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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

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Destruction of Sennacherib – 31 August 2018, Anno Domini

In the days of Hezekiah the King, Sennacherib sent his armies into Israel to destroy her cities and make off with the spoils of her people. Hezekiah, who had repented in ashes and sackcloth of past failures to honor the God of Israel, and was given promises of God’s intervention against the Assyrian hordes. As the armies of Sennacherib surrounded Jerusalem with the spears gleaming and armor rattling, the Lord intervened with a mighty hand. The full account can be read in 2 Kings 18:13-19:37, but below I have posted the concluding verses:

NDit came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand (one hundred and eighty five thousand): and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. 37 And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead. (2 Kings 19:35-37)

            I believe that poetic verse is often more effective in making a permanent impression upon young minds than simple literary dialogue.

            The poem below appeared in the 1903 edition of Jones Elementary Reader for Fifth Grade. The story of Sennacharib’s destruction is told in verse by the great, George Gordon, Lord Byron  (1788-1824). Here is the story extracted from the book with only changes in format made for this devotion:

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) was one of the great English poets. His best work may be ranked with what is most worthy of admiration in English literature. 

Note — Sennacherib was a king of Assyria who invaded Judea during the reign of Hezekiah. According to the Bible story, the Jewish king and his prophet Isaiah implored divine favor to save them from coming under the Assyrian yoke. The “Angel of the Lord " smote the invading army so that one hundred and eighty-five thousand died in a single night. Sennacherib himself returned to his home in safety, but was killed by his sons 681 BC. (See 2 Kings 18. 19., and Isaiah 37)  

Byron's poem is said to be the finest sacred lyric in the English language. Its strength and simplicity are remarkable. 

The Destruction of Sennacherib

 The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold,
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen;
Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast.
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still.

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider, distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail.
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal,
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

Explanatory footnote for student:

Ashur: Assyria — Ba’al: the chief god of the idolaters. 
Foreigner: To the Jews all other races were Gentiles. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Reveille – 30 August 2018, Anno Domini

that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death(Rev 2:11)

EHOLD, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed(1 Cor 15:51-52)

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished - tone and tints. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen then, but with thirsty ear, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll.

In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps
General Douglas MacArthur
Farewell Address to Corp of Cadets at West Point, NY 
12 May 1962

            To every veteran of my generation or earlier, the word ‘Reveille’ bears a special meaning and particular significance. It is the bugler’s call of a new day dawning filled with other challenges and adventures. The notes of the bugler are clear and crisp so that there can be no misunderstanding of the call being sounded. In fact, all bugle calls are distinct and clearly read by the soldier in the profession of arms. It is for this reason that the bugle has been adopted by armies around the world to convey timely commands that cannot be confused in the heat of battle. 7 And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? 8 For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle(1 Cor 14:7-8)

            Unfortunately, in my thinking, the bugle is going the way of mounted cavalry and the saber. War has become impersonal in our push button age. Large segments of the battle line can be destroyed by high tech devices that require no courage or gallantry to activate. Thousands, and indeed millions of a city, can perish by advanced weaponry that does not require the opposing force to even see the city or its inhabitants. An intercontinental ballistic missile has no conscience, no mercy, and no remorse. If we are not required to observe the faces of children who perish at our hands, our consciences are not offended. The bugle no longer heralds the call of troops to the line. 

            Just as every trained soldier knows well the call of reveille, he also knows the call of Tattoo and Taps. These latter calls also have a special meaning. According to the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, each day begins at night, i.e., And the evening and the morning were the first day.  (Gen 1:5)So, it seems logical to consider that there are no reveille’s without being preceded by Tattoo and Taps. All of our honored military dead are sent into the night of the long sleep by the sounding of taps. They repine in sleep awaiting, as General MacArthur says, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll.

            Perhaps those faint notes of the bugler’s reveille may be heard in faint waftings in the twilight of the final days of an old soldier even before the final taps at graveside. 

            Every Christian is a soldier in the Army of God; and every non-Christian is also in an army of an altogether different nature. One is on the long march up the slopes to the Gates of Splendor; the other, on a rabble-rousing walk down the Broad Way that leads to the Pit and destruction. These latter do not hear or know the message the Bugle Notes of God convey. So they wander aimlessly and without a moral compass. But we of faith are true-hearted soldiers in the Army of God, and we must know the meaning of God’s Bugle calls. We know already that Reveille is our first call issued by the Holy Spirit rallying our souls to life eternal. We had no part in the sounding since we were asleep (dead in trespasses and sins). But we arouse to life and respond to God’s call. We know, as well, the final call at the Midnight of Life to be Taps. We may not hear this call since it is the last of our worldly consciousness. What of all the bugle calls between Reveille and Taps?

