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The center of the Traditional Anglican Communion; adhering to the Holy Bible (KJV) in all matters of Faith and Doctrine, a strict reliance on the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, The two Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, the Two Creeds, and the Homilies and formularies of the Reformation Church of England.

Verse of the Day

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Guest Sermon - William Arnot

An old friend of mine who deceased in 1875 wrote the following sermon. He was a favorite of my father's and now is one of my favorites. He has a gift to explain God's Word in terms that the simple (such as I am) can understand.

Anchor of the Soul

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.
Hebrews vi. 19.

In the margin of the ocean that surrounds and laves our island home, an object of absorbing interest may often be observed, —a ship riding at anchor near a lee shore in an angry sea. She has drifted, ere she was aware, too near a rock-bound coast: the wind is blowing direct on shore: there is not room to tack: whether she should point her prow north or south, she will strike a projecting headland ere she can escape from the bay. One resource remains, —to anchor where she is till the wind change.

There she lies. Stand on this height and look down upon her through the drifting spray. I scarcely know in nature a more interesting or more suggestive sight. The ship is dancing on the waves: she appears to be in their power and at their mercy. Wind and water combine to make her their sport. Destruction seems near; for if the vessel's hull is dashed by these waves upon the rocks of the coast, it will be broken into a thousand pieces. But you have stood and looked on the scene a while, and the ship still holds her own. Although at first sight she seemed the helpless plaything of the elements, they have not overcome—they have not gained upon her yet. She is no nearer destruction than when you first began to gaze in anticipation of her fate. The ship seems to have no power to resist the onset of wind and wave. She yields to every blast and every billow. This moment she is tossed aloft on the crest of a wave, and the next she sinks heavily into the hollow. Now her prow goes down beneath an advancing breaker, and she is lost to view in the spray; but anon she emerges, like a sea-fowl shaking the water from her wings and rejoicing in the tumult. As she quivered and nodded giddily at each assault, you thought, when first you arrived in sight, that every moment would prove her last but now that you have watched the conflict long, it begins to assume in your mind another aspect, and promise another end. These motions of the ship now, instead of appearing the sickly movements of the dying, seem to indicate the calm, confident perseverance of conscious strength and expected victory. Let winds and waves do their worst, that ship will meet them fearless, will hold her head to the blast, and maintain her place in defiance of their power. What is the secret of that ship's safety.? No other ship is in sight to which she may cling: no pillar stands within reach to which she may be moored. The bond of her security is a line that is unseen. The ship is at anchor. The One on which she hangs does not depend on the waters, or anything that floats there; it goes through the waters, and fastens on a sure ground beyond 'them. Thus, though the ship cannot escape from the wild waters, she is safe on their surface. She cannot, indeed, take the wings of a dove and fly away so as to be at rest; but the sea cannot cover her, and the wind cannot drive her on the beach. She must, indeed, bear a while the tempest's buffetings; but she is not for a moment abandoned to the tempest's will. The motto of that ship is the motto once held aloft in triumph by a tempted but heroic soul: "We are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" (2 Cor. iv. 8, 9).

An immortal creature on this changeful life is like a ship upon the ocean. On the strength of that obvious analogy the apostle intimates, by a bold yet perspicuous figure, that we have " an anchor of the soul." The soul, considered as a passenger on the treacherous sea of Time, needs an anchor; and an anchor "sure and steadfast" is provided for the needy soul.

In many respects the world, and life on it, are like the sea. Itself restless, it cannot permit to rest any of the pilgrims that tread its heaving, shifting surface. At some times, and in some places, great tempests rise; but even in its ordinary condition it is always and everywhere uncertain, deceptive, dangerous. Currents of air and currents of ocean intermingle with and cross each other in endless and unknown complications, bringing even the most skilful mariner to his wit's end—making him afraid either to stand still or to advance. On this heaving sea we must all lie. Even our Father in heaven does not lift up his own, and Christ the Son does not ask him so to do: “ I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world; but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil." The best that can be done for them, in this world, is to preserve them from sinking or striking on the shore. The soul is tossed by many temptations; but the anchor of the soul is sure and steadfast within the veil. Without are fightings, within are fears, —all these are against us; but one thing will over-balance and overcome them—" Our life is hid with Christ in God."

Hope sometimes signifies the act of a human spirit laying hold of an unseen object, and sometimes the object unseen whereon the human spirit in its need lays hold. These two significations may be combined together: they are so combined here. " The Hope set before us," is Christ entered for us now within the veil; and the hope that " we have," is the exercise of a believing soul when it trusts in the risen Redeemer. These two cannot be separated. The one is the grasp which a believing soul takes of Christ, and the other Is the Christ whom a believing soul is grasping. These two run so close together that you cannot perceive where the joining Is. " I am the vine, ye are the branches." Even so. Lord; and what human eye can tell the very line which marks where the branch ends and the vine begins? Christians are members of Christ, —of his flesh and of his bones. " As he is, so are we in this world." " Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me. -*" "Which Hope we have." If you ask me, Whether does he mean, by hope, the Christ on whom his soul is leaning, or his own act of leaning on Christ } I answer, Both. You cannot have one of these without having both. The branch has the vine; but it has also its own living growth into the vine. And if it had not that living growth into the vine, it would not have the vine. So the soul has Christ, and also its own living faith in Christ, wanting which it would have no Christ.

Mark well here what it is that renders a disciple safe and firm as he floats on the rushing tide of Time. It is not terror of the Lord in his conscience. Such terror may awaken a slumberer, and make him flee to that which will keep him; but the terror itself cannot keep him. Fear repels; it is hope that holds; —blessed hope!

The anchor must not be cast on anything that floats on the water, however large and solid it may seem. The largest thing that floats is an iceberg. But although an iceberg does not shake like a ship, but seems to receive the waves and permit them to break on its sides as they break on the shore, it would be ruin to anchor the ship to it. The larger and the less would drift the same way, and perish together. Ah! this stately Church—this high-seeming and high-sounding ecclesiastical organization, woe to the human spirit that is tempted in the tossing to make fast to that great imposing mass! It is not sure and steadfast. It is floating: it moves with the current of the world: it moves to an awful shore! Not there, not there! Your hope, when you stretch it out and up for eternal life, must enter " into that within the veil, whither the Forerunner is for us entered."

