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

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.

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BLCF Cafe Community Dinner serving dinner to over 150 homeless and marginalized people weekly, (that’s over 7,500 annually), right in the heart of Toronto, relying solely on volunteer help and donations for funding. 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) without government funding or 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. 

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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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Ananias – A Disciple at Damascus

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Ananias – A Disciple at Damascus’

© May 14, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 14, 2017

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

Opening Hymn #411: Happiness Is to Know the Savior; Choruses

 Responsive Reading #629: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10)                      

 Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Ananias – A Disciple at Damascus’  

                       

Let us pray…

 Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Praise and Worship Service. We would ask the Lord’s Blessings for all the mothers in the congregation today.

This Wednesday, the Bluegrass / Gospel group Cold Water Roots will perform a musical Benefit Concert on behalf of the BLCF Café Community Dinner, which will take place during the dinner.

On May 28, two Sunday’s from now, BLCF will have a hat trick of activities within the Praise and Worship Service: Presentation of BLCF’’s Annual Report; the serving a Pot Luck Luncheon and the Inductance of New Members.

Today’s lesson is entitles ‘Ananias – A Disciple at Damascus’, and involves the lone disciple of the Lord who was called upon by Jesus to heal and baptize Saul of Tarsus to become an instrument of Christ.

While the Scriptures contain accounts of three individuals bearing the name Ananias:

Three different people in the New Testament are named Ananias          

 (from enterthebible.org):

  • One Ananias was a member of the church in Jerusalem in the days when the believers had all things in common. Along with his wife, Sapphira, he sold a piece of property, secretly kept some of the money, and misreported the sale price when he gave the rest of the money to the church. When Peter confronted him, Ananias fell down and died (Acts 4:32-5:11).
  • Another Ananias was a follower of Jesus in Damascus. Instructed by a vision, he sought out Paul (then still known as Saul) and helped to restore his sight (Acts 9:10-19).
  • A third Ananias was the high priest in Jerusalem who convened a meeting of the Jewish ruling council to examine Paul after his arrest in the temple (Acts 23:1-5).

https://www.enterthebible.org/resourcelink.aspx?rid=1177

Our lesson will focus upon the second of the three accounts of individuals named Ananias, the disciple of Jesus who lived in Damascus and was involved in the restoration of the vision to Saul of Tarsus.

We do know a little more about Ananias involved in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus:

Ananias – (bible study tools.com)

In late tradition, he is placed in the list of the seventy disciples of Jesus, and represented as Bishop of Damascus, and as having died a martyr’s death.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/ananias/

The first account that involved the Bishop of Damascus is found in Acts 9:1-22 (ESV) is told in the third person:

The Conversion of Saul

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

The passage from Acts 9:1-22 contains two narratives of two protagonists, Saul of Tarsus and Ananias of Damascus, both of whom receive visions from Jesus. Our Lord has ascended to be with the Father in heaven, sending God’s Holy Spirit to all believers in the Resurrected Christ.

This conversion, healing and baptism of Saul resulted in a zealous persecutor of Christians becoming one of the greatest evangelists of the Gospel of Christ.

We see as a result of the two visions from the Lord, a sinner is struck blind, left helpless, weak from three days of hunger and thirst, in need a being healed and nourished by a believer who must overcome a reluctance to deal with a notoriously evil persecutor of those who were believers in the Way of Christ.

The second account that included the disciple Ananias is found in Acts 22:1-16 (ESV):

22 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language,[a] they became even more quiet. And he said:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[c] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:2 Or the Hebrew dialect (probably Aramaic) b. Acts 22:3 Or city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated c. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

From the two accounts of Ananias healing and baptism of Saul of Tarsus, we see that the Lord sent his good and faithful disciple to minister to Saul by restoring his sight and baptize him in Spirit, by calling on the name of the Lord.