            There are many trumpet calls of the Lord, and they are sounded with no uncertain sound. His soldiers, young old, male, and female – will respond with immediate dispatch to those calls of the Lord whether in darkness of night, or brilliance of day. I will cover only a few of those bugle cals of life due to the brevity of a devotion; however, there are many more than the few we cover.

            First Call in the Army is sounded a few minutes (usually 10) before Reveille to alert the soldier of the coming moment of beginnings of daily duties. In God’s Army, it is the First Call of the Holy Spirit to alert the dead ears of the Spoken Word of Life. The clear notes penetrate the dead membranes of the ear, into the brain and heart ere a warm pulse of the soul begins to beat at Reveille. 

            When we first are awakened to the salvation of God, we must have a marching order and ensign. For the Christian, that symbol is the CROSS. Following our arousal from bed, we must acknowledge the Colors of our marching army – that is illustrated by the sounding of the Bugler’s Call, TO THE COLORS. Every day of my life as a soldier, I stood at reverent attention at this morning call. So should Christians worship the Lord, not in the spirit of worldly revelry, but according to the high honor and reverence due to our Supreme Commander – the Lord Jesus Christ.

            In the Church, we are commanded to assemble ourselves together in the Name of our Lord for worship. The Army Bugle Call to alert to this duty is THE ASSEMBLY. The brigade or regiment gathers at this call to receive further instruction. The Church responds to THE ASSEMBLY in order to worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.  (Heb 10:23-25)

            In countries in which the reformed liturgical churches predominate, the church bells are sounded at 6:00 am 12:00 noon and 6:00 pm to remind the people to pray the Lord’s Prayer. In some countries, it sounds the Angelus. But on the Lord’s Day when the Lord’s Supper will be served, the Lord’s Bugle call is ‘MESS CALL.’ Believers gather about the Lord’s Table to receive the emblems of Bread and Wine spiritually representing the Presence of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ shed for us. An army travels on its stomach, we are told, and so does the Christian Army. If we receive the Communion of the Lord aright, we are strengthened for our long march into enemy territory (which is all that existing apart from the Church).

            There is one bugle call in the military which is less attractive to those who are up and about doing the duties of the day. That call is ‘SICK CALL.’ Those soldiers who are sick must be rehabilitated before joining those in the line. We see the same in the Church. Many are weak or troubled with doubt. They must be attended to with love, sound counsel, and understanding before being entrusted to teach or lead others. 

            As I mentioned earlier, the old soldier may not hear the playing of Taps in this life, and he certainly shall not hear it in the next because there is no night or sleep in that Paradise of his Final Bivouac. But he will likely hear the Last Tattoo which is the bugle call preparatory to Taps. The haunting melody of  THE TATTOO’ may gradually permeate his conscious thoughts in the winter of his days. It is the Lord’s way of alerting his chosen vessel that the march is coming to an end, and the hard road will end soon. It may be nearing the time to transfer out of the old ground army of the Church Militant and be received into the Church Triumphant. General MacArthur heard the faint notes of the Last Tattoo at his last visit to West Point. General Thomas J. (Stonewall) Jackson heard the faint sound of the Trumpet just hours before passing. His last words,Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees. He died on Sunday which fulfilled his desire.

            Christian soldiers may all have premonitions of the end. Last words of great ministers are often profoundly spiritual. 

            In the words of John Bunyan, all of God’s Chosen will hear the stirring notes of reveille upon crossing Jordan Banks: As the soldier of the cross passed over, we are told: Then said he, ’I am going to my Father’s; and though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage, and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought His battles who now will be my rewarder.’.... So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.

That Bugle Call of Reveille will be the first we hear in Heaven.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

God’s Love for His Creatures– 29 August 2018, Anno Domini

ND  the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. 2 The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: 3 But the poor manhad nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. 4 And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. 5 And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. 7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. (2 Sam 12:1-7)

            Even as God has given man dominion over the animal kingdom, I believe He expects man to rule over that kingdom with the same compassion He exercises over man. Cruelty never has a place in the heart of God, and he will not look with favor upon it in the hearts of men. The Lord has given us a variety of animals to make our lives brighter – beasts of burden, meat for sustenance, fish for food, and wonderful domestic animals as pets. Even those creatures of the wild serve a purpose under God’s heaven in maintaining a balance in nature.