Nor will it avail a drifting ship to fix its anchor on itself It would be very childish to try this method; but I have seen full-grown people betake themselves with great energy to this foolish shift. When a boat on a stream broke adrift with a few unskilful people on board, I have seen them in their alarm grasp the gunwale and bend themselves and draw with all their might in the direction of the shore! In spite of their drawing, the boat glided with them down the stream. In the concerns of the soul such childishness is even more common. Faith in one's own faith or charity is a common exercise among men. Beware! Hope must go out for a hold; even as the ship's anchor must be flung away from the ship. The eye is made for looking with, not for looking at. Away from all in ourselves, and out through all that floats like ourselves on this shifting sea, we must throw the anchor of the soul through the shifting waters into Him who holds them in the hollow of his hand.

Mark, further, that hope in Christ is specifically the anchor of the soul. Here, like draws to like: spirit to spirit. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him worship him in spirit. There is no anchor that will make our temporal possessions fast. Wealth, and friends, and even life, may drift away any day on the flood; and no power on earth can arrest the movement. These bodily things may or may not abide with a Christian; but his anchor does not hold them. It is only an anchor of the soul, not an anchor of the body. We must not expect from the Lord what he never promised.

There are contrivances not a few in our day for fixing material property, so that it shall not drift away in the currents of time. The system of assurances both on life and property has reached an enormous magnitude. Amidst its great and manifold branches, the wicked have of late years, like wild beasts in a forest, found cover for various crimes. Things are now made fast which our forefathers thought essentially uncertain, like the currents of the ocean. Treasures are insured while they cross the sea in ships, so that, though the vessel go to the bottom, the importer gets his own. The food and clothing of a wife and children, which formerly were left to float on the uncertain waters of the husband and father's life, are made fast by insurance to an anchor which holds them, although that life should glide away. Taking up the obvious analogy employed in this scripture, one of the insurance societies has adopted the anchor as its name.

But the action of these anchors is limited to things seen and temporal. They cannot be constructed so as to catch and keep any spiritual thing. They may hold fast a wife's fortune, when the life of the bread-winner falls in; but they cannot maintain joy- in her heart, or kindle light in her eye. Far less can they insure against the shipwreck of the soul. With these things they do not intermeddle. All the world may be gained for a man, and kept for him too, and yet he is a loser, if he lose his own soul. Only one anchor can grasp and hold the better part of man—and that is the hope which enters into the heavens, and fastens there in Jesus.

The anchor—in as far as it indicates the object which hope grasps—the anchor is " sure and steadfast." The expressions are exact and full. The words are tried words. They are given in order that we might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to the hope set before us.

There are two cases in which one's hope may be disappointed: the support you lean on may be unwilling or unable to sustain you. In the one case it is deception; in the other, weakness. A Christian's hope is not exposed to either flaw: it is both "sure and steadfast;" that is, the Redeemer, who holds them, is willing and able. He will not falsely let you go, nor feebly faint beneath your weight. He is true and strong—for these are the words. He both will and can keep that which we commit to him against that day.

With the same meaning, but by means of another analogy, Christ is represented elsewhere in Scripture as a foundation; and it is intimated that the foundation is a tried one. It has been put to the strain, and has stood the test.

In modern practice great importance attaches to the trying of an anchor. Many ships have been lost through accident or fraud in the manufacture. The instrument had a good appearance, but there was a flaw in its heart; and when the strain came, it snapped, and all was lost. For the security of the subject, the Government have erected an apparatus for testing anchors; and the royal seal is stamped on those that have been approved. When the merchantman purchases an anchor so certified, he has confidence that it will not fail him in his need. It is interesting, and even solemn work, to test anchors, and stamp them as approved. Beware! set not the seal on one that is doubtful, for many precious lives will yet be entrusted to its keeping.

He who is now the anchor of the soul within the veil, was " made perfect through suffering." The safety of which this text speaks, is safety such as an anchor affords. This is different from the safety of a ship on a stormless sea, and different from the safety of a ship that is moored fore and aft within the walls of a harbour. Both these positions are safe; but they differ both from each other and from safety by an anchor. Man unfallen enjoyed the first kind of safety, and the ransomed in rest enjoy the second; but the place of a believer in the body is neither like that of a ship on a calm sea, nor like that of a ship within the harbour, —it is like a ship exposed to raging winds above, and deceitful currents below. Such a soul may be abundantly safe; but its safety is of the kind that a ship enjoys while it is exposed to the storms, and before it reaches the haven – the safety that an exposed ship enjoys through an anchor that is sure and steadfast. Take now a series of practical lessons.

1. The ship that is kept by an anchor, although safe, is not at ease. It does not, on the one hand, dread destruction; but neither, on the other hand, does it enjoy rest. " Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you." Those who have entered the harbor do not need an anchor; and those who are drifting with the stream do not cast one out. The hope which holds is neither for the world without nor the glorified within, but for Christ's people as they pass through life rejoicing with trembling; faint, yet pursuing. " In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world."

2. But further: the ship that is held by an anchor is not only tossed in the tempest like other ships, - it is tossed more than other ships. The ship that rides at anchor experiences rackings and heavings that ships which drift with the tide do not know. So, souls who have no hold of Christ seem to lie softer on the surface of a heaving world than souls that are anchored on his power and love. The drifting ship, before she strikes, is more smooth and more comfortable than the anchored one; but when she strikes, the smoothness is all over. The pleasures of sin are sweet to those who taste them; but the sweetness is only for a season. “The wicked shall be driven away in his iniquity; but the righteous hath hope in his death."

3. When the anchor has been cast into a good ground, the heavier the strain that comes on it, the deeper and firmer grows its hold. As winds and currents increase in violence, the anchor bites more deeply into the solid, and so increases its preserving power. It is thus with a trusting soul: temptations, instead of driving him away from his Saviour, only fix his affections firmer on the Rock of Ages. " When I am weak, then am I strong;" when I am most exposed, then am I safest, in the hollow of my Redeemer's hand. If you have hold, it is in a time of temptation that you will increase the intensity of your grasp. Accordingly you find, as a general rule, that those Christians who have passed through a great fight of afflictions are stronger in the faith than others who have always sailed on a smooth sea.

4. The ship that is anchored is sensitive to every change of wind or tide, and ever turns sharply round to meet and resist the stream, from what direction soever it may flow. A ship is safest with her head to the sea and the tempest. In great storms the safety of all often depends on the skill with which the sailors can keep her head to the rolling breakers. Life and death have sometimes hung, for a day and a night in the balance, whether the weary steersman could keep her head to the storm until the storm should cease. Even a single wave allowed to strike her on the broadside might send all to the bottom. But to keep the ship in the attitude of safety, there is no effort and no art equal to the anchor. As soon as the anchor feels the ground, the vessel that had been drifting broadside, is brought up, and turns to the waves a sharp prow that cleaves them in two and sends them harmless along the sides.

