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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

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Devotion on Hymns of the Church - Hymn 94 – Come, Ye Faithful- 30 April 2019, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)



W
HAT profit is therein my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? 10 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper. 11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; 12 To the end that myglory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.(Psalm 30:9-12)

I love commentaries and hymns that predate the modern infatuation with entertainment, but rather emphasize the love of God and His Son, Jesus. It is for that reason that ancient hymns appeal to me more than the pabulum-filled gospel songs of today. The closer to the ancient religion preached by Christ, the sounder the doctrine. There was a day when men and women would lay down their lives rather than deny a single line or word of Scripture. Today, most singers and preachers will not perform unless the price is right. How far we have fallen from the Fire of the Ancient Faith of Christ! This hymn was originally intended to be sung at Morning Prayer on St. Thomas’ Day. Moreover, today’s hymn selection is ancient having been composed by John of Damascus in the eighth century. The hymn reflects upon the text of the “Song of Moses” of Exodus 15. There are two tunes provided in the 1940 Hymnal for this hymn – the first is my choice for the hymn, GUADEAMUS PARITER, by Johan Horn (1544); and the second, ST. KEVIN,  is the composition of Arthur S. Sullivan (1872). 

Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
 of triumphant gladness!
God hath brought his Israel 
into joy from sadness:
loosed from Pharoah's bitter yoke 
Jacob's sons and daughters,
led them with unmoistened foot 
through the Red Sea waters.

'Tis the spring of souls today: 
Christ hath burst his prison,
and from three days' sleep in death
 as a sun hath risen;
all the winter of our sins, 
long and dark, is flying
from his light, to whom we give 
laud and praise undying.

Now the queen of seasons, bright
with the day of splendor,
with the royal feast of feasts, 
comes its joy to render; 
comes to glad Jerusalem, 
who with true affection
welcomes in unwearied strains 
Jesus' resurrection.

Neither might the gates of death, 
nor the tomb's dark portal,
nor the watchers, nor the seal 
hold thee as a mortal:
but today amidst the twelve 
thou didst stand, bestowing 
that thy peace which evermore 
passeth human knowing.

Alleluia now we cry 
to our King Immortal,
who triumphant burst the bars 
of the tomb's dark portal; 
alleluia, with the Son
God the Father praising; 
alleluia yet again
                        to the Spirit raising. 

Come, ye faithful, raise the strain of triumphant gladness; God hath brought his Israel into joy from sadness; loosed from Pharaoh's bitter yoke Jacob's sons and daughters; led them with unmoistened foot through the Red Sea waters. Imagine the fear and chaos of finding themselves penned between the banks of the Red Sea and the approach of a huge and gleaming army bent upon their destruction! And then consider the joy born by the great salvation of God as the Children crossed on die ground when the great banks of water stood erect on either side. The miracle was a singular event never seen before, or since. What a mighty salvation was this! The Children of Israel entered the seabed and crossed to the other shore. In His arrogance, Pharaoh’s army followed hard on. As the last of Israel climbed the far bank, the entire host of Pharaoh’s formidable army with lances and chariots had entered the seabed and was fully deployed in that dry path. How they could have doubted the power of God to save His own remains a mystery to me; but no so much so as I witness the faithless ministers and laity of our own day who doubt the power of God and flaunt His Law – even in churches. When I read the account of this mighty miracle, I am made to fully trust in the Providence of God in all matters. The reader will recall that Pillar of Cloud by Day and Fire by Night that both led and followed Israel. God always goes before, but He is also mindful always of our rear defense. As the Children were crossing, and Pharaoh’s army was fully committed to the depths, God looked out from the Cloud and troubled the chariots of the enemy so that their wheels came off, and had Moses command the sea to cover them there. God is mighty and certainly no wimp. In fact, God is a “Man of War.” “The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.” (Exodus 15:3)