            Wherever Christianity has prevailed in the hearts of men, a gentle compassion and care of animals has been practiced. Deliberate pain and torture of animals is beneath the dignity of man, and the character of our Godly heritage. Note the love the man in the introductory text had for the little lamb that supped at his table. He loved it as one of his daughters. I do not equate animal life with that of the human creation of God; however, one major difference in the human model is that the heart of man is capable of foresight and compassionate care of the animal – and that is his duty. If animals are to be slaughtered to feed the hungry, so be it; however, not in cruel and in humane ways.

            I ran across this story of a mother deer (doe) in my Jones Fifth Grade Readerdesigned to convey the need for compassion on all life. Please read to the end to grasp its full impact.

A-Hunting of the Deer
by Charles Dudley Warner

Early one August morning a doe was feeding on Basin Mountain. 

The sole companion of the doe was her only child, a charming little fawn, whose brown coat was just beginning to be mottled with beautiful spots. The buck, its father, had been that night on a long tramp across the mountain to Clear Pond, and had not yet returned. He went to feed on the lily pads there. 

The doe was daintily cropping tender leaves and turning from time to time to regard her offspring. The fawn had taken his morning meal and now lay curled up on a bed of moss. 

If the mother stepped a pace or two farther away in feeding, the fawn made a half movement, as if to rise and follow her. If, in alarm, he uttered a plaintive cry, she bounded to him at once.  

It was a pretty picture, — maternal love on the one part, and happy trust on the other. The doe lifted her head with a quick motion. Had she heard something? Probably it was only the south wind in the balsams. There was silence all about in the forest. 

With an affectionate glance at her fawn she continued picking up her breakfast. But suddenly she started, head erect, eyes dilated, a  tremor in her limbs. She turned her head to the south; she listened intently. 

There was a sound, a distinct, prolonged note, pervading the woods. It was repeated. The doe had no doubt now. It was the baying of a hound — far off, at the foot of the mountain. 

            Time enough to fly; time enough to put miles between her and the hound before he should come upon her fresh trail; yes, time enough. But there was the fawn. 

            The cry of the hound was repeated, more distinct this  time. The mother bounded away a few paces. The fawn started up with an anxious bleat. The doe turned; she came bacl; she couldn't leave it. 

            She walked away toward the west, and the little thing skipped after her. It was slow going for the slender legs, over the fallen logs and through the rasping bushes. The doe bounded in advance and waited. The fawn  scrambled after her, slipping and tumbling along, and whining a good deal because its mother kept always moving away from it. 

Whenever the fawn caught up, he was quite content to frisk about. He wanted more breakfast, for one thing; and his mother wouldn't stand still. She moved on continually; and his weak legs were tangled in the roots of the narrow deer path. 

            Suddenly came a sound that threw the doe into a panic of terror, — a short, sharp yelp, followed by a prolonged howl, caught up and reechoed by other hayings along the mountain side. The danger was certain now; it was near. She could not crawl on in this way; the dogs would soon be upon them. She turned again for flight. 

The fawn, scrambling after her, tumbled over, and bleated piteously. Flight with the fawn was impossible. The doe returned and stood by it, head erect and nostrils distended. Perhaps she was thinking. The fawn lay down contentedly, and the doe licked him for a moment. Then, with the swiftness of a bird, she dashed away, and in a moment was lost in the forest. She went in the direction of the hounds. 

She descended the slope of the mountain until she reached the more open forest of hard wood. She was going due east, when she turned away toward the north,  and kept on at a good pace. 

In five minutes more she heard the sharp yelp of discovery, and then the deep-mouthed howl of pursuit. The hounds had struck her trail where she turned, and the fawn was safe. 

 For the moment fear left her, and she bounded on with the exaltation of triumph. For a quarter of an hour she went on at a slapping pace, clearing the bushes with bound after bound, flying over the fallen logs, pausing neither for brook nor ravine. The baying of the hounds grew fainter behind. 

After running at high speed perhaps half a mile farther, it occurred to her that it would be safe now to turn to the west, and, by a wide circuit, seek her fawn. But at the moment she heard a sound that chilled her heart. 

It was the cry of a hound to the west of her. There was nothing to do but to keep on, and on she went, with the noise of the pack behind her. In five minutes more she had passed into a hillside clearing. She heard a tinkle of bells. Below her, down the mountain slope were other clearings broken by patches of woods. A mile or two down lay the valley and the farmhouses. That way also her enemies were. Not a merciful heart in all that lovely valley. She hesitated; it was only for an instant. 

She must cross the Slide Brook valley, if possible, and gain the mountain opposite. She bounded on; she stopped. What was that ? From the valley ahead came the cry of a searching hound. Every way was closed but one, and that led straight down the mountain to the cluster of houses. The hunted doe went down " the open," clearing the fences, flying along the stony path. 

