BLCF Cafe Community Dinner Reports Feeding A Record Number of Homeless and Marginalized in the Heart of Toronto

80-year-emblem

BLCF Church Est. 1938

Q: When is a church more than just brick and mortar?
A: When the people of the church decide to provide for those who are homeless and disadvantaged in the heart of Toronto with a warm meal in an environment that is safe and friendly: BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, Est. 2008.

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BLCF Cafe Community Dinner 3 (1)

BLCF Cafe Community Dinner Est. 2008

BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, operated under the auspices of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, serves dinner to upwards of 150 homeless and marginalized guests weekly, (that’s over 7,500 annually). Located right in the heart of Toronto, BLCF Cafe reported serving a record 250 guests Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner 2013 and served meals on both Christmas Dinner (2013) and New Years Day (2014). BLCF Cafe receives neither government funding nor corporate sponsorship.  BLCF Café depends solely on a core of dedicated volunteers to get the job done and private donations and fund-raising to finance the community dinners. Volunteers (individuals and groups) are welcome, contact Sophie at 416-535-9578 or blcfcafe@yahoo.ca.

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BLCF Cafe Community Dinner

BLCF Cafe Community Dinner Reports Feeding A Record Number of Homeless and Marginalized in the heart of Toronto

If you or your group are interested in volunteering to help feed the homeless and marginalized in the heart of Toronto, please contact Sophie at BLCF Cafe: Phone 416-535-9578 or email blcfcafe@yahoo.ca. You can make a difference in the life of Toronto’s disenfranchised as a BLCF Cafe volunteer!

Note: All photographic images, documents, web-designs, and graphic images may be subject to (c) copyright and are the property of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship or the author, and may not be duplicated or reproduced by any means without written permission from Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. Violators of said (c) copyright may be subject to penalties and legal remedies under Canadian and International Copyright Laws. 

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God’s Invitation to His Wedding Feast – RSVP

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:              

‘God’s Invitation to His Wedding Feast – RSVP’

© February 4, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 4, 2018

Based on a Message shared with BLCF on January 8, 2012

BLCF_Bulletin_January_8_2012

Announcements & Call to Worship of Prayer, Opening Prayer

Opening Hymn #204: There`s a Quiet Understanding; Choruses                                      

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God 

Responsive Reading #655: The Final Word (Revelation 22) 

Message by Stephen Mickelson: ‘The Great Banquet: God`s Invitation’

Let us pray…

The focus of our lesson today will be what we may learn from the Lord’s parable which Jesus described as the “king who gave a wedding feast for his son.”

Several years ago this spring, my nephew Steve married his fiancée, Elise. This was the fourth wedding held on Sophie`s side of the family. The wedding consisted of a memorable service, followed by a joyful banquet. The wedding was the culmination of many months of planning and preparation for the blessed event.

If we were to turn on the television, we may see any of number of reality shows about various aspects of the wedding, including such aspects as: choosing a wedding planner, selecting the right wedding dress, or four brides who attend each other’s wedding and then rate aspects of the weddings.

Millions of viewers anticipate another royal wedding in the UK, between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, to be broadcast this spring. Only those with invitations will be privy to the reception and the following banquet. It is appropriate that only those familiar with the hosts and who appreciate the significance of the celebration to the bride and groom, would be given a RSVP invitation to attend.

Most people enjoy attending and observing moments of nuptial bliss, where a bride and groom embark upon the journey of a new life together, not expecting to see reality show dramatics nor royal pomp and circumstance in the event. We all can imagine the various elements involved in a wedding ceremony and the celebration that followed the exchange of vows, where a couple embark upon a new life, united in both heart and spirit. The expectation of the invited is to witness a happy, joyful wedding and celebration afterward, which makes it is not surprising that Jesus used a wedding banquet in Matthew 22:1-14, as a parable of to illustrate God`s covenant for dealing with our sinful nature through Jesus, and to illustrate the gospel of Jesus Christ, Matthew 22:1-14 (ESV):

The Parable of the Wedding Feast

  

 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’  And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.  Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” 

The parables of our Lord Jesus are earthly stories meant to explain heavenly truths. Each person or object is symbolic of someone or something else. Understanding the symbolism is crucial to discovering the lesson of the parable. This is entirely consistent with literal, historical, grammatical interpretation, since the passage is clearly described as a parable, and in fact gaining the theological impact of this parable requires such an understanding. In fact, Jesus best explains His purpose for using the parable in Matthew 13:10-17 (ESV):

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:                                                             

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”

 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.  For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Back to the lessons from The Parable of the Wedding Feast, the servants sent out to announce the wedding are ignored by some, as were the first disciples who share the good news about Jesus have been ignored. But the Lord is patient and does not want us to rashly reject the gift of salvation, so he sends out more servants, or more disciples, with His invitation. But we see that there are those who choose not only to reject the invitation, but choose to kill those bearing His message. This represents those who have imprisoned, or humiliated, or even killed God`s disciples. But, the King, will kill the murders and destroy their city.

In the Wedding Feast Parable, the King represents God the Father; His Son is our Lord Jesus.  The Invited guests represent Israel and the servants He sent symbolize the prophets and disciples. The city the king had his troops burn because the people invited not only refused to attend, but has killed the king’s servants, represents a defiant Jerusalem.

We find further clarification of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet in Mark`s gospel, in Chapter 2:18-20 (ESV):

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.

God has prepared a banquet with His son Jesus the bridegroom and His bride is the church, being the body of believers, not the mortar and brick. Some say those He then sent His servants out to invite represent the church, which can contain both good and bad believers. However, the symbolism and timing are wrong. The Church is the Bride of Christ, not a group of last minute substitute guests. Since Israel had already refused their invitation, and the Church (being the bride) would not need an invitation, so who are the guests in the parable and what else are we to take from the lesson?

The wedding garment, worn by the guests represents His righteousness. This is a concept explained on numerous occasions in both Old and New Testaments.

The fact that a guest is thrown out into the darkness for not wearing  proper wedding attire indicates these last minute guests have to be clothed in “garments of salvation” to publicly identify themselves as believers.

The parable makes it clear that there is no reason, none at all, for people to reject a gracious invitation from the King to come to the wedding feast and enjoy all good things. The only reason they reject the invitation is that they do not believe the King, or they do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Since this is a call from the King or from God, the people are not free to take it or leave it, even if they think they can be non-committal. To reject the invitation from God to share in His Kingdom is folly, it is choosing death, as it not only constitutes a rejection of God’s offer of grace, and it is a rejection of His only provision for eternal life.

