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Who are we?

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

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Hymns of the Church – Something Old, Something New – 31 December 2019, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)



            I must admit I am plagiarizing myself on this hymn devotion; however, I find the subject hymn the most excellent upon which to comment at the beginning of a new year.

            There is one story that is unchanging, absolute, and immutable – the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ beginning at Genesis 1:1 and concluding at Revelations 22:21. The most ancient of truths will become the New Creation of that New Beginning created of God on the final sound of the Trumpet. The Ancient Landmark of God’s Word, long abandoned by the wider church, will become the new Chart and Compass for that new Creation.

            There is, in the deepest chambers and sinews of the heart of each person, a longing for the better elements of the ancient times past. If the lyrics are ignored, there is something spiritually appealing in the tune, Auld Lang Syne - it evokes tender and cherished memories, does it not? The tenderness of a mother’s embrace remains deeply woven into the mystic longings of the most savage of men. A father’s tenderness of a kiss on the brow of a precious little daughter is the fabric that is woven into her heart of love forever. This is the beginning of love sent down from the Father and Author of Love. It is echoed in the mother’s and father’s love for their children just as God regards those of His own Elect from His Fountain of Love. The truly Old is identical to the truly New in God’s equation. The Garden of Eden (the Paradise of God) remains unchanged on deposit beyond the Gates of Splendor along with that beautiful Tree of Life which is Christ:

A
ND he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever(Revelation 22:1-5)  

Though our society, along with many churches, have become drunken with the new wine of social immorality, the ancient truth remains written large in the annals of God and His Ancient Landmark, But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. Neither the wizard of medicine nor the perverse desires of fallen man can alter that fact one iota! All the surgeries of the physician will not alter the inherent DNA even to the slightest in atomic and molecular structure.

I want to share with you the Old, Old unchanging story of God’s love at the beginning of this year; but first, I would like to request that you make a list of ten-only resolutions for the New Year of some big improvement in your life, or some bad habits or deeds you will forsake. Place them in your Bible and wait two months; then, open your Bible and see how good you are at keeping your own Ten Commandments! If you are unable to keep your own petty resolutions, how do you ever expect to keep those Commandments of God? The only means of obedience must be enforced by love that echo’s that greater Love from God, the Father of Lights, above. It is His love and grace that opens the floodgates of mercy and sacrificial living for us! And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it(2 John 1:5-6)

Tell Me The Old, Old Story

W
HOM shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people(Isaiah 28:9-11)

T
HUS saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein(Jer 6:16)

            The oldest and most priceless story ever told is the Old, Old Story of the Redeemer promised by God in Eden’s lush Garden. Mrs. Kate Hankey has performed a wonderful service to the Church in writing a hymn that brings to mind the grandeur and critical importance to us of remembering every detail of that ‘Old, Old Story of Unseen Things Above.’ This is by no means the only hymn by Hankey that directs our memory back to those treasures of God’s Word from Eden until now. Another, among many, is entitled, I LOVE TO TELL THE STORY. Today’s hymn was composed in 1866 during a serious illness. The music is by William Howard Doane. (1869) I will relate another testimonial associated with the story which I quote from Mr. Steven Miller: 

The story is told of a dear old saint who was dying in Ireland, and a young minister who came in to be at his bedside. The old saint enjoyed conversation, but the younger man confessed his embarrassment in not knowing how to keep up the conversation. The dying man consoled his visitor by saying, Just tell me the old, old story. Just the old, old story, nothing more. It is said that when this incident was related to Miss Hankey, it inspired her to write her famous hymn.

Tell Me The Old, Old Story

Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above, 
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love. 
Tell me the story simply, as to a little child, 
for I am weak and weary and helpless and defiled. 
Refrain:
Tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story, 
tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and his love.

