Verse of the Day

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
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, “…grant thy people grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee, the only God …”

When you hear the word GRACE, what do you think of?  
·                    ·  Help;
·  Heavenly dispensation;
·  A gift freely granted;
·  The free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.
The word can be any of these, it comes from Middle English: via Old French from Latin gratia, from gratus ‘pleasing, thankful’ and is related to grateful.
In this case we are asking God’s help, for which He charges nothing, except our faith and loyalty to Him, to withstand the temptations of this world.  We ask for help to withstand what?  Actually, what we are looking for is help to not follow our own devices and desires.  We are asking for help to withstand temptations that not only come from external sources, but also from internal sources, namely our hearts and minds. This seems like an odd request, until one considers the fact that our own devices and desires are the root of all of our troubles. We are naturally inclined to the sinful things which separate us from Our Lord. We are simply requesting help in combating the evil desires of our heart that would separate us for all eternity if they were left unchecked. We are simply asking for help to make His Will our will.  To help us to do what will make us happy and not just what we think fun, but to be permanently happy, which boils down to following His Word. For we know that we ourselves will not do what His Will is of our own volition, but rather we must ask God to plant the seed of His Will on our hearts so that we will do it.
Paradoxically, we are asking for help to do not what we want, but what is best for us. There is a difference between what we want, and what is best for us, as there is a difference between the words want and need. What we want and what is best for us are not necessarily interchangeable. We often confuse wanting something with needing something, when that something we want is not something we truly need and or is good for us.  We are asking God’s Help to make us want to do what He wants us to do, so that not only will we have “fun”, but be happy!  We are also asking His help to see what is good and needed for us, to help us clarify the difference between things that are needed and those we want, and to see what is bad and not helpful. 
We are, in short, asking for His guidance to guide us to the path of being truly happy and not just having a fun time.  For, being happy is far more important and helps our spiritual lives more than the temporary state of fun. Fun only lasts a few moments, happiness lasts forever. There is a distinct difference between the two states of being. Fun is short lived while happiness can carry on through periods of time be it days, months or years.  On the surface, it does not really seem all that reasonable, but here we are imperfect creatures with free will!  The free will sometimes, or rather most of the time, seems more like a curse than a blessing, at least to me.  
Using it properly to follow God’s will is what free will was intended by God to lead us to. He intended for us to follow Him willingly without any coercion whatsoever. He wants each and every one of us to come to His throne willingly and with all of our heart souls and mind for Him. He will give us the help of the Holy Spirit, His guidance to withstand all the trials and temptations this world throws our way. We have to have confidence in Him and be able and willing to listen to that guidance to help us through these periods of temptation and difficulty in our lives. 
So, when Paul writes the people of Corinth, it is not just them, but us for whom he thanks God we have been the beneficiaries of His Grace, that through Jesus we might have salvation, that through Jesus our sins would in the end be forgiven.  We are not made perfect by Jesus.  That is a common misconception among non-Christians.  It would be convenient if we were made perfect.  This is an issue which sorely needs addressing in today’s church, to combat the misperceptions of the non-Christians. The common complaint most non-Christians have of Christians is that we have a holier than thou attitude. There may be some indeed who have this attitude, which is simply an illustration of imperfection. 
People who have the misconception that Christians are made perfect are shocked when Christians act less than perfectly, so they just presume the faith is false. There is nowhere in the Bible that states when we become Christians, we are magically made perfect. But this is not so. They fail to realize Christians are no more perfect than non-believers, as we are all human and all are sinful creatures. We just realize this fact more than non-believers do.  They fail to consider although we are not perfect, our faith is in the One who is perfect and we seek guidance from Him. We may fail from time to time, but as long as we keep returning to Him, it will be all right. They fail to realize we are just trying to be perfect the best we can, but we won’t be perfect, but that does not mean we can’t give up. They are blinded by not having the Holy Ghost’s guidance in their heart.
