Verse of the Day

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles

Saints Simon and Jude
The two Apostles went to evangelize Armenia and Persia, and they were murdered in the city of Suanir in 47, Anno Domini.

Saint Simon was also called Simon the Zealot, probably because he had been a member of the nationalist party of Zealots who refused to recognize any foreign yoke over Palestine. Zealots were those who had a especial zeal for the independence of the Palestine, that is, they did not want the Holy Land to fall into the hands of any pagans whatsoever. Since the Zealot cause had some good points – commendable in some aspects – it is understandable the Lord recruited one of His Apostles from its numbers.

The mother of Saint Jude was Mary Cleophas, a sister-in-law of the Virgin Mary, stood with her  by the Cross of Jesus on Calvary. His father was Cleophas [Clopas or Alpheo in Aramaic], a brother of Saint Joseph.  Therefore, he was the legal cousin of Jesus. Jude was one of those his fellow countrymen called a “brother” of the Son of the Carpenter, because it was a custom among the Jews at that time to call cousins brothers. He wrote an epistle to combat the Gnostic heresy, which was just beginning to appear. 

Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
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 and are all tied together.  

Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles. [October 28.]

The Collect.

ALMIGHTYGod, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone; Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity

The Collect.

 RANT, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect says that we must have the Lord’s pardon and peace, but we have to ask for it before we have it. If we don’t ask for it, we don’t get. Like the old Cowboy saying “If You Don’t Work, You Don’t Eat.”, which the basics of is covered in another letter of Paul’s to Timothy. In this case it is “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”, so we ask Him we might have the willingness to ask and receive His pardon and peace.

The Collect for St. Simon and Saint Jude mentions that Jesus Christ is the head corner stone. They are referring to He is the main foundation rock for the Christian Church in that all of the principles of Christianity are derived from Him. The Summary of the Law is an excellent example of showing that Jesus is our chief cornerstone.  It also asks that God might grant that we might be joined together spiritually with the theology of Jesus that the Apostles followed two millennia ago.

It makes the point we should share their same faith of Jesus Christ being our Savior, Mediator and advocate. It is asking for us to receive that same zealous spirit the Apostles had in following Him, that we might be a follow their good examples in following Jesus.

The second part of the collect says that we might be made an holy temple acceptable to God. Meaning we must be cleansed of our impurity and the Holy Spirit might enter to cleanse our souls, so they might be acceptable to God. This is a process that like many others in Christianity will take the rest of our earthly lives to work on. Like being a good pilot, we should always be learning in our spiritual lives.

Being a good learner involves being willing to face your mistakes and make the needed corrections. This applies to flying, work and your spiritual life as well. We have to be good learners, to make our bodies an acceptable temple to God.

In the Epistle, Paul exhorts us to act, following Christ as the “Chief Cornerstone”, or the Head Bishop of the Church, with us following under His Orders, as he is our Commanding General. And he tells us that we must not only think like Christians, but the key word is Act. If we do not act upon our thoughts and words, how are we any better than those who went before the Christians, like the Jews of old, who said one thing and clearly did another. And in His message, and understanding it, with the Gospel’s message also that we, no matter how tough it may be to do it sometimes, we must follow His will rather than ours, and we may not be loved or liked by the world for it.

Which brings us to the point of the Gospel, in which Christ warns the Apostles that this won’t be an easy milk-run, rather it will turn dangerous and they have to face the choice between the World and life on Earth, or death and Life in Christ and God eternally. He tells them they will face many persecutions for His sake, and they will be rewarded in time, for the trials and tribulations they suffer in His name.

Christ also explains that had he not come and talked to the evildoers, that they would freely be able to deceive us, but now that He has come and revealed them for who they truly are, that they will not be able to hide in their wickedness, as they persecute mercilessly His flock, which he had warned them about earlier in His Gospel.  His point is, though they may persecute you, their evilness will shine through their falsified, nice demeanor they show the world, and yet, when they act with malice in their hearts, their evilness shall come out through their actions and deeds. In our words and deeds, our goodness must shine through our actions and deeds, to counteract our badness which also comes out through words and deeds.