As she approached Slide Brook, she saw a boy standing by a tree with a raised rifle. The dogs were not in sight, but she could hear them coming down the hill. There was no time for hesitation. With a tremendous burst of speed she cleared the stream, and as she touched the bank heard the " ping " of a rifle bullet in the air above her. The cruel sound gave wings to the poor thing. 

In a moment more she leaped into the traveled road. Women and children ran to the doors and windows; men snatched their rifles. There were twenty people who were just going to shoot her, when the doe leaped the road fence, and went away across a marsh toward the foothills.

By this time the dogs, panting and lolling out their tongues, came swinging along, keeping the trail, like stupids, and consequently losing ground when the deer doubled. But when the doe had got into the timber, she heard the savage brutes howling across the meadow. (It is well enough, perhaps, to say that nobody offered to shoot the dogs.) 

The courage of the panting fugitive was not gone, but the fearful pace at which she had been going told on her. 

 Her legs trembled, and her heart beat like a trip hammer. She slowed her speed, but still fled up the right bank of the stream. The dogs were gaining again, and she crossed the broad, deep brook. The fording of the river threw the hounds off for a time. She used the little respite to push on until the baying was faint in her ears. 

Late in the afternoon she staggered down the shoulder of Bartlett, and stood upon the shore of the lake. If she could put that piece of water between her and her pursuers, she would be safe. Had she strength to swim it? 

At her first step into the water she saw a sight that sent her back with a bound. There was a boat mid-lake; two men were in it. One was rowing; the other had a gun in his hand. What should she do? With only a moment's hesitation she plunged into the lake. Her tired legs could not propel the tired body rapidly. 

The doe saw the boat nearing her. She turned to the shore whence she came; the dogs were lapping the water and howling there. She turned again to the center of the lake. The brave, pretty creature was quite exhausted now. In a moment more the boat was on her and the man at the oars had leaned over and caught her. 

''Knock her on the head with that paddle! " he shouted is to the gentleman in the stem. The gentleman was a gentleman, with a kind face. He took the paddle in his hand. Just then the doe turned her head and looked at him with her great appealing eyes. 

"I can't do it! I can't do it!" and he dropped the paddle. " Oh, let her go ! " 

But the guide slung the deer round, whipped out his hunting knife, and made a pass that severed her jugular.

And the gentleman ate that night of the venison. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Charles Dudley Warner (1829-1900) was an American author. He had a keen, wholesome sense of humor, a sympathetic nature, and much literary taste. Among his entertaining books are “My Summer in a Garden " and " Back-Log Studies."

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Hymns of the Church – O God of Jacob by Whose Hand – 28 August 2018, Anno Domini
(In the Year of our Lord)

AND he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he
had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though
they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: 12 And the father
of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of
that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. 13 For the promise, that
he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law (that is of
the flesh), but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if they which are of the law be heirs,
faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: 15 Because the law worketh wrath: for
where no law is, there is no transgression. 16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to
the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that
also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all
, (Romans 4:11-16)

To Thee, whose temple is all space,
Whose altar, earth, sea, skies!
One chorus let all being raise!
All Nature's incense rise!

~ by Alexander Pope.

        It is difficult to consider the village of Bethel without remembering Jacob. Bethel is the old homestead of every believing Christian. In the Hebrew the name, Beth-El, means House of God. Mention is made of this village many times in the Old Testament.
        Bethel is the place where our great grandfather, Jacob, (to the 8th degree) wrestled with the Angel of the Lord when he sojourned there when traveling from Beersheba to Haran. And he builtthere an altar, and called the place El-Bethel (God Of Beth-El): because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the faceof his brother. Genesis 35:7 As the spiritual descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, members of the true and believing Church of God share a blood relationship that surpasses any worldly kin - black, white, Asian, or Indian. We are related by that blood of our Lord which He shed for us in our redemption. We are of One Family – the Family of God.
        This hymn is approaching 300 years in age, having been written by Dr. Philip Doddridge in 1737. The original hymn tune is entitled, DUNDEE, taken from the Scotch Psalter.

God of Jacob by Whose Hand
O God of Jacob, by Whose hand
Thy people still are fed,
Who through this weary pilgrimage
Hast all our fathers led.
Our vows, our prayers, we now present
Before Thy throne of grace;
God of our fathers, be the God
Of their succeeding race.
Through each perplexing path of life
Our wandering footsteps guide;
Give us each day our daily bread,
And raiment fit provide.
O spread Thy covering wings around
Till all our wanderings cease,
And at our Father’s loved abode
Our souls arrive in peace.
Such blessings from Thy gracious hand
Our humble prayers implore;
And Thou shalt be our chosen God,
And portion evermore.