Watch from a height any group of ships that may be lying in an open roadstead. At night when you retire they all point westward; in the morning, they are all looking to the east. Each ship has infallibly felt the first veering of the wind or water, and instantly veered in the requisite direction, so that neither wind nor wave has ever been able to strike her on the broadside. Thereby hangs the safety of the ship. Ships not at anchor do not turn and face the foe. The ship that is left loose will be caught by a gust on her side, and easily thrown over.

As with ships, so with souls: those that are anchored feel sensitively the direction and strength of the temptation, and instantly turn to meet and to overcome it; whereas those that are not anchored are suddenly overcome, and their iniquities, like the wind, carry them away. " We are saved by hope; " —saved not only from being outcast in the end, but from yielding to temptation now.

It is a vain imagination that rises in ignorant minds against the gospel of Christ, that when a sinner gets a glad hope in Christ's mercy, he will not be careful to obey Christ's law. It is an old objection, and perhaps it is human and natural; but it is not real—it is not true. As certainly as the anchored ship feels every gust and every current, and turns sharply round to face and fight it; so certainly a soul that has hope in Christ has a quick and sure instinct to detect influences and companionships and customs that dishonour the Lord and ensnare his people. And as the hopeful soul surely detects the danger, it also, in virtue of its hold and hope, turns round to meet, to resist, and to make the devil flee.

I suppose no youth, since Pharaoh reigned in Egypt, has been exposed to a greater strain of temptation than that which Joseph overcame in Potiphar's house. But it was hope that saved him, as the anchor saves the ship. If he had not been at peace with God, he would have been like a ship caught on the broadside by a hurricane. It was the anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast within the veil before the blast began, that enabled him to overcome it: " How can I do this great evil, and sin against God?''

5. When the ship is anchored, and the sea is running high, there is great commotion at her bows. The waves in rapid succession come on and strike. When they strike they are broken, and leap, white and angry, high up on the vessel's sides. This tumult is by no means agreeable in itself; but the mariner on board would not like to want it, for it is the sign of safety. If, while wind and waves continue to rage, he should observe that this commotion had suddenly ceased, he would not rejoice. He would look eagerly over the bulwarks, and seeing the water blue on her bows, instead of the hissing, roaring spray, he would utter a scream of terror. The smoothness at her bows indicates to him that her anchor is dragging. The ship is drifting with wind and water to the shore.

Such, too, is the experience of a soul. Brother, you hope in Christ. Do not be surprised that the currents of fashion rub sometimes rudely against you. It is explained by a text in the Bible: " The friendship of the world is enmity with God." If you are fixed, a great flood is rushing by, and it must needs cause a commotion round you. An impetuous tide of worldliness will dash disagreeably against you from time to time. Do not be too anxious to make all smooth. Peace may be bought too dear. When the mighty stream of vanity on which you float produces no ruffling at the point of contact, —when it is not disagreeable to you, and you not disagreeable to it, —suspect that your anchor is dragging, that it has lost its hold, and that you are drifting into danger.

Cast in the anchor while the sea is calm: you will need it to lean on when the last strain comes on!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Devotion on Hymns of the Church (He Hideth My Soul) - 29 April 2014, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)

And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by. (Ex 33:21-22)

Today’s hymn (He Hideth my Soul) is another by that great visionary of things heavenly, though she was blind to the things of this world – Fanny Crosby. Fanny was blind from infancy, but managed to write more than 9,000 (this is correct, 9,000) hymns – enough to fill 18 hymnals. She is, without doubt, the most prolific hymn writer in history; and her hymns are among the most beloved in our hymnals. Unfortunately, the 1940 Hymnal was remiss in failing to include this hymn as one of the great hymns of our church. Her life spanned almost 95 years from 1820 to 1915. Her hymn-writing career actually began near middle age and never slowed from that time. It would be difficult to imagine what the loss of such hymns as “Blessed Assurance,” "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour," "Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross," and "Safe In The Arms Of Jesus," would mean to the church.  The loss of sight tuned Fanny's soul to the melodies of and a clear vision of heaven.

The Lord is often referred to as our Rock and our Fortress. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Hiding Place and our Rock. As Mr. Toplady has so powerfully written, Jesus is our “Rock of Ages.”

Fanny Crosby

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,

A wonderful Savior to me;

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,

Where rivers of pleasure I see.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,

That shadows a dry, thirsty land;

He hideth my life in the depths of His love,

And covers me there with His hand,

And covers me there with His hand.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,

He taketh my burden away,

He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved,

He giveth me strength as my day.

With numberless blessings each moment He crowns,

And filled with His fullness divine,

I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God!

For such a Redeemer as mine.

When clothed with His brightness transported I rise

To meet Him in clouds of the sky,

His perfect salvation, His wonderful love,

I’ll shout with the millions on high.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord, A wonderful Savior to me; He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.” Our souls can become part of that River of Life that flows through the meadows and pastures of Eternity. The water that flows through the bedrock of the River is our Lord Jesus Christ for He is the Water of Life. He is wonderful beyond measure – Wonderful is His very name: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful . . .” (Isaiah 9:6a) That Cleft of the Rock is not visible to all passers-by – it is a Hidden Place for those who know and love His Wonderful Name. “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.” (Psalms 32:7) The Lord not only hides us in safety, but He is our “Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.” (O worship the King). A true hymn is to teach Biblical truth. See how compellingly are the truths of the Bible presented in this hymn! “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.” (Psalms 18:2-3)

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord, He taketh my burden away, He holdeth me up and I shall not be moved, He giveth me strength as my day.” The Lord Jesus Christ is our Burden-Bearer. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.(Matt 11:28-29) It is such a sad thing to see men and women struggling under their own windless sails to cross the sea of life. They are met by one contrary storm after another and fail to call upon the One Wind that can bring them to safe harbor – the Master of the Seas. With our Lord Jesus Christ as the Anchor (Hebrews 6:19) for our souls, we shall not be moved. We will sink our roots of faith deep into that Underground River of Sychar, which fed Jacob’s Well, for refreshment, and we shall not be moved. “. . . like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season.” (Psalms 1:3)

With numberless blessings each moment He crowns, And filled with His fullness divine, I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God! For such a Redeemer as mine.” The world can never comprehend how a Christian can be joyful and thankful under every stress of life while the world bears her stones of burden with such consternation. The Rapturous Swells of Joy that flow from hearts filled to the overflowing with the Love of Christ cannot be understood by those who have no faith. The Christian heart is filled with His fullness Divine! They will consider is to be a very ‘peculiar people.” (1 Peter 2:9 & Titus 2:14). How proudly does a young child boast of the strength of his big brother in defending him! But what a Brother we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. So much more than a brother is He. “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.(Job 19:25) Of course, the last and most important point about our Redeemer is that this Redeemer is OURS. If we do not own Christ as our redeemer, all else is lost.