'Tis the spring of souls today;Christ hath burst his prison,and from three days' sleep in deathas a sun hath risen;all the winter of our sins,long and dark, is flyingfrom his light, to whom we givelaud and praise undying.The readers of this devotion will be of varying ages. Some may be quite advanced in years – I know the feeling! But consider that those who have been born anew in Christ are in the earliest days of spring compared to the eternity of life that lies ahead. If we “take up our crosses daily” and follow Christ, we will die to self, as He did. We will be buried in a borrowed tomb, as He was. But we will not descend to Hell, for He defeated death and Hell so that we can arise from the sleep of death, as He did! The darkness of our sins will flee as the morning vapors from the Light of Christ. But light will not penetrate a heart encased in the stone walls of hate, greed, and faithlessness. We must “study to make our calling and election sure.” (see 2 Tim 2:15)

Now the queen of seasons, bright with the day of splendor, with the royal feast of feasts, comes its joy to render; comes to glad Jerusalem, who with true affection welcomes in unwearied strains Jesus' resurrection.There is a great Wedding Feast planned byGod the Father for His only Begotten Son. But the Marriage has yet to be consummated. It shall be on the last day when all of the elect of God have been sealed and brought into His fold. Glad Jerusalem is far from that dusty little town on Mt. Moriah. Jerusalem will suffer a new glorified Body just as we shall have. That Jerusalem shall descend from Heaven as a Bride adorned for her Husband. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God iswith men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and betheir God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

           Neither might the gates of death, nor the tomb's dark portal, nor the watchers, nor the seal hold thee as a mortal: but today amidst thine own thou didst stand, bestowing thine own peace, which evermore passeth human knowing
There is no death for the believer but rather a Door – the door of our Lord Jesus Christ – that admits us from this mortal existence into the Gates of Splendor.. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:7-10)

While seedtime and harvest continue upon this earthen sphere, there will be no peace. It is futile to hope so. The peace that politicians promise is one of hard bondage, so that all of life is a war for liberty and faith. Those who fall out on the march will not gain the fruits of victory. We must persevere until the Captain of our Souls proclaims victory. The modern church has forgotten what it means to persevere in the faith; so it makes compromises of truth and faith as the crescendo of the battle builds. These cannot know the joy of that victory to come in Christ. But even in the heat of battle, the believer has a glorious peace in the covert of his heart.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sermon Notes - First Sunday after Easter - 28 April 2018, Anno Domini


The First Sunday after Easter.
The Collect.

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

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

           Then the same day at eveningthat is, the first day of the week, the same day when the women had gone early to find the vacant tomb. The time was a time of growing darkness (evening). The disciples, though they had hearsay evidence of Christ’s resurrection, it was not as certain to them as a first hand witness. When the hour grows dark, the LORD may surprise us with Light! Those wicked of this world seek to separate themselves from the reality of a Living God. But the day will come when that separation will become real and eternal. At that day they will run to the mountains and plead for the mountains to fall on them to relieve them of their misery of separation from God, for to be separated from God is no less than Hell itself. A kind and consoling word will never be uttered in Hell. 

            Since there is a separation from God, there is no mercy. To the reprobate sinner, there remains only a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:  Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?(Heb 10:27-29) I speak often with men, women, and young people who argue for a different kind of mercy than God offers – a mercy that ignores the Law of God and attempts to adjudicate intentional sin by false claims of love and mercy. Yes, God forgives, but He does not condone habitual and intentional sin that goes without repentance.

                Willful sin is an affront to a Holy God. If God condemns adultery (and He does in the most explicit terms), it is an offense to the Holy Spirit for a professing Christian to indulge in that sin. If God condemns homosexuality (and He does in the most explicit terms), it is an affront to the Holy Spirit to persist in the sin after forgiveness of the same by God. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2 Peter 2:22) I do not say these warnings out of any malicious umbrage to the sinner, but out of warm affection and regard for their souls that may yet be saved by a solemn warning believed. The heart of man desires, continually, to sin; and he will invent many and varied justifications for his sin, but God will not honor those gossamer and flimsy veils for unmitigated sin at the Judgment Seat. It is God’s Law, or Mercy, by which we shall be judged. If we choose Law, we perish. If we choose mercy, we will be changed into souls with a humble regard for God’s Sovereignty, and a heart of contrition for all sin.

            What has this to do with our Easter message today? It is germane in many points. We may presume, erroneously, that God is not privy to either our outward sins, or those of the thoughts of our hearts; but He has constant access to every single act and thought of every person born of woman. 