The poorly dressed guest might also be considered one of those who profess to be followers of Christ when in the company of other believers, but who hide their light under a bushel when in the presence of non-believers. This brings us to the next Scripture verse for this morning`s message, Romans 1:16 (ESV):

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The wedding garment not worn by the guest who is removed from the banquet in Our Wedding Banquet Parable has another interesting aspect, which is represented by what the guest chose to wear to the banquet.

First century Jewish wedding customs held that the father of the groom was in charge of the event and bore all the expense associated with the wedding and reception. In case of royalty or the very wealthy this often included providing a specially made garment to be worn over a guest’s regular clothing. This wedding garment was presented to the guest upon arrival and donned immediately. Wearing it wasn’t mandatory, but was considered a great insult to the Father of the groom if refused and could get a guest ejected from the festivities. In case of large gatherings it also served as identification to discourage uninvited guests from crashing the party.

The guests gathered by the servants for the wedding represent both the good and the bad. That is they represent either those who repent their sins, or those who have not. The guest who accepted the invitation, calling themselves righteous, while claiming to be entitled to His mercy. However, it takes more than just words to claim redemption.

The wedding guest not properly dressed for the banquet is like the person who claims to be a child of God, but his thoughts and actions reveal whether or not his actions matched the words. This is like the expression: you may talk the talk, but did you walk the walk.  There are many so called Christians whose focus and service is performed in the name of the Lord, but their true focus is self-promotion. While they may fool some into believing that they are serving the Lord, God knows that they are only seeking to benefit themselves. Unfortunately, for them, at the Lord`s Banquet, their actions and our motives become visible, like their outer garments. Those who are not servants of the Lord will be judged. Those who were not sincere in their faith practices will be bound and ejected from Heaven. Not all who have been invited will be allowed to stay.

From the beginning of time, God has given humanity a choice. The rags worn by the guest are not unlike that worn by all humanity because of sin. Adam and Eve in an attempt to conceal their sin of disobeying God in the garden felt ashamed and chose to wear fig leaves and loin cloths in an attempt to conceal their guilt from Him. Let us read about this in Genesis 3:7-10 (ESV):

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[a] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”[b] 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 3:8 Hebrew wind b. Genesis 3:9 In Hebrew you is singular in verses 9 and 11

God saw Adam and Eve had known sin because they had eaten the forbidden fruit, which caused them to want to hide their nakedness, so God made them garments to wear, not to conceal their sin, but as a reminder of their sin, as described in Genesis 3:21 (ESV):

21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

When the Day of Judgement comes, and no one knows the day, only those clothed in righteous will not have their sins exposed, Revelation 16:15 (ESV):

 15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)

What do we mean when we talk keeping the garments of righteous? Where do these garments come from? We may find our answer in Galatians 3:27 (ESV):

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Like the Wedding Banquet Parable, those who accept God’s gift of salvation, by believing His Son, Jesus died for our sins, so that we may accept the Holy Spirit, and wear new garments of righteous, discarding filthy garments of sin that we inherited from Adam and Eve, and exchange them for pure vestments, free of iniquity, Zechariah 3:3-4 (ESV):

Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”

Let us discard our rags of sin and accept the gift of the new wedding garment and wear it to celebrate the fact that we were not only we called by Him, but celebrate that He chose us as guests to His banquet. We only need to RSVP his invitation.

Let us pray…

Communion Observance: Responsive Reading #663 (1 Corinthians 11)

Closing Hymn #210: Here, O My Lord, I See Thee

Benediction – (1 John 1:6-7): If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  – Amen

Prayer Walk in the Heart of Toronto at BLCF Church

JOIN US TO PRAY FOR OUR COMMUNITY !

in the Heart of Toronto at BLCF Church

Every month, on the first Tuesday, believers from several congregations in west

Toronto gather to worship and pray for one another and for the neighborhood.

Standing together in unity our prayers are lifted to God that we may see His blessing

in our churches and in our neighborhood !

On Tuesday, February 6th, we will be gathering at:

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church

1307 Bloor Street West (1 block west of Lansdowne Avenue)

BLCF: 416-535-9578 – blcfchurch@yahoo.ca

EVERY PRAYER COUNTS !   YOUR PRAYER COUNTS !

Let’s join together in faith looking to God for His blessing upon our community !

***Contributions of non-perishable food items for the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner 

 would be greatly appreciated !

Follow-up to the above post:
BLCF Prayer Walk, February 6, 2018. Some thirty people from 7 churches sang, walked, and prayed first at BLCF and later in the Bloor Lansdowne neighborhood.

Question: “What is prayer walking? Is it biblical to go on a prayer walk?”                                                       

 (-from gotquestions.org/prayer-walking)

 

Answer: Prayer walking is the practice of praying on location, a type of intercessory prayer that involves walking to or near a particular place while praying. Some people believe that being close to a location allows them to “pray nearer to pray clearer.” Prayer walks are taken by individuals, groups, and even whole churches. They can be as short as a block or as long as many miles. The idea is to use the five senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch—to increase the intercessor’s understanding of prayer needs.

For example, if you walk through your neighborhood looking for things to pray about, you might come across a yard that is extremely untidy and rundown. This might prompt you to pray for the health, both physical and spiritual, of the residents inside. Some groups prayer walk around schools, prompting prayer for the teachers and students inside, for their safety and peace, and for the schemes of the devil in their school to be thwarted. Some people feel they can concentrate and direct their prayers more effectively by walking near the people and places they are praying for.

Prayer walking is a relatively new phenomenon, the origin of which is not clear. There is no biblical model for prayer walking, although since walking was the major mode of transportation in Bible times, clearly people must have walked and prayed at the same time. However, there is no direct command that prayer walking is something we should be doing. To believe that prayers offered in any setting, or while in any position, are more effective than those offered at another time or in another manner is not scriptural. In addition, while we may feel we need to be close to a location or situation to pray more clearly, our heavenly Father, who is everywhere at all times, knows exactly what needs are present and will respond to them in His own perfect will and timing. The fact that He allows us to be part of His plans through our prayers is for our benefit, not His.

We are commanded to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and since walking is something we do daily, surely part of praying without ceasing is praying while walking. God hears all prayers offered by those who abide in Christ (John 15:7), regardless of time, place, or position. At the same time, there certainly is no command against prayer walking, and anything that prompts us to pray is worthy of consideration.

Living Water: It Helps Us Discern the Milestones from the Millstones

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:              

‘Living Water: It Helps Us Discern the Milestones from the Millstones’

© January 28, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin January 28, 2018               

Based on a Message shared with BLCF on July 27, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin July 27, 2014

 

Opening Hymn #155: “Man of Sorrows,” What a Name; Choruses                                           

Prayer and Tithing – Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests     

Responsive Reading #664:  About Spiritual Gifts (1 Corinthians 12)   

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                     

‘Living Water: It Helps Us Discern the Milestones from the Millstones’

 

Let Us Pray…

Welcome to BLCF. Our lesson today is about discernment with respect to people, objects or circumstance that have the ability to act to either facilitate or hamper us from walking the righteous path, which is what the Lord desires for all his children.