        O God of Jacob, by Whose hand Thy people still are fed, Who through this weary pilgrimage Hast all our fathers led. Our reference to Jacob is by no means ancestor worship. We refer to the same ‘God of Jacob’ who is also our God. If we have believed the promise made to Abraham and his ‘spiritual’ descendants, then the God of Jacob is also our own God, regardless the human blood that flows in our veins: For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all. What loving father does not feed his children? And our Father is the very Author of Love and the first Cause of it. Just as Abraham wandered the wilderness in search of a city, so do the disciples of Christ wander in the world of sin seeking a better home not made with hands (Kingdom of God).
        Our vows, our prayers, we now present Before Thy throne of grace; God of our fathers, be the God f their succeeding race. The rising of the smoke of the incense at the Table before the Veil in the Tabernacle represented our prayers rising up to God before the Mercy Seat behind the Veil of the Holy of Holies. The succeeding race to which Doddridge refers is certainly not that of England, France or Germany; but to all those succeeding generations of men and women who have believed the God of Abraham and the Promised Seed to come. Abraham looked forward by faith to the consummation of that Promise in Christ; we have the easier ground for faith in that we look back to the historical and fulfilled event.
        Through each perplexing path of life Our wandering footsteps guide; Give us each day our daily bread, And raiment fit provide. Our Father Abraham travelled that ‘perplexing path of life.’ Like we all have done, Abraham had moments of doubt. Whenever he launched out on his own wisdom, he wound up lying to save his own skin: And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. (Gen 12:10) God did not lead Abraham to go into Egypt – it was a moment of abandon at which Abraham used his own logic and almost lost Sarai to Pharoah. Abraham had the same lapse of faith in his travels to Gerar when King Abimelech also wanted to take his wife whom Abraham claimed was his ‘sister.’ If we
will but follow God’s will, He will place us in green pastures and feed us with the Manna of Heaven even if famine prevails in the land.
        O spread Thy covering wings around Till all our wanderings cease, And at our Father’s loved abode Our souls arrive in peace. The wings of God are, indeed, a secure shelter under all  circumstances. Even as we wander through the wilderness of this world, His wings are there to protect and comfort us in our journeys. Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. (Psalm 63:7) 3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3 (KJV) Our Lord Himself used the same metaphor of the wings of the hen to describe His overshadowing care: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. (Matt 23:37-38)
        Such blessings from Thy gracious hand Our humble prayers implore; And Thou shalt be our chosen God, And portion evermore. There is no other God to chose! He is the only God of Heaven. Allah is an idol of the heathen. Allah has no Son, no Holy superstition which advocates murder, rape and plunder. We do not choose God – He chooses us. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (John 15:16) All good things come from God our Father. Even when we feel rejected by others, this is often a blessing of God. Later, we may learn that what we at first considered a setback for us turns to be the most perfect
solution for our lives: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:17-18)

Are you among those ‘first fruits,’ or do you linger in doubt and unbelief among
the children of men. Be of God, and act of God!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sermon Notes - Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity - Saint Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church - 26 August 2018, Anno Domini

The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.

The Collect.

LMIGHTYand merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service; Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

OWwhen Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, 7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. 8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? 9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. 10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. 11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. 12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. 13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.  14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, 15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him(Matt 26:6-16)

I believe it will prove profitable for us to examine the Collect for today in a particular light of the Gospel Text for which it sets the tone and atmosphere. The greater impact of this Collect is its very first sentence of pleading: “ALMIGHTY and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service.” Contrary to the prideful thinking of men, our favor with God does not arise from any good work performed on our part by might and main; but, rather, from the inspiration and strength given us by God our Father to, first, know to do good works; and, second, to have the ability to follow through with the execution of them. Our good works, in this way, are not ours; but redound to the glory of the Lord who inspires, empowers, and provides us the physical and spiritual capacity to see the matter through to its conclusion. These works of those who act with the imputed righteousness of Christ are works which belong solely to Him, else they are not GOOD. They are, by all means, performed “through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

In common society, and even in criminal law, the thoughts of a person in performing an act (good or bad) is paramount to ascribing reward or punishment. In law, it is called MOTIVE. If the motive in performance of any act is love, there can truly be no guilt of sin or crime. 
Several years back I wrote a study on the Ten Commandments, and how there are two Tables upon which those commandments are written – the first five reference our duty to God. The fifth is a transition Commandment which relates both to our Father in Heaven and our fathers on earth. The last five relate solely to our duty to each other. It is for this reason that our Lord summarized the Commandments thusly, 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. 39 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.(Matt 22:37-40)

            The Summary of the Law given here by our Lord was not a new concept in God’s Word. That summary comes from the Old Testament.  In this way, our Lord summarized the two Tables of the Law. If we keep that first Commandment, we cannot fail to keep the second. It is LOVE OF GOD that enables us to be accounted righteous – not our mere deeds under the sun. Of course, good works are the fruit of God’s sovereign grace in the lives of the saints, but “we are saved by grace through faith – not of works lest any man should boast.”