The world confuses our righteous judgment of the world’s behavior with a holier than thou attitude. But they do not see we realize we are not perfect, but we are striving for perfection.  And there would be no point behind Christianity if that we had been made perfect. If we were made perfect, then there would be no strife in the world today I believe; thus no reason to even have any of the parables Jesus gave.  This is simply not so!  While we are accounted as perfect before God in the final judgment, we are not perfect at all.  If anything, we are more conscious of our imperfection.  And we are working harder than before to try to overcome it. We will not succeed, of course; but if we don’t try, then we will never get there.
As a side point, none of us is perfect, none of us is better than others; however, some of us are clearly worse than others. We certainly know more than those who do not believe we are fallen far short of the goal He expects from us, being in our fallen state, and we know how far we have to go to as get close to perfection as we possibly can.  We need the help of the Almighty to travel on this path!
Which takes us to Paul’s next point; if we follow Christ in both out words and deeds, as the testimony of Christ is confirmed in them, through our actions, we will be “In every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge…” For by acting on Christ’s words, we not only gain eternal salvation, but are far more likely to prosper here on earth.  This prosperity is not the mega wealth sometimes associated with “prospering”, but rather the surplus of resources over our worldly desires and the true happiness that comes from loving and helping others.  It will make us far more happy than people like Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, etc, who have far more money than even they know what to do with, and money cannot provide true happiness. Only God and Jesus can step in and fill that role, if we let him into our hearts.
But, not everyone is content to take Jesus at His Word.  After the Sadducees lost their round with Jesus, the Pharisees, feeling they were superior to the Sadducees, came together to trip Him up. However, as we know ourselves, one cannot trick God, and if you try, you will come out looking the fool. An expert in The Law, of which Pharisees were very fond, asked Him a question, trying to trick Him, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus answered, “Thou 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.” Thus, He provided the Summary of the Law we hear every Holy Communion.  
The Pharisees made their earthly living by providing guidance on how to get around the 613 Mosaic Laws with as little inconvenience as possible.  They were astounded when Jesus boiled the intent of those laws down to two sentences.  They were much more comfortable getting around laws than complying with ones which might inconvenience them. They could be closely compared to lawyers today as a matter of fact, in the striking amount of dishonesty that is in their profession (no offense to the good lawyers!). 
Boiling down the intent of the laws into those two sentences, gave the Pharisees a hard and fast law that for once, they could not find a loophole in. There is no way to get around the basic intent in the Summary of the Law, Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. The Pharisees would much rather follow the complicated system of the 613 laws than the simple, basic Summary of the Law. This is why they were so against Jesus’ ministry and why they wanted him dead. They didn’t want the Summary of the Law and Jesus’ teachings destroying their comfortable earthly living. This new way was a threat to their existence, because they could not find loopholes in it, because there were none.  And plus Jesus was on to their dishonesty and was always pointing out the flaws in their thinking. He was a threat to them. They could or would not see that it was far better to follow the Summary of the Law than try to get around all 613 laws. 
Apparently tiring of the game with the Pharisees and wishing to confound them instead, Jesus asked them, saying, “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He?” They say unto him, “The son of David.”  For the scripture is clear that He should be of the House of David.  As God, Jesus has been from the beginning, so he queried them, “How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?”  Not grasping the concept that God was, is and always will be, they could not answer and “from that day forth” no one would “ask him any more questions.” They realized that they could not trick him with any more questions and that it only made them look bad when He answered them.
There have always been and always will be people who want to pick nits with the intent of avoiding doing what should be done, thus making it seems acceptable to do what they want to do.  You can see people every day who fill the shoes of the Pharisees, insisting on complying with arcane and useless rules and regulations while studiously avoiding doing what God so clearly asks, that is to be a Christian and do as Christ asks us to do.  People are always going to avoid doing what God wants us to do, that is in our nature. You can see this as the government attempts to replace the Rule of God with the rule of man. When a group of men believe that they have the right to control other humans with the rule of man and disregard the rule of God, you know that a society is in trouble. Ask Sodom, Gomorrah, Rome, Nazi Germany, and Imperial Japan how that worked out for them in the end. No country has ever fared well when it replaces God with the rule of Man. We are to be Christians, not “good”, to do what God asks, not Go with the Flow!  When you think about being a Christian, consider these quotes from GK Chesterton:
·  Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.