In ministering to Saul of Tarsus, Ananias was instructed to visit, heal and baptize a stranger who was imprisoned by his blindness; weak, hungry, and thirsty from fasting for three days. The sins of Saul would be washed away, after he followed Ananias’ instructions to call on the name of Jesus. By his conversion to the Way of Jesus, Saul of Tarsus would later be known as the Apostle Paul, one of the greatest proponents of the Christian faith to both Jews and Gentiles, alike.

The ministering of Ananias of Damascus to Saul of Tarsus sounds very familiar, as it is described in the Scripture passage which we have adopted as a Mission statement for our BLCF Café Community Dinner, Matthew 25:31-46 (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.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

While the world may view ministering to the least of our brothers and sisters as strictly taking care of their physical needs, if we were to substitute the name of “Saul of Tarsus” in place of “least of my brother and sisters” or replacing “the least of these”, in the above Matthew 25 passage, we have a description of how Ananias ministered to the spiritual needs of a brother in need, who was blinded, starving, and condemned to the death sentence of his sins. The first example would read:

 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to Saul of Tarsus, you did it to me.’

And the second example would read:                                                                                       ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to Saul of Tarsus, you did not do it to me.’ 

In other words, on that Final Judgement Day, our salvation and eternal life depends upon how well we “ministered” to sinners the gospel of Christ, feeding them with the Good News of the Lord and sharing as living witnesses our testimony of faith.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #501:  Reach Out to Your Neighbor

 Benediction – (John 13:35):  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. 

May all mothers enjoy blessings on this Mother’s Day Sunday!

The Father’s Creation: Redeemed by His Son and Renewed with the Spirit

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Father’s Creation: Redeemed by His Son and Renewed with the Spirit’

©May 7, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 7, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                    

Opening Hymn #358: We Praise Thee, O God #449; Choruses                                         

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

Responsive Reading #634:  Christian Unity (John and 20, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4)                                                                                                                                                          

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                    

‘The Father’s Creation: Redeemed by His Son and Renewed with the Spirit’

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Praise and Worship Service for this, the first Sunday of May, 2017. This also happens to be the Sunday where we observe Communion, as the Lord had instructed us to do, until the day he returns.

Our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Father’s Creation: Redeemed by His Son and Renewed with the Spirit’, where we explore through Scripture how we may understand the unseen God in Whose image humanity was created. We will also explore how God has called us to His bosom and how the Father has provided  believers with a path to salvation and a means to stay on that righteous Way.

In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve in His image, as we read in Genesis 1:26-28 (ESV):

26 Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 1:26 The Hebrew word for man (adam) is the generic term for mankind and becomes the proper name Adam

We read in Genesis 1: 27, that men and women are created in the image of God:

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

This passage indicates that God has blessed men and women, encouraging them to multiply and has and has granted us with dominion over every creature that flies in the air, swims in the seas, and walks on the earth.

What do we mean when we say that men and women are images of God? Let us look at the definition of an image:

Image definition im·ag ˈimij/  noun (google search)    

  1. a representation of the external form of a person or thing in art.
synonyms: likenessresemblance

depictionportrayalrepresentation

statuestatuettesculpturebusteffigy

paintingpictureportraitdrawingsketch

“an image of St. Bartholomew”

  1. 2. a simile or metaphor.

Example: “he uses the image of a hole to describe emotional emptiness”

synonyms: similemetaphormetonymy

figure of speechtrope, turn of phrase; 

imagery

“biblical images”

I find it interesting and perhaps ironic that our Lord often taught by using the metaphor and the second definition of image is a metaphor.

While God’s creation was initially created humanity in the image of God, the devil sought to replace the goodness of that image with the evil of sin, Isaiah 59:1-4 (ESV):

Evil and Oppression

 59 Behold, the Lord‘s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.
For your hands are defiled with blood
and your fingers with iniquity;
your lips have spoken lies;
your tongue mutters wickedness.
No one enters suit justly;
no one goes to law honestly;
they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies,
they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.

 It is sin that has hidden humanity from God, resulting in a separation, which brings more sin and ultimately death.

