Verse of the Day

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Quinquagesima Sunday

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
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:

… 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 if we never try to put Love into action we will never even get close to getting there. The key word is in action. Meaning we just can’t think about loving people, we actually have to go out and do actions showing that we really do love them, not just say it. This is the common theme of the principles of Christian living. In order to make progress, we have to continually put these principles, namely charity or love, into practice each and every day. We may not do it perfectly, 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]  It might be slow going, but as long as the progress is constant, that is all that matters. 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 selfishness, just the goodness of God in it; this is the love that God gives to us to give to others. This is the strength of the Christian faith. This is what powered Jesus to sacrifice Himself one time for all time for us pitiful sinners, that we might have eternal life. He loved us, He had that purest form of love and used it each and every day in His Earthly Ministry and even after He departed this Earth, sending the Holy Ghost down to give his comfort and guidance. The collect points out it is the very bond of peace and of all virtues. Love is behind all virtuous qualities that can be found in people though the help of the Holy Ghost. It is behind the peace that only God can bestow upon us.  

God has given us love 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 bad; 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 effect positive change on the world around us?

In connection with the Collect which talks about one who is brought before God without love in his heart is a dead person. Paul makes this very point in his Epistle, saying that no matter what talents we have, without the Love of God in our hearts, it is all for naught.  We cannot do anything for God without that Love in our hearts. We must have the Love in us, brought to us by the Holy Spirit, in order to be effective in our ministerial efforts. He is the reason 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, while here we will never 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 it is right so to do. 

Having Love in our hearts is a must if we are to perform actions for Him here on this world. In order to have love in our hearts, we must be open to the Holy Spirit. Only then can we truly receive His Love to spread around. And do not fret, there is an unlimited supply of love for everyone. 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 those Pearly Gates into heaven, and in order to do that, we have to have faith, and act in good works with 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. He had the Love of God with Him and He loved us so much that He would die a painful method of execution and go into Satan’s realm in order to free us from the terrible wages of sin, that of death. 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. This is the key and it applies to us as well. 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.  Knowing what we want, we should not let others in this life rebuff us and hinder us from following Him. This is one of many lessons we can take from the blind man.

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 he acted on and gained what he lacked.  Will we have the faith to act?

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

There is but one way to heaven.

That easy to find, easy to follow, easy to hike path does not lead to the summit where eternal life in the real world awaits.  Open your heart to the Holy Ghost, use His Power to follow our Lord to God who awaits in heaven.

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] 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 FaithHope 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 all three persisted and of the three, Charity never failed.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

AOC Sunday Report - Sexagesima

Happy Sexagesima Sunday!

The AOC Sunday Report can be downloaded RIGHT HERE!

There really good sermons today from Bishops Jerry and Roy, as well as Revs Jack and Bryan.

There are a lot of people who need your prayer, please start with Bob and Shamu and work out from there.

There is a really really great week ahead, but you are not going to find it without the help of the Holy Ghost. Open your eyes and see; open your ears and hear.


Church the Faithful Centurion
Descanso, California

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

The name "Sexagesima" is derived from the Latin sexagesimus, meaning "sixtieth," and appears to be a back-formation of Quinquagesima, the term formerly used to denote the last Sunday before Lent (the latter name alluding to the fact that there are fifty days between that Sunday and Easter, if one counts both days themselves in the total). Through the same process, the Sunday before Sexagesima Sunday is known as Septuagesima Sunday, and marks the start of the Pre-Lenten Season, which eventually became the time for carnival celebrations throughout Europe, this custom being later exported to places settled and/or colonized by Europeans. While Quinquagesima (50th day) is mathematically correct (allowing for the inclusive counting), Sexagesima and Septuagesima are only approximations (the exact number of days is 57 and 64 respectively). The earliest Sexagesima can occur is January 25 and the latest is February 28 (or February 29 in a leap year). 

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.

The Gospel reading for Sexagesima week is the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4).


Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
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:

…put not our trust in any thing that we do; Mercifully grant that by thy power we may be defended against all adversity …

In the Collect, we tell God we put our trust for eternal life not in our actions, but in His Power.  If we do this, then we must do as He asks us.  For, to make trust in His Power rational, we must follow His Directions. We cannot trust our own sense of direction for spiritual matters; but must look to Our Heavenly Father for guidance. If we do not follow His Direction then we are surely going be just as lost as before we accepted Him into our hearts. It would be foolish to think we could guide ourselves, when in fact we need Him to guide us. The problem is in our case pride often gets in the way of seeing that we need to rely on Him for guidance.   Pride blinds our spiritual senses from seeing God’s truth and we need God’s truth to get through life and onto that narrow upward path towards heaven. We need Him as our navigator to guide us along the rocky paths of life, so we don’t crash into the rocks of Sin and Death!  We need His directions if we are to proceed upon the path to Heaven.