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in, 
that wonderful redemption, God's remedy for sin. 
tell me the story often, for I forget so soon; 
the early dew of morning has passed away at noon. 
Refrain: 

Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave; 
remember I'm the sinner whom Jesus came to save. 
Tell me the story always, if you would really be, 
in any time of trouble, a comforter to me. 
Refrain: 

Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear 
that this world's empty glory is costing me too dear. 
Yes, and when that world's glory is dawning on my soul, 
tell me the old, old story: Christ Jesus makes thee whole. 
Refrain: 

Tell me the old, old story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love. Tell me the story simply, as to a little child, for I am weak and weary and helpless and defiled  It is an irony of the spirit that often the one who suffers physical blindness can see those unseen things above’ far better than those of us with 20/20 physical vision. Our youth choir today (Palm Sunday) sang Praise Him, Praise Him by the lady blind from infancy – Fanny Cosby. Many of Fanny’s hymns dwell upon seeing and believing, but she means seeing with the Spirit and not the eyes. The ancient fathers knew something of the love of God, but I do not believe they could fully grasp the beauty and completeness of its expression in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was LOVE personified! Is it the vanity of pride that prevents us from believing as a little child for, 2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven..(Matt 18:2-4) There is no soul with greater joy than that of a little child who knows he is loved. If we belong to Christ, there could no greater love be showered upon us than that of the One who laid down His life to redeem us from our sins. 

Tell me the story slowly, that I may take it in, that wonderful redemption, God's remedy for sin. tell me the story often, for I forget so soon; the early dew of morning has passed away at noon. Amazing point here from which preachers could learn an important lesson. Christ never screamed or jumped about in pretended drama while preaching. He most often sat down and spoke in a very conversational tone. Truth needs no human emphasis. I do not say that the normal accentuated pitch and tone of the voice should not be used in making points in preaching; but, really, are we entertainers or servants of God called upon to share His Word? One cardinal rule of teaching and learning is this: Repetition aids recall. There is repetition of ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’ in God’s Word. Important points are repeated often to reinforce their importance to us. We need to hear the old, old story of our Lord from Genesis to Revelations, and often repeated. Not only are our memories incapable of holding every point, but even those points that we do remember need regular watering with the Word. The dew aids the rose every morning, but it evaporates in the heat of life and needs the replenishment of distillation each day.

Tell me the story softly, with earnest tones and grave; remember I'm the sinner whom Jesus came to save. Tell me the story always, if you would really be, in any time of trouble, a comforter to me. Does the spiritual manner with which we expound upon the Word of God matter? Yes! It definitely matters. Let me give you an example from Holy Scripture. Do you recall the incident at Jacob’s Well in which a Samaritan Woman of ill repute came to the Well to be met by Christ? She was notorious in the village as an adulteress; however, her credibility changed once she knew Christ. The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men,  Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?  Then they went out of the city, and came unto him(John 4:28-30) Suddenly, the woman had a new credibility. Her fervency of expression proved that ‘something’ had happened in her heart.  And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did(John 4:39) The woman’s testimony had the ring of truth. Many BELIEVED on Christ for her testimony. Do we have that strength of faith in our own testimonies so that men will believe our testimonies?

Tell me the same old story when you have cause to fear that this world's empty glory is costing me too dear. Yes, and when that world's glory is dawning on my soul, tell me the old, old story: Christ Jesus makes thee whole.  Please let us adhere to that SAME old story preached by the prophets, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Apostles. If we will demand pure water from the spring, we must drop our buckets upstream from the herd where men and beasts have muddied the waters. The story is changeless and immutable. It is all the seamless story of redemption and election in Christ from the beginning. Christ healed lepers, the paraplegic, the demon possessed, the deaf and dumb, and the blind; but these healings are not sufficient to make one whole – the entire man must be healed to be made whole. Only our Lord can make us whole in body, mind, and soul. Though we may forget, we pray the Holy Ghost to bring to our remembrance all that is written in Holy Scripture about our Lord Jesus Christ, and that, by the way, is every Word of Scripture. 

Refrain
 Tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story, tell me the old, old story, of Jesus and his loveThree times for emphasis is the appeal repeated Tell me the old, old story and it could be repeated one thousand times without exaggeration. The old, old story is sealed by that inestimable LOVE of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The heart of each saint has the Crimson Seal of His blood upon the Gates and passageways of the Temple of his Heart. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

AOC Sunday Report


Happy First Sunday after Christmas, which is also the remembrance of the Holy Innocents this year, a not so happy day.  Read the report RIGHT HERE and learn  why.

Sorry for the late report.  I made the prayer list twice, like yesterday, one good, one not.

There are great sermons from Bishop Roy and Rev Bryan and one from me.