The Collect, Epistle and Gospel tie together, laying out, detailing and reinforcing the same message, ultimately.  We have to ready and willing to accept the fact that we will be persecuted, and we must use the help that God provides, by asking for it, and that in the end that Good will triumph over Evil, with the wick-doers deeds of malice showing through their supposedly kind exterior. In these days of trials and tribulations, we must follow this three step process that I have at the end of my sermon, Be of God, Live of God and Act of God most especially.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Hymns of the Church – God of Our Fathers, Unto Thee– 23 October 2018, Anno Domini(In the Year of our Lord)

            Though we will celebrate the National Day of Thanksgiving in America on the 22nd of November 2018, it is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O LORD, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God.(from 1928 BCP, Communion Service, pg 76) Such is the spirit of the wonderful English hymn of Thanksgiving composed by Arthur Campbell Ainger in 1906. 

The hymn was later adapted to the tune of TRAFALGAR by Hugo Sidney Nicholson in 1916. This version of the hymn is taken from the Standard Edition, Hymns Ancient and Modern, published by the Church of England. (1922)

God of Our Fathers, Unto Thee

God of our fathers, unto Thee
Our fathers cried in danger’s hour,
And then Thou gavest them to see
The acts of Thine almighty power.
They cried to Thee, and Thou didst hear;
They called on Thee, and Thou didst save;
And we their sons today draw near
Thy name to praise, Thy help to crave.
Lord God of hosts, uplift Thine hand,
Protect and bless our fatherland.

Thine is the majesty, O Lord,
And Thine dominion over all;
When Thou commandest, at Thy word
Great kings and nations rise or fall.
For eastern realms, for western coasts,
For islands washed by every sea,
The praise be giv’n, O God of hosts,
Not unto us, but unto Thee. 
If in Thy grace Thou should’st allow
Our fame to wax through coming days,
Still grant us humbly, then as now,
Thy help to crave, Thy name to praise.
Not all alike in speech or birth,
Alike we bow before Thy throne;
One fatherland throughout the earth
Our Father’s noble acts we own.

God of our fathers, unto Thee Our fathers cried in danger’s hour, And then Thou gavest them to see The acts of Thine almighty power. They cried to Thee, and Thou didst hear; They called on Thee, and Thou didst save; And we their sons today draw near Thy name to praise, Thy help to crave.It is a fact that the faith of the fathers should be truly descended to that of the sons and daughters. In our modern day when families and marriages are under attack from nihilists and socio-communist engineers, the dutiful teaching of father’s to their sons and daughters concerning the meaning and purpose of our God-given days has suffered lapse. How do the youth of our land know to call upon a God and Father whom they have never known? If the Providential history of our nation were properly taught in public schools, there would yet be the spark of faith to recognize the snares and dangers of the modern assault upon freedom and liberty, and of the only source of true liberty being vested in the Creator of the World. But, happily, the burdens of hard oppression and unjust government often awaken the sleeping spirit of man to relearn the source of his salvation in the Lord whom he may have offended in his former ways. That is the hope of the nations, and of the helplessly trodden underfoot. 27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. 28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. 30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. 31 Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! 32 Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders(Psalm 107:27-32)Just as the houses and families of the fathers Zacchaeus and the Nobleman of Capernaum were brought to faith by their fathers, so should our own beloveds be brought to the same salvation.