The Collect also goes on to explain His Power will give us defense in adversity. It explains that His Power is the only real power which can help us in times of trial and tribulation. His Power will protect our souls. Our bodies may get beaten and bruised but if we trust in Him and let Him into our hearts, our souls will be intact. The key is that we to rely on His counsel and judgement. It is the only power which will give us comfort in times of adversity and strength to get through those times. 

Recognizing that God has the power to help us overcome adversity is key. Of our own volition we can sometimes overcome physical adversity, but never spiritual. With God’s help we can overcome both. We need to internalize this into our hearts, so our first automatic reaction is to come to Him for help whenever we encounter either spiritual and physical dangers.  We have to override our natural reaction of relying on ourselves for guidance, which will do nothing for our spiritual battles and might harm us in our physical battles here on this planet. He truly is the only one who can help us.

Paul tells the Corinthians whatever they have suffered there compares nothing to what he has suffered for Christ in all of his labourings, watchings and fastings. Yet this is not his main point, which is in all of these sufferings he always drew on the power of the Holy Spirit and used the sufferings for God’s glory and not for his. He is not bragging when he tells them of what he suffered, however, he is meaning to say he got through these hard times with God’s help and also to bring glory and point the way to God and His Son Jesus Christ.   His point is if God helped him get through all of this turbulent and troubled experience, God can and will help us through these times too if we will but let Him.

From his beginnings as the chief persecutor of Christ’s followers to now as one of the top apostles of Christ, Paul tells us of the experience of the power of God first hand, using his life as an example. Paul wanted to show us how God’s Grace and mercy changed His life and got Him through some pretty bad times. Paul pointed out if you trust in God and follow His Instructions, you too can get through the most awful of times as well.  Thus, he counseled all to take comfort and pride in God, not themselves.  Do your best and look towards God.

This brings us right in to the well known Parable of the Sower, which might be better referred to as the Parable of the Four Soils, for the seeds were all alike.  

Like the seed sown by the sower, The Word is spread throughout the world for all to hear and act on:

  • Yet, some will not even hear The Word (Hard ground);

  • Others will hear, act quickly and abandon God’s help at the first sign of adversity (Stony ground);

  • Still others will hear The Word, but The Word is overtaken by the “pleasures” of this world and is choked out by them.  Like the line from the Bible, where your money is, that is your worldly effort, there is the evidence of your heart.  The temptation of this world is great, the reward from God is far greater, but you have to look long term;

  • Finally, we come to those who accept and act on The Word, like the one seed growing into a great plant bearing its fruit, the rewards are manifold, though the effort is also great, the end reward far greater.  For the seed to grow to full fruition and glory, with its manifold blessings, it must have the ground prepared, carefully tended against encroachment of the evil weeds, it must be continually watered by the life blood of those around it.  There is much effort required on our part, but the ultimate reward is so much greater.

While we are on the subject, consider the issue of weeding. In order for a garden to thrive, you need to consistently pull the weeds from the garden, otherwise the weeds will choke and kill the good plants. That is why we must always be wary of the world’s influence on the church and work to weed out that influence, so it does not choke the Biblical truths believed for over two millennia by Christians.  In order to do this, we need to work hand in hand with our fellow believers to weed out any worldly influence or trouble within the church.  This is why it is best that believers attend a Bible believing Church, where they can get valuable friendship and from that friendship, spiritual mentoring for their day to day lives.

So, think about this, we need to understand eternal life and indeed on a shorter term, happiness in our life here, comes not from our self-directed actions, but those of God and our action following His direction. We need to understand the implications of following our self-directed action, which if we follow, we will find death and misery awaiting us. However, if we put our trust in Him and follow His commands, all will be well with us and our souls. Understanding the difference between the two will help you prepare yourself for a happier physical and spiritual life. Do your best and look towards God for the Light to illuminate your path.  If you prepare your heart, as the farmer prepares the field, root out the forces of this world as the farmer roots out weeds, cultivate the good given by God, water your heart with His Water, your life will be manifold.

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

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Septuagesima Sunday

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

… we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness …

In the Collect, we ask God who knows we should be “…justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Saviour …”  To get into heaven we need to be accounted as perfect.  Yet, we cannot be “cured” of sin nor “improved” to perfection. So how do we solve this irregularity? We know we ourselves cannot solve our dilemma.  Who can?  There is a solution for us!  Consider the words of John Newton near the end of his life, “Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior!” The answer lies in the latter part of Newton’s quote. Jesus is the answer to this great dilemma. Our sins are justly punished by eternal damnation, yet there is hope in our Lord. He brought us this hope by His Death upon the Cross and delivered it in the Resurrection. Without His Sacrifice one time for all mankind, there would be no hope for our eternal future. But Jesus is our hope for that eternal future. We just have to do our best to follow His commandments and to stay the course that He has set for us in our lives.