When clothed with His brightness transported I rise To meet Him in clouds of the sky, His perfect salvation, His wonderful love, I’ll shout with the millions on high.” You will recall that at the last glimpse of Jesus during His earthly ministry, He was received into a CLOUD! “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.  And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;  Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11) Those who belong to Him shall likewise be received up into that same Cloud with our Lord. Remember how Jesus counseled those lepers whom He healed to tell no man; and how He advised the blind boy whose vision He restored to tell no man; and how often He told them whom He had healed to tell no man? He knew they could not; however, there was a lesson for us in those commands: when the Lord has done a great work and a wonder in our lives, how can we keep silence! How can you know the perfect answer for the problems that plague those you love, those who are your friends and neighbors, without crying out that answer that was satisfied for you in the Lord Jesus Christ? His salvation is Perfect. His love is Wonderful for He is Love.

“(Refrain) He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock, That shadows a dry, thirsty land; He hideth my life in the depths of His love, And covers me there with His hand, And covers me there with His hand.” Love is perfect in and of itself. It cannot fail – only the lack thereof can fail. Since our Lord Jesus Christ is the very rock in which we find shelter, it is He who hides us there in the covert of His Heart. That dry, thirsty land is that land of sin and bondage from which we, as the Children of Israel, were led by that Rock. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.(1 Cor 10:1-4) Our very lives are sustained by His immeasurable Love. He covers every sin of our souls with His Hand – a Hand that is scarred and bruised by nine inch Roman nails; a Hand that has the names of every Redeemed of the Lord – not written thereon with brush or pen – but GRAVED (cut) into the soft sinews thereof.  “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.(Isaiah 49:15-16)

Do we hunger after the Lord as His love has hungered after us? Do we seek Him early, and seek after Him in the Sanctuary of our Hearts – and is that Sanctuary His own? “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.” (Psalms 63:1-2) Friend, did you seek the Lord early (at the first glimpse of daybreak or before)? Does your soul truly hunger after the Lord – enough to eat of the Bread of His Word daily? Do you long, as did the Maiden of Shulem in the Gardens of Solomon, for His Presence with you always? “My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.(Song 2:16-17)  Christ, to the Christian, is his All-in-All. Is He YOURS?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

First Sunday after Easter

This is the very first issue of the AOC Sunday Report.  At the request of Bishop Jerry Ogles, the Faithful Centurion’s Sunday Report has morphed into the AOC Worldwide Sunday Report.  Bishop Jerry asks each of the parishes to contribute to the report, some as they have in the past others for the first time.  If you have any suggestions for change, please send them to Bishop Jerry or me, rev_hap@faithfulcenturion.org.

First Sunday after Easter

Today was the First Sunday after Easter, the central event of the Christian year, the celebration of our Lord, “Christ the Lord is Risen!”

On Point
Someone asked, where do the quotes come from?  The answer is from the people who uttered them.  But, how did you find them?  Oh, that.  Some from Bishop Jerry, many from Rev Bryan Dabney, a few from other places, some from Rev Geordie Menzies-Grierson, but overall mostly from Bryan.  He always has some great ones to share.  On to the On Point quotes –

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.
Proverbs 10:12

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
St. John 15:14

I exhort you to watch against everything which might interfere with a readiness for Christ’s appearing. Search your own hearts. Find out the things which most frequently interrupt your communion with Christ, and causes fogs to rise between you and the sun. Mark these things, and know them, and against them ever be on your guard.
JC Ryle
19th century Anglican bishop and author
(Are You Ready For The End Of Time, p. 40)

Do not begin telling me that there is a metaphorical fire in hell. Who worries about that? If a man were to threaten to give me a metaphorical blow on the head, I should worry very little about it. He would be welcome to give me as many as he pleased. And what do the wicked say? ‘We do not worry about metaphorical fires.’ But they are real, sir, yes, as real as yourself.
Charles H. Spurgeon
19th century English pastor and author

What can we learn from citizen disarmament programs?

·      Any government which seeks to disarm its citizens is doing so not so much for citizen protection, but to smooth the way for their plundering of them. 
·      Without personal protection, the citizenry will be subject to predation by not only the government, but of those elements that were not disarmed.
·      Resistance to tyranny is a forlorn hope without the access to arms.
·      Any nation which engages in citizen disarmament has joined a special club that may rightly be called “Tyrants Are Us”.
Rev Bryan Dabney

You can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.
Robert Heinlein
20th century American author

Liberal critics... contend that capitalism encourages monopolies. The real source of monopolies, however, is not the free market but governmental intervention with the market. The only monopolies that have ever lasted did so in partnership with government support through decree and regulation.
James Gills, MD and Ronald Nash, PhD
20th century American economic commentators
(Government Is Too Big And It’s Costing You, p. 39)

Each Sunday there are Propers: special prayers and readings from the Bible.  There is a Collect for the Day; that is a single thought prayer, most written either before the re-founding of the Church of England in the 1540s or written by Bishop Thomas Cranmer, the first Archbishop of Canterbury after the re-founding. 

The Collect for the Day is to be read on Sunday and during Morning and Evening Prayer until the next Sunday. The Epistle is normally a reading from one of the various Epistles, or letters, in the New Testament.  The Gospel is a reading from one of the Holy Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The Collect is said by the minister as a prayer, the Epistle can be read by either a designated reader (as we do in our church) or by one of the ministers and the Holy Gospel, which during the service in our church is read by an ordained minister.

The propers are the same each year, except if a Red Letter Feast, that is one with propers in the prayerbook, falls on a Sunday, then those propers are to be read instead, except in a White Season, where it is put off.  Red Letter Feasts, so called because in the Altar Prayerbooks the titles are in red, are special days.  Most of the Red Letter Feasts are dedicated to early saints instrumental in the development of the church, others to special events.  Some days are particularly special and the Collect for that day is to be used for an octave (eight days) or an entire season, like Advent or Lent.

The Propers for today are found on Page 170-171, with the Collect first:

The First Sunday after Easter.
The Collect.

LMIGHTY Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Today’s Epistle came from the First General Epistle of Saint John, the Fifth Chapter beginning at the Fourth Verse:

hatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 

The Holy Gospel for this Sunday comes from the Twentieth Chapter of the Gospel of Saint John beginning at the Nineteenth verse:

he same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.