                When the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, there comes an unexpected joy! Men tend to gather around common fears in time of trouble. These men were fearful of the same evil men as those who crucified our Lord. They were in reclusive retreat. Do not judge them harshly for we would, beyond doubt, be of the same frame of mind under similar conditions. But here they had gathered quietly and inconspicuously. There was no singing and no praising. Despair was in the air. They had shut and secured the door against ALL comers.. 

           Came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.The disciples had certainly not expected this ‘intruder.’ Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them! (Matt 18:20). Jesus always provides that which is most needful. These men feared for their lives and yearned, beyond measure, for peace. At just such a time, Christ the Sun of Righteousness arises with healing in His wings.(Mal 4:2) He stood in the very midst of them so that all could equally view His presence and know it to be Him. No doors will separate Him from His people for He, Himself, is the Door to the Sheepfold!

           And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.Though we may hide ourselves from man and God, He will not hide Himself from us when we gather in His name. He never comes in a doubtful fashion, or as an imposter.. He proves Himself by the terrible wounds of His crucifixion. This could leave no doubt in the minds of the disciples as to His identity. They were well aware of the cruel ten inch nails driven through His Hands and Feet, and of the terrible pierce made into His side which made an opening in His heart for those of us of later ages to enter therein. They were glad when they saw the LORD. Should we not be glad also? We may be made glad by seeing Him through His Word, for He is the Word. And the Comforter will always point to Him if we seek Him.

           Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.Do not believe that I come bringing more fears and trouble than you presently have had. Jesus reinforces His greeting of peace by reiterating it. Anything which comes to us, the believers, from the Father will always be for our good. The Father has sent Christ to us! We often reflect on the great love of Christ in suffering for us on the cross – and that love is, indeed, beyond any which we can imagine. But how often do we consider the immeasurable love of the Father in sending us His Well-Beloved and Only-Begotten Son to suffer the insults, offences, and torture of the cross for us. You may take it as a given that the Father suffered every whit as much as the Son (and maybe even more). The Father, in His abundant Love, sent His Son Jesus, to die for us - but not to die only, also to rise as well from the Tomb for us. Jesus was the perfectly obedient and loving Son. He did all that His Father had required. And He, too, acted out of an abundance of love which mortals cannot comprehend! His dying paid the price for our redemption. His resurrection assures us of a home in Heaven!

But we must know that love is the great power which drew Christ to the Cross. That love gift from the Father in sending His Son is now to be our own model in being sent by Christ into the whole world to preach the Gospel to all nations, tribes, and tongues.

           And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. This act was to impart the breath of God (inspiration) to the Apostles to carry forth the evangelizing Gospel and, in so doing, act with heavenly authority. 

           Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. What meaning do we associate with this counsel of Christ? Does the priest or minister possess power to forgive, or forego forgiveness of sins? Not at all. But having received the breath and inspiration Christ, we may clearly act in accordance with His Word to declare the forgiveness of sins which God has assured all who forsake and repent of sin. The best explanation I have seen is that of the great Bible scholar and teacher, Matthew Henry:

           He said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost, thus showing that their spiritual life, as well as all their ability for their work, would be derived from him, and depended upon him. Every word of Christ which is received in the heart by faith, comes accompanied by this Divine breathing; and without this there is neither light nor life. Nothing is seen, known, discerned, or felt of God, but through this. After this, Christ directed the apostles to declare the only method by which sin would be forgiven. This power did not exist at all in the apostles as a power to give judgment, but only as a power to declare the character of those whom God would accept or reject in the day of judgment. They have clearly laid down the marks whereby a child of God may be discerned and be distinguished from a false professor; and according to what they have declared shall every case be decided in the day of judgment.