            There are three Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, and John) of today’s text, each offering the same meaning with different shadows of detail for our enlightenment. I will primarily use the Gospel of St. John today as a parallel text since it gives a sharper distinction of love – John being the Apostle of Love. 

            Jesus, just days prior to today’s text, had called a very dead Lazarus from the stone-cold tomb at Bethany. Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary, a family for whom Jesus held a particular love. I say it was just days since that resurrection of Lazarus, we are told, occurred just days before the Passover.

            Now, our Lord is invited to the house of Simon the Leper for supper according to Matthew’s Gospel. John adds that Martha, as usual, served. Martha was always busy doing important tasks, and that is good. But often one can become so very absorbed in a task that the reason for doing it is forgotten. Mary, on the other hand, was more reflective and preferred the more profound joy of always being at the feet of our Lord to grasp every word and truth that fell from His lips. (see Luke 10:39 & 40). Even when Jesus delayed coming to raise Lazarus for four days, Martha was busy with her questioning of why He had not come sooner, but Mary came and fell, again, at the feet of Jesus. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, IF thou hadst been here, my brother had not died(John 11:32)

            Neither Martha nor Mary had a firm understanding of the power of the fullness of the Godhead which our Lord possessed. For that matter, neither did any of the disciples until after the Resurrection. We most often qualify our faith in His power as did Mary – with the word IF. It was almost as if they believed that Christ could heal, indeed, but restoring life to a dead corpse was beyond their imaginations.

            Now, our Lord is seated at Simon’s table, next to Lazarus, preparing for the meal. Mary, standing behind, sees Jesus sitting there with her brother, Lazarus, who was dead just hours earlier. Suddenly, the Cup of her heart overflowed with the love for both her brother, and the precious One who revived him from the dead. She could contain herself no longer. 

            “But what can I give Him of any worth?” Her mind was tortured by a desire to demonstrate her deep gratitude and love for the Lord, but WHAT can I give Him? Overcome with a desperate desire to give Him her best, she ran immediately to fetch the most precious resource in her possession – an alabaster box of very precious ointment. I might add that it was the custom in Israel to wash the feet of all dignitaries who enter one’s house as a guest. No one had washed the feet of Jesus; but Mary would wash His feet with an expensive pound of spikenard ointment, and anointed his head. John adds that she also washed the Lord’s feet with the ointment and dried them with the hair of her head. This demonstrates great humility and abiding love. What can YOU give the Lord, friend? You can give Him your very best. Your best is not gems or gold or money. Your best is a resource that the Lord will cherish most and even make His Temple – that is, your heart!

            Like many ministers who preach for filthy lucre, Judas was not happy at this expression of love and righteous service. He was jealous of the service of which his heart was incapable, but also of the money which he saw as wasted in the anointing. He may, too, have coveted that money since he was the one who kept the money bag for the band of disciples. 

            Judas made his displeasure known by raising a complaint. Others seem to agree that Mary’s use of the oil was a waste. One grumpy and envious murmurer can despoil many around him. Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. (John 12:5-6)

            Perhaps even Mary did not fully understand why she did this anointing. I do not believe any others there did either – except our Lord. He knew in the coming week He would be arrested, given a mock trial, be publicly humiliated, beaten, crowned with a crown of thorns, and nailed, naked, to a cross. No one else could seem to fathom that event though our Lord had told them of it previously. Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.

            I have heard it said we should not honor the dead in Christ –they have their reward already. Well, that is likely true; however, those who have lived valiantly for Christ need to be remembered for the example they have set for us. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them(Rev 14:13)If the Lord remembers them, should we not do the same. Look at the concluding words of Christ in our text from Mark 14:9 – Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.(Mark 14:9)See? We remember Mary, Martha, and Lazarus today in our text – and many others in a thousand different texts. But the One who we must continually stay our hearts upon is the same which so completely disarmed our lovely Mary – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The bread that was cast upon the waters– 24 August 2018, Anno Domini

ASTthy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. 2 Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.   (Eccl 11:1-2)

            INTRODUCTORY NOTE: The following little story is taken from the FIFTH READER, the Horace Mann Readers, 1887 (published in the Youth’s Companion). This was not a reader we used in my school, but comes from a book of stories in my collection. The more I read these early reader text books, the more impressed I am with the biblical inspirations contained in story plots. The closer we get back to the time of the Founding Fathers, the more biblical the stories. The McGuffey Readers are prime examples which I hope to include in future mail-outs. Jerry Ogles 

            The snow lay deep in the streets, and it was cold as only mid-January can be, when a boy about fourteen years old approached a man who was standing on a corner, waiting for a car, and asked him for a nickel. The man looked at the boy keenly, and saw that his clothes, although poor, were neat, and that he had an honest face.