But God’s love for His creation is great. So great that He sent His own Son, Christ Jesus, to restore the goodness to humanity by atoning for the judgment our sins, Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV):

 The Preeminence of Christ

 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[a] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Footnotes: a. Colossians 1:16 That is, by means of; or in

While humanity was originally created in the image of God, sin has altered and warped that image, obscuring from the Creator.

If humanity is described as being an expression of the image of God or as a metaphor or His expression of the image of Himself and sin has changed that image, we may consider that like damaged artwork, a restoration is called for:

Restoration of the Frescoes in the Sistine Chapel

The conservation-restoration of the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel was one of the most significant conservation-restorations of the 20th century.

The Sistine Chapel was built by Pope Sixtus IV within the Vatican immediately to the north of St. Peter’s Basilica and completed in about 1481. Its walls were decorated by a number of Renaissance painters who were among the most highly regarded artists of late 15th century Italy, including GhirlandaioPerugino, and Botticelli.[1] The Chapel was further enhanced under Pope Julius II by the painting of the ceiling by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 and by the painting of the Last Judgment, commissioned by Pope Clement VII and completed in 1541, again by Michelangelo.[2] The tapestries on the lowest tier, today best known from the Raphael Cartoons (painted designs) of 1515–16, completed the ensemble.

Together the paintings make up the greatest pictorial scheme of the Renaissance. Individually, some of Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling are among the most notable works of western art ever created.[a] The frescoes of the Sistine Chapel and in particular the ceiling and accompanying lunettes by Michelangelo have been subject to a number of restorations, the most recent taking place between 1980 and 1994. This most recent restoration had a profound effect on art lovers and historians, as colours and details that had not been seen for centuries were revealed. It has been claimed that as a result “Every book on Michelangelo will have to be rewritten”.[3] Others, such as the art historian James Beck of ArtWatch International, have been extremely critical of the restoration, saying that the restorers have not realized the true intentions of the artist. This is the subject of continuing debate.

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

Like the tainted frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, God the creator of the universe sought to restore that which He created to their original pristine condition, through His son, Jesus, Colossians 3:1-10 (ESV):

Put On the New Self

 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your[a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[b] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[c] In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[d]with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

Footnotes: a. Colossians 3:4 Some manuscripts our b. Colossians 3:5 Greek therefore your members that are on the earth c. Colossians 3:6 Some manuscripts add upon the sons of disobedience d. Colossians 3:9 Greek man; also as supplied in verse 10

While Jesus brought the means of humanity restoration in a day not years of loving sacrifice, by way of the cross, the Lord sent the Holy Spirit of God to maintain the goodness of his restoration, Romans 8:1-4 (ESV):

 Life in the Spirit

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Footnotes: a. Romans 8:1 Some manuscripts add who walk not according to the flesh (but according to the Spirit) b. Romans 8:2 Some manuscripts me c. Romans 8:3 Or and as a sin offering

To recap our journey and lesson today:

  • God created man and woman in His good image.
  • Satan and sin damaged and obscured that image.
  • Christ Jesus came to restore the pristine image to humanity.
  • The Lord sent God’s Holy Spirit to maintain that image.

Those who believe in God’s plan that He sent His son, Jesus, to restore the righteous and holy image to the born again followers of Christ are gifted with the Spirit to renew that likeness to God, Ephesians 4:17-24 (ESV):

 The New Life

 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[a] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Footnotes: a. Ephesians 4:22 Greek man; also verse 24

Let us pray…

 Communion – (Matthew 26:26-29) – Institution of the Lord’s Supper

 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Closing Hymn #365: I Am Weak, but Thou Art Strong   

 Benediction:

To God the Father, who created the world,

To God the Son, who redeemed the world,

To God the Holy Spirit, who sustains the world,                                                      

Be praise and glory, now and forever.                                                                              

 Amen.