            Jesus does not mean to grant a sacerdotal mystery in this last sentence. No man, or priest, can forgive sins – or even grant forgiveness of sins on behalf of God. We are to preach and teach the Gospel – precisely the same Gospel that we have heard and read in the Words of Christ. Those who hear, believe, and repent of sin, shall be saved by our preaching and teaching. Their sins have been remitted by our preaching of that sound doctrine and truth of the Gospel. Many will not receive the truth. In fact, their hearts may be hardened against that truth. What hardened their sinful hearts? Our preaching of truth hardened their hearts so that they will have no excuse at the Judgment. They will not be able to proclaim, No one ever told us! The Word of God is a two-edged sword. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Heb 4:12-13) Being a discerner of the intents of the hearts and thoughts of men, it has a dual purpose – either to convict of sin, or to condemn in sin. It most often, unfortunately, condemns of sin since the greater numbers of mankind will always choose the broad road that leads down to destruction. BEWARE that easy and downward sloping path. Choose the Narrow Way that leads up to God. AMEN

Do we bear these marks?

Friday, April 26, 2019

Lazarus and Mary Magdalene – 26 April 2019, Anno Domini


N
OW a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) 3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. 4 When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. 5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. 7 Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. 8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? 9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. 10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. 11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.. 12 Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. 16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.    (John 11:1-16)

One may fail to see any similarity whatsoever in the account of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany, and Mary Magdalene who sought the body of our Lord early on the first day of the week while it was yet dark; but there is an important connection which I will draw out in the course of this devotion.

The first point I would like to make concerning Lazarus is this: Our Lord referred to the condition of Lazarus as he lay in the tomb as one of sleep. Jesus knew Lazarus was dead, yet he told the disciples that Lazarus slept. Why did He do so? Like the disciples, the modern Christian finds scarce faith to call death a sleep, but not our Lord Jesus Christ. The death of every saint of God is nothing more than an intense sleeping in the tomb while the spirit of that person abides with God. Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall bein the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.  (Ecclesiastes 12:5-7 (KJV) It is easier to understand the Master’s perspective on death when viewed from the heights of faith and not the depths of despair and doubt.

When our Lord arrived at Bethany, many who loved Him dearly and trusted in Him were quite disappointed that He had lingered so long in coming. Lazarus had already been dead for four days, so their hope was forlorn. Martha did not conceal her disappointment. Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died(John 11:17-21)  

Now, there was a purpose hidden from the understanding of the mourning Jews and the family gathered in Bethany. The family of Lazarus had faith in our Lord, but it did not extend beyond the veil of death. Why had he delayed until it was too late for Lazarus? His purpose was written in the eternal annals of Heaven, but these could not read on that level. Martha did have a tiny spark of faith that the Lord could do SOMETHING, but what? She added: But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give itthee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day(John 11:22-24) As mortal beings, we view life only from our immediate surroundings. We are unable to see, not only the beginning, but the end as well (and all things in between) as God sees. 

My eyes moisten to understand the next lines of Jesus in answer to Martha’s implied question: Thy brother shall rise again. (John 11:23)  Then our Lord proclaims a truth that penetrates all time and eternity, top to bottom: I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this(John 11:25-26)

Note the profound truths that stand as a mirror of reality in our Lord’s two phrases above.. Lazarus had a faith in our Lord, though limited by understanding. He believed, and he had suffered physical death, but not spiritual. His soul did not die! He believed in the Lord and he had died, but not the death of the lost. It was a mere passing from a mortal state to a glorified one. It may have even been a disappointment to Lazarus to be called back to this muddy existence had he the faculty to realize the issue. The second comment of our Lord above very clearly delineates living faith and faith which is dead. We must believe while life remains for there is no salvation in the grave. This, we MUST believe, or else we remain lost. 

When our Lord was taken to the tomb, sealed with a large stone, he told the attendants to remove the stone which they did. Martha objected that Lazarus had been dead four days and his body stank. But our Lord moves beyond our paltry objections. Lazarus was truly dead, and his body did, indeed, stink! But Jesus stood without the tomb and commanded with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. Many of the attendees without the tomb had mentioned the name of Lazarus over many times, yet Lazarus did not respond to their voice, but the voice of our Lord penetrated the stone walls of the tomb, into the dead ears of Lazarus, and down into the dead chambers of his heart which, suddenly warmed with the pulsating of blood. He came forth wound tightly in the grave clothes common even today in Asia. 