 Thine is the majesty, O Lord, And Thine dominion over all; When Thou commandest, at Thy word Great kings and nations rise or fall. For eastern realms, for western coasts, For islands washed by every sea, The praise be giv’n, O God of hosts, Not unto us, but unto Thee. There is no true American, and something else. We are not African AND American. We are not Chinese AND American. We are not German AND American. We are either true-blue American, or we belong to a divided allegiance. The same is true of God our Father. We are not born of faith in half-bred circumstances. There is none other but God – not God AND Baptist.  Not God AND Presbyterian. Not God AND Anglican – but altogether we belong wholly to God or to the world only. My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation. There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.(1 Sam 2:1-4) 

Though our doctrine and faith may be defined by our biblical understanding as articulated by a denominational view, the truth stands eternally  immutable that God is forever true and every man a liar to the contrary.  . . . . let God be true, but every man a liar. (Romans 3:4) The Sovereignty of God is not limited to the righteous believer, but to all Creation (including the cruel and wrathful potentate). God used the fallen Samson to bring judgment on the heathen, and He even called Cyrus, by name, of the Medes and Persians, to conquer Babylon and set His people free to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem.

 If in Thy grace Thou should’st allow Our fame to wax through coming days, Still grant us humbly, then as now, Thy help to crave, Thy name to praise. Not all alike in speech or birth, Alike we bow before Thy throne; One fatherland throughout the earth Our Father’s noble acts we own. The believing remnant of America has been granted a time of reprieve to consider the works of the Lord and to appeal to His Sovereign Will and Providence in the affairs of the nation. If we fail, the failure will be profound for our nation. The hordes of evil doers and unbelievers are banging at the gate to enslave her inhabitants. How shall we respond? If we are as the seamen referenced in Psalm 107 who reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end, what shall be the response of the righteous of the land of our nativity? If we are at wits end, should we not call upon Him whose wisdom is from everlasting to everlasting. We cannot own the answers to our national predicament, but the Lord does, indeed, have those answers. 

The church is undergoing a mutiny of godless men in her midst while her ship is headed into stormy seas. They have ‘crept in unawares’ and have gained the better places of leadership. They propose the very things that God condemns. They are not part of the Holy Church but persist as parasites and deadly organism within her blood. It is high time for the seasoned crew to regain the helm and appeal to the Master Seaman to right our ship and bring her to safe harbor. 

Can you even imagine the response of the western world only fifty years ago if our people were persecuted for not embracing homosexual marriage – of not only rejecting abortion, but the ruthless murder of the infant at the very gates of sunlight and birth? 

I know not what lies ahead for America and the Christian world at large; but I do return thanksgiving to God for preserving us a Godly and free nation among the nations of the earth for these many years, and for His Providential Hand in guiding our Founding Fathers in establishing that nation upon Godly precepts. And I also pray for whatever judgment He may bring of hard persecution and chains if it will awaken us to those wonderful truths which define the Ancient Landmark of our faith, and the Old Paths wherein our fathers walked.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity

Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Todays sermon tied the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and talked, as is oft the case, of the need for action, not simply diction.

Consider these words from the Collect:

… Grant …thy faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind

We ask God to pardon our sins so we might serve Him with peace of mind and do His Work without having to worry about our fate. It is good to have a clear mind when you go into battle, to be free of worry that you might do your best. You do not want to have a foggy mind when you are doing an action that requires your best concentration, so that is what we are asking from Him. To give us clarity of mind that we might do what is right.  

We need His pardon and peace to cleanse us from our sins, to enable us to have a mind that is quiet and focused on doing His will. It is a difficult thing to quiet our minds at times, but it must be done, so that we can focus on doing our best from Him. His pardon and peace will help us clear our minds from worrying thoughts and distressed thoughts, if we will but let Him in. The pardon and peace He gives is a perfect pardon and peace, He only asks that we go forth in the world and spread His Word, which will give the perfect pardon and peace to all that accept it.