You may recall a few years ago, a television commercial for a portable label printer, where a person received such a label maker for Christmas and proceeded to label everything in sight, including the family pet. While we may have a laugh and giggle at the idea of getting carried away with a label maker, it does reflect the human tendency to place a sign or label on things.

A sign can have on of several functions: it can denote a significant location by its distance from a specified starting point or to identify it as a destination point. Other signs are erected to convey to the reader specific information, to post a caution or warning, or to give the reader instructions or directions.

On your way to BLCF Church, this morning, you likely passed over a dozen such signs for every block off travel. If you walked here, you passed signs indicating: street names, which side of the street to cross; company names and a description of the product or service offered;  restaurant menus and pricing; and so on. Those who travelled by bus or the subway saw additional signs denoting bus or train direction or destination, caution signs and markings; potential fine or punishment for pushing the emergency stop; and so on. Drivers to BLCF, encountered signs indicating traffic directions, detours, corner stops, pedestrian crosswalks, and so on. And all travellers looked for the number, name of the church building.

Because Toronto is a multi-cultural city populated by a diverse multi-national population, a sign in the English or French Language is insufficient to convey a message for which it is purposed. That is why signs follow an international signage  standard, with the colour, shape and orientation help to convey important information. Red or hexagon indicates stop; yellow or triangle tells us caution and green circles or arrows represent that it is safe. To control vehicle and pedestrian traffic, lights are used, using colour lights augmented by the characters of a walking person or hand, respectively for go or stop, with a numeric countdown to when the signal will change being displayed. Those who are colour blind know, that red, yellow, and green lights are located respectively at the top, middle, or bottom or left, middle and right, depending upon the light’s orientation. For the visually impaired, traffic lights may emit different pitched sounds to indicate their status, while signs may have Braille markings. For travellers, besides maps, we have GPS devices or GPS Aps for cell phones and other devices, to help us know our location and destination. But using signs to mark the way is not a new invention. Street numbers and milestones have been with us for some time, as we see in our Wikibits description:

Milestones were originally stone obelisks – made from granite, marble, or whatever local stone was available – and later concrete posts. They were widely used by Roman Empire road builders and were an important part of any Roman road network: the distance travelled per day was only a few miles in some cases. Many Roman milestones only record the name of the reigning emperor without giving any place names or distances.[1] The first Roman milestones appeared on the Appian Way. At the Centre of Rome, the “Golden Milestone” was erected to mark the presumed Centre of the empire: this milestone has since been lost. The Golden Milestone inspired the Zero Milestone in Washington, D.C., intended as the point from which all road distances in the United States should be reckoned. Odometers were used to measure the Roman milestone spacing, most likely based on Ancient Greek Technology.[citation needed

A milestone is one of a series of numbered markers placed along a road or boundary at intervals of one mile or occasionally, parts of a mile. They are typically located at the side of the road or in a median. They are alternatively known as mile markers, mileposts or mile posts (sometimes abbreviated MPs). Mileage is the distance along the road from a fixed commencement point.

Milestones are constructed to provide reference points along the road. This can be used to reassure travelers that the proper path is being followed, and to indicate either distance travelled or the remaining distance to a destination. Today, such references are also used by maintenance engineers and emergency services to direct them to specific points where their presence is required. This term is sometimes used to denote a location on a road even if no physical sign is present. This is useful for accident reporting and other record keeping (e.g., “an accident occurred at the 13 mile mark” even if the road is only marked with a stone once every 10 miles).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millstone

We have touched upon the purpose of signs we may encounter in our commute to and from church, but what about the signs used by the church? BLCF Church can be identified by the street number, 1307; by the name placed on the signs on side and the marquee on the front; by person helping another LOGO on the signs; and finally by the cross placed on the front of the building. For our Wednesday community dinner, we place a sign with the name “BLCF Café Community Dinner, the hours 6-8PM, and All Are Welcome” with a picture of a steaming bowl of soup placed beside the front entrance of BLCF Church.

In spite of the redundancy of function and smart technologies, we still can get lost or confused. In that regard the milestone becomes a millstone for our journey. And what do I mean by millstone? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives us, the following definition:

mill·stone noun \ˈmil-ˌstōn\

: either one of two large, round stones used for grinding grain in a mill

: a problem or responsibility that does not go away and that makes it difficult or impossible to do or achieve something

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/millstone

When misdirected or lost, if we are fortunate, we may find someone to give us directions. And if we are very fortunate, that person gives us the correct and accurate directions.

A few birthdays ago, we traveled with my daughter, the birthday girl, for a day in High Park. During the visit, I noted how often signs were posted: park benches dedicated in honour of a deceased friend or family member, there were signs posted at the zoo identifying, by means of both illustration and description, the various animals at their enclosures. The animal’s identification included the species, place of origin, and other pertinent facts.

On a recent visit to the Royal Ontario Museum, I noted how all the displays contained signs which identified the artifact, indicating the place and date of origin, its use and significance to the society of the time, as well as location and date that it was made. If you venture to the Royal Botanical Gardens, you will see signs identifying the name, species and origin of a variety of flora throughout the gardens and greenhouses.

What about the various signs and symbols in the Scriptures? How do we navigate and understand their meanings. How can we best utilize God’s signs to guide us on our Christian walk? And how can we discern whether a sign is really from the Lord? There as signs and indicators found on today’s Scripture, which gives us the account of an encounter between the Lord and a Samarian woman at a well.

John 4:1-45 (ESV) Jesus and the Woman of Samaria

4 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.[a]

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[b] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.                               Footnotes: a. John 4:6 That is, about noon b. John 4:14 Greek forever

We have in today’s Scriptures, an account of Jesus encountering a Samaritan woman at a well, asking for water, using the request to speak to her about the Water of Life. What does it signify? In his reference to water that is living literal or metaphorical? Let us check our Wikibits for a definition:

Wikibits: Water of Life (Christianity) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Depiction of Fleuve de Vie, the “River of Life”, from the Book of Revelation, Urgell Beatus, (f°198v-199), c. 10th century

In Christianity the term “water of Life” (Greek: ὕδωρ ζωῆς hydōr zōēs) is used in the context of living water, specific references appearing in the Book of Revelation (21:6 and 22:1), as well as the Gospel of John.[1] In these references, the term Water of Life refers to the Holy Spirit.[1][2][3

In the secular world, we do have examples of signs that are represent something quite literal, for example Alberta’s “Wild Rose Country” and Pennsylvania’s “Keystone State” in contrast to more ethereal examples found with Ontario’s “Yours To Discover” and Texas’ “Drive Friendly”. But the term “living water” is a term that falls in the spiritual realm. Jesus was speaking about something that could be described as being either tangible or intangible, or simply supernatural, but something related to faith and the soul, something supernaturally of and about God.