When Jesus calls our name, we cannot help but respond. He even reminds us of this in the preceding chapter of John. He calls the name of all His elect, and they come to Him. He knows the name of every lamb of His own, and they know His voice. The porter at the doors of death also respond to His voice in opening the death chambers: To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.  (John 10:3-4) Now, our Lord gives one more command once He has called us forth into eternal life. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go(John 11:44) If you remember nothing else of my devotion today, please remember that Christ sets us free when He has called us into the circle of His elect! 

I know that you have patiently read to this point wondering how the calling forth of Lazarus was likened to that of Mary Magdalene. You will recall this line in John 20:1 – The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.The stone covering the tomb was not a small one. It measured at least eight feet in diameter according to the custom of the day. But Mary was startled to see the stone rolled away. Moreover, the guards had fled and left the broken Roman Seal hanging from its place. She ran to tell Peter and John – she was first to report, unwittingly, the risen Lord. Peter and John came to the tomb, entered, and witnessed the array of grave clothes and the folded napkin. They partially understood the circumstances and went away. Poor Mary was left alone with her profuse tears. She had courageously stood with John at the foot of the tomb in defiance of the enemies of our Lord and out of an immeasurable love for Him. She followed to witness His burial, and was last to leave the grave. Now, she has been first to come to the open tomb – a borrowed tomb just like the one Lazarus needed temporarily. Now her despondency is multiplied by the missing body she came seeking to anoint.  Here is a most beautiful passage of this occasion: Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and lookedinto the sepulchre, And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.   (John 20:11-13) 

            I know that angels experience joy, for they sang with joy at the creation of the world. Can you imagine the hidden joy they felt when Mary answered that they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. The angels inside the tomb could see beyond Mary’s back to a figure approaching. They knew the figure to be the risen Lord, but Mary was unaware. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. (John 20:14-15)I apologize to the reader if I mention this text too often, but John 20 is my favorite of all the Bible; and Mary Magdalene is my favorite New Testament figure. I love Mary Magdalene, because she loved so very much my Lord. 

Our Lord knew precisely why Mary was weeping. In fact, she was blinded by her tears and mistook our Lord for the gardener (He is, in fact, the great Gardener of Souls). But wait! Mary turned back furtively for a last look into the tomb when Jesus spoke again, Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master(John 20:16)  Why did Mary know the Lord when He spoke the second time? It was not by appearance for she was still blinded by her tears – it was in the manner in which He called her name! No one will ever call your name as Jesus does. Her tears of abject sorrow were suddenly transformed into tears of great joy! He called Mary’s name in precisely the same manner He had called out to Lazarus lying dead in another borrowed tomb. If He calls your name, friend, you will know and answer – GUARANTEED! Don’t you LOVE our Lord and His WORD

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

On Death – 24 April 2019, Anno Domini

 

Our life here is but a shadow[1]of things to come.  Yet we seem to be attached to our lives here on earth. 

When we come into this world, it is with but one condition, we must leave. There is an old saw, “There are only two things that are inevitable, Death and Taxes.”  That is, of course, not true.  There is only one thing which is, on one level, inevitable, that is Death. At the same time, be aware that not paying your taxes may hasten your earthly death.  

As Christians, our Lord gave His earthly Life that we might have life eternal. You must understand eternal life starts the moment you accept it, not after the demise of your earthly body. From that time on you must live your life accordingly.  It is all not over when you leave this earthly existence, you continue on.  So live as if you will be accountable for your actions for eternity, for that is part of the gift.

Consider this brief letter from Jack Lewis, the Anglican writer, author of the well-known Chronicles of Narniato his friend Mary who is nearing her departure from earth:

To Mary Willis Shelburne: On how to rehearse for death and how to diminish fear.

17 June 1963

Pain is terrible, but surely you need not have fear as well? Can you not see death as the friend and deliverer? It means stripping off that body which is tormenting you: like taking off a hair- shirt or getting out of a dungeon. What is there to be afraid of? You have long attempted (and none of us does more) a Christian life. Your sins are confessed and absolved. Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.

Remember, though we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round—we get afraid be- cause we struggle. Are you struggling, resisting? Don’t you think Our Lord says to you ‘Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little?

Of course, this may not be the end. Then make it a good rehearsal.