When we mention peace, it is a very different concept from what people in this world think of it. It is not just about drugs, and rock and roll. It is far from it and something more solid and consistent than many people in this world think of it.The peace that God gives us is the calmness in our soul when the world is crumbling around or even on us. When things are going wrong at work, school or home, peace is the feeling that God is with us and that we have nothing to fear from whatever it is that is troubling us. For whatever is troubling us be it work trouble, school trouble or home trouble, cannot be greater than Him who created us and all of creation and all the planets and all of the stars. It is the sureness that we service Him who created all things and sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for us, that we might have eternal life. It is also knowing that through His Son we have that eternal life and that we do not have to fear death unlike those who do not believe.

 It is that peace of mind and soul that comes from knowing that when we die, we will be spending eternity with God and Jesus. It helps us to know that this is only a transitory phase. And if we let it this peace will take the place of worry.  This is something that people that tend to worry, such as myself need to remember. You can then concentrate on what you can do and not be concerned with what you cannot do; for if you cannot really do it, it is pointless to concern yourself.  That is the whole point of peace, having it will give you calmness and rational thinking to do what you need to do for Him. The peace gives you the confidence to perform actions, even in difficult and very trying circumstances. Once again, action, not diction, is paramount.

Not everyone will accept it though, even though all should accept the offered gift, it does not mean they will. We have to realize this, and some may not accept it at first, but it does not mean that we should give up on them, but rather let the Holy Spirit plant the seed, as He plants a seed in our hearts. As our fallen nature attests, we are not instantly transformed into a different person overnight, but rather thorough many days, weeks and years of practicing Christian beliefs, through reading Scripture and being around other believers. The transformation happens in a gradual process, that continues all of our lives. And so it will be to with some of the non-believers we encounter in our lives, that seed we plant may germinate in time to bring them to Christ.

Paul gives his clearest definition of the spiritual war between the forces of Satan and those who would follow God. It not only assures us that there is a spiritual war, but it warns us that apart from utilizing the weapons which God has provided for us, we are hopelessly underpowered. This passage tells us what our divine weapons are. Beyond this, these weapons imply the nature of the struggle which we are in. The weapons which God has provided for us are those weapons which best repel the attacks of Satan, and thus we can learn a great deal about the nature of Satan’s opposition from simply considering each of the weapons at our disposal:

                                        Clothing       Truth; this our cloak, as well as our cover;
     Breastplate or Armored Vest       Righteousness; being at one with the One True and Triune God;
                                              Boots       The Gospel; the Word of God will get you there;
                                             Shield       Faith; able to not only ward off blows of evil, but quench the fiery darts hurled at us;
                                           Helmet       Salvation; we are saved already, thus we cannot be harmed by any of the forces of this world, the armored helmet of the gift of salvation given to us by our Lord will protect us in the end, the only time that counts;
                                         Weapon       Up to now, the equipment has been defensive or at least supporting; but to win a war, you need to be on the offense, our offensive weapon is the sword of the Holy Ghost, the Word of God!
Now, what to do? We are clearly commanded to take an offensive role, to go where the battle is. We are not called to be at the rear, but on the front lines, in this spiritual battle.  With the help of the Holy Ghost, we should be using our tongues boldly as St. Paul says, to spread the Gospel.  You don’t play the defensive in this spiritual battle, as in tactical warfare, nobody ever won a battle by being stuck on the defensive. You must go out and preach boldly and speak the truth and not worry about the consequences of doing so. The problem with the church today is that they are afraid of offending people and just think the best way to reach the lost people is to get along with them. This will not work, this concept is basically aiding and abetting the enemy, also known as treason. We must not commit this dreadful act! 

We must not be afraid to preach the truth of the Gospel through ought the world and not worry ourselves with what the world will think. For what the world will think is not as important as what God thinks. And by the word bold, we are not to put a holier than thou air and talk down, nor are we to cruelly shout down the opposition, but with confidence in our voice, we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated by the enemy. We will do our actions and say the truth with clarity and confidence. That is what it means to preach the Word boldly.

The Word spreads “by word of mouth” and by action. It does not spread by mouth alone! There needs to be work backing up those good words. Your mouth, your actions!