Like always, there are a number of people on the prayer list. Please take the time to pray for at least a few of them.  There is a great week and year ahead, you won't find it without the Holy Ghost. You might take time to think about that while you're at it.  Like always, there are a number of people on the prayer list. Please take the time to pray for at least a few of them.

There is a great week and year ahead, you won't find them without the Holy Ghost. You might take time to think about that while you're at it.

Godspeed,

Hap
Church of the Faithful Centurion
Descanso, CA

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Holy Innocents - First Sunday after Chirstmas


Sermon - Rev Hap Arnold
Church of the Faithful Centurion - Descanso, California
At this Christmastide, we have been concentrating on the joy of the Christ’s coming to earth; rightly so!  But, in our liturgical calendar, the days go on.  Right after Christmas, we celebrate Boxing Day in the Anglican tradition, but more than that 26 December brings us the recollection of Saint Steven Deacon and Martyr; he was killed under the direction of Saul of Tarsus, the same person who with God’s Grace and Help became Saint Paul.  The following day, 27 December, recalls Saint John, the longest lived of the Apostles whose writing gives so much to the theology of the New Testament.  That brings us to today, 28 December, when we recall The Holy Innocents, whose deaths are connected with Jesus’ birth.   

An odd combination of days and thoughts for those who do not choose to think or delve deeply into a subject upon which their eternal lives are dependent.   Most people, if they go to church, are Creastors, that is people who attend church on Christmas and Easter.  This is certainly better than not at all, but one wonders why the two major events of the Christian year do not inspire them to more in depth consideration of what is, after all, the instructions for the remainder of their life here on earth and eternity.  As ministers, I guess most of us wonder why we cannot get the message across.  Still other people, members of churches, come every Sunday, so long as it is convenient.  That is certainly better yet, but their knowledge falls short of the information available in the Bible.  While the Book of Common Prayer is a wonder, it only provides propers for the Sundays and Holy Days, the subject matter is limited to the 52 high points if you make every Sunday!  Often parishes overlook inconvenient days, such as Holy Innocents, or even worse the Circumcision.  They only fall on a Sunday every seven years and who will know, anyway?

So, precisely what is The Holy Innocents?  Why is it important?  Start with the Gospel we just heard from Saint Matthew:

Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men(Matt 2)

Herod was certainly not a nice fellow, he ordered his own sons killed in another incident and in fact, one of his own sons was among those who were murdered in this event. Macrobius (c. 395-423), writes in his Saturnalia:  "When he [emperor Augustus] heard that among the boys in Syria under two years old whom Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered to kill, his own son was also killed, he said: it is better to be Herod's pig, than his son." Even being among Herod’s own family was not a sure guarantee of safety, based on his penchant to murder people, even those of his own blood.

Based on the number of people in the area, probably around 1,000, it seems likely that 20 or less children lost their lives in this event.  Worldwide?  It was a minor hiccup; if it was you or your child, the casualties were terrible. The killing of an innocent child, a baby is among the most terrible and heinous of crimes. Christ says that it is better to have a millstone hanged around your neck and be cast into the sea, than to harm one of these precious gifts of God. 

I would not like to be among those who murder little children at the Last Judgment, especially those who run and operate abortion clinics. I cannot pretend to know what God will or will not say or judge of these folks, only that I will not want to be in their position when that day arrives.

So, what do we take from this?  Well, first there is the historical fact part.  Matthew wanted to document what happened.  Fair enough.

Why did Herod sacrifice the children?  “For the greater good.”  In this case, his greater good.  He did not want this “Messiah” to mess up his gig.  He was making a great living out of keeping the Jews under control for the Romans, the last thing he needed was to have some Messiah mess things up. He did not want the Jews to experience the Freedom the “Messiah” would bring; in this case, Jesus would free us from death. Herod was jealous of the title of the “Messiah” and figured incorrectly that Jesus would be competing with him for ruling of the land of Israel. He could or would not grasp Christ was not sent to the land of Israel.  He came to prepare us for not just life here, but the world to come.  For eternity.

If we let Him, He will rule our hearts with absolute justice.

“For the greater good[1]” is a concept oft used to justify doing terrible things so that someone else can benefit.  Normally the person(s) benefiting in the end are those doing the sacrificing, not being sacrificed.  Important difference.

