God as to the role of Jesus Christ.  He recounts some of the factual information about Jesus’ time here on earth after the crucifixion, the descent into hell and the resurrection. He is confirming the story of the Gospel as told to him. He notes the various witnesses, still alive or recently passed away.  He makes the point we must propagate the Gospel so others might believe. And to do that he infers our actions must be congruent with Scripture. He tells us we are saved by faith alone.  

Our faith?  Partly, but not chiefly and not first. Then, by whose faith are we saved?

We are saved by the perfect faith of Christ, our only mediator and advocate before the Father.  It is not by our faith, but the faith of Him who dwells within us, that of Christ. Without Christ, we could not have any faith to begin with. The perfect faith of Christ allowed a single sacrifice to be made one time, to cook the books and account for the sins of all mankind for all time.  His is the faith which saves us and our faith in Him allows Him to operate in us. Without us having faith in Him, He cannot enter into us with His faith. We need to open our bodies, minds and souls to Him to allow Him entrance, so He can transform our earthly lives.

Because of their refusal to allow Him in, those who do not have the Holy Ghost in them do not believe in Him.  One of Paul’s points in today’s Epistle was that if he, the previous Chief Persecutor of the church, could be saved by Jesus, that option is available to each of us.  It is available to anybody who is able and willing to can be saved by Jesus. They just need to repent and turn back to Him. All we need to do is repent and follow. Thus, we need to Lead, Follow or Get out of the Way towards Christ and God’s grace.

It is a simple concept people do not want to comprehend. As I have mentioned in some of my past sermons, people just do not want the easy answer. They want somehow a more complicated, more convoluted answer they can get around. This simple answer is one we cannot get around in a Pharisee manner, no how hard we try. Believe in God, the Holy Ghost, Lord Jesus, repent, spread the Gospel and live the life of the New Man, using Paul’s phraseology. It’s a simple truth. The truth is often simple, people just do not want to hear a simple truth. They would rather deal with something more complicated that they can water down. This simple truth however, they cannot water down, so they avoid it. This is what it boils down to and what most people do not want to hear. We are to spread this News anyway, and if it is rejected, shake the dust off of our feet and move on. We cannot and should not force this message on anyone.

The other point is that Jesus is real, He is Who He says He IS.  He is not a fictional character, he is not a great teacher.  He is THE SON OF GOD and He came to save us: body, heart, mind and soul. There is no other way to view Him that makes as perfect sense as this[2]. Just as we are real sinners, He is a real Savior. You cannot have the Holy Spirit within you and say that He is not the Son of God. Likewise, you cannot say He is the Son of God without the Holy Ghost in you.

If that is not enough to turn your heart, consider the parable of the publican and the Pharisee related by Saint Luke.  The man who was proud of his performance was not the example Jesus chose for the one justified, rather the one who acknowledged his failures and asked God for forgiveness and help. This is to point us as an example of who we should be like.  And I can say with confidence it is not the Pharisee. Think of these examples and who would we rather be like, the publican, or the Pharisee?  Remember, the Pharisee’s job consisted of finding clever ways around the 613 Mosaic Laws.  The publican was looking for help in actually following two: 

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith.

HOU shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.    BCP Page 69

And, just as importantly, he was not looking for ways around those two laws, he was looking for help to follow God and forgiveness when he fell short.   In our day to day lives, let us strive to be more like the publican and less like the Pharisee. 

Let us ask God for the help we need to follow His Will. For we must have His Help to act as we must here on earth!

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

[1]Though Paul was writing to the people of Corinth, the information is just as applicable to us, perhaps more so now than ever before.
[2]This is the Trilemma of Jack Lewisin Mere Christianity- I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. 

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