Back to the Scripture account, it was interesting that the disciples returned and were surprised to find Jesus in conversation with a Samaritan woman. The reason why they were surprised may be echoed in the parenthetical  comment in the passage: (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans).

While the  Samaritan woman, and later others from the town believed the message of the Lord, there are others who are without true faith in the Lord not only expected, but demanded,  a supernatural sign from God to authenticate the testimony that they head or the Scriptures read.

Matthew 16:1-12 (ESV) The Pharisees and Sadducees Demand Signs

16 And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them,[a] “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.       Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:2 Some manuscripts omit the following words to the end of verse 3

The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the teachings of Jesus, where he often used both the parable and metaphor. In John 4, we have an account where Jesus uses the literal request to the Samaritan woman for a drink of water, to discuss baptism by the Holy Spirit as a metaphoric baptism in “living water,” John 4, starting at verse 7:

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[a] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”                                                                                                                             

Footnotes: a. John 4:14 Greek forever

Some Christians may have difficulty discerning when Jesus uses a metaphorical example from the literal. In his discussion with the Samarian woman, he compares water drawn from a well with the living water, which is a metaphor for the God’s Holy Spirit. Christ is not telling the woman to jump in the well nor to go into the Jordan River.

Sometimes even the Disciples, as well, have difficulty with Christ’s metaphors, as we read in the account of The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, from Matthew 16:5-12, which is another example of Jesus teaching by metaphor, where Christ uses bread as a metaphor for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He is not warning his Disciples about the dangers of baked goods!

In spite of the gift of Christ’s salvation and the help from the Spirit, some will ignore the promptings from the Spirit, allowing themselves to be misguided and separated from the Lord.

Matthew 24:15-28 (ESV) The Abomination of Desolation

15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

But do not lose hope. For while we sometimes stray or lose our way, we our blest not just by the gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us. We share, in one body, other vessels of the Holy Spirit, who are able to help us get back on track, in direction that God intended us to follow. Let us rely upon the love and support of our fellow believers in our time of need, as integral parts of the body of believers comprising the church. For God intended that we not to be left alone, when we get lost on our Christian Walk or feel bereft in our hour of need. The Lord desires us to rely upon our fellow believers as we are united in the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (ESV) One Body with Many Members

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 12:13 Or servants; Greek bondservants

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark

Benediction – (Philemon 1:25):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Staying on the Path to Salvation: Through Humility and Forgiveness

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Staying on the Path to Salvation through Humility and Forgiveness’ 

© January 21, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin January 21, 2018

Based on lessons shared with BLCF on February 28, 2010 and  July 20, 2014

BLCF Bulletin February 28, 2010

BLCF: Bulletin July 20, 2014

 

Announcements and Call to Worship:     

Opening Hymn#248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain; Choruses                                  

Tithing & Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings  

Responsive Reading 667: Humility and Exaltation (Philippians 2 and Matthew 23); Prayer

 

 

Let Us Pray…

I would like to begin today’s lesson with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

Things that will destroy man: Politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice. 

If you picked up a newspaper yesterday morning you may have read the following headline and news story:

Las Vegas Police Say Motive For Shooting Rampage Still Elusive

By Wesley Lowery and Mark Berman
Posted: 01/20/2018 9:18 AM

Authorities have not yet found a motive for the October 2017 Las Vegas massacre, but have concluded there is no evidence of any political or ideological radicalization that would explain why Stephen Paddock opened fire on a country music festival from a 32nd floor suite at the Mandalay Bay resort.

While the investigation remains active, the Clark County sheriff’s office on Friday released a preliminary 81-page investigatory report about the Oct. 1 shooting rampage, which left 58 people dead and more than 850 injured. Paddock, who had checked into two rooms at the Mandalay and spent days bringing in bags of assault rifles and ammunition, shot down into the crowd for more than 10 minutes in what investigators have described as a well-planned attack.

Authorities have concluded Paddock acted alone, and the sheriff said police do not anticipate bringing charges against Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, who received large cash transfers from Paddock just before the shooting and was questioned in the days after.

“We have done a lot of work trying to piece together what happened,” Sheriff Joe Lombardo said during a news conference Friday. “This report won’t answer every question, or even the biggest question, as to why he did what he did.”

Paddock, 64, who had no prior criminal history, stockpiled weapons in the year before the shooting, ultimately purchasing 55 rifles and other guns in addition to scopes, cases, bump stocks and ammunition, according to the report. But it remains unclear why he targeted the concert, the central mystery that has gone unsolved since he opened fire on the Route 51 Harvest music festival in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

“No suicide note or manifesto was found,” investigators wrote. “There was no evidence of radicalization or ideology to support any theory that Paddock supported or followed any hate groups or any domestic or foreign terrorist organizations. Despite numerous interviews with Paddock’s family, acquaintances and gambling contacts, investigators could not link Paddock to any specific ideology.”

The report later concludes: “Nothing was found to indicate motive on the part of Paddock or that he acted with anyone else.”

Unlike many of the other mass killers who have attacked churches, nightclubs, workplaces, schools and other public spaces across the U.S., Paddock apparently left no explanation for his attack.                          

https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/world/las-vegas-police-say-motive-for-shooting-rampage-still-elusive-470271453.html

Much of today’s news media contains a litany of stories describing the sadness of when innocent lives are lost or to quote a well-known book:

When Bad Things Happen To Good People

When Harold Kushner’s three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease and that he would only live until his early teens, he was faced with one of life’s most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, Rabbi Kushner wrote this straightforward, elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a parent, a reader, and a human being. Often imitated but never superseded, When Bad Things Happen to Good People is a classic that offers clear thinking and consolation in times of sorrow. Since its original publication in 1981, When Bad Things Happen to Good People has brought solace and hope to millions of readers and its author has become a nationally known spiritual leader.

My younger sister, Rhona Mickelson, died from blood poisoning related to an abscess bedsore. The loss was very difficult for my dad. No one wants to outlive his or her child. Rhona’s last words to dad were: “I am not ready to die.” I believe that the whole family was surprised by her untimely death at age 42, as she successfully represented the disabled and elderly segments of Toronto’s talent through her Star Tracks Talent Agency (Star Tracks © 1998 Estate and Heirs of Rhona Winifred Mickelson – All Rights Reserved).