Bishop Ogles’ Sermon
We are oft fortunate to get copies of Bishop Jerry’s sermon notes.  Today is one of those Sundays.  Today’s sermon starts off with the collect, and like always, it will give you a lot to consider in your heart.

Sermon Notes
First Sunday after Easter
St Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church
27 April 2014, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)

The First Sunday after Easter.
The Collect.

LMIGHTY Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:19-23)

This passage should prosper our love and understanding of the fear the disciples experienced following the crucifixion, and bolster our confidence in our security in Christ. Only having heard, through a veil of ignorance, the Words of Christ that after the third day He would arise, the disciples were not expecting the Words of Christ to become a literal fact. So they hid and cowered behind closed doors.

While He was yet with them, their courage never failed, but when separated from the physical presence of Christ – they were mere cowards.

You will note that Christ rose from the Tomb with a living body though different in some respects than His pre-crucifixion body. He was recognizable in appearance, but He could also pass through material barriers without any impediment.

He came to His disciples in Peace as He always comes to us. “Peace be unto you!”

His glorified body still retained the scars of His sacrifice. Did you know that when we all get to heaven, we will have perfect bodies? There shall be only One whose body is marred from suffering – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ sends us into the World as His Father had sent Him. Let us stop to contemplate on how the Father sent the Son into the World?

1) He came under humble circumstances having been born of a humble mother, and laid in a wooden manger used for feeding sheep.  That was appropriate for Christ is our Bread of Life and we are the Sheep of His Pasture.

2) Christ lived a normal life for His time and was a carpenter for his surrogate father, Joseph.  We must, likewise, labor for our daily bread.

3) He was notable in His innocence of life. When we are notoriously wicked, the whole world notices. But when we are humble and righteous, the world makes no mention of it. We, too, must live lives that are righteous and above the contempt of men.

4) He came to set the captives free, but who are the captives? Those who are burdened with their heavy sins – all of us. He preached and taught. Our true testimony of Christ will likewise set the captives free. Before we can teach others of the means of coming to Christ to lift their burdens, we must first allow Him to lift our own unbecoming yoke and burden.

5) He showed compassion to all, but greatest of all to sinners who KNEW they were sinners. We must show compassion to ALL men and, especially, those who are hopelessly drowning in a sea of sin. A drowning man flails helpless in the briny foam, unable to save himself. That burden of throwing out the life raft falls to us.

6) Christ proved Himself by His works. So must we. Though we cannot perform miracles, we have a Master who can, indeed.

7) He changed the requirements of obedience from that of strictly adhering to Commandments written on Stone Tables to that of the Commandment of Love written in the soft sinews of our hearts. That which we love warrants that we commit no sin against.

8) He was the only Man ever born without sin, and the only One who lived a sinless life. Thereby He was worthy to die in our stead for our sins. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the righteousness of God’ and “The wages of sin is death.”  If we all have sinned, we deserved to go to the cross instead of Christ. But He went in our stead so that we may have the privileges of son ship with the Father as sons and daughters of God.

9) He bore all of our sins on the cross when, at any moment, He could have come down from the cross. He was WILLING to go all the way for us. We must be WILLING to go all the way for Him and those He loves.

10) He arose from the Tomb on the third day as He had promised. That gives us the privilege to rise from our own graves if we are in Him and He in us. He is our Ark of Salvation that shall insure our living above the floods and terrors of this world.

11) He ascended to the Father and there intercedes for us with Him. He has left us as keepers of the Vineyard to labor in His stead. The teaching of the Apostles persists today though many have waxed cold and passionless in our day. Our task is to press on to the mark set in Christ by living a pure and clean life and telling others about the hope that is in us in Christ Jesus.

Have you lived the kind of life that causes men to know you belong to Christ?

On another note:

Today marks the 11th day since the sinking of the Korean cruise ship, SEWOL, on April 16th on which some 300 high school students perished. Some died of drowning, some of exhaustion, some of suffocation – but all died because the man who had the responsibility of directing them to safety was the first to abandon ship (her captain – aged 69). One young lady, PARK Ji Young, aged 22 years, remained on board to help rescue as many souls as possible. She even gave a student her own life vest. Her body was later found floating in the frigid waters of the sea.

We have a Captain of our Souls who will neither leave nor forsake us – that Captain is the Master of the Seas and His name is the Lord Jesus Christ!

One of my favorite passages from Scripture is of the perils of the Sea and reads:

23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; 24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. 25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 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! (Psalms 107:23-31)

Personal character and conviction have changed immensely since the sinking of the Titanic when men charitably and chivalrously gave up their seats on life rafts to women and children. Men’s hearts, since the abandonment of the Christian faith by the greater society in America, have waxed more and more cold and wicked. 

A survey was recently conducted in universities across American asking the young men if they, too, would have given their seats in a lifeboat to the women and children. Amazingly, 95% said they would not even consider such a foolish act. They would take their places of safety in the boats and let the women and children perish before surrendering their own lives.

To me, this is an astonishing sign of the great depths of depravity of soul to which mankind has sunk over the past one hundred years. Why? Because, though we may profess Christ with our lips, our hearts are far from Him.

How close is YOUR Heart to Christ this First Sunday after Easter? Would you lay down your life to save a child or its mother?

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. 

We are in the Easter Season which consists of Easter and the following four Sundays, until we get to Rogation Sunday.  This is a time we should work on centering our lives on the central figure in our religion, Jesus Christ. 

Consider these words from the Collect:

Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification; Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness, that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth

God sent Jesus to be The Christ, The Messiah, The Savior, The Lamb to be sacrificed for our sin.  He gave His earthly Life, He went down into Hell, that we might be justified before God at our accounting.  Not that we might be perfect, but that we might be accounted perfect at our judgment day.  Yet we are not made perfect. Just because we are going to be accounted as perfect does not mean we are.  Thus we must ask God’s help that we can put away the infection, or leaven, of evil in our hearts so that we can serve the Living God here.  Without His Help, we cannot remove the hate and evil from our hearts.  We need His Help so we can move forward.

Paul continually tells us we must be reborn as a new person in God.  We must put on the New Man and put the Old Man behind us.  We must endeavor to leave our old habits behind as we strive to make new practices into habits.  We cannot follow the direction of Jesus towards God without the help of the Holy Ghost.  The Trinity in practice.  If you believe in Jesus, you must believe in God and you can do neither without the help of the Holy Ghost. Without the Holy Ghost, we are like men who desperately need glasses to see. Without the Holy Ghost as our correcting lens, we cannot see what He wants us to see in order to act.

