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Sunday, June 18, 2017
First Sunday after Trinity
Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above.
Consider these words from the Collect:
… the strength of all those who put their trust in thee; … through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee, both in will and deed…
This is a little longer Collect than usual, but in it we acknowledge that God is the source of our strength, as we are weak and cannot do any true good without His Help; thus, we ask His help or grace to do His Will in both in our thoughts and actions. This is a very consistent theme through all the collects, because it is based on the simple truth we cannot help ourselves and we need true Divine Guidance in order to make it into heaven. We need His Guidance to perform the actions we need to follow the course that Jesus has set for us.
And, what is the first action we are to take? To love one another. Saint John pointed out if we do not love our fellow creatures here on earth whom we have seen and touched, how then can we claim to have love for God, whom not one of us have seen? We then cannot love God if we cannot love our fellow humans, no matter how far they have strayed from His path, we are still to love them and offer them help and help others. Jesus came to serve, as the ultimate Servant, so must we be also. Even though He is the King, He has chosen to be a humble King, one who puts His Flock before His Own live. He embodies the model we must truly follow if we are to call ourselves Christians. We cannot truly be Christians if we are not following in His Example of selflessness.
We must to truly love individuals. For many of us, the first step is to stop hating them, for if love is the epitome of good, hate is the nadir of evil. Hate is a truly bad thing for us, it is all consuming and all destroying. First, stop hating, hate no person. No one is evil enough to justify your hating them. There are many people whose removal from this world would be a benefit to the world, that does not mean you should hate them. Hating does not produce any positive effects to help God’s cause here on Earth. It rather detracts from His Cause. It is like a slow acting poison consuming your mind until you are no longer following Him. You can feel sad for them, depending on circumstances you may be justified in sending them out of this world. Do not hate. Do not condemn to Hell. That is God’s job, not yours.
Loving does not mean approval of acts which are sinful and harmful to one’s health, spiritual or physical. That is something many individuals are confused about with love in the world today. We cannot condone smoking or homosexual acts or abortion. Though we may know individuals who do these things, we must despise the sin, but realize these people, no matter how truly fallen they may be (remember, some are worse than others, but none are better. As St. Paul says, all fall short.), are people created in the express image of God by God. It is our duty to attempt to shine the light of Christ for them, so they might see their inner darkness and return to Him.
However, if they are not receptive, then we must not force it upon them, as do not cast your pearls before swine, but merely shake your feet off and walk way. You never know what seeds you plant in your interactions with unbelievers or lapsed Christians which in the end may serve to guide them on or back to the path leading upward and inward to God’s country.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
God loved us so much He sent His only Son to die for our sins. That is true love. Not that we love Him, but that first He loved us! God is the source of true love and He is the reason true love has so many wonderful qualities and so strong and enduring. It has come from a Divine Source more special than any jewel on this planet and He gives true love its remarkable resilience and strength. So, if God first loved us, ought we also not love each other? No one has seen God at any time. Yet, He loves us and we say we love Him. If we do love one another, then God is in us, the Holy Ghost, and we are in Him. Be bold, the world will end sometime; for each of us this world ends when we leave here. Fear not, trust in God and dread naught.
Do not be afraid to love one another, regardless of what any man says. Do not fear man, only fear God, the great Judge, and Jesus the Advocate, and the Spirit, the Purifier, Guiding Light. Man can do nothing worse to us than what God can do. And yet, God still loves us despite all our faults and having been condemned to death since the beginning of creation with the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden. God and His love will keep fear and the damage it does at bay. Love each other and act on that love.
To love one another and act on that love. To consider the ways we might help others and then actually help them. It is not a question of giving, but helping. The rich man could have helped Lazarus, but it never entered his head. The rich man, like many of us sadly, only thought of himself. Jesus illustrates perfectly in this parable what happens when we only think of ourselves and do not help or even think of others. The rich man could have thought of poor Lazarus and given him a place to stay and food to eat and paid for it, like the Good Samaritan. Instead, he just let him die, figuring that that was the end of him. It turns out he was wrong and soon the tables would be reversed. Lazarus was a rather disgusting feature of his world and when he died, the rich man was pleased not to have to pass by him. Yet, it never entered into his head to help.
How is that possible?
Simple, his eye was not on the donut, but on the hole. The rich man cared about all the things that don’t count and never considered those that do. Which is, as said earlier, a problem at all of us face at one time or another due to our very nature of being sinful beings. We tend to get caught up in school, work or pleasure and everything in between and forget to tend to our spiritual health and as you neglect a plant by not watering it and nurturing it, if you so neglect your soul, you will have a horrible death. And as a consequence, we also forget how important it is to love one another and do our best to help our fellow men out. This is exactly what happened to the rich man. He lost sight that we are to love our fellow men as ourselves and that doing so would give him far more happiness than if he continued on his self-centered, unloving course of action that ultimately brought him to the pit. We can learn from the rich man’s example and strive not to be like him. Everyone on this planet has a purpose, even if it is to serve as a bad example. However, if you nurture and water your soul by the Scriptures and allow yourself to be guided by the Holy Ghost, you will have an absolutely wonderful life from now to eternity, after all if you have eternal life it starts NOW, not tomorrow. For indeed, tomorrow never comes.
It must be understood between heaven and hell there is a great gulf fixed. It is equally important to grasp the gulf is not of God’s making but ours. It is us who keeps us from the heaven He offers freely, yet at a great price.
Put your trust in God and dread naught. Love those around you and act on that love. It does not matter if they are the same religion as you, but you still must love and act towards them all the same. That does not mean baring your throat to the Koran following Muslims; but it does mean treating them with kindness and charity until you must act to defend you and your way of life from them. They deserve pity, for as they follow Allah, that is the Devil, as Christ said “They know not what they do.” Think how you can help, not how you can “enjoy” life. Helping does not mean simply giving money to those who don’t have it, no strings attached, although it might at times. It never means supporting those who do not feel like supporting themselves. For dependency breeds slothfulness and contempt. Dependency destroys the soul. What is does mean is facilitating a way for those who do not have what they need to earn what they need; to bring them the means of acquiring those things which they need. Those things are spiritual as well as physical. A hand up; not a hand out. You will find out the more you help, the more you enjoy real life. Whether it is helping somebody at the office, around the neighborhood or a friend, there is immense pleasure from the result of helping people, so much more than feathering your own nest, so to speak. It is not only more blessed to give than to receive, but it brings a lot more happiness into your life.
This is hard to do. We want to concentrate on what makes us feel good about ourselves right here and right now. We have to be coerced into staying on the narrow path upward and inward. But that is where our home 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