When a child dies, the surviving parents and family are not only struck by their own mortality, but are distinctly aware of the loss of someone close to them with whom there will be no more conversations, no more laughter nor jokes. For a parent they sense a loss of someone who was to carry on with the family name. Lost are the hopes, dreams, and aspirations that the parent had for the child.  Such a loss can be very difficult to accept, the causes are often hard to reconcile, and for those outside the family, such loss may be hard to understand.

Such was the case in Nickels Belt, Pennsylvania, when Charles Roberts, a 32-year-old milk truck driver, burst into an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania on Monday, October 2, 2006 and killed five schoolgirls execution-style and then shot and then killed himself. Initially, the public viewed the tragedy as another case of a disturbed individual acting out his psychosis by killing innocent victims. It was just another school shooting by a man who was described by neighbors as a soccer dad, a seemingly good husband, and hard worker who just snapped. A rambling letter written by Roberts prior to his death blamed his emotional state upon a personal loss, some years previous.

The scope and scale of the tragic loss of life at the Amish schoolhouse paled in comparison to the reaction given by the families of the five victims towards the killer Roberts and the Roberts family. Though the act of violence against the children in the Amish schoolhouse by this outsider had shaken the community to its core and in spite of Amish community’s feelings of shock, disbelief and then grief, the reaction of the Amish community to the deaths was not what others had expected. Members of the Amish community sought to support all of the families who had suffered a tremendous loss; both Amish as well as Roberts’ family. Within a day of the shootings, members of the Amish community, friends and family of the slain girls called upon the parents, widow and children of Charles Roberts to embrace the shooters family, to show forgiveness towards the killer and to support the Roberts in their time of personal loss and grief.  This reaction of forgiveness stunned both the public and the media.

Dr. Donald Kraybill co-authored: Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy, and wrote the following:

One of the fathers who lost a daughter in the schoolhouse and had another one seriously injured said, “Our forgiveness was not in our words, it was in what we did.” What did they do? How did the Amish enact forgiveness?

Two days after the shooting the Amish formed the Nickel Mines Accountability Committee to disperse, with fiscal integrity, the financial gifts of goodwill that were suddenly coming from people around the world to help the suffering families. Composed of seven Amish leaders and two outside businessmen, the Nickel Mines Accountability Committee decided to give a proportion of the funds they received to the widow and children of Charles Roberts. In time, the committee received about $4.2 million from generous donors around the world.  

One of the most striking expressions of forgiveness occurred at Charles Roberts’s burial on the Saturday after the shooting. Roberts was buried in the Georgetown cemetery, about a mile from the school, beside his firstborn daughter whose premature death nine years earlier he blamed on God and gave as the reason for his murderous acts. Over half of the people in attendance were Amish. They spontaneously decided to attend. Some had just buried their own daughters the day before. After the burial they hugged the widow and the parents of Charles Roberts. It was a remarkable act of grace. The funeral director supervising the burial said, “I realized that I was witnessing a miracle!” The Amish families bestowed other gracious acts of kindness on the family of Charles Roberts. Some sent meals and flowers to his widow. At Christmastime children from a nearby Amish school went to the Roberts home to sing carols.  

Another remarkable facet of the Amish response was the absence of anger and rage. One Amish woman said, “When I saw the bodies of one of the little girls at the viewing it just made me mad, mad at the evil, not at the shooter.” In my interviews, I probed for anger toward Charles Roberts but I detected only deep sorrow, not anger. When I asked about Roberts’s eternal destiny, one Amish minister said, “I can only hope for him what I hope for myself, that God will be a merciful and loving judge.” Deep pain and sorrow seared the hearts of the Amish parents. Even months after the tragedy, the memory of the event brought tears to the eyes of many Amish people. “I couldn’t preach in church for several weeks because when I tried, I just cried and cried,” said one grandfather, a minister who lost a granddaughter in the schoolhouse. The Amish are not stoic people; they experience the emotions of pain and suffering like the rest of us.

For all the Amish, as well as for fellow Christians at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship– BLCF Church, the strength to forgive is found through humility and by God’s grace.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, well known for his Christian walk, once said: “Forgiving is one of the most difficult things for a human being to do, but I think it means looking at some slight you feel, putting yourself in the position of the other person, and wiping away any sort of resentment and antagonism you feel toward them. Then let that other person know that everything is perfectly friendly and normal between you…One of the most basic principles for making and keeping peace within and between nations. . . is that in political, military, moral, and spiritual confrontations, there should be an honest attempt at the reconciliation of differences before resorting to combat”

C. Ryle on the subject of humility and love said: “Humility and love are precisely the graces which the men of the world can understand, if they do not comprehend doctrines. They are the graces about which there is no mystery, and they are within reach of all classes… [The poorest] Christian can every day find occasion for practicing love and humility. “

To understand the reaction, we must understand the Amish. There are about 200,000 Amish who live in 27 states and 350 geographical settlements. They came from Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries and have lived lives largely separate from mainstream American society ever since.  They have a Biblically based understanding of their way of life, and they seek to apply their unique ways in terms of their selective use of technology, the way in which they interact with the outside world. Because the Amish are pacifists, they see the school rampage as a test of faith. Part of their faith practices includes not only reciting daily The Lord’s Prayer, but actually incorporating the message of the prayer in their everyday life. As one member of the Amish community stated, “There’s strength and forgiveness and not having the kind of bitterness that we think possibly caused this terrible tragedy.”

In order to achieve forgiveness, the Amish live a life of humility. Their manner of dress is simple and unassuming. They shun modern technology, preferring to travel by horse drawn carriage than by automobile. They live off the power grid; don’t have gas lines, any phones, any radios or televisions, any computers or internet. They have no commercial insurance policies; say for life or property insurance, no credit cards, no loans. If an Amish suffers a loss, his support network is the community of fellow believers, who draw close to the person to provide care and support. The Amish learn the Way of humility from the Scriptures, 2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV):

14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV) Christ’s Example of Humility

2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.         

Footnotes: a. Philippians 2:5 Or which was also in Christ Jesus b. Philippians 2:7 Greek bondservant

But you may ask: “Does God really command or require us to be humble”? We find the answer to this question in Micah 6:8 (ESV):

He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love

kindness,[a]     

and to walk humbly with your God?             