When Jesus came to the disciples on Sunday evening, He breathed the Holy Ghost into their hearts.  He gave the disciples the power to pass His Forgiveness on to their followers.  As ministers of God, we follow the disciples, but we have not the power to forgive, except as we find in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  We do have the ability to tell you that if you repent, that is “to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life,” then God will forgive you.  Through our Lord, if you repent, He has forgiven you.

The key word here is repent!  We must “go and sin no more!”, as Christ told the lady who was an adulterer. We repent not only in word, but we must repent in our deeds also, so that we can truly show the world that we have faith. If we do not repent, then we do not have faith in Him. We must have faith in Him, so therefore, we must truly and earnestly repent of our sins and do our utmost best to “go and sin no more.” That is all that He asks, is us to actually DO our best, not just say that we are doing our best.

So what to take from all this?

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3.16

If you get that, you have the Holy Ghost in your heart.  If you open your heart, He will breathe the breath that sends The Comforter to you. Then you shall have the knowledge to act the way He wants you to act. You will have surefire knowledge of the course that He wants you to take.

When the time comes, how will you ACT?

It is by our actions we are known.

Be of God - Live of God - Act of God

Bishop Dennis Campbell’s Sermon
Bishop Dennis is a brilliant speaker.  He is able to take biblical precepts and make them perfectly understandable, even to me.  Oft he provides the text of his sermons and I take the utmost pleasure in passing them on:

Psalm 103, Isaiah 43:1-12, Luke 24:36-49
First Sunday after Easter
April 27, 2014

This morning’s Scripture Lessons have the common theme of witnessing the mighty acts of God.  Psalm 103:7 says God “showed His ways unto Moses, His works unto the children of Israel.”  “Ye are my witnesses,” God says to Israel in Isaiah 43:10, “that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.”  Luke 24:48 records the words of Christ to the men who would soon become the Apostles, “ye are witnesses of these things,” meaning His death and resurrection.

I want to concentrate on Christ’s words in Luke 24, because they address the men who would become the foundation of Christ’s Church.  It is they who preached the Gospel of Christ, they who wrote the Scriptures, they who formed the faith and practice we still believe and practice today in the Anglican Orthodox Church.  It is important to us to know that these men were witnesses to the things they spoke and wrote about, and for which they eventually suffered and died.  They saw “these things.” Thus, John wrote that the Apostles declare “that… which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands handled” (1 Jn. 1:1).  “That which we have seen declare we unto you” (1 Jn. 1:3).  Peter, in Acts 2:32 was speaking of the resurrection of Christ when he said of himself and the other Apostles, “we are all witnesses.”

These men saw, heard and touched Jesus. They were there when He turned the water into wine. They were there when He stilled the sea and walked on the water.  They saw Him restore the sight of blind Bartimaeus. They saw Him cast out the demon they could not exorcise, the one Jesus said only comes out by much prayer and fasting.  They saw Lazarus walk out of the tomb, still reeking of death and decay, but whole and well and alive again.  They saw Christ betrayed, arrested, “crucified, dead, and buried.”  They saw Him die.  They probably helped Joseph of Arimathaea remove His body from the cross and lay it in the tomb.  They touched His cold, lifeless flesh.  There was no doubt about His death.  The Romans knew how to kill, and nobody ever came down from the cross alive. In A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens wrote, “Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am about to relate.” The rest of the story will make no sense if that fact is not grasped.  The same is true of the Bible.  Christ was dead, and none of the Bible will make any sense to you until you really grasp and accept that fact in your soul.  He was truly “crucified, dead, and buried.” But, just as they saw Him dead and buried, they also saw Him alive again. They saw the risen Christ.  They saw the empty tomb, the angelic messengers. They saw Him in the upper room which we read about in Luke 24 this morning.  They saw Him ascend into Heaven.  They were witnesses to these things.

But they didn’t just see what He did, they also saw what He was.  They saw His compassion, generosity, power, and His genuine and complete goodness.  They saw that He is the Light, and the Life, and the Power and the Glory.  They saw that He is God. They saw that in Him God was present with them.  He truly was, is, and ever shall be Emmanuel, God with us.  They saw that He is the Truth.  When He spoke, God spoke.  What He said, God said.  What He was, God is.  They saw Him give Himself on the cross to save us, to bring us back to God, and they knew that by His blood their souls were made clean.

The Apostles saw all of these things, and they bear witness of what they saw.  But, as John reminds us, they also heard Christ.  They declare what they have heard.  And what words they heard from the lips of Christ.  Words like:

 “I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”  “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.” 

And, some of my favourite words, from John 14:

Let not you heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.  Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”

One day soldiers were sent to arrest Jesus, but they heard His words and let Him go free. Questioned by their superiors, they said, “Never man spake like this man (Jn. 7:46).  One day when many turned away from Christ, He challenged the disciples, saying, “Will ye also go away?”  Simon Peter answered for all of them, and I hope, all of us, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68).  “Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” said the disciples when Christ spoke to them on the Emmaus Road.  The Apostles heard these words, and declare them unto us.

When Christ told the Apostles that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name, He was implying that they were the ones who would preach it.  In fact it is implicit in Luke 24:48 that, as His witnesses, they would tell others what they saw and heard in Christ.  If we look back at 1 John 1:3 again we see this clearly stated, for John wrote, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.  To a great extent, the New Testament is their declaration.  In it the Apostles declare “all that Jesus began both to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1).  And so we have in the New Testament the testimony of these witnesses.  They are telling us what they saw and heard and touched in Jesus.  And this is the purpose of their testimony; that we may believe and be saved. They wrote, as Isaiah said, “that ye may know and believe [God].” This is what the testimony of Scripture and the witnesses want from you; see, and believe.  Believe and be reconciled to God.
+Dennis Campbell
Bishop, Anglican Orthodox Church Diocese of Virginia
Rector, Holy Trinity Anglican Orthodox Church
Powhatan, Virginia

Rev Rick Reid of Saint Peter’s Sunday Sermon
We are happy to have a sermon from Reverend Rick Reid, minister of Saint Peter’s, whose congregation is right at the Worldwide Headquarters of the Anglican Orthodox Church.  Rev Rick has all the resources and challenges right at hand.  This sermon is not in the usual expository style common to the Sunday Report and the AOC, but I think you will enjoy it.