Speaking of actions, Winston Churchill said, “Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”[1]

Churchill was not the first. God wants us to persist. Consider the case of the nobleman of Capernaum.  The man asked Jesus for help for his son.  Jesus did not immediately grant the request as He needed the man to persist to make a point for those around him.  He responded as he often did to Jews, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.”  The man persisted and because Jesus saw faith in him, he said, focusing his attention on faith in God, “Go thy way; thy son liveth” or  "Be on your way. Your son is alive." In other words: "Do not worry. My Word can heal your son at a distance." The boy was healed in the very instant when Jesus spoke the Word. The father believed this Word. So did his household, wife, children and servants. More than one person was healed on that occasion.

This miracle shares characteristics with the previous healing of the Centurion’s son:

  • Jesus has just come back to Galilee.
  • Someone comes to him with a request.
  • Indirectly Jesus seems to refuse at first.
  • The person persists.
  • Jesus grants the request.
  • This leads another group of people (his disciples, the nobleman’s household) to believe in him.
Note the necessity of trusting in Jesus as the giver of life.  Of the text, Luther wrote: "Although the Lord performed miracles and signs to make Himself known and to lead people to faith in Him, the underlying purpose was to focus their attention on the Word rather than on the signs which served merely to attest the truth of His testimony. Faith must rest on the Word of God."  Another Lutheran theologian wrote: "In affliction faith is practiced and chastened. If a person can see, taste and experience the help and grace of the Lord, then that person learns to trust the Word and nothing but the Word. That is the true faith, trusting the Lord for its own sake. Such faith comes not from flesh and blood. It's the Lord to which faith clings. That almighty Word works faith."

Jesus led this nobleman from a "miracle" faith to a true faith in His Word. He does this to us also.

"Be on your way. Your son lives." This Word of Jesus was not only a prophecy. It had the power to heal the sick boy. And this Word took the nobleman's worries away. As it will take ours away if we will let it. 

As we see in the Gospel, persistence is a very important part of the Christian life, it helps build our character in bad times, and also in good as well. No matter what we are going through, the persistence in faith is what builds us up as Christians, to keep going  in times that are less than pleasant, as we continue to progress as pilgrims to Our Father above. In distressing times or late at night it is often easy to forget this, but we must remember that we need to keep going, no matter how hard it seems. It is a comforting fact that He is with us in these most distressing times. 

We are asked to let God forgive us our sins and go to battle in this world with His armor.  With Him all things are possible; when we depend on our own pitiful resources, the outcome is in doubt and the result unlikely to be favorable in the end. When you believe in our Lord and act on that belief, victory is certain in the end.  Understand, the result here on earth may not be the one you want, but it is the one God wants for you.  God expects you to accept His help and act with His help to gain victory over the prince of this world.

Consider also that God, through our Lord, offers forgiveness.  Forgiveness lets you restart your life, regain your foothold, strengthen your soul. If you accept the forgiveness and go forward you can do great things.  If you will not, and likewise you will not forgive, you will be bound by the prince of this world and doomed to failure.  You will never attain the greatness of which you are capable with God’s grace and help.

Do what is right, I would say no matter if there is no one looking; but He is always looking.  It is not that hard.  Believe, take His help, act on the belief you profess, never ever give up.  

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?

The time to act is NOW.  Will you act?  For whom will you act?  Will you count the cost before you act?

Action, not diction, is what counts.  It is by your actions you are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

[1]Sir Winston Churchill, Speech, 1941, Harrow School

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Todays 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 of the Collect, “…God … keep us … from all things that may hurt us; that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things which thou commandest…”

The Collect asks God to keep us from things that are bad for us and make our hearts ready so we can do the things He wants us to do; this ties perfectly with the Epistle and Gospel as it almost always does.  The message of the Collect, the Epistle and the Gospel can be summarized with stay away from things that will harm your spiritual and physical health and do things good for your health and be spiritually aware of what is going on.