Footnotes: a. Micah 6:8 Or steadfast love

Just as our weakness and imperfections are made strong and perfect through the power of the Holy Spirit; a humble believer will become the greatest proponent of the faith in the Lord:

Matthew 18:3-4 (ESV)

And he said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Steve Marshall in an article on overcoming depression entitled: How forgiveness has healing power over depression states the following:

Healing through forgiveness and growing through humility. Accepting your depression and finding that it is no more than a curtain on the stage of life, your life. What is the real spiritual connection between depression and forgiveness? Is there a causal connection? Can depression be alleviated from a “heartfelt connectingly” deep forgiveness of myself and of others made by myself? Forgiveness always helps because to forgive is to embrace the loving option. Love heals depression by allowing it’s healing “of the opening up of yourself to yourself and of the opening up of yourself to others” to take place. For essentially depression is a sign of your closing down to yourself and to life. The way to allow growth through and past your depression is to start forgiving yourself for having allowed this degree of closing down of yourself to yourself and to life to have taken place. Depression is a really deep, painful and lonely place to be, but it’s very deepness is what allows you to grow. It is true in life that you grow most from the deepest pain and the deepest feelings and that your most penetratingly painful experiences will often teach you the most. And so depression as I have just said allows you to feel feelings more deeply and this then will open the other side of depression in you and which is forgiveness. When you are feeling any feeling other than happiness or experiencing any state other than love, it is time to think about forgiveness. Forgive yourself first by just accepting yourself, for acceptance is the always the first step of forgiveness. The second step is to acknowledge that depression is a part of life and of your life and to look for the hidden jewels hiding within the darkness of depression. Forgiveness is the candle or the light in this darkness that will allow you to see the jewel and which is your soul sparkling and shining with a glimmering hope. That hope is that real hope that you will at last contact your real self as soul and that this contact will now begin to turn you around, and then after that the next step is humility. It takes true humility to forgive, and true forgiveness makes you humble. It goes on from there, and you will find that when you can touch yourself as soul, and feel a little of your true value, and accept that you have indeed a unique purpose and unique gifts and that you are a part of God’s overall plan for all of life, you will maybe realize then that your part in it all is just simply to be you.

And you may ask what Christ said we may expect if we do not forgive those who have wronged us? Let us read from Matthew 25, verses 31-46 for the answer let us look to Matthew 25:31-45 (ESV):

The Final Judgment

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

In other words, we will be judged according to how we have treated others. We cannot expect forgiveness and salvation if we do not forgive others. And we cannot forgive others if we have not humbled ourselves in the eyes of the Lord. Or to put it a little more clearly:

Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

And if we must remember Christ words, while nailed to the cross, through His anguish and pain the words He spoke were of suffering but forgiveness:

Luke 23:34 (ESV)

34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”[a] And they cast lots to divide his garments.                                                                          

Footnotes: a. Luke 23:34 Some manuscripts omit the sentence And Jesus… what they do

So we can see that one of the requisites for our Salvation is humility and in order to be forgiven, we must first forgive. These are not guidelines but a path which we may walk. Like the Amish, a way of life. The scriptures become alive for you and me only after we chose not just to speak the scripture, but to live the scripture. To demonstrate by our actions humility before the Lord and forgiveness to others who have wronged us.

Danish philosopher, theologian, and psychologist Soren Kierkegaard once said: Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. If Christianity … is not reduplicated in the life of the person expounding it, then he does not expound Christianity, for Christianity is a message about living and can only be expounded by being realized in men’s lives.

Humility and forgiveness are the sacrifices we must make to be worthy in God’s eyes so as to receive Christ’s gift of salvation. His sacrifice for our forgiveness was great. What we must sacrifice is relatively small, we must be humble, be forgiven and receive the gift of salvation.

With respect to forgiveness and the Christian walk, author CS Lewis observed: To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

Let us conclude this morning’s lesson with the same quote from Mahatma Gandhi that used at the beginning:

Things that will destroy man: Politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus 

Benediction (Romans 15:5-6): May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love’

© January 14, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on October 26, 2014

BLCF Bulletin January 14, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                              

Opening Hymn # 248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain; Choruses

Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Responsive Reading #632 (God’s Redeeming Lover – from John 3 and 1 John 4);

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                              

‘The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love’

Bloor Lansdowne - BLCF Cafe Community Dinner

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday Praise and Worship service today at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, where our lesson for today is entitled: ‘The Cross: A Symbol of Our Faith and Reminder of God’s Love’. And before we delve into the lesson, I would like to share our own miracle of the cross here at BLCF.

It was at a BLCF picnic in the back of the church at St. Helens several years ago, that the congregation decided to invite the Bloor Lansdowne Community to a simple barbeque/picnic, featuring hot dogs and corn on the cob.

Since we had a small Hibachi grill, it was decided to cook the hot dogs outside and boil the corn inside the church kitchen. I was running the barbeque in the front driveway so as to catch the attention of passersby with a sign posted as an invitation to join the picnic posted above my station.

As I cooked the hot dogs, a group of four or five young people passed by, where one having read our sign commented: “What kind of place is this?” To which another replied: “I think it is a church.”

When I heard their comments, I realized that the church signage consisted of a front marquee sign and another on the east wall, outside of the prayer room, both mounted high above eye level, making the signs all but invisible to pedestrians walking on the sidewalk in front of the building. The church had a small cross, composed of white bricks embedded in the red brick wall located high above the front facade of the church. No wonder many people were unaware that we were a church. The lights inside the marquee sign had stopped working several years before.

Later, intrigued about the cross, I went to the roof and found an old five foot cross made of plywood with faded white paint sitting upon the roof. It looked as if the weather and wind had caused the cross to fall some years before, with the lag bolts pulling free from the peak of the front wall.

Here is where our little miracle occurred…

As I pondered whether the cross might be repaired, restored and mounted back on the roof, we received an interesting message from the daughter of one of the members of our congregation, who had passed away two years before. It seemed that a nearby church had closed and the property sold. The new owners intended to convert the building to lofts. Part of the conversion included the removal of the large twelve foot silver cross mounted on the front of the building.

It seems that the young lady noticed the cross was placed in a scrap bin. She convinced the contractor to give her the cross, indicating that she knew of a church that needed a cross. When she contacted me, she asked: “Could use a new cross?”

My reply was an emphatic ”Yes, though I was not sure how to arrange delivery of a twelve foot cross, let alone how we would mount it on the building. I did not tell her that the church at the time had funds for neither.

I was informed that in memory of her mother, she wanted to hire a contractor to deliver and mount the cross, all at her expense and that we not reveal her name.

When I received the dimensions, I measure the wall and from examining recent photos of the building, I had determined that it would fit perfectly above the front doors, between the double arches that framed the front doorway.

The contractors has asked whether we wanted the small white cross formed by white bricks embedded in the wall to be painted red so that the new cross would be the only cross above the front entrance. I told them to leave the cross as is, and asked that the small white window arch behind the new cross be painted red to match the rest of the brickwork of the front wall.

I marveled how the Lord had provided a solution to the need to replace the old cross, before I had even raised the need to him. And the solution that the Lord provided was far better than what I had imagined. The Lord was going to ensure that people in the community knew without a doubt that BLCF is a place of worship. The Lord recognized the need for a new cross. He provided both the cross, as well as the means to install it, before we had a chance to pray for it.