What Paul speaks of in his Epistle is the great reward we receive for holding steady to that course which God has set for us. For eternal salvation is the delivery promised to each of us by Jesus. This is our great hope that we can cling to whenever things on Earth look gloomy. If we remember the Hope that we have in Jesus, then whatever bad things may happen to us on Earth will seem small in comparison to the fact that Jesus has given us eternal life. This is the great reward for the race we run daily here on Earth. Make no mistake, like a marathon, this run requires frequent training in the Scriptures and acting upon the concepts in Scriptures. And like marathon runners, we receive a wonderful prize.  However, it is a prize that has value beyond anything on Earth. The prize is for the promise of an eternal, unending life, to be spent with our Lord and Savior Jesus. It is for the promise of a world unaffected by the tarnish of sin, unblackened by the sinful deeds of imperfect beings. It is an unshadowed world.  It shall be true happiness at last, to meet with our beloved family, our Christian heavenly family, friends and beloved pets. 

Eternal salvation is a far more valuable prize than anything we could possibly acquire here on Earth.  It is in fact a priceless treasure, truly priceless, except for the death of our Saviour and resurrection. That is the only price involved with our eternal freedom.  As the saying goes, there is no free lunch. Eternal life does not come to us without cost. The cost was Jesus’ one time sacrifice for all time for all mankind. Keep the eyes on the prize, as it were!  And realize that that prize does not come free. We have to run the race set before us and follow Jesus in order to receive our prize of eternal life. We have to be constantly focusing on this fact. 

When times get really hard, and it is tempting to give up sometimes; that is when we must redouble our efforts and focus our end goal, remaining on the path towards Heaven.. In order to stay focused on the path, we must always remember the end, the arrival in Heaven will outweigh all of the sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears we shed in this life. If we but stay the course, our time after this will be unfathomably wonderful.

Our eyes should be focused on the finish line, not our “competition.”  The only thing which counts is that we each cross the finish line.  It does not matter who our competition is, as we are not competing with anyone for our destination. We have only to concern ourselves with God’s will and focusing on getting ourselves towards the right destination.  For only you have an input in which area you will go. Not the final input, but an input nonetheless. 

So how do we run the race?  

With our eyes focused tightly on the finish line, not on those around us, wondering are they doing better than we are?  That is not a useful question.  Christianity is not about competition, about being other people to the finish line. In fact, it is about helping others around us to the finish line to the best of our abilities and if they are willing to let us help them.  

The useful question is, “Am I doing the best I can?”  And we have to answer that question; if we are not doing our best, then we need to change it. And, remember this is a Team Effort. We have to want to win, and in order to win the race set before us; we have to perform actions. We need to act upon the Word of Scripture, the message, which is to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ and preach it to all nations as Christ commanded.  We must first start with our neighbors and work our way outward. It must be a team effort, we cannot all do it alone.  Each person in God’s Army has a specific talent and task assigned to them to complete their assigned mission here on Earth. We need support along the way, especially when things get tough, we need our Christian buddies to give us moral support and encouragement from the Word.   We want the Christian Team to win.  We need to give each team member all the help we can. And we need to be welcoming to each outsider who join the team, and treat them like the lifelong members of the Team. So, with that in mind, we must DO our best and not just say it, and we do that by acting upon the Word, not just reading it, but acting.

We are all so far from perfect that Holier than Thou is pretty damning praise.  Don’t even go there.  The best you can really do is not to be as evil as another, even that is pretty doubtful. But, we can do our best for our Lord; that is what really matters.

The Gospel for today, the very important parable of the vineyard, also gives us very good advice on the conduct of our daily lives and contains a crucial key to happiness.  There is the lesson that the deathbed conversion gains the same prize of eternal life as the lifelong follower, but there is a lot more in it for everyday life.  A person who comes to Christ late in life receives the same eternal benefits as a person who followed Christ from the age of reason.

It is a fine lesson in “buyer’s remorse” or coveting of jobs or similar concepts.  If you got a good deal, it does not change because someone else got a “better” deal.  Take what you got, go forth and be happy.  Don’t complain because somebody else got the same deal as you did sooner. One meaning of this parable is that “cradle” Christians are no more likely to go to heaven than this morning’s convert.  They just get to enjoy the Christian experience longer. However, you should not wait until the last minute to join the gang, your time here might end before you get around to it.   So, don’t wait until tomorrow to act, do it today while you still have time!

Sometimes people act like being a Christian is an unpleasant experience that they will do when they get a round TUIT.  It is not.  Christians aren’t perfect, they just have more fun being imperfect and imperfectly trying to improve!