·  The word good has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man. 

·  The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people. 

·  Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions. 

·  A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.

 G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
We are called to a new and different life, we ask the Lord, in His Grace, to lead us and follow us, to keep us always.  Our goal is to do the Lord’s will, not to avoid 613 laws or to replace Him altogether.  To do what is right, no matter how hard that may be and be humble. This is the summary of what the Christian life should be all about.

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 8, 2017

Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

The entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
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, “… thy grace may always prevent and follow us, and make us continually to be given to all good works …”

The first thing to consider when you look at today’s Collect is a word: prevent.  Prevent is a word that has many uses, and at least one has fallen out of general usage as time has gone on.  This is one of them.  In this case the word prevent means to go before.  Before you object to archaic words, consider this is a current word, it just has a use you may not have been aware of and now you are!  What a bonus for this week!

So, we ask God that His Grace, His Love, His Power, His Help may go before and after us to protect us and guide us that we might desire to do what He wants us to do.  Pretty much a re-wording of a lot of the Collects.  Why would that be?  Pretty simple, our biggest failing is we are wont to do what we want!  This is a very common theme in the collects and lessons in the lectionary, for a very good reason. Our sinful nature causes us to want to do what we want. We need His Help to go before and after us to guide us through life, doing what we need to do, not necessarily what we want to do. There is a big difference between need and want, that sometimes we get mixed up. What we need to do is not usually as fun as what we want to do, but it is better for us in the end. More importantly, what we need to do is aligned with what God wants for us. So, we need His help if we are to do the things we need to do.  We are creatures with free will and are not wont to exercise it for God or good. That is a very dangerous combination, as my father says often.  That is not the same as doing what will provide us with the best result.

The difference is God truly knows what is best for us. We tend to sometimes think we know ourselves better and thus we know what is best for us. However that is incorrect thinking. God designed and built each and ever one of us. Do we truly think we know more than our Creator? That is the foolishness of our natural inclination talking. However if we stop to think, we realize, with the help of the Holy Ghost, God truly knows what is best for us and that it will be a lot better for us if we listen to hIm.  If we follow what He wants for us, we are guaranteed to have good results in the long run. It does not mean that we will not suffer in the short term, however it means  if we follow God's will for us, then we will come out ahead in the end, when we have eternal life. If we follow our natural inclination, we will not like the end result, that is eternal separation from God.  In the end will it be our will that is followed or God’s will? The people who desire eternity with God and follow that desire by doing their best to follow him will get that eternity with God, but the people that want to be separated from God for all eternity with their actions and desire not to follow His Commandments will be separated for all eternity. The latter choice is the result of following our natural inclination, the former is if we fight our natural inclination with the help of the Holy Ghost.

We are like disobedient children, and God is the ever patient Father. But, from time to time, we will make mischief and or trouble, some of us more than others. God has to gently warn us and allow us to experience the consequences of our inclination to sin, in order to learn not to do it. This is His form of discipline in a way. When bad things happen as a result of our doing, it is not His fault that's it happened, but our fault for not having done what we were supposed to be doing because it was “too difficult.”

The other part of the collect talks about asking God to make us be continually given to do good works. This means to put His Will into our heart and give us a desire to continually do good works for others, by given, the collect means to put a desire into our hearts to do God’s Will here on Earth and part of doing His Will on Earth is performing good actions or otherwise known as good works.  If we are followers of Christ, as a matter of course, we will perform such good works as those of which we are capable. However, we cannot perform these good works of our own accord; we need His guiding spirit, so we ask Him to shine and come into our hearts and help us have the mindset to do those good works for Him.

Through consequences of our sinful actions, we know that we shouldn’t do it again. We know, often very clearly, what we want. For example, while I was studying for my WGU degrees, I found if I didn’t read the textbooks and study, I did not do as well on the tests as if I did read the texts and study for the test passed.  Like the rubrics, God knows, always very clearly, what we need. But we do not often know what God wants for us, so we have to first pray to Him to find out what He wants, then the most critical step of the communications is that we have to listen to what He says.  He is there, like the rubrics to guide us along our paths in our daily life.  So, we need to ask God every day, every time, for help to do our duty. And every day, every time, He will answer our questions, we just need to open our hearts, souls, minds and ears to Him, and after hearing His Answer, then acting upon it.  We just need to remember to ask Him when we need help and not just try to do everything on our own. Because when we try to do that, we set ourselves up for failure and not success. However, if we ask Him and listen to Him truly, then act, we are setting ourselves up for success.