I wonder how many times God provides for His children, before the need is raised. And how many times does the Lord provide for a need before it is even recognized. This was not the first time God has provided in a miraculous way for need at BLCF.

By-the-way, I did manage to repair, stain, and mount the old BLCF cross and mount it on the wall behind the risers where Terry Sywanyk performs at our Community Dinner beside the “kNOw JESUS kNOw PEACE” sign.

It may surprise you to find out that the cross has not always been a symbol of the Christian Church. Let us check our Wikibits for the history of the cross:

The Christian Cross

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

A Latin cross

The Christian Cross, seen as a representation of the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus, is the best-known symbol of Christianity. It is related to the crucifix (a cross that includes a usually three-dimensional representation of Jesus’ body) and to the more general family of cross symbols.

In contemporary Christianity, the cross is a symbol of the atonement and reminds Christians of God’s love in sacrificing his own son for humanity. It represents Jesus’ victory over sin and death, since it is believed that through his death and resurrection he conquered death itself.

See Colossians 2:15, “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”.

The cross is often shown in different shapes and sizes, in many different styles. It may be used in personal jewelry, or used on top of church buildings. It is shown both empty and in crucifix form, that is, with a figure of Christ, often referred to as the corpus (Latin for “body”), affixed to it. Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran depictions of the cross are often crucifixes, in order to emphasize that it is Jesus that is important, rather than the cross in isolation. Large crucifixes are a prominent feature of some Lutheran churches, as illustrated in the article Rood. However, some other Protestant traditions depict the cross without the corpus, interpreting this form as an indication of belief in the resurrection rather than as representing the interval between the death and the resurrection of Jesus.

Crosses are a prominent feature of Christian cemeteries, either carved on gravestones or as sculpted stelas. Because of this, planting small crosses is sometimes used in countries of Christian culture to mark the site of fatal accidents, or to protest alleged deaths.

In Catholic countries, crosses are often erected on the peaks of prominent mountains, such as the Zugspitze or Mount Royal, so as to be visible over the entire surrounding area.

Patriarchal cross

Also called an archiepiscopal cross or a crux gemina. A double cross, with the two crossbars near the top. The upper one is shorter, representing the plaque nailed to Jesus’ cross. Similar to the Cross of Lorraine, though in the original version of the latter, the bottom arm is lower. The Eastern Orthodox cross adds a slanted bar near the foot.

Cross (disambiguation)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Cross consists of two lines or bars, intersecting each other at a 90° angle and dividing one or both of the lines in half.

Cross or to cross may also refer to:

Religion

  • Cross necklace, a necklace worn by adherents of the Christian religion

Object

  • Cross (crown), the decoration located at the highest level of a crown
  • A cross with a human body affixed is referred to as a crucifix
  • High cross, early Medieval free-standing Christian cross made of stone and often richly decorated

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_(disambiguation)

The cross as a symbol in the Christian Church may refer to either an object or a motion with the hand or fingers did not come into practice in the Christian Church until the third or fourth century A.D.

Members of the early Christian church would often use a fish, represented by two intersecting arches as a symbol to represent Christian faith.

Some churches avoid having a cross in their place of worship, fearing that the cross may be treated not as an icon or symbol but worshiped as an idol. In the same manner, many evangelical churches avoid having statues for the same fear that they will be prayed to and worshiped as idols.

There are some denominations who feel the cross may offend church attendees as a symbol of torture and death. I think that if you sanitize what happened to Jesus on the cross you run the risk of diminishing the impact of the resurrection! The fact that our Lord, Christ Jesus instructed all disciples to remember his sacrifice by way of the Communion observance indicates that we should not hide what the cross represents, his death and sacrifice for our sins.

While the cross or crucifix does remind us that Christ suffered and died for the sins of humanity, without the resurrection Christ’s death would have only made him a martyr. It is only after Jesus was resurrected from the grave and following the Holy Spirit’s arrival on the Day of Pentecost, did the Christian Church come into being, as a proof of Christ’s Lordship with the fulfillment of the prophecy found in the Scriptures, as we read in Isaiah 53:5-6 (ESV):

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

 he was crushed for our iniquities;

 upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, 

and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

the iniquity of us all.

Is it wrong to have a symbol such as the cross as a reminder of the sacrifice of the cross? I believe that Jesus felt it was useful to have visual cues to help remind us of the price that he paid for our salvation. We find that the holes left by being nailed to the cross, and by the Centurion’s spear to his side, helped Jesus demonstrate his supernatural victory over death to the disciples, including Thomas who was absent at his first appearance but arrived eight days later, John 20:19-31 (ESV):

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of This Book

Word made flesh

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time b. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

The signs of the wounds Jesus showed his disciples helped them to understand both the suffering he endured and the supernatural victory Christ achieved over death by his resurrection. Interestingly, though Jesus had the wounds from the cross, he now was able to pass through the locked door of the upper room. Having showed the disciples his wounds, Jesus breathed onto them the breath of the Holy Spirit, to help them go forth in his place, no longer disciples, but apostles of the Gospel of Christ. Jesus death on the cross had removed the debts from sin, Colossians 2:13-14 (ESV):

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

The cross is a symbol, not just of the suffering and death that Jesus experienced, but reminds us that while we are called to follow the Lord and may suffer for our faith, we have the assurance that the judgment for our sins has been born by the Lord, 1 Peter 2:20-24 (ESV):

20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Just as the cross acts as a reminder to Christians of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf, our faith in the Lord is made perfect, not just because he endured the cross, but the holes in his hands and side act as a reminder to God the Father in heaven, as Jesus sits at the right hand side of the throne of God. Our faith is made perfect through Jesus, Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV):

Jesus, Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus revealed his hands and side to the disciples, it was not so that they would dwell upon his wounds upon the cross. The intent was to give encouragement and hope in the victory of his resurrection. And we read that is exactly what took place, John 20:19-20 (ESV):

 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  

The disciples were glad when they saw the marks of the crucifixion. Let us , therefore view the cross not as an instrument of torture and death of Christ, but as a symbol for our own hope in his resurrection and be encouraged in the truth of his promise to all believers of their own resurrection on the day Christ returns.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn Closing Hymn # 236: On a Hill far Away

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):   May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Epiphany: Celebrating the Power of the Trinity and the Manifestation of Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

 ‘Epiphany: Celebrating the Power of the Trinity and

the Manifestation of Christ’

© January 7, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

Revised Sermon, Originally Shared at BLCF on December 29, 2013

BLCF Bulletin January 7, 2018

Opening Hymn #118: Shepherds Came, Their Praises Bringing; Choruses                                                        

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572:  Praise God from Whom All Blessings; Prayer Requests                                                                                 

Responsive Reading #667 (Humility and Exaltation – Philippians 2; Matthew 23); Prayer                                                                               

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Epiphany: A True Manifestation of Jesus’

Let us pray…

Our lesson today will focus on Epiphany, not to be confused with the secular use of epiphany, such as the ‘Eureka!’ moment experienced by the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes, when he stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose and he suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged, known today as the Archimedes’ principle.