             “What would you do with a nickel?” he inquired.

             “I would buy some papers and start in business,” was the reply.

             “Are you sure you wouldn’t spend it foolishly?”

             “Sure, mister. I want to earn some money. I only want to borrow the nickel. I’ll give it back to you tomorrow afternoon at five o’clock.”

             “Well, here’s the nickel,” and the man put the coin in the boy’s outstretched hand. “Now, remember, I’m merely lending you five cents, and I trust you to return it as promised.”

             “That’s all right, sir,” cried the boy, as he hurried away. “I’ll be here with the money, just as I told you.”

            The man kept the appointment, but he was twelve minutes late. The boy was there waiting for him, and he had the nickel, which he returned with some very earnest expressions of gratitude.

             “It helped me to earn sixty-five cents,” he said.

             “What did you do with it?” the man inquired.

             “I gave fifty cents to mother, kept ten for my papers to-day, and gave five to you.” And the youngster was again away to resume business.

             That was fifteen years ago. The boy has become a man. He is married, and has an excellent position in the electrical department of a great manufactory. But rheumatism has forced his friend, who was a carpenter, to abandon his trade. He has been idle nearly three years. His savings were soon exhausted, although his habits are good, and he is a bachelor.

             But someone has paid more than one hundred and fifty dollars for medical assistance, and has been paying for his board, at the rate of six dollars per week, for more than a year. And the payments continue. 

            It was a small thing that the carpenter did – but a good many men would not have done it. And the boy, as it happened, was not only honest, but grateful.

POSTSCRIPT: Our works of charity may seem small in our eyes, but often, in the eyes of the recipient, a small gift or hand up can mean the difference in eating a meal or starving, surviving, or perishing. Stories such as the one above, written for eleven year olds, were intended to plant the seeds of character in young minds. 

What seeds do you suppose are being planted in the minds of our young people today in public schools?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Last Class– 23 August 2018, Anno Domini

Alphonse Daude
The Child’s World, fifth grade Reader - 1917

HATmorning I was very late in going to school, and I feared a sound scolding, especially as M. Hamel had told us that he would question us on participles, about which I knew not the first word. For a second the idea came to me to ‘play hookey’ and go out into the country.

The day was so warm, so clear. The blackbirds whistled on the edge of the wood, and in the green meadow, behind the sawmill, the Prussians were drilling. All this tempted me more than the rule of participles, but I had the strength to resist and ran on swiftly toward school.

Passing the town-hall, I saw a crowd in front of the wire-screened bulletin-board. For two years nothing but bad news had come to us from it — battles lost, requisitions, orders of the commandant.

Without stopping, I thought, “What is it this time?”

As I ran by the place, the blacksmith, who was there with his apprentice reading the bulletin, cried to me, “You needn’t be in such a hurry, boy. You will get to your school soon enough.”

I thought he was making fun of me, and, running on, I arrived in M. Hamel’s little yard all out of breath.

Usually when school began there was a great noise—~which could be heard even in the street—of desks opened and closed, of lessons repeated in a loud voice all together, with ears stopped, the better to understand, and of the master’s great ruler tapping the desk, “Silence!” I counted on that noise to help me gain my bench without being seen, but to-day everything was as quiet as Sunday.

Through the window I could see my school-mates ranged in their places and M. Hamel, who passed and repassed with that terrible iron ruler under his arm. I had to open the door and enter in the midst of that silence.

You may think that I was flushed and scared. ‘Well, no. M. Hamel looked at me without anger and said very gently, “Take your place at once, little Frantz; we were about to begin without you.”

I hopped over a bench and sat down at once at my desk. Then only, a little recovered from my fright, I noticed that our teacher had put on his fine, green frock-coat, his frilled shirt and his cap of embroidered black silk, the attire he wore only on inspection days or at prize-givings. Besides, the whole school had about it something out of the way and solemn.

But what surprised me most was to see, on the vacant benches at one end of the room, the people of the village seated and silent like ourselves — old Hauser with his cocked-hat, the former mayor, the old postman and many others. Everybody seemed sad, and old Hauser had brought an ancient primer, worn at the edges, which he held open on his knees, with his great spectacles placed across the pages.