Christ gave us eternal life.  But, we have to accept it.  Once you accept it, start living as if you will live forever.  You will and you will have to live with your actions forever!  So, Act early and Act often! 

There is but one way to heaven.

That easy to find, easy to follow, easy to hike path does not lead to the summit where eternal life in the real world awaits.  Open your heart to the Holy Ghost, use His Power to follow our Lord to God who awaits in 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?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Presentation of Christ in the Temple, commonly called The Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin. [February 2.]

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
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:

… as thy only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts …

In the Collect, we are asking God to look at us in our Judgment Day as He looked at His Son that day in the temple.  We cannot be perfect, nor can we have truly pure and clean hearts, for we are imperfect creatures with free will.  But, through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, we can be accounted as such.  That day in the temple, Jesus was presented to God, with a pure and clean heart.  We need Him to make us accounted so. 

We need Him to be our link between Heaven and Earth, for without Him, we cannot ascend to Heaven, but with Him we can. The purification was the beginning of His presentation to God as a clean and acceptable sacrifice, and the cross was the carrying out of His sacrifice to God, which cleaned our slate. This was the beginning of His plan to free us from the servitude of sin.

Likewise in the Collect for the Fourth Sunday after The Epiphany, we ask God for His Help, acknowledging our imperfection:

… by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright; Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations …

This is why He sent the Holy Ghost to be our inspiration, comfort, strength, understanding.    With Him all things are possible, without Him, we fail. While Christ is not physically present on this Earth, He is spiritually, through the Holy Ghost, He is still giving us guidance on how to conduct ourselves and if we will listen to Him, we will find that we will be a lot happier following his advice.

The prophet Malachi reminds us that Jesus was sent to fulfill the Law, not to continue it; to call men to perfection, not to hide them from it.  Jesus was sent to call men to God’s standard[1], not to give them ways to seem like they were following Him.  These are all concepts that the Pharisees refused to understand. The Pharisees wanted the Law to continue so that they could grow their power here on Earth. Jesus’s fulfillment of the law was an attack on their power base. They could not see that Jesus’s way was truly the only Way. They only saw He was cutting into their livelihoods of getting people around the law. This was the reason that they sought to put Him to death, to end a perceived threat to their way of life. 

 Malachi goes on to tell us what God expects from us.  We are to be His followers, but also His Hands, to act on His behalf.  We are to be considered as ambassadors of God on Earth, we must conduct ourselves as such then. As any good ambassador, we need to be honest in our dealings with men, to take positive action to help those who cannot help themselves, to be a friend of all in need, to help those who need help.  This does not mean encouraging slothfulness, but rather encouraging industriousness.  This is what God wants for us, to work hard to the best of our ability, to help our fellow people in need, and to love our neighbor as ourselves and to love Him.  This is what Jesus talks about in The Summary of the Law. If we follow the Summary of the Law, we will find that it is what He wants for us, and if we follow Him and do these things, we will find that it actually makes our lives easier and happier than if we did what we want.

We must overcome our natural temptation to listen to ourselves, but we must turn to the Holy Ghost and listen to Him. He will give us all the solutions we need to get out of whatever adversity we are in, if we will but listen to Him. 

In the Gospel, we learn of Jesus’ presentation in the temple, pure and clean before God, as we will be accounted through Him.  The presentation was to bring the new child to the Lord in thanksgiving for a safe childbirth, no small thing, in particular for a first born in those days before the medical advancements of today, back when the infant mortality rate was super high.  All the more reason for thanksgiving and the dedication of the firstborn to the Lord.  Imagine the joy that was in his heart to see the Lord’s Christ when you hear Simeon’s words that are found in our Evening Prayer service on Page 28 of the Book of Common Prayer:

Nunc dimittis. St. Luke ii. 29

ORD, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, * according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen * thy salvation, 
Which thou hast prepared * before the face of all people; 
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, * and to be the glory of thy people Israel. 

Simeon goes on to foretell the effect Jesus will have on Israel and those who live there, both good and bad.  He tells Mary of the pain she will bear at the loss of her son, though in time she will understand. And she did understand it as Jesus carried out the ultimate sacrifice upon the Cross, she finally knew what Simeon meant in his words to her.

The prophetess Anna also near the end of her time here on earth likewise tells the parents of things to come.  Imagine how difficult it was for them to understand all this, yet it would in their minds as time went on.

After the presentation, the family went back home to Galilee, and Jesus grew strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.  This is what we must all strive for in our hearts, souls minds and bodies. We must strive to grow in spirit and be filled with that Holy Wisdom.

We must look to God for the strength and guidance we need to follow Him.  We must welcome the Holy Ghost into our hearts to have the courage to follow Him.

Be of God Live of God Act of God

[1] By standard, one can mean God’s flag or side, or one could mean the level expected; here we mean both!