So, what does Paul tell us in his letter to us? Once again, he calls us to a new life, different from our old life.  We shed our old clothes, as it were, like reptiles shedding their old skin and put on the brand new armor of light, new helmet, new boots and new everything. We throw off the manner in which we acted before, brashly, and sinfully, and put on a new cloak, that of righteousness. A life in which we act in a manner worthy of the better life to which we have been called by Christ and for which He gave His life. We are to act in accordance with the new way in which life, to desist from sinning and to do good things for people and for Him. The part about ceasing and desisting from sin is one of the most difficult aspects of putting aside one’s old life. But it can be done. Paul, formerly Saul, did it and went on to become one of the greatest apostles who served the Lord. So if he can do it, so can we.

This is made possible by the Holy Ghost, who is our lifeline to God our Father. Paul, of all people, knows the importance of setting aside your old life, as Saul did; as Paul he asks us to put God first in our lives, to put ourselves last.  He even changed his name to reflect his state as a new man under Our Lord’s leadership. He reminds us, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”  The key to a successful life is to put the important things at the top of your To Do List. And, notice it is a To Do List, not a To Think About or To Wait a While List.  It is not a I’ll Get a Round To It List, or What I Don’t Want to Do List.  What is more important than God? It is all about prioritization, putting God ahead of your wants and desires. We have to make it so that serving God is our want and desire, then and only then are our desires aligned with His. We have to accept the Holy Ghost into our lives to do this, then when we truly have faith, it will show in our actions. Action and not diction is what truly counts in the end. It is a phase that shows up in the sermons a lot, but that is only because it is very true.

When Luke relates the parable of the feast, it is more than just a seating diagram. I liken it to the tale of the publican and the Pharisee. When Christ talks about the man who exalts himself and sits too high at the wedding and thus must be abased. That would be the Pharisee. When Christ then talks about the man who sits low, and is raised to the higher station, I think of the publican, who smote his breast and would not even look up his eyes to heaven. We have to be the publican in our dealings with God, rather than our natural tendency of being the Pharisee. We should not be one of those selfish individuals who always causes grief for others because he is blind to his own faults and only thinks of himself. Again as with the ceasing from sin, this is one of the hardest things we have to do. But it must be done, no matter how we feel about it. So let us turn to our Lord to help with it, because He alone can help us. He can only help us if we are truly willing with our hearts, souls and minds. We have to be willing to act and do actions, and not just say it.  No other expert can help us, no “theologian” or prosperity preacher can truly provide for our needs better than Our Lord. If we do what God asks, we will not become like those people. If we put God’s will before ours, the welfare of those we encounter before ours, if we hold open the door as gentlepersons are wont to do for others, we will find we are doing what God would have us do and enjoying it. And that is the best gift of all, the joy one gets from serving others is true happiness.

It is very possible to do the good deeds and have fun doing them. The time we spent in worship with the other ministers and their wives at the AOC Convention proves this. Doing good things for other people and being with other believers gives me some of the greatest happiness I have ever felt. This comes from the Holy Ghost, from being inspired by Him, around other believers. Wherever two or three or gathered, Christ is there also. It is a wonderful feeling wherever He is.

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, October 1, 2017

Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

If you enjoy this, the entire AOC Sunday Report is RIGHT HERE!
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, “…let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness …”

When the Collect talks about the church, just like last week, it is not talking about buildings; it is talking about us.   Each of us; all of us and together.  We need Gods help (pity) to keep the group of us together following His Will, for without His Help (Holy Ghost) we are doomed to utter failure.  We can see this in the church today. It says that we need his pity to cleanse our church of error and keep it on the straight and narrow. For without the cleansing effect of his pity and help of the Holy Ghost, error creeps in and corrupts the Church. We can see this today as many churches are leaving the Bible used for over 2,000 years and adopting newfangled translations which mangle His Word. These are not translations of the Bible, nor are they Bibles of the sort. They no longer conform to the Holy Scriptures that Christians have been using for the past two millennia, but are something influenced by man’s desires instead of God’s desires.  When they leave the theology Christ gave to us, they soon find they are on a broad easy path paved with smooth talking New Age pagan theology.  The problem is that Heaven is at the end of a hard and narrow uphill trail.  The easy downhill trail does not lead to the summit.  That seemingly easy way leads to the Pit. The way of the easy to read Bibles with their corrupt non-Received Text manuscripts is not the way to go. They lead downward instead of upward. People think they are the same as the older Received Text manuscript Bibles, but they are wrong. This proves the truth of this collect, that without His help, we are doomed. With His Help, we are set for success for evermore.  He offers, do we accept?