What the Cross Should Mean to Us

Christ is Risen, The Lord is risen indeed! Did you know the cross is the most widely known religious symbol in the world? You see the cross on churches, you see people wearing cross necklaces, pins, and all kinds of jewelry. We sometimes see athletes make the sign of the cross during sporting events. The cross has many different meanings to many different people. But what does the cross mean to you? History and more importantly, the Bible, tell us the cross wasn’t always such a popular symbol. During the days of Jesus, the cross was a symbol of shame and embarrassment, a symbol of warning and terror to the occupied people of Israel. The Roman Empire used the cross as a means of execution, and it was considered to be an extremely shameful and painful way to die.
The Roman emperor Constantine[1] is credited with allowing Christianity to exist as a recognized religion. Christian sources record Constantine experienced a dramatic event in 312 AD, at the Battle of Milvian Bridge after which he claimed the emperorship in the West. According to these sources, Constantine looked up to the sun before the battle and saw a cross of light and written in Greek "Ἐν Τούτῳ Νίκα" ("by this, win!"). Constantine commanded his troops to adorn their shields with a Christian symbol (the Chi-Rho), Kie-Row, and thereafter they were victorious. The cross was not common in religious art until the fourth century, when everyone who had ever seen a live crucifixion had died.

But what does the cross symbolize to you? For one man in the early first century, the cross began as a symbol of death, but then became a symbol of life, and forgiveness. Jesus was led out to be crucified along with two criminals. When they came to a place called “the Skull,” the Roman soldiers crucified Jesus, with one criminal on his left, and one on his right. Here a prophecy is fulfilled: Isaiah had foretold that Jesus would be numbered with the transgressors. When Jesus was hung on the cross, he was lowered to the level of a criminal. He was brought down to the same level as those other two criminals, and everyone else who had ever been crucified.

Many people were mocking Christ, including these two criminals. (I paraphrase now from St Luke’s Gospel), one of the criminals said: aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself, and us!” “If you’re the Messiah, the Son of God, like you say you are, why don’t you get out of this situation?, and get us out of here too! This criminal blasphemes Christ, mocking his claim to be the Son of God.

The way this criminal blasphemes the Messiah reminds us of how many in our world today blaspheme Christ. Jesus is the Son of God? I don’t think so. Why doesn’t he prove it? Why doesn’t he do something to prove that he is the Son of God, someone I should worship? Prove it!”

Some people today mock the idea of Jesus being the Saviour of the world, just like that criminal hanging next to Jesus. Unfortunately, we sometimes have more in common with that criminal who mocked Christ than we would like to admit. In the eyes of God, all of us really, are criminals. All of us have led lives of disobedience and rebellion against God. Do things this way, God says. And we say, No, I’ll do things my way instead. We live lives that violate God’s will, over and over again. You and I are criminals in the eyes of God. When things don’t go our way, we begin to have fears and doubts.

We are sinners, and ultimately, it is because of our sin that Jesus suffered and died on the cross. It wasn’t the Jews. It wasn’t the Romans. But it was us, our rebellion against Him, our sin… that’s what put Christ on the cross. That’s why he suffered, taking the punishment that we deserve for our sin.

But listen to this, one of the criminals has a change of heart. Instead of continuing to mock Christ, he grows silent, and then he rebukes his fellow criminal:  40 Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise

A change of heart takes place in this criminal. He starts to defend Christ. He confesses his sinful life; we are getting what our deeds deserve. He even acknowledges that Jesus is innocent.

What was happening in the heart of this criminal? He was repenting. The Holy Spirit was working in him. Perhaps, as he hung from the cross, he realized the depth of his sin.

Perhaps he remembered all the things he had learned about the Messiah when he was younger, the idea of a suffering Messiah, a Messiah that would be mocked. As he hung from the cross, the Holy Spirit led him to repent, to believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

He defends Christ. He confesses his sin. And then, he turns to Christ, and says, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. In other words,    I repent of my life as a criminal. I repent of my mockery. I believe that you are a king, the Messiah who was to come. I believe that you have fulfilled the Old Testament prophesy. I believe that you are a King who shows mercy. Forgive me for the life I have led. Forgive me for the way I mocked you. When you come into your kingdom, have mercy on me. Lord, remember me.

These words of repentance are also our words, aren’t they? As we see Jesus die on the cross, we also pray, “O Lord, forgive me for my life of rebelling against you. Forgive me for doubting you and questioning you. Forgive me. Have mercy on me. Remember me, when you come into your kingdom.

And Jesus, even though he was being shown no mercy… showed mercy to that criminal. Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Crucifixion was often a two or three day process. But Jesus tells this man, today, this very day, you will be in paradise, heaven that wonderful place where those in Christ go. This very day, you will be there, and you’ll be there with me, your Messiah, your King. Jesus gives to this man an unconditional pardon; he completely and totally forgives him, and gives him the hope of eternal life.

Why?, because, at that very moment, Jesus was dying for that criminal’s sins on the cross. At that very moment, Jesus was dying for all that man’s criminal acts against society and against God. Jesus was paying for that.  All that mockery, Jesus was paying for that too. What amazing love, that as Jesus suffers for this man, he offers him forgiveness, an unconditional pardon, the sure hope of eternal life.

Jesus does the same thing for us. How is it that Jesus can say to us, Without a doubt, you are forgiven? I am with you always, and someday, you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus says that to you, how?

Because on the cross, Jesus took all of our sins away, past, present, and future. All the different ways we have rebelled against God, Jesus, paid for those sins. Jesus offers to us an unconditional pardon, a clean slate, the sure hope of eternal life with him.

What did the cross mean for this criminal? At first, I’m sure; it was a symbol of shame, terror and death. It meant that he was found guilty and was paying the price for his sins. But now, because of what Jesus said to him there, the cross takes on a new meaning for him. Here is where he meets his Saviour. Here is where he confesses his sin. Here is where he receives a wonderful pardon from the Son of God. The cross is where he receives his salvation.

What should the cross mean to you? All kinds of things should come to mind. You see, we are all that criminal at Calvary. And as we consider the sins in our lives and wonder, can God really forgive us? Then, remember the cross. There Jesus calls out to us, and assures us that we are forgiven, that we will be with him in paradise.

Every Sunday morning, you hear God forgives you. It’s because of the cross. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, these are God’s gifts to you, made possible only by the cross. Why is it, that God hears our prayers? How can we be so confident that God really does love us, and that there is a place in heaven for us? It’s because of the cross.

May the cross always remind us of Jesus Christ, and of his death, and passion. But most of all, the salvation that is ours because of His mighty resurrection on that Easter Sunday. Amen.