Can you see the similarity between the Holy Innocents being sacrificed for Herod’s greater good and the children being thrown to Molech?  In the case of Molech, parents threw their first born into the fires of hell to gain earthly riches.  Herod directed the murder of children so he could continue his criminal enterprise without interference by a Messiah.

Now, think of the children being murdered in the womb, torn apart while alive, dismembered, then thrown in the dumpster so that their parents won’t be inconvenienced or punished with a child. 

At the very least, if one does not want their child, they should at least put them up for adoption to give a family who does want a child a chance at loving the child, they could or would not love. But, alas, think, if one does not want a child, they shouldn’t partake in the act that would create the child in the first place! This is why there is an order to the prayer book. First comes Baptism, then Confirmation, then Marriage, then the Birth of a Child and so on till finally the Burial of the Dead. The point is, there is a certain order to life as God has ordained for the successful and fruitful multiplication of this earth, and if anybody performs this order out of sequence, the results could be catastrophic.

Abortion – Holy Innocents – Molech 

What is the difference?

A while ago in the On Point section of the AOC Sunday Report, Rev Bryan Dabney provided a quote from James Kennedy, an American theologian, teacher and author:

We have been made for eternity! Yet though such a belief exists in every ancient religion from the Egyptians to the Persian to the Assyrian and Babylonian, the Chinese and the Hindu, everywhere it has waited for Jesus Christ to give to it a certitude nothing else could grant.[2]

While Christ has been present since He made the world, so has evil.  As elements of Truth, that is the Christ of God, come out in every religion, so do elements of evil and the Devil.  As Christ waxes strong, the Devil of necessity wanes.  If we let our faith in Christ wane and our country deviates from the firm foundation upon which it was founded, the Devil gains strength and becomes bolder. The solution to counter Satan is to increase our strength in Christ and embolden others around us to do the same, then for our little part, Satan’s hold will diminish.

So, let’s quickly talk about the propers.  In the Collect, we find ourselves asking to emulate children in their simple steadfast faith even unto death.  For only by simple faith in our Lord can we enter into heaven.  Faith as of children, accepting our Lord for what He is, not what we want to make Him.  For He is the Maker, not us!

When John talks about the 144,000, they are, symbolic or actual, the essence of the children who have gone before us.  Simple faith and without fault at the Father’s Throne.

The Gospel, a straight forward historical rendition, shows how important it is to act on God’s instruction.  Had Joseph not taken Mary and Baby Jesus into Egypt, the story would have ended right there.  But, Joseph acted and the story played out.  As Matthew pointed out, this is not the first time children were lost and in numbers.  It was important that Jesus not be among them.

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


[1] It happens to be one of the favored slogans of the German National Socialist Party, much better known by its contraction Nazi.  They slew millions “for the greater good.”
[2] D. James Kennedy - Why I Believe, p.65

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Fest of Saint John the Apostle, 27 December 2019 Anno Domini



V
 ERILY, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.  (John 13:20-26, 31-35)

The Collect
Saint John the Evangelist

M
ERCIFUL Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy Church, that it, being illumined by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist Saint John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect
Christmas Day

A
LMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin; Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

       Betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ brings the ultimate disgrace and condemnation to the traitor. We may consider, with a narrow look, the  sin of Judas; but we also must look beneath his vestiture to see our own countenance there. His betrayal of the Lord was so contemptible that we shun the mention of his name. His act of betrayal was flagrant and heinous, abject and final. Yet, Peter also betrayed Christ in his thrice denial of having even known the Man three times in the night of His betrayal.  Was there a great difference? Of course, there was a difference of tremendous proportions in intent and in motive. Though we may not know the evil heart of Judas as the Lord knew, we do know that Judas conspired with the enemies of Christ in premeditation of his betrayal of Him. Further, we know that Judas had a profit motive in negotiating the betrayal for thirty pieces of silver. And, lastly, we know that Judas never repented to God for his grave sin (he repented in himself which is not repentance before God). Peter shed grievous tears at his third denial of the Lord: And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.  (Luke 22:61-62) Judas betrayed with a sly kiss – Peter with bitter tears of repentance – Judas with knowledge afore thought, Peter in fear and trembling. Christ knew the heart of Judas and saw that it was bad from the beginning. Though the betrayal by Judas was a necessary act to bring about the fulfillment of prophecy, this does not exonerate the evil heart from due judgment and punishment. Judas, and his black heart, is still with us in our churches today. Those black hearts are set on the money bag and will sell the Lord’s name for a few pieces of silver.