That leads us to Saint Pauls point:  If we will open our hearts to God, He will send the Holy Ghost to fill our hearts with Love, Courage, Inspiration, Tenacity and Confidence, to mention just a few helpful additions to our portfolio. In short, all of the things that will help our character development. Once the Holy Ghost enters into us, we will know the full dimensions of Christ, the height, width and depth of His love for us, and this fullness will fill us to our content, and we will want to spread that Good News and Love of Him to others.  This is what the truly the Good News is all about, His love for us. His love that He died that we might have eternal life, a happier life here and a happier life after our life here.  But the key is we have to first open our hearts to God. We cannot have any of these positive characteristics if we do not allow Him in. We have to be humble and realize we cannot get through life without these characteristics, which means we cannot have a good and successful life without His Help. 

He offers all of these things for our benefit, so that we will be successful for Him. We have to accept this offer by opening our hearts to Him.  One of my favorite cartoon strips Calvin and Hobbes, oft has great moral lessons.   Calvins dad so very often reminds Calvin that doing ones duty in the face of adversity builds character.  It also strengths the soul building trust in God.  If we will open our hearts to Him, our ears will hear the command “… Arise.”  When we rise, we rise with the confidence of immortals and can conquer any obstacle. We will have died in our old sinful ways and be resurrected like our Lord in a new spirit and a new birth of everlasting freedom. But, without an open heart, our ears will never hear the command directed to our soul, “… Arise.”  We will be dead to eternity. There are none so deaf as those who will not hear. 

Open your heart to our Lord and arise.  Arise; go forth with Love, Courage, Inspiration, Tenacity and Confidence to fight the battle our Lord leads us into.

All Jesus asks is that we follow Him.  That is all follow Him.  But, words mean something.  The word follow is very important. 

I have heard my dad say many times in the military fighter world the strongest acceptance and recognition of excellence that can be given is, "You lead; I'll follow."  For to do so is to put your life in the other's hands.  Literally, completely and without question.  It is a matter of putting the light on the star and hanging in there.   It is said by few to an even smaller number.  When you break out of the cloud after an hour of GE-28 Volt burning in your retina and see the runway or pop over the ridge after a half hour of dodging trees and triple A and the target is right there in the reticle, or gunsight, it is all okay.  Sometimes in between, it does not seem like it will turn out that way.  What makes you keep the light on the star is trust.  It is also like that in flight training, you have to trust that your flight instructor knows what he is doing to keep you from harming the airplane and that by following his guidance, you will keep both of you from significant harm physically. We have to trust God is like a perfect CFI and if we follow his instructions at the right time, we will keep ourselves from physical and spiritual harm. 

We need recognize who has the ability, the power, the perfection in leadership and have that trust to say, "You lead; I'll follow." I believe that is what Jesus expects from us in regard to our entire life. We may get out of position or even go lost wingman on the odd occasion, but he expects us to Our very best to follow His lead and stay in position.  Hard to do if your eye is not padlocked on Him.

I might add, as ministers of our Lord, we have a similar responsibility to those who would follow us here on earth.  And we have to work even harder, for created by a perfect God, we are imperfect creatures with free will.  A problematic combination.  We have to strive to do better than most as we are in a position where people will be watching our actions more carefully than other people. We must strive for a correct attitude, heading, stability and predictability in our path so that we can be followed towards that final destination that marks a successful mission. We must always be checking our navigational instruments of the Holy Scriptures and our navigator the Holy Ghost, to ensure that we are following on the right heading. We have to be willing to do actions for Him to show that we truly do have faith and not just say that we have faith. It is a lot easier to say than do, that is for sure.  It is easy to get wrapped up in little words and over analyze each word of Scripture rather than just taking the whole with the faith of a Child and taking the big picture in, rather than a shred of tapestry close in.