Yours (and like you a tired traveler near the journey’s end) Jack
CS Lewis
The Collected Letters of CS Lewis, Volume III


Jack Lewis is telling his friend she has nothing to worry about, there is nothing to fear in death.  He often alluded to what we will find in heaven by referring to the earth as the Shadowlands.  Just as Paul wrote in Chapter 13 of his first letter to the people of Corinth, For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. This earth is merely a shadow of the real world that we call by the term Heaven.

We know we cannot get into Heaven unless we are accounted as perfect in the final judgment.  Yet, we can never be perfect.  We are imperfect creatures with free will, a combination which clearly precludes perfection. Yet, through Jesus’ one sacrifice, made one time, for all time, for all mankind, we are accounted as perfect. His sacrifice is the only possible way for us to enter into Heaven.  Nothing else will make it happen.  No other way than by the sacrifice of the Son will you get into Heaven.  Has God made arrangements for other religions? Consider once again the explanation of Jack Lewis:


I have been asked to tell you what Christians believe, and I am going to begin by telling one thing that Christians do not need to believe. If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main poinin all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain a least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try to persuade myself that most of the human race have always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic—there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others. (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, page 43)

But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him. But in the meantime, if you are worried about the people outside, the most unreasonable thing you can do is remain outside yourself. (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity,page  65)

The real point of all this is that we do not know what arrangements, if any, God has made for other people.  We know what arrangements He made for us when He sent His Son to give His life that we might live.  We don’t want to take any chances, look at what Jesus himself said:

John 14:1-6

L
ETnot your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.  And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.  Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.   (BCP 331)

So, once you die, how long until you show up in Heaven?  Again, look to the source, Jesus on the Cross speaking to the thief, as related by Luke in Chapter 23, Verse 43:

43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

When the time is near, have no fear.  Our Lord has gone before us and a place is ready for each of us.  What will it be like?  The only one hundred percent certain answer is, You won’t be disappointed.  I think Jack Lewis hit it right on the money when he referred to earth as The Shadowlands.  

Trust in God and dread nought


[1]Jack Lewis calls the earth The Shadowlands and says in heaven all is clear and bright, not dark and muddled as here on earth.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Devotion on Hymns of the Church - Hymn 213 – Shepherd of Souls, Refresh and Bless– 23 April 2019, Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord)


B
EHOLD, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward iswith him, and his work before him. 11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry themin his bosom, andshall gently lead those that are with young(Isaiah 40:10-11)

            This hymn is most suitable for the Week following Easter proper. The lyrics are by James Montgomery, a Moravian Minister, and first published in 1832. The tune is an old classic, ST. AGNES, and is the composition of John B. Dykes in 1866. 

Shepherd of Souls, Refresh and Bless

Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless
your chosen pilgrim flock
with manna in the wilderness,
with water from the rock.

We would not live by bread alone,
but by your word of grace,
in strength of which we travel on
to our abiding place.

Be known to us in breaking bread,
but do not then depart;
Saviour, abide with us, and spread
your table in our heart.

Lord, sup with us in love divine,
your body and your blood,
that living bread, that heavenly wine,
be our immortal food.

Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless,  your chosen pilgrim flock, with manna in the wilderness, with water from the rockThe Shepherd of Souls is the sublime title of the Lord Jesus Christ. The flock is comprised of both sheep and goats, and is as unwieldly to manage as a herd of cats. The sheep are short-sighted and not very situationally aware; and the goats are of the opinion that they should make their own decisions which leads, inevitably, to ruin. But the Shepherd knows His sheep and even has given them a name which, when called at the Last Trump shall be responded to even from the grave. The flocks of the Middle East, as I have personally witnessed scores of them, are very much pilgrims. They only travel with their own bodies and no material accoutrements. They seek a green pasture for provender, and clear, still waters for drink. But the sheep have no clue as to where to find these – they must rely upon their Shepherd to lead them to such blessings. Due to the close proximity of a lamb’s nostrils to its mouth, sheep require still waters for drinking. “The LORDismy shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.” (Psalm 23:1-3) 

NOTE: I hope the reader is reminded of how a classical hymn reinforces and reminds of biblical truth!