      Perhaps the best understanding of the betrayal of Christ is not that which is said, but that which is not included in today’s lectionary text..  The preceding two verses set the stage for the betrayal: I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. (John 13:18-19)  Many take bread in the Communion to their own detriment – it happens every observance in most churches. Men take with their lips the Bread of Heaven and, yet, have hidden away a wedge of gold, and commit the sin of Achan. The heel of Judas is transformed into the heel of Satan and its owner is reprobate. Not included in today’s Gospel text, too, are the four verses following the revelation of Judas as the traitor: And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night(John 13:27-30) Here we see another difference in Peter and Judas: Satan enters into Judas and finds a home in his heart. No one at the table could comprehend the Lord’s meaning in His counsel to Judas. Today, God speaks clearly to us and we, too, often fail to grasp His clear counsel. Judas was the man who kept the money bag for the group. Da Vinci portrays Judas prominently clenching the money bag next to a spilled salt shaker in the Last Supper – an excellent and symbolic depiction. In this masterpriece, all faces are reflecting light except for Judas’ face which is in the shadow of darkness that portends his future abode.

      He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.  Please try and grasp the significance of this last verse. ALL who betray the Lord with full premeditation will go out, not only into the created night, but into the eternal night of the soul. Unlike that Dark Night of the Soul described by St John of the Cross, there is no virtuous outcome.. The darkness is complete and unending for those who are the finally and eternally damned.

      Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. The authority of Heaven is like a military chain-of-command.  The Constitution (the Word of God) defines the authority being conveyed and its limits. The Executive Office (President, or the Lord by the Word of God, Jesus), being Commander-in-Chief, grants commissions to his trusted officers (apostles and adherents) to act on His behalf. The authority granted the believer is complete as long as exercised within the boundaries specified by that Word of God (Constitution). Though this is only an illustration, it helps us to understand the concept of delegated authority. We are to know those whom the Lord has sent by confirming all that they teach by Holy Writ, and then receive them as the vicegerents of Christ to believe and hear according to the expression of God’s Holy Word. And the only way that we can know and receive God the Father is by knowing and receiving God the Son. There is NO other way. There is no chosen race of people apart from those who receive the Son.

      When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Consider how awful are we hurt when, knowing beforehand, the treachery of a close friend, we are so profoundly hurt by the open betrayal of that friend. Imagine the pain in the heart of Christ in knowing the dark intentions of Judas who had every privilege to know the perfect Gospel of Christ and, yet, still betrayed Him. His hurt was not for Himself, but for that familiar face that had followed Him closely. He saw the enormity of Judas’ sin and its consequence. He was pained for Judas because He knew the fate that Judas would face at the Hands of an Angry Father.

      Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. This is perhaps a defense mechanism on the part of the disciples. When betrayal among friends is discovered, do we not all look at the other person as if it could never have been US? We have all betrayed our Lord in one way or another – perhaps by a careless word or thoughtless deed which would cause the unbeliever to doubt the strength of our conviction or the One in whom we trust. So we immediately and instinctively look to others when sin is revealed: ‘It could not be ME, Friend. It MUST be another!’

      Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. What a remarkable manner to express the particular love Christ has for the author of this Gospel! John did enjoy a special kind of profound love from Christ. But John was also a humble fellow who would have hesitated to boast of his own name in the matter. He avoids the direct reference by lovingly putting forward only the relationship and not the name. John’s love for Christ was undimming. It carried John through perilous years that followed. Even in writing these words, it is apparent that John cherished the memory of the night he rested his head on the bosom of Christ. That love gave John the courage to stand at the foot of the Cross during the passion of His Lord and not hide in the bushes as many did. It is so comforting for us to know that we can experience the same privilege with John. It is only Christ who will console at our gravest hour.

      Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. I have known men like Peter – strong, resolute, and impulsive. They are good men in their hearts, full of confidence until a passing moment of weakness and human frailty is found in them. Such good men may be undeservedly blamed for the very weakness that lies hidden in the soul of every man and woman. Peter, knowing of his own reputation of being presumptuous, will now use a go-between (John) to discover the identity of the traitor.

      He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? John has a young and innocent heart. He does not beat around the bush by asking, Is it I? He simply asked, Who is it?  Christ now gives a perfect intimation of who the traitor is. It amazes me that many still did not ‘get it!’ Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. This is so abundantly clear. Perhaps our hindsight gives us such a great advantage that we wonder why the disciples did not immediately burst out with condemnatory threats to Judas. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. This followed hard on His comment to John of the identifying mark of the traitor. We are then told that Satan entered into Judas and he went out immediately into that eternal night of darkness. Up until this point, Judas might have repented and turned from his plan, but now, he is possessed, by his own invitation, of the devil. He will not turn back now. All who partake of the Lord’s Supper and are bathed by Him shall not necessarily be clean and whole. This is obvious from the observance of the sins of the modern church.

      Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. The willing and selfless sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross at Calvary was a fulfillment of His Father’s Word from the beginning at the Garden in Eden. Christ made good on His Father’s promise and thereby glorified the Father in Will and Deed. We cannot be greater than the Father and Maker of all. If we glorify Him, He shall always respond in like manner. Christ glorified the Father and was promptly glorified by the Father. Christ, being in the Father, experienced a like glorification. This glorification to which Christ now refers seems to outweigh all others for this is the purpose for which He came into the world. We also have that privilege to be One in Christ as Christ is One with the Father. Are we?

      Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. The full panorama of the Cross, the Tomb, and the rolled away stone come before the eyes of Christ. He called the disciples, and us, little children. So we are! It reminds me of a loving father going away to war as he bids his children that he must go away for a time and they cannot follow. But he also assures the children that he shall return. We are all little children in the eyes of Christ. We lack strength, we lack courage, we lack understanding – but He also affords us the opportunity to use His strength, His courage, and His understanding and Will to remain stayed on Christ and His Word. Yes, the disciples shall afterwards seek Him, but they shall seek a dead body in the early morning Garden Tomb. Instead, they shall find a risen Lord! The Jews (Jewish religious leaders responsible for His crucifixion) could never go to where Christ is going. Though they may visit Hell, they cannot neither escape it or avoid it. They will not set foot on the opposite Banks of Jordan Waters. The disciples could not go where Christ was going at the moment, but they shall, in time, go there.

      A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.This commandment is to facilitate the spiritual obedience of the other Commandments given by God. It was the one characteristic so painfully missing in the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees – Love. Love for one another in Christ is not an option, but a commandment. Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart(2 Cor 3:2-3) Christ did not abolish a single jot or tittle of the law, but made it more binding in love.

So, what is the evidence of our fellowship and Communion in Christ? By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.  This love of which Christ speaks is not a casual kind of love, but a sacrificial love. He said, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. That is certainly more than a casual love. Christ died for us and we must be willing to lay down our lives, as well, for each other. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)   Do we?

Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Cradle and the Cross, 26 December 2019, Anno Domini



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ND it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.   (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.   And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)   To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.   And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.   And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.   (Luke 2:1-7)

            What majestic beauty there lies in these opening words of the second chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke! They have always enjoyed a power that exceeds the written word. There is a mystery that we feel in our hearts as we read with our eyes. It is so very simple, yet so powerfully exalted in meaning. 

            There is expressed in these opening lines the power of the Roman Caesar yielding to the birth of a child – not just any child, but the very Begotten Son of God. Even Rome was forced to perform legalities to bring Mary to Bethlehem for the Lord’s birth in fulfillment of ancient prophecy. So routinely comes the remark that ‘while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered!  So casually expressed, but so potent with prophetic reality.

 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger. This flies in the face of the false Roman doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Yes, Mary was a virgin at the time of conception, but not following the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. She was in her innocent youth at conception, and the great Angel Gabriel paid her a visit in her solitude. He was Mary’s firstborn Son. Implied in this remark is the fact that Mary had more sons and offspring later. This is evidenced in more than one passage of Scripture, but I will provide one which should be sufficient:

 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.  (Matthew 12:46-50)

God often comes to us when we are all alone. By this we know that God is a PERSONAL God whose will is laid out for each of us in particular ways.