In the midst of my astonishment, M. Hamel arose at his desk and in the same gentle and grave voice with which he had greeted me, said to us, “My children, this is the last time that I shall hold the school. The order has come from Berlin that only German shall be taught now in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. The new teacher arrives to-morrow. To-day is your last lesson in French. I ask you to pay attention.”

These words overwhelmed me. Ah! that was the news posted on the town hall. My last lesson in French! And I—I could scarcely write. I had never learned. And I must stop here!

How I reproached myself for the time lost, the classes cut, in order to run after bird-nests and go skating on the river. My school-books, which I had always found so tiresome, SO heavy to carry —— my grammar, my history — now seemed to me old friends that I felt sorry to have go. Like M. Hamel. The thought that he was about to go —— that I should never see him again—made me forget the punishments he had inflicted on me.

Poor man! It was in honor of his last class that he had put on his Sunday clothes, and now I understood why the old people of the village were seated at the end of the room. It was to show that they regretted they had not come oftener to the school.

It was a way of thanking our master of forty years for his faithful service and of paying their respects to the native land that was going away from them.

I was plunged in these reflections when I heard my name called; it was my time to recite. What would I have given then for the power to speak out that famous rule of participles, loudly, clearly, without a mistake! But I became mixed up with the first words, and I remained standing, balancing myself against the bench, my heart heavy, without daring to raise my head.

I heard M. Hamel say, “I will not scold you, little Frantz; you will be punished enough. Every one says, ‘Bah! I have plenty of time; I will learn to morrow!’ And see what happens! Ah! it is the great weakness of our Alsace, always to put off learning until to-morrow. Now these people — the Prussians — have the right to say to us, ‘What! You pretend to be French and you cannot speak or write your language?’ In this matter, my poor Frantz, it is not you alone who is to blame. We all have to bear our share of it. “Your parents have not paid sufficient attention to your schooling. They cared more about sending you to work on the farm or in the factory, in order to make a little bit more. And I — have I nothing with which to reproach myself? Have I not often sent you to water my garden instead of to work?

And when I felt like going trout-fishing, have I hesitated to dismiss you?”

Then, going from one thing to another, M. Hamel came to speak to us of the French tongue, saying that it was the most beautiful language of earth, the clearest, the strongest — that it was necessary for us to cherish it and never forget it, because when a people became enslaved, so long as they kept their language they held the key to the prison. Taking a grammar, he read us the lesson. I was astonished to see how well I understood. All that he read seemed to me easy — easy! I believe that I never listened so, attentively, and that never before had he explained so patiently. It seemed to me as if the poor man before going away wished to give us all his know
ledge, cramming it into our heads at one stroke.

The lesson ended, we passed to writing. M. Hamel had prepared for us writing models, entirely new, on which he had written in a beautiful round hand, “France, Alsace, France, Alsace.” It was as if little flags floated in the room, hung from the rods on our desks. How each one applied himself, and what a silence! Nothing was heard but the scratching of pens on paper.

June-bugs flew in, but nobody heeded them; all the children applied themselves to making the strokes, with a heart, with a conscience — as if that were something French. On the roof of the school-house pigeons cooed softly, and hearing them, I said to myself, “Will they also be obliged to sing in German?”

From time to time as I raised my eyes from the page, I saw M. Hamel motionless in his chain — looking at the objects around him as if he wished to carry away in his eye all his little school-room. Think! For forty years he had been in that place, with the yard opposite and the school just the same. Only the benches and desks were worn and polished by use; the walnut-trees in the yard had grown, and the hop-vine he had planted himself engirdled the windows up to the roof. What a heart-ache it meant for the old man to leave these things and to hear his sister moving to and fro in the room below fastening the trunks! For the next day they were going to
leave the country forever.

All the same, he had the courage to hold school through to the end. After the writing we had the history lesson; then the small children said together the Ba,-Be, Bi, Bo, Bu. Yonder at the end of the room, 01d Hauser had put on his spectacles and held his primer in both hands; he spelled the letters with them. You could see that he applied himself, too. His voice trembled with emotion, and it was so funny to hear him that we felt like laughing and crying both. Ah! I shall ever remember that last class.
Suddenly the clock in the church-tower sounded noon, then the Angelus.  At the same moment the bugles of the Prussians, who were returning from drill. burst out under the windows. M. Hamel raised himself, pale as death, in his chair. Never had he seemed so tall. “My friends,” he said, “I —  ” . . . but he choked; he could not finish the sentence.

He turned toward the blackboard, took a piece of chalk, and bearing on it with all his might, wrote in letters as large as he could make, “Vice la France!”

Then he rested there, his head leaning against the wall; and not speaking, with his hand he motioned to us, “It is over . . . Go.”