We would not live by bread alone, but by your word of grace, in strength of which we travel on to our abiding placeNo man or woman can travel the path of a pilgrim without bread and water. But the greater Bread for the pilgrim is not that of the earth, but of Heaven, “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.  (John 6:32-35) If we travel for many days without the Bread of Heaven or the Water of Life, we shall famish and perish in the wilderness of sin. Our souls, as well as our bodies, need bread and water. The Bread and Water of the Soul is the Word of God. We do not make a pretended study thereof one day out of seven, but rather every day if we will grow strong spiritual bones and muscles. 

Be known to us in breaking bread, but do not then depart; Saviour, abide with us, and spread your table in our heartThe Table of the Lord is spread with emblems of our salvation – the Wine Cup of His redeeming Blood, and the Bread of His Body – the WORD! That Table must take the most sacred position in one’s heart.  The men on the Road to Emmaus walked and talked with the Lord until they arrived at their destination. But they did not realize that He was the same Lord whose death they mourned three days earlier. When He sat with them and broke Bread to serve them, their eyes were opened to His Presence.  This same experience is felt by those who take the Cup and Bread of the Communion worthily. Our Lord has not promised to visit us, or sojourn with us – no, not at all. He has promised to ABIDE with us! That means to dwell in our hearts forever. 

Lord, sup with us in love divine, your body and your blood, that living bread, that heavenly wine, be our immortal food. Immortal food indeed!  If we sup with Him in truth and Spirit in this life, we shall sup with Him forever in New Jerusalem. We do not look for the tattered hope of that sordid little village in old Israel which is full of bloodshed and violence, but that Heavenly Jerusalem which shall descend from Heaven as a Bride adorned for her Husband. “Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker isthine husband; the LORDof hosts ishis name; and thy Redeemer (the same Redeemer Husband of the Church) the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” Isaiah 54:4-5Though we can never hope to gain Heaven by the merits of our works, we do gain the entrance by the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ who paid our sin debt on the cross. We will not, at that day, be ashamed. We shall be given a White Stone of innocence upon which is written a new name that no one else will know – so no charge of guilt or shame can be uttered against that new name. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” (Revelation 2:17)

We never know the time nor day upon which the Lord shall call our name, and we shall respond. I had a good friend who worshiped and praised God on this past Sunday, but was dead and ready to be buried on Monday evening. We will conduct her funeral on Wednesday; so be ready at all times for the coming of the Lord. Do not be deceived by false prophets proclaiming the time and date of His coming. He may come for you before sundown today, my friend.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sermon Notes - Easter Sunday - 21 April 2019, Anno Domini


Easter Sunday.
The Collect.

A
LMIGHTYGod, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ hast overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life; We humbly beseech thee that, as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good desires, so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without end.  Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be said daily throughout Easter Week.

A
NDwhen the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the
sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid. 9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. 10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. 12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them(Mark 16:1-13)[1]  

            It is pitiful to observe how afraid and fearful were the women who found and empty Tomb. It is absolutely the most beautiful thing that has ever happened for the benefit of man – that the Tomb of Jesus was empty! How often do we observe the wonder of the God’s work and mistake it for a thing fearful and sad. Fear locks our mouth and stops our testimony. Is it not a wonderful thing to find an empty Tomb and a Risen Lord in lieu of a dead and lifeless body? Perhaps it was their fear and momentary loss of faith that prevented Christ from immediately appearing to them. But can we fault these courageous ladies very much? They lingered at the foot of the cross with John when many others of the disciples were in hiding. They were the ones who followed the body to the Garden Tomb (on loan from Joseph of Arimathaea) and watched there until the Tomb was made sure61 And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. (Matt 27:61) Perhaps it was AMAZEMENT more than anything else that caused their reaction. How can we proclaim such an overwhelmingly marvelous thing? 