Joseph, Mary’s husband (but not the father of our Lord) was a carpenter by trade. Jesus grew up following the trade of a carpenter. He was manly and strong in body, soul, and Spirit. Any fellow who could chase Jewish money-changers from their tables in the Temple must have presented a fearful physical strength.

Jesus built His life upon the Law and Love of His Father. He never drifted from that Plumb Line of Truth and the Way of Love. Every detail of His life fit snuggly into every other aspect of His mission just as a carpenter builds a beautiful structure of wood and timbers – Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house. Proverbs 24:27 (KJV)  

            It is amazing to me the shadow of the cross fell across that Manger from the moment of His birth until His last gasp from the cross at Calvary. Having been laid in a manger of wood at His birth, the Lord built His cross of the same wood upon which He would sacrifice His lifeblood for us. So must we follow Him in bearing our crosses from Christmas to Easter and beyond. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me(Luke 9:23)   Have you?

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Hymns of the Church – O Blessed Babes of Bethlehem – 28 December 2019, Anno Domini - Christmas Hymn Devotion for Holy Innocents Day



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HUS saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. 16 Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. 17 And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border(Jeremiah 31:15-17)

            An important observance during the Twelve Days of Christmas is that of the martyred Holy Innocents of Bethlehem ruthlessly murdered by Herod’s army at Bethlehem. We observe that event on the 28th of December. I was minded to write upon a Christmas hymn memorializing that event by a recent article by my friend, Rev David McMillan, of Andalusia, Alabama.  I am grateful for his reminder. 

            This hymn is composed by Lawrence Housman (1865-1959) who died at Glastonbury, England. Housman was, among other things, a playwright who made two statements with which I profoundly agree:

1.     I still think that if the human race, or even one nation, could only get right about its God the rest would follow.

2.     I believe absolutely in love being the central motive force of the universe.

Feast day of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, is December 28; 

When Christ was born in Bethlehem,
Fair peace on earth to bring,
In lowly state of love He came
To be the children’s King.

And round Him, then, a holy band
Of children blest was born,
Fair guardians of His throne to stand
Attendant night and morn.

And unto them this grace was giv’n
A Savior’s name to own,
And die for Him Who out of Heav’n
Had found on earth a throne.

O blessèd babes of Bethlehem,
Who died to save our King,
Ye share the martyrs’ diadem,
And in their anthem sing!

Your lips, on earth that never spake,
Now sound th’eternal word;
And in the courts of love ye make
Your children’s voices heard.

Lord Jesus Christ, eternal Child,
Make Thou our childhood Thine;
That we with Thee the meek and mild
May share the love divine.

            When Christ was born in Bethlehem, Fair peace on earth to bring, In lowly state of love He came To be the children’s King. Yea, and not only the children’s king, but the King of Kings of all. He debased His place at the Throne of His Father to be made flesh and dwell among those who were, in their sins, the enemies of God. He came among the simple, the poor, the powerful, and the lowly shepherds.

            And round Him, then, a holy band Of children blest was born, Fair guardians of His throne to stand Attendant night and mornWe may often forget that many other children, bound to die a tragic death at by the  sword of imperial madmen sent by King Herod, were born that same night in Bethlehem and many nights closely associated therewith. All those male infants born within two years of the coming of the Magi were slain.

            And unto them this grace was giv’n A Savior’s name to own, And die for Him Who out of Heav’n Had found on earth a throneYou may be contemplating the wickedness of such a mass murder; however, you may as well be one who dismisses the murder of the totally innocent in their mother’s womb today as an act of mere medical convenience – at least this has been the position of many in society today. I will quote below from Rev McMillan’s good letter on the issue:

We should protect life from the womb and listen to the Word of God which teaches that all life is precious.  The prayer for today reflects our action that should be taken,   

'O ALMIGHTY God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast ordained strength, and madest infants to glorify thee by their deaths; Mortify and kill all vices in us, and so strengthen us by thy grace, that by the innocency of our lives, and constancy of our faith even unto death, we may glorify thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. '  Psalm 8:2

Blessed Christmastide as we go into the new Year and continue to celebrate how God has delivered us from our sins and given us eternal life through trust in His Son Jesus Christ.  We should practice life here in its memory of the blessed babes who had no life on earth but live in heaven.  This should include killing all vices in us by God's grace and saving others as we are light and salt to those around us.