One word that intrigues me from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is “circumspectly”; which when I looked it up meant “wary and unwilling to take risks.”  I believe Paul meant today we should not be taking risks with our faith, but walking in that which has been tried and true for over two thousand years. He means we should not compromise our belief in the Gospel. We cannot risk comprising the integrity of the faith. Too many of the modern churches and the Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches today compromise the integrity of the faith to gain more power on this Earth.  This is not when being a Church is supposed to be about. It is supposed to draw people closer to God, not away from Him.  If God has not changed over the millennia, why would we change what we believe? 

Indeed, we should not change our position; if it is truly derived from His Holy Word, then it should never change. Any sermon or talk from a minister or bishop must be scrutinized by how it matches up with the concepts in Holy Scripture.  It must be reviewed to ensure it is in compliance with the Holy Word. If it conflicts with Scripture, then you know the minister is not in line with His Word and is not a fellow believer. We must all strive to be in congruence with His Word, be it bishop, minister, deacon or layperson. We are all working together in His Church to further His Cause. If we are not all on the same page, then we are not furthering His Work. We have to all work together to spread the Gospel, each person contributes to the much larger picture of spreading the Gospel. 

Paul in his Epistle warns us not to drink to excess, but to keep it in moderation. He does not mean never to drink wine, as some, (Puritans and certain Baptists, among others) would take, but rather have “moderation in all things”; which is a similar idea to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.  Just because you can do something, like drinking or eating, does not mean you should do it to excess where it can cause you harm. He is warning against excesses in everything, and that we should do everything in a healthy dose of moderation. Eating too much can cause stomach problems, something we want to avoid. Drinking too much can cause serious issues, not the least of which is hangovers; the worst is drinking to death. 

Our Lord wants us to be moderate in our celebration, not celebrating to the point of excess where bad things can happen to our bodies and our minds; but celebrating to where we are thankful to Him for all things, and for His Love.

This is the unifying theme of both the Epistle and the Gospel for today. Keep everything we do in moderation and avoid excesses in anything.  Rather than turn to the excesses of this world, Paul says we must turn to God and be filled with His Grace of the Holy Spirit; making joyful noises to the Lord, be it in prayer or in song and giving thanks always for all things to God. 

Giving thanks always to God should be one of our top priorities. More often than not we seem to forget who made us, who created the world we dwell in, who created the fantastic beasts on land and on the sea. It seems very strange we forget to thank God for all of these things, but we do. Making a joyful noise unto the Lord is part of how we can do this, besides prayer and thanksgiving. Be it through songs, happy declarations to the Lord or joyful worship, we can send our joy unto our Lord.  This is part of the reason it is important to say prayers like the Gloria in the prayer book with “liveliness”, we are expressing our praise and thanksgiving unto God, for having sent His Son down to save us from our wicked selves. This goes with the collects reminding we should do all things he has commanded us to do cheerfully.

In our lives, we should be grateful to God more than we are. We are too often not thinking of God’s role in our lives and only thinking of our own. We have to turn away from that temptation, and let the Holy Spirit in and guide us to thanking God for what He has done for us in our lives. 

The Gospel’s story was one that has puzzled me for a long time. Why would the King simply cast out a man whose only error appeared to be wearing the wrong set of clothes.  When I thought about it more, and in many discussions, I found in days of old, wedding garments were furnished by the host.  Thus, if one did not appear properly clothed it was because they intentionally chose not to be.  This brought me to the realization the wrong clothes was Jesus’ metaphor for one who is not prepared for heaven, not walking with God, not filled with the Holy Spirit, and that is why he was cast out of the wedding (Implied to be heaven. And the King stands in for God in the tale.) He was not prepared to enter the great feast of heaven. His incorrect clothing is a metaphor for many in our lifetime who are not in a prepared state to enter heaven, as they have neither confessed nor repented of their sins to our Lord and have not accepted Him as our savior.