When Saint Luke relates the story of the Widow of Nain, it is more than just a simple miracle.  

In those days, a widow with only one son had little, a widow with no son was in deep trouble.  Jesus took compassion on her and also took the opportunity to make His power evident.  He came to the bier, and touched it saying, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.”  The young man arose and began to speak; whereupon Jesus brought him to his mother.  Not surprisingly, news of this event was spread “forth throughout all Judæa, and throughout all the region round about.”  Like the young man, we are dead to eternity until we hear the command “… Arise.”  If we hear and act on that command, we have eternal life, just like the young man, it starts right then! Eternal life doesn't start when you take your last breath, it starts when you take your first breath! Think through your life like it will be eternity and plan your actions accordingly.

Also, please take note Jesus ACTED.  He did not just tell the widow He was sorry, so very sorry; He actually did what He could to help her.  He can do more than we can, but we can do more than we do and we can certainly do more than just talk.  Words are very nice, but do not mean a whole lot unless they are backed by words.

If we truly have faith, then we will have good actions that will follow with that faith. If we only speak with our lips and do not have good actions, then we do not have any faith. However, if we do truly have faith, then we will speak the right things and do the right things.

Action, not diction, is what counts in the end.

Heaven is at the end of a hard and narrow 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, September 24, 2017

Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

If you enjoy this, you can find the entire AOC Sunday Report RIGHT HERE!
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 of the Collect, “… Keep … thy Church with thy perpetual mercy; and … keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation …”

When the Collect talks about the church, it is not talking about buildings; it is talking about us. The church is not a building, it is the army of believers following God. That is the church.  Each of us; all of us.  We need God’s Mercy and Grace to keep us from desiring those things that are bad for us and help us to see we really want those things that are good for us.

Speaking of things, just like the Jewish based Christians of Paul’s time, it often seems like everyone has secret rituals, handshakes or hoops they want you to jump through to be really IN.  Paul reminds us that all fall short, and special fancy diets, days or outfits do not change us.  We are all the same sinful human beings regardless of what special fancy days, diets our outfits we partake in. That does not change who we are. God does not require any sort of fancy diet, days or outfits to be IN with Him. In fact, they are rather counter productive to being IN with Him. They are just a distraction from following Him. All He asks is that we believe on Him and His Son Jesus and do our best to follow Him.  None of these fancy rituals churches have are keys to salvation. It is only by the Grace of God through our Lord Jesus we find real salvation.  Our salvation is not based on the ritual, the handshake or even the slice of the circumcision scalpel. Though those churches would have you believe otherwise, they are not effective in the salvation process in the slightest. They are not needed. For the action that led to our salvation was Jesus’s death and resurrection and has already happened one time for all time for all mankind. Salvation is based on His death and resurrection that we might have eternal life, not some rituals. He is the key to our salvation. He does not require for us to have any fancy garb or rituals, only to remember His death and passion that we might be partakers of His Heavenly Kingdom. He does not ask for much, only this simple thing; that we believe on Him, which is the key to getting into heaven. His Faith saves us, and we have to have faith in Him that He did those things, and act upon that faith.

Our salvation comes one way, by the Grace of God through our Lord Jesus.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Nobody comes to the Father but by Him. He is our salvation. He is the living embodiment of the Word of God. His faith has saved us and made us whole, not our faith. But we need to act for Him to show that we have faith in Him. It is not to us to decide the salvation, but by God through His Son, who died for our sins. This is what the whole Gospel is based upon. This is the solid foundation, as Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our faith. We are not Cranmerians, nor are we Calvinists or Lutherans, but we are Christians first, who like the ideas of Cranmer, et al. We should never be identified as followers of man but of Christ and God. When one becomes a follower of man, he ends up following the Devil in a fashion; for if we serve ourselves, or follow ourselves, we tend up to end up in death.  But if we follow Him, we have the gift of life as St. Paul explains For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23 KJV)

The problem with the folks that identify themselves as something other than Christian, is they start to believe more in the ideas of the person they are following, than the ideas of Jesus Christ and God, whom they are supposed to be following. They get lost in the theological rabbit hole and wander so far back, they’ve gone past where they were supposed to be, and got lost off the narrow uphill trail towards heaven, and end up on the wide downhill trail towards hell instead. They lose sight of the simple principles of Scripture and become more like the Pharisees in finding loopholes to get around.  It is so easy to get lost in the ideas of the various theologians, even in that of John Calvin and Zwingli, that you forget that they were doing their best to be known as followers of Christ. They would frown upon those who identify themselves as Calvinists or Zwinglians, and not as Christians.