The Epiphany which is the object of  today’s lesson is spelt with a capitol “E”, a Christians use to describe when the supernatural powers of Jesus, the Son of God, became manifested or expressed to all. We have a little more background from the Web site sharefaith.com:

Epiphany Observances

Observed on January 6th, the Epiphany celebration remembers the three miracles that manifest the divinity of Christ. The name “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word Epiphania, and means “to show, make known, or reveal.” The celebration originated in the Eastern Church in AD 361, beginning as a commemoration of the birth of Christ. Later, additional meanings were added – the visit of the three Magi, Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. These three events are central to the definition of Epiphany, and its meaning is drawn from these occurrences.

For many Christians, the definition of Epiphany is a reminder of God the Father’s unlimited love and mercy, which He has extended to all of mankind through the revelation of His Son, and of the hope of salvation that is now manifest for all who come to him in faith.                                                              http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/definition-of-epiphany.html

Last week we watched the film, the nativity story, which included a depiction of the visit of the Three Magi or  the Three Wise Men.  Epiphany is associated in the Christian Church and includes one or all three of the accounts recorded in the Bible:

  1. The Magi’s visit to the newborn Jesus at Bethlehem. (Matthew 2:1-12)
  2. The Miracle performed by Jesus to convert water into wine at a wedding in Cana. (John 2:1-12)
  3. The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John. (Matthew 3:13-17)

The first of today’s Scripture verses gives the only account of the visit of the Magi or Wise Men who came from the east, beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, as unlike Joseph and Mary, they came to Bethlehem to worship and bear gifts to the newborn king as foretold by prophecy and guided by a star, and not in response the Census mandated by the Edict of Caesar.

The fact that the Magi were unaware that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, indicates that the three were Gentiles, being ignorant of the prophecy known to the scribes and chief priests, only that a star will mark the location of the birth of Christ Child as we see in Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Visit of the Wise Men

2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.                                       

 Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 7, 16 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

The birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God, in the town of Bethlehem is an event that marks the fulfillment of God’s promise, an event foretold by the prophets, through visits by angelic messengers, and marked by a heavenly star. Our Scripture passage from Matthew 2:1-12 describes a prophecy that describes a visit by Wise Men or Kings, assumed to be three in number, based upon the three gifts of treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Their visit was based upon a prophecy they which the priests and scribes described to King Herod as follows:

“In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

This prophecy is found in Isaiah 60:1-3 (ESV):

The Future Glory of Israel

60 Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.

The next manifestation of the Lord, takes place at a wedding at Cana in Galilee, considered to be either the first or second miracle performed by Jesus. If you consider the birth of the son of God to the Mary, a virgin, a miracle, then this wedding would be the second performed by the Lord which we find in John 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Wedding at Cana

2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers[b] and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters b. John 2:12 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters

The changing of water to wine by our Lord is considered by many Biblical scholars to be symbolic how faith in Jesus Christ transforms the believer into a new creature.

Our third Scripture passage describes how the Spirit of God came upon our Lord, after he was baptized in the River, Jordan, which is found in Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV):

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him b. Matthew 3:17 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

From the three miracles of Epiphany, we see that God, as the Godhead/Holy Trinity, demonstrates His power and presence in many ways.

Our Epiphany study marks three events and aspects of the walk on earth by Jesus:

  1. His birth as prophesied by God and recorded in Scripture, which is supported by the visitation by the Magi.
  2. The power of the Lord was made manifest when Jesus transformed water to wine.
  3. The alighting of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus after His baptism, supported by words spoken to John by God.

All three Epiphany Scripture verses demonstrate how our Lord manifests or expresses his Devine power and presence: by his birth, his miracles and by way of the Holy Spirit. All three accounts take place between the birth and crucifixion of Jesus, while he walked on the earth as a man who the angels called the son of God, but who chose to refer to himself, more modestly, as the son of man.

The birth of Christ in such humble circumstances, as in a stable, with a manger as a crib, first announced by angels to shepherds, reveals that Jesus came as child to serve all men and women, not to rule from a palace, as he Magi had mistakenly expected. This child, Jesus, grew to become the Savior and Lord, not by power and conquest of battle and destruction, but by an act of love and surrender on the cross at Calvary.

Before he died, Jesus lived and experienced the world as a man, died a human death, but was resurrected from the tomb, and then ascended into heaven in order to bring Devine forgiveness and sanctification by taking upon himself our judgment for our sins. And Jesus continued to assure that we would have Emmanuel or the presence of God with us by way of the Holy Spirit.

I would like to point out that the Three Miracles of Epiphany focus on actions involving part of the Godhead or Holy Trinity:

  1. The Wise Men arrive in response to God, the Father’s prophecy fulfilled.
  2. The Wedding of Cana is an account where Jesus the Son, at the bequest of his mother, Mary, changes water into wine.
  3. The Baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit appears and alights upon Jesus.

Each of these miracles, the people witness an aspect of God’s will and power, be it the fulfilment of a prophecy of the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus; Jesus changing water into the best wine for a wedding celebration; and the appearance of the Holy Spirit descending to Jesus, whose identity is confirmed by the words of the Father, Speaking from heaven.

Let us pray…

Communion Observance: #663 (1 Corinthians 11)

Closing Hymn #158: I Serve a Risen Savior

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

Brrr… Extreme Cold in the Heart of Toronto

Brrr… Extreme Cold in the Heart of Toronto

January 2018 marks the the tenth anniversary of BLCF hosting a community dinner, serving the homeless and marginalized in the heart of Toronto at the BLCF Cafe.

And with the advent of bitterly cold weather, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship is asking for donations of socks, gloves, scarves and toques for our homeless and marginalized guests in the heart of Toronto at the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner.

Donations may be brought to the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, (Wednesdays between 6 and 8 PM). To arrange delivery at a different time, contact Sophie by email: blcfcafe@yahoo.ca or call BLCF at 416-535-9578.

Not a bread line, food bank or soup kitchen, BLCF Café has been serving wholesome dinners to upwards of 150 of Toronto’s homeless every Wednesday evening since January 2008. Individual and groups of volunteers are welcome.

BLCF Cafe/BLCF Church, 1307 Bloor Street West, one block west of Lansdowne Avenue. Help bring some warmth to those in need.