O blessèd babes of Bethlehem, Who died to save our King, Ye share the martyrs’ diadem, And in their anthem singActually, these babes made no conscious effort to save our Lord but, in the process of time, He would die to save them; but they do, indeed, bear the martyr’s diadem for dying in the place of our Lord Jesus Christ whom the Father, in providence, saved for a greater purpose.

Your lips, on earth that never spake, Now sound th’eternal word; And in the courts of love ye make Your children’s voices heardReverberating throughout this sordid tale of the martyr of the babes of Bethlehem is the resounding reality of the great judicial and spiritual travesty of our days in sponsoring the same murder of millions with our ill-intended tax dollars. We all bear the guilt of those murders collectively as citizens of a nation who allows such.

Lord Jesus Christ, eternal Child, Make Thou our childhood Thine; That we with Thee the meek and mild May share the love divineAll believers remain children of the Most High God under the Lordship of our Savior, Jesus Christ! In being children of God, we must evidence that meek and lowly trust of a child in the Father. The prophets had foretold the massacre at Bethlehem centuries before the actual event: Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.


You will recall that the favored wife of Jacob, Rachel, died in childbirth, too, at Ramah (Bethlehem): And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day.  And so may Rachel’s grave be seen without the gate of Bethlehem even today!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Message from the Presiding Bishop - Christmas 2019, Anno Domini




25 December 2019, Anno Domini 

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ERE they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the LORD. 16  Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.17  Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken. (Jeremiah 6:15-17)

            What makes the Christmas Season so warm and special – is it the gifts we receive, the ornate decorations, or the snow that many are blessed to see? Though these things contribute to making Christmas special, they are not the core reason for our joy. How do I know this? Because I have experienced Christmas around the world and know how the Holiday is viewed by those who have no idea that the holiday is centered on the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

            In places like Tokyo and Hong Kong Christmas is hailed as a cultural season to decorate in red, display images of a little fat man in a red suit, who never existed, and a time for the banks and commercial interests to make a fortune in sales. In many parts of the United States, Christmas can mean so little as that; but there remains a good percentage of the American people who do, indeed, remember the meaning for the season. They have resisted the phony greeting of happy holidays, or winter break, and stuck to the real name, CHRISTMAS!

            Without all the commercial fanfare and splurging at sales, Christmas could have a far greater meaning to adults and children alike. Instead of songs like ‘Jolly Old St. Nicolas,’ ‘Jingle Bells,’ and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” how much deeper meaning could we feel if we restricted our Holiday songs to those which actually celebrated the reality of Christmas – ‘O Come All Ye Faithful,’ ‘Away in a Manger,’ O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ ‘Silent Night,’ etc.? Instead of a fat little man dressed in red who brings gifts to children around the world in one night why not celebrate the true Birth of the Gift that God has given to mankind? His gift is a continual gift and not a one-time commercially-oriented undertaking. 

            When I remember Christmas of old, those wonderful old Christmas hymns are the songs I remember because they convey eternal truths – not childish fantasies. If we are to teach our children such fanciful tales, let us at least be honest in telling them that Santa Claus is a fairy tale, else they may be led to wonder if we also lied about Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

            The Christmas I experienced in Tokyo is not that much different from those I experience today in America. The great majority of people in Tokyo have no idea who Christ is, yet they celebrate Christmas exactly like most Americans with their Santa Claus props, red décor, colorful lights, and mindless shopping. 

            Perhaps we should try something different this Christmas by gathering the family around the fire (inside or out) and sing carols of praise and glory to God for His greatest Gift to mankind. Instead of buying gifts that are basically meaningless to affluent friends, why not search out some poor family who will subsist on the bare minimum of food and warmth this Christmas by purchasing food, fruits, candy and other treasures. Surprise them on Christmas Eve.

            Let us celebrate Christmas in the full sense that the world acknowledges unwittingly in their calendars – a profound event that changed the world 2,019 years ago!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY OF YOUR FUTURE LIFE!

The Anglican Orthodox Church Worldwide Communion








Jerry L. Ogles, DD, Presiding Bishop