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Sermon - Rev Jack Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above.
The Third Sunday in Advent
LORD Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
The First Sunday in Advent
LMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
¶ This Collect is to be repeated every day, after the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas Day.
In the Collect for the Third Sunday in Advent, we are referred to as the ministers and stewards (caretakers) of the mysteries of God: the Scriptures and His Word. We ask for help in getting the hearts of the disobedient, which is us, by the wisdom of the just, which is God and the Holy Spirit, to turn and look to the Kingdom of God for answers and not this world. We are in a way like John the Baptist who prepared the way for Christ’s coming by preaching and preparing the path for Christ to begin his ministry. By preaching the Word, we are likewise preparing the World for His Return, by getting their hearts ready by being guided by the Holy Spirit and spreading the Good News across the globe.
The collect gets to the heart of the matter directly. It says that in order for us to follow God and to point the way to Him, we need our disobedient hearts to shift focus to that of being just, in order to be ready to follow Him. We are to be like John in preparing the world for Jesus’s second coming. We need to be shining the light towards Him and letting people know about Him, so that there will not be a stone unturned on this Earth that has not heard the Good News. This is a momentous task but with Christ and the Holy Ghost it can be possible. We need to focus our own disobedient hearts and let the Holy Spirit shift it to the wisdom of the just before we can even think about leading people towards God.
In the Epistle, Paul tells us not fear what others think of us, but rather be concerned about what God thinks of what we are doing and what direction in which He wants us to go. People can come and go in our lives but God is a constant. Let us be more concerned with what God thinks, which is constant and never changes than what man thinks which seemingly changes by the week. Rather than spend the mental energy on being concerned with what others think, let us use that same mental energy to do our best for God, our family and our country. We can get a lot more done for God this way; it will be better for our hearts, souls and minds if we think this way. Worry does not solve any problems; but it can create problems if we let it. So, let us not worry about man’s opinions, but of God instead. We will profit spiritually this way.
This is a very hard concept for many people to act on, including myself. There are so many things in this world that can cause tremendous concern and worry. However, we should note none of these things are greater than God. God will bear our worries and concerns, but only if we allow Him into our hearts, souls and minds to do so. And besides we don’t have to consider what man thinks of us, only what God thinks of us.
Rather than fear man, we must fear God, and do what He wants us to do. We must concern ourselves with God’s opinion rather than Man’s opinion. Then perhaps maybe, some in this world will see what we are doing for Him and come to know Him and join Him. We will never know how much and impact we have on others around us. That is why we must be mindful of how we act around others. This is why we must be good stewards and messengers of His Word and be careful of how we act around others. How we act around others can either turn people to or away from God. Let us make sure we act in a manner that turns people towards God.
We will never get anywhere if we follow the ways of this world. As in John 1:11-13 He came unto His own and His Own received him not. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.
If we are born of God, then it is Him to whom we must return and not man. As the verse from John points out, even Jesus came to us and we refused him; how can we expect any better treatment from man, than that given God Himself, who came down for us? We should not be surprised when our fellow men treat us like dirt. We know ourselves how depraved we can be without the guiding light of the Holy Spirit in us.
But the next part of the verse tells us what we will get if we join with him. He gave us the power to become the Sons of God, as we are His adopted children. He is giving us our eternal inheritance, if we will but follow Him. We are going to get an absolutely wonderful reward, if we do our very best to follow Him. There is a distinct difference between saying you are doing your best and actually doing your best.
The treatment we receive in this world will pale in comparison to the treatment God will give us in the next world if we but do our very best to follow Him. He has given us the power to become the Sons of God; we are God’s adopted children. This is a power greater than any in this world not of God’s Hands. This is a power that cannot be taken from us, as we are tightly in God’s Hand. The enemy cannot pluck us out of God’s grasp, once we have willingly joined ourselves to God through the help of the Holy Ghost. We need the unifying spirit of the Holy Ghost to help us understand the concepts of Scripture; not only to understand them, but to follow them. With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can understand what we are to do; more than that, we will be able to apply the concepts we learn from Scripture to our everyday lives.
In the Gospel, Christ asks the crowd of what they expected to see? Some great big flashy sign He was going to overthrow the Romans and unite the Jews to conquer the world? That was what they expected, but not what He came for! He says more than a prophet and that is true. Jesus is more than a prophet, He is the Son of God who came to die for our sins that we might not perish but have everlasting life. He did not come to rule the world, for it would be only a temporal state. He came for far more than that; to prepare our hearts for eternity and begin to change us from unjust to just creatures, worthy of God’s creation and His Hands. As John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Christ’s preaching, Christ came to prepare our way to join our Father in Heaven. Without this preparation, we would not have the wonderful gift of eternal life.
His sacrifice was the physical and spiritual action which paved the road for our ascent to heaven. He came to mold and to shape us from being roughly made to something very valuable. He came to transform us from death to being truly alive.
Life is a continual process of learning in every aspect of our lives, not least of these aspects is our spiritual growth and development. The Japanese have a word for this, introduced into their industry by the American engineer W. Edwards Deming, Kaizen (改善), that is to say continuous improvement. Never perfect, but always endeavoring to improve. Day by day. Our goal is to make the next day better than the last. This is how we must continually develop as Christians.
To care for the mysteries of God properly, we must continue to learn in our spiritual lives; if we do this, we will keep growing more and more every day. Reading Scripture is one way to further our spiritual development, as well as helping others without thought for ourselves. We have to undergo our spiritual rebirth before we can help to transform others and to serve others. To accomplish this, we need to have the mental state only the Holy Ghost can give us. We must keep trying our best to improve and learn from the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit and to trust in God and dread naught.
As Jesus came to change us for the better, Paul and the Collect remind us to do the same for others. We have to keep trying to do our best to help our friends and family to be better, all the while doing our best to be the best Christians and humans we can be. All the while shining the light of Christ into the darkness of this world as His ambassadors. We know not what seeds we plant when we perform such actions and in a future time they may bear fruit. We must not try and rush the work of the Holy Spirit, who works on God’s time and not that of our own time. All good things will happen in due course. If we do our part by planting the seed, the Holy Ghost will nurture and develop this seed to bear fruit. We must put our hearts and minds together and think about what God wants us to do in the end, rather than what we want to do. Put God first and all will be well, is what can be taken from today’s collects and lessons, ultimately. We must be willing do to this; then we can be properly caring for the mysteries of God.
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