            It is true we often disregard even the counsel of angels in our fears. The great Angel spoke to them and, as usual, prefaced his words with “Be not affrighted.” There was no cause for fear, but there WAS great cause for joy. Sometimes we tend to mix our emotions in the wrong way. When God’s Hand moves to the healing of His people, should our hearts not brim with love and joy! But the circumstances simply overwhelmed the women. As my mother used to say, “They were beside themselves.” NEVER did they expect to see what they found. First, the Stone was rolled back. It would take many strong men to perform that task. Fortunately, there were guards there to insure that no man’s hand broke the Roman seal. But the great Angel rolled away the Stone with little effort.  Secondly, the women entered a Tomb that was not yet completely empty – there was only an Angel there to greet their fears. Thirdly, the Angel spoke kind words to allay their foreboding fear. Fourthly, the Angel told them that Christ was risen. Should we not believe an Angel when all evidence supports his claim? He even showed them the place where Christ had laid.

            Fourthly, the Angel told them something that demonstrated the sweet graces of the Balm of Gilead. You will recall that Peter has suffered for these three days the awful pain of having renounced the Lord his God before the court of the Sanhedrin. 56 But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. 57 And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. 58 And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. 59 And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. 60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. 61 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. 62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly(Luke 22:56-62)The look of Christ was not one of reproach, but of deep disappointment – that disappointment one feels when his best friend has ruthlessly betrayed him. How this look had plagued poor Peter. How he despised himself, and ached in the depths of his heart. If he could only take his words back! The Angel told the women: But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee. Did you catch the grace-laden meaning of this comment, friends? “…tell his disciples and Peter” Though His hands of mercy were driven through with iron spikes, His feet nailed to the cross, a crown of thorns for a crown, and the ridicule of the multitudes to welcome His gaze, the Lord knew the agony of Peter, and addressed it with love and forgiveness. The angel did not send news to the disciples ONLY, but specifically to Peter – the only name mentioned for the sake of emphasis. 

            Though we should be pained by our sins, Christ addressed our failings on the cross in the same way that He sent word to the suffering Peter – “you have not been renounced by ME, though I was renounced by you. My heart is too great to harbor vengeance against one who loves me and hurts me out of fear.” Though we know and love Christ, our sinful nature may often cause us to renounce Him through our weakened flesh. We carelessly may recite the Lord’s Prayer and not mean a word of it. We may enter church as a social feast rather than as an occasion to worship in reverence for the One who bled and died for us.

            Our Roman friends have come to the Tomb in the same way the women came. They seek and worship a dead body on the cross. But He is not there. He is risen! They erroneously believe that Christ must be sacrificed anew at every Mass they celebrate. But the Lord’s Table is not an altar, but the Table of the Lord whereby we are fed in the glorious elements of Bread and Wine to signify His spiritual presence in His Body and Blood. The great truth that may escape our understanding is that we, too, are a portion of His Body broken for the Kingdom. Both the Old, and New, Testament Church are the Body of Christ nourished by that Blood shed for us more than two thousand years ago. Abraham knew it, Isaac illustrated it, and all others who looked forward to the promise (as we look back to the accomplished fact) constitute the Body of Christ.

            The Gospel ends today a bit awkwardly, for it leaves the women fearful on Easter 
morning. But, thanks be to God, the narrative continues in the next several verses: 

N
OWwhen Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. 10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. 12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. 14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. 19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. (Mark 16:9-20)

            I added these verses for a purpose. First, because these verses alleviate our fears and give us hope in the sure knowledge of the resurrection of Christ; and, secondly, because, if you are using one of the phony new translations such as the NIV, those last nine verses are enclosed in parentheses. The authors of these errant bibles then stipulate, falsely, in the footnote that these verses do not appear in the more ancient and reliable manuscripts.  They refer, of course, to the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus which do not even agree in many points with each other and which leave entire passages blank on the manuscript page. These constitute only 5% of manuscript evidence while the Textus Receptus of the Reformation agree in all points and constitute 95% of all manuscript evidence. The Thirty Nine Articles require the commonly received text upon which the KJV, the Geneva Bible, and all Reformed Bibles are based.

            Question: Do you believe these last nine verses should be omitted, as the NIV and others suggest? If you do not know, find out! To choose a corrupt Bible version out of failure to investigate puts the onus on you.


[1]The New Bible Versions unscrupulously draw into question all the remaining verses of Mark 16 following verse 7. This leaves off the Resurrection and Ascension finding the women “afraid.” So I include at least the five verses above in addition to the Lectionary Text so as to deprive those who would corrupt the text any credibility in their blasphemous scheme.