Cold Water Roots FUNdraiser For The Homeless May 17, 2017

Cold Water Roots FUNdraiser For The Homeless May 17, 2017

BLCF Cafe Community Dinner serves dinner to upwards of 150 homeless and marginalized men, women and children of all ages every Wednesday evening since January 2008. BLCF Cafe receives no government funding or corporate sponsorship, relying on private donations from semi-annual fundraising events. The Blue Grass / Gospel group Cold Water Roots will play a Benefit Concert at the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner on Wednesday, May 17, 2017 between 6:00PM and 8:00PM, (at the dinner). Come and bring a friend, enjoy an evening of music, song, and dinner at the BLCF Cafe on May 17, 2017, at 1307 Bloor Street West, 1 block south and west of the Lansdowne Subway Station (Bloor Line West). Parking available on St. Helen’s, just west of the church. All proceeds to benefit homeless and marginalized guests of the BLCF Cafe, located in the heart of Toronto.

BLCF Cafe was established in January 2008 by BLCF Church and is run solely under the auspices of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church. BLCF Cafe Community Dinner serves dinner to over 150 homeless and marginalized people every Wednesday evening,(over 7,500 annually). If you or your group are interested in helping the cause of feeding the homeless in the heat of Toronto, contact us: BLCF Phone: 416-535-9578  BLCF email: blcfcafe@yahoo.ca * BLCF Web Page: http://www.blcfchurch.ca

Meeting Jesus: Finding Rest by Heeding His Call

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Meeting Jesus: Finding Rest by Heeding His Call’

© April 30, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 30, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                        Opening Hymn #547: Jesus, We Want to Meet; Choruses                                  Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings             Responsive Reading #671: God’s Love and Ours (1 John 4)                                  Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                     ‘Meeting Jesus: Finding Rest by Heeding His Call’

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF’s Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service in the heart of Toronto.

Our Lesson today, ‘Meeting Jesus: Finding Rest by Heeding His Call’, continues on the subject of forgiveness from sin through Jesus. And with forgiveness comes rest or peace from the Lord, which falls in line with the with the Scripture found posted in the Church Sanctuary and on front of today’s bulletin “Know Jesus – Know Peace; No Jesus – No Peace”, which paraphrases the Scripture 2 Peter 1:2 (ESV): May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

You may recall in last week’s lesson, we looked at how, on the night Jesus was arrested, Simon Peter sinned against the Lord on three separate occasions when he denied that he knew Jesus. Later, after his resurrection, Jesus asked Simon Peter three times whether he loved his Lord, which the disciple acknowledged each time. In his acknowledgement of his love for Jesus, Simon Peter was then forgiven and invited to follow the Lord.

So this begs the question: Is Paul’s forgiveness of his transgressions by Jesus an example of special dispensation towards his disciple or is the same dispensation available to all sinners? For an answer to this question, let us look at the first of today’s Scriptures, Matthew 11:25-30, titled as:

 Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest

 25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[a] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 11:26 Or for so it pleased you well

In verse 38 of Matthew 11, Jesus offers rest to “all who labor and are heavy laden”.  When we see that all, you may ask is this rest from the Lord available to all disciples or anyone who may have sinned? The answer is found in our next Scripture passage, Luke 7:36-50, titled as:

A Sinful Woman Forgiven

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among[a] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Footnotes: a.Luke 7:49 Or to

We see in Luke 7 that Jesus accepts an invitation to dine at the home of a Pharisee and that a woman, who is a sinner arrives, where she washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and dries them with her hair; kisses his feet and anoints his head with ointment. All of these actions should have been performed by the Pharisee as host for the meal. Instead of taking ownership for his own mistakes as host, Simon focuses on the fact that the woman was a sinner, likely a harlot, and that Jesus had allowed the woman to touch him. Jesus praises the woman’s actions while admonishes inactions of his host sounds very much like the comparison of the goats and sheep described in The Final Judgment in Matthew 25:31-46, which happens to be the Mission Statement that BLCF has adopted for the BLCF Café Community Dinner.