This man is very much like Esau, when he sold his birthright to Jacob. Esau did not care enough for his birthright, he wanted food more than the permanent status of the birthright which seemed so far off at the time. It is the same with this man and many others in the world. Through Christ, we have a birthright of our own, the Kingdom of God, as God’s adopted children. However, some gladly trade away this birthright for a bauble or trinket in the present, knowing not what a foolish mistake they make. People will trade away this birthright when they reject the Gospel, not seemingly caring their choice is leading them to an eternity of misery. This is why we should not take risks with our faith, but remain steadfast in our faith and working to spread the Gospel cheerfully. 

The Collect, Epistle and Gospel tie together, laying out, detailing and reinforcing the same message ultimately.  We have to be ready and willing to listen to God, and walk in God, and act with the Holy Spirit in us, in order to have the right “clothes” to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

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?

The time to act is NOW.  Will you act?  For whom will you act?  Will you count the cost before you act?

Action, not diction, is what counts.  It is by your actions you are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Todays 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 of the Collect, “…without thee we are not able to please thee; Mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts…”

The collect continues on the theme from last week, that without God’s mighty help through the Holy Spirit, we are not able to understand what we need to do to be one with God, to follow His Will; we need Him, through the Holy Ghost, to direct us in our endeavors, beliefs and understanding. We cannot be successful without the help of the Holy Ghost.

This theme is continued and amplified in the Epistle, where Paul writes to the Ephesians, Chapter 4, Verse 17: Yet henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened and alienated from the life of the God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.

Paul basically is saying we should not do as the world does and look into ourselves for guidance in our spiritual lives. If we look to ourselves for inner guidance, we would only have a life full of pain and misery and would find out that when we die and wake up from our death to find we are not only physically dead but have died a spiritual death, a permanent separation from God, on the other side of that “fixed gulf.” There is a reason Jesus illustrated this concept in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus showing without God’s help and guidance, we will be separated from Him for all eternity. Make no mistake, that fixed gulf is very real. There is a way to avoid this fixed gulf; accept His spiritual help and guidance and to let the Holy Ghost into our lives. 

To do that, we must openly accept Him into our hearts and let Him guide our thoughts and actions. This begins by allowing His guidance to enter into our actions and to make His Way our way, so that we are in alignment with what He wants us to do here on Earth. We are making His picture of the world our Picture, and so we act as He would have us act to align ourselves with His Picture. Saint Paul tells us we must begin to live our lives anew, to leave off the old sinful ways and thoughts of our old lives, to reboot as it were, and to start afresh by being honest, not prone to anger, work hard, to think, speak and act kindness and to forgive as you would have God forgive you.  The saying of Do unto others as you would have them do unto youcomes to mind here. We must work to clean our slate; the Holy Ghost can help with that, then we can begin to minister effectively to others. 

In short, we are to act on His Instructions, then our lives will change as the natural result of doing what we are supposed to be doing. And our lives will most certainly change for the better if we act and continue to act on His Instructions. Simply saying you believe changes nothing.  Change your actions and your heart must in the end follow, with the help of the Holy Ghost.  Your heart will be renewed through the entrance of the Holy Ghost.  This will show up a little later on, but it is an important message which bears repeating. It is the same with many changes you need to make in your life, you have to make them, not just say you are going to make them. In other words, to perform the action and not just say you are going to. Many people never get past the stage of saying they will perform the action, but we need to go farther and actually do the action. To be a better person, to grow in the Spirit, your actions must be consistent with those the Holy Spirit guides you to do.

To be successful, Paul says we need to fix ourselves upon the guiding lights of Christ and God and not use ourselves for a moral compass. For if we use our sense of direction, we shall not get far and indeed we will be in much distress, though we would not think it due to our easily corruptible minds. I we rely on Christ as our navigator, He shall never fail us in His directions, if we will but listen to him. He, unlike us, will never let us down or withhold anything that we need to know; the catch is we have to be willing to listen to Him. We have to know He truly knows the way, and that without following His guidance, we cannot have any hope of finding the way on our own. We have to be willing and able to listen to Him; then willing and able to act on His Direction. And we need to remember this in good times and bad and to always trust in God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost and do our best to follow their instructions to the best our abilities.