Rev Bryan Dabney of Saint John’s Sunday Sermon
We are fortunate to have Bryan’s Sunday Sermon.  If you want people to come to The Truth, you have to speak the truth, expouse the truth and live the truth.    This is really a good piece and I commend it to your careful reading.

First Sunday after Easter

In Revelation 1:4-20 we read of the apostle John’s commission to the seven churches which are in Asia(v. 4) wherein he was instructed by our Lord to, Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter (v. 19). From the beginning, God has utilized both the prophets and the apostles to communicate to mankind his firm intention to bring an end to the wicked powers which now hold sway over our world. In the Old Testament, he gave the prophet Amos to write: Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets (3:7). To the prophet Isaiah he said, Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses... (44:8). And to Zechariah, he posited the query: Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity... ? (7:7).

In St. Matthew’s gospel, our Lord prophesied concerning the end of days (24:1-24), wherein he explained the course of events that would transpire prior to his glorious appearing; after which, he reminded the disciples, Behold, I have told you before (v. 25) signifying that he had discussed this with them earlier in his ministry. St. Paul noted that believers should not be soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand... for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed... (II Thessalonians 2:2-3). St. Peter noted in his first epistle that, the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer (4:7). St. Jude admonished all to, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts (vv. 17-18). The Bible tells us that, All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (II St. Timothy 3:16-17). And so it follows, that the Book of Revelation— like every other book of the Bible— has been given to us for our edification and enlightenment. Unlike the Old Testament book of Daniel, it is not a sealed book (22:10) as our Lord would have us to read it for our eternal good (Revelation 1:3).

With that in mind, let us examine the messages he gave to the beloved apostle concerning the seven churches of Asia Minor. We will also see how they apply to the churches of today.

To the church at Ephesus, our Lord applauded their works and their patience and how they had rejected the false and deceptive among them. He also chided them for their turning away from their love for the gospel. As Matthew Henry noted, “Those who have much good in them may have something much amiss in them, and our Lord Jesus, as an impartial Master and Judge, takes notice of both.” It would seem that in their zeal, the Christians at Ephesus had lost sight of the purpose for their zeal. This is something every believing church body must keep ever before them: that the object of our worship is God through Christ Jesus. Our works will be meaningless without the imprimatur of Christ upon them as we are not working for ourselves but for him.

The church at Smyrna was recognized by our Lord to be a faithful body of believers who were under persecution. He advised them to Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer (2:10). Those who face persecution are often burdened with fearfulness, and fear can diminish faith if it is allowed to grow within the body. Our Lord’s victory at the cross vanquished the fear of sin and death, and so it is fitting that all who are born again in his name are also victors with him and co-heirs of God’s kingdom. Therefore, our Lord expects us to live that victory which he has won for us on Calvary’s cross.

The church at Pergamos was chided by our Lord for its embrace of the doctrines of Balaam, and the Nicolaitanes. The former involved the worship of idols and included many false teachings relative to worship and church order. The latter speaks of the formalizing of a priestly hierarchy that lorded over the laity. Our Lord desires that we reject those human traditions which violate his moral and ethical laws. We must therefore worship the Godhead with reverence. We must adhere to the established order for the administration of the word through the offices of the bishop, the priest or presbyter, and the deacon. Consider the admonition of Bishop Ryle: “We must be careful that we do not give ministers a place and honour which does not belong to them. We must never allow them to come between us and Christ. The very best are not infallible. They are not priests who can atone for us. They are not mediators who can undertake to manage our soul's affairs with God. They are men like us, needing the same cleansing blood, the same renewing Spirit, men set apart to a high and holy calling, but still, after all, only men. Human nature, alas, always prefers a visible minister to an invisible Christ. Nor must the minister, or any Christian, desire to be great in the eyes of men, but rather great in the eyes of Christ. His aim must be not so much to rule the church as to serve it, not a master but a servant.”

The church at Thyatira was a mix of the profane and the godly. Our Lord recognized their good qualities, but he rebuked them for permitting their faith and practice to become linked to harlotry and idolatry. There is no substitute for offering God what he expects. Denying our Lord the proper worship he desires will not bring us a blessing but a something far less. The introduction of women priests, and other persons with sordid and licentious beliefs can only mark a church body as being more akin to Sodom than to Christ.

The church at Sardis was referred to as partly dead and partly alive. Our Lord advised them to be watchful and strengthen the things which remain. A dead church will not listen to our Lord Jesus Christ because Satan has gotten a foothold there, while those that are alive will heed his calling. The dead church is liken unto the whited sepulchres that outwardly appear pleasant, but are inwardly filled with dead men’s bones. These churches contain many spiritually dead souls who are pretending to be spiritually alive. Their lack of a proper biblical understanding and their acceptance of those godless tenets of Modernism reveal them to be more akin to a mausoleum rather than a fold of the living Christ.

The church at Philadelphia was blessed of our Lord on account of their true and abiding faith in him. All who worship the Godhead in Spirit and in Truth, who heed his warnings and trust in his word will one day receive his reward of an open door and his divine preservation from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth. Our Lord has said that evil shall not prevail against his church, and in that we should take much comfort. Keeping ourselves in the word and remaining faithful will open the door of God’s blessings to us, but we have the added benefit of being kept from the terrible time to come when the whole world will fall under Satan’s great deceiver— the Antichrist.

The last church mentioned was Laodicea. It was rich in the things of this world and believed it needed nothing else; but to our Lord, it was a church that was wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. Those of Laodicea were— as their name is interpreted— judges unto themselves concerning the things of God. The current version of Laodicea is no different. Nevertheless, if Laodicean Christians think that they can manipulate Scripture to suit their jaded opinions and earthy desires, it will not be long before they fall completely away from their standing as a godly church, and thus be transformed into a synagogue of Satan.

The seven churches are also seven witnesses. They are witnesses on behalf of our Lord in either the positive or the negative. As to the former, they proclaim the gospel of peace to a sin darkened world. As to the latter, they are objects of warning as our Lord will judge all unconfessed offenses with severity. Today, we have a choice to take to ourselves those godly characteristics of the seven churches of Asia and live by them, or else succumb to their several evils. God has given us his word, so there is no excuse on our part for not following it. Purpose then in your heart today to be obedient to God’s will and commandment so that you might have life and have it in abundance.

Let us pray,

ather, assist us as we walk the pilgrim’s path of this mortal life; that in all things we might stand for the truth of thy word written and reach out to others that they too might do the same; for this we ask in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Have a blessed week, Bryan+

[1] Constantine, credited with bringing Christianity into the governmental mainstream was also the first Briton to be emperor, having been called to the position from the English town of York, then the most significant city in the island nation.