Jesus then tells the Parable of the Two Debtors, after which he gets his host to acknowledge that if both debtors are forgiven their debts, the one whose debt is ten times greater would be more appreciative. In the same regard, the woman whose greater sins are forgiven would be able to not only receive salvation from the Lord, but his peace as well.

We see that forgiveness is available to disciples and sinners, but what about those who are viewed not to be a member of the faith? Jesus gives us a clue to the answer in John 12:20-26, titled as:

 Some Greeks Seek Jesus

 20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

In verse 26 of John 12, we see that anyone who serves Jesus will be honored by the Father in heaven.

So far in today’s lesson, we see that salvation is available to all, regardless of whether they are disciples, sinners, or gentiles. This brings us to the final question: What do we do about the sin of a brother or sister and is there a limit to how many times a person can be forgiven? Our answer comes from today’s next Scripture passage, which is Matthew 18:21-35, titled as:

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.[a] 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.[b]25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant[c] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,[d] and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,[e] until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 18:23 Or bondservants; also verses 2831 b. Matthew 18:24 A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer c. Matthew 18:26 Or bondservant; also verses 2728293233 d. Matthew 18:28 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer e. Matthew 18:34 Greek torturers

When Peter asks Jesus how many times he must forgive a brother’s sins, the Lord replies seventy-seven, which is an unlimited number for that time. After all, Jesus forgave Peter three times for committing the same sin over and over again.

But what happens if Christian claims to love God, but refuses to forgive the sin(s) of a brother or sister? The answer comes from our final Scripture passage, 1 John 4:20 (ESV):

 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen.

Footnotes: a.1 John 4:20 Some manuscripts how can he

If a Christian refuses to forgive the transgression of a brother or sister is a hypocrite and should not expect God to forgive them. This is an expensive price to pay for the self-indulgence of keeping a grudge and not forgiving a sin.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #509: Is Your Life a Channel of Blessing?

 Benediction – (1 Peter 5:10): And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Rewards of Grace: A Faith Restored, Confirmed, Strengthened, and Established through Christ Jesus

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Rewards of Grace: A Faith Restored, Confirmed, Strengthened, and Established through Christ Jesus’

© April 23, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 23, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                             Opening Hymn #449: I Feel the Winds of God Today; Choruses                          Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings             Responsive Reading #605: Prayer of Penitence (Psalm 51)                                     Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Rewards of Grace: A Faith Restored, Confirmed, Strengthened, and Established through Christ Jesus’

Holy Week in the heart of Toronto at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship

Let us pray…

Welcome to Sunday Morning Prayer and Worship Service in heart of Toronto, here at BLCF Church.

Last Sunday, we celebrated the close of Holy Week, also known as Passion Week, where we studied the elements of Gospel of Jesus which included:

  • Jesus arrival at Jerusalem while riding a young donkey on Palm Sunday
  • Jesus washes the feet of the disciples as an example of humble ministry
  • Jesus serves bread and wine to the disciples as an example of how the disciples should remember his sacrifice until he returns on Judgement day
  • Jesus’ death on the cross on Good Friday to pay the debt of the sins of humanity
  • Jesus’ resurrection from death and emergence from the tomb, proof of his Lordship and His’s New Covenant

 

HOLY WEEK AT BLOOR LANSDOWNE CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP

Our lesson this morning, we will examine the similarities and differences between the experiences of the disciple Peter and the accounts of the testing of Job by Satan.

We will also contrast and compare the betrayals of our Lord by the disciples Judas Iscariot and Peter.

To begin our lesson, let us read the first of today’s Scriptures, taken from

Luke 5:1-11 (ESV), where Jesus calls his disciples:

 Jesus Calls the First Disciples

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which were Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, and “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men and women.”[A] 11 and when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Footnotes: a. Luke 5:10 The Greek word anthropoi refers here to both men and women

In this account, Jesus encounters the disciples Simon, James and John, as they had just completed a fruitless night of fishing. The