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.
Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr
RANT, O Lord, that, in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by the example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those who suffer for thee. our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.
The Christmas Collect is found on Page 96:
The Nativity of our Lord, or the Birthday of Christ,
commonly called Christmas Day.
LMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
¶ This Collect is to be said daily throughout the Octave.
As is oft the case, today’s propers all tie together to reinforce a point and build our understanding of what God wants and expects from each of us.
Consider these words from the Collect where we ask God to …in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors…
As is almost always the case, we are asking God to help us; in this case to see things from God’s point of view, to be filled with His Spirit and understanding with the help of the Holy Ghost that we might not curse, but understand and help those who cause us problems and pain, who seek to destroy us. We ask that we might help them towards God rather than curse them. This is one of the hardest collects to pray with our hearts; probably because of all of them, it most goes against our nature. It may seem impossible for us, but with the Holy Ghosts help it can be accomplished!
Stephen, the first martyr of the church, was stoned by locals for doing God’s work, for harming no one, for forcing nothing on anyone. Yet, he will brutally killed by those he sought to help. His dying words were a blessing and not a curse. What an example! An example close to impossible for most of us to follow. Yet an example for our souls to attempt to emulate.
When Matthew relates Jesus’ warning to us, he is telling us the same thing Stephen found out; there are people in this world who do not want to hear the Word of God and will kill, murder and maim to avoid hearing it. They are not content to just say, No thank you, and move on. We must expect at least meeting one or two of those lives and those encounters may terminate our short visit here on Earth. Yet, despite that grim possibility, we must continue to do our duty, to spread the Good News and move through this life unto the next, doing our duty as we see it. We must not let fear of such a possibility take over our lives and make it so we don’t perform any action of Him.
We must not fall into the trap many people have and let themselves be taken advantage of by the government and the state due to the induced crisis the governments worldwide have seemingly collaborated on to gain even more power. And as Paul relates we are struggling against spiritual wickedness in high places. Yet, we must still follow Saint Stephen’s example and persevere even if the cost is our own lives. For Jesus did the same for us, persevering to save us from eternal death at the cost of His own life.
He never let fear control him on His Journey to the cross, His Death and Resurrection. So too must we not let fear or worries control us. We know that our eternal place is with Him. Our physical bodies may be destroyed but our spiritual selves will never be destroyed as long as we are on God’s team.
Saint Stephen showed following Christ truly is not without risk. But it is risk we must bear and the Holy Ghost will help us to bear that risk, if we will let Him into our hearts and guide us in our actions.
All in all, the remembrance of Saint Stephen is a painful day, with little feel good to it, yet it is reality.
What matters is what you do when push comes to shove. Action, not Diction is what counts.
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
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