It does not matter whose theology you like the best, but what does matter is that you follow Scripture and God and Jesus Christ. In the end that is what will matter, not whose ideas you liked the best. Neither Calvin’s ideas nor Luther’s ideas can save, only Christ and God’s actions and words can save us and heal our souls. We must be dependent on God and not man for our earthly guidance.

We alone cannot enter into heaven without His help. We are imperfect creatures with free will, with a tendency to choose the wrong thing at the wrong time. We really need His help to get into heaven, and His help here on earth as well. We also need the help of the third God guy, the Holy Ghost. But, in order to have their help, we have to be dedicated to serving God, and not Man. If we focus on serving Man and not God, we do not have the Holy Ghost within us.

For the Holy Ghost would never have us listen to the ideas of man and not God. So, we must take care and review what the leaders of the church say, for there are many who are not listening to God, but only care to please Men to get them to come into their churches. These men are the false prophets Christ has spoken of who disguise themselves as sheep to infiltrate the Church. As the times march on, there will be more of these false Prophets. In the end, people will have to choose who they want to serve, God or Man.

That brings us to Saint Matthew’s point, one cannot serve two masters.  Like that bad pun, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”  You cannot travel both paths.  We must choose who we will serve: God or the world.  If we chose God, that does not mean we turn our back on the world around us, but rather we interface with the world using the Rules of Engagement given to us by our Lord.  We prioritize our actions with Him first.  Our family motto; God • Honor • Country • Family is an example of this prioritization.  First things first.  Build from the inside out and the bottom up.  Do not mistake this motto for perfection, we have erred and strayed from our ways like every lost sheep, probably farther than most.  But we know which way is The Way and keep correcting back on course. 

Prioritization can be as a simple as coming home early on Saturday night so that you get a good night’s sleep and are ready for the Sunday church service.  It can be as complex as leaving a job that interferes with your honoring God, Country or Family.  First things first. God can help you make that decision; but you have to make it, He can’t make it for you.  He will not force use to make that decision, you of your own free will, will have to make that conscious decision and effort. The Holy Ghost will give you guidance on that front, but you will have to listen and it will be your responsibility to listen and then act upon that guidance.

Throughout the Bible we are exhorted to respect God, be honorable, work hard and take care of our families.  If we do these things, following God’s Will, our fiscal standing here on earth will be sound.  Follow these precepts, you will never be lacking, but you will never be inordinately wealthy, “Bill Gates rich” so to speak.  For to do that requires reprioritization to wealth in the first place.  Replacing allegiance to God with allegiance to wealth is a one way ticket to a destination you don’t want. Allegiance to God is a more precious and valuable thing to have, for with it comes a priceless gift, eternal life. Eternal life is a gift that mankind has been seeking for the ages, but has not found.  But Jesus Christ offers that gift to us, as long as we follow Him to the best of our ability.

The last part of this reading is the one we often have the most trouble with.   We are far too ready to borrow trouble from tomorrow.  Every day, I pray at least twice for help with this.  It is getting better; I am confident on one thoughtful level no good comes of worry, yet I have such a hard time acting on that thought. It is a very difficult thing not to worry, but it is something that needs to be done nonetheless. I find as I trust God more and act upon His will more, I worry less. There is a correlation there I believe. It is a very hard thing to do, but it must be done, to ensure our success in spreading the Gospel and being an effective minister of God. Plus, worrying less will provide other benefits as well, and help us to lead happier lives. When we do what God asks, doing our best and not just saying it, there is not a lot to worry about. Even if there is, we can relax, knowing God has everything under control and He will always give us guidance on how to proceed.

God wants you to be happy; He knows what will make you happy.  God does not mind if you have fun along the way, but never pursue fun confusing it with happiness.  In the end, you won’t find either.

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