Paul also gives very practical and simple, though hard to follow, directions on living our lives:

·     Be honest;
·     Avoid anger;
·     Do not let anger linger over night;
·     Follow not the guidance of the devil;
·     Quit stealing;
·     Work hard;
·     Think kindness;
·     Speak kindness;
·     Act kindness;
·     Forgive as you would have God forgive you, which He hath done in Jesus Christ!

These are all fairly common sense concepts that when applied are the recipe for a successful and wonderful life here. While there may be hardships here, if we but hold fast to these principles which Saint Paul gives we will find they not only benefit ourselves, but they will help the people around us.  And that is what is so wonderful about living life in accordance with the Scriptures.  That is what the Gospel is about, spreading the Good News and helping the people around us to become better people and followers of God. 

We move on to the Gospel, where Jesus, attending to a sick man, picks up on the evil thoughts of the temple scribes, who think to themselves Jesus blasphemed.  If they realized who truly the Son of God was, Jesus, they would be shocked if they realized they had just accused God of being a liar and blasphemer. However, the darkness in their hearts, like the vanity of the Gentiles minds Paul talked about, prevented them from seeing the truth of the person of Christ.  Then He asks them, which is easier, to forgive the sins or to have the man “Arise and walk”? Jesus is making the point that words are nice, but actions are what really produces fruit in the end. We could talk about spreading the Gospel all day long, but if we never actually go out and do it, it means little.

As always, Jesus’ words are important, but only as His actions always match those words. Jesus doesn’t just talk to hear himself talk, unlike some of the more modern “Christian” television preachers.  He talks to make a point and acts in accordance with the point He makes. If we believe His commandments, we will keep them, which means our behavior, our actions, will match His Words.  The book Acts of the Apostles, isn’t “Meditations”, “Philosophies” of the Apostles, but Acts.  Jesus puts forth emphasis on “Actions speak louder than words” through his actions. Actions truly show where a person’s heart is set. Words do not reveal much about a person’s character alone, you need to look at their actions to see where their heart truly lies. They may profess to be a member of Our Lord’s church, but if their actions do not match his profession then we shall clearly know he is not truly our Christian brother. We must make sure our actions match our claimed beliefs in Scripture. If our actions do not match the Scriptures, we are not truly following Christ. We will all struggle with this from time to time, but as long as we return to Christ with true repentant hearts, all will be fine with our souls.

If we profess to be Christians, then we need to act like Christians, not just say we are Christians.  The ending sentence at the end of the sermons I have given thus far goes, “Be of God”, “Live of God” and finally, last but especially not least “Act of God.” We have to Be of God, and Live of God, to live our lives in a Godly and Christian way, which means as Paul said “Henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk”, so should we not walk in the ways of the world but that of God and His Heavenly Kingdom. Our actions which make up our lives need to be in alignment with the principles of Scripture and need be clearly seen. If our lives are not in alignment with Scripture, then we are not living the faith as God has called us to do.  Though originally, the term Gentile meant non-Jews (Ephesus was an early Gentile Christian church), nowadays Gentiles are those who conform to the world’s philosophies, including Christians who are Christians in name only whose deed or actions do not follow “Be of God, Live of God and Act of God.”

To Act of God, we must follow the commandments of Christ and act according to them, loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. If we actually follow the three step process “Be of God”, “Live of God” and “Act of God”, we will find ourselves in a much better position than walking in the ways of the World. 

The time to act is NOW.  Will you act? For whom will you act?  Will you count the cost before you act?

Action, not diction, is what counts.  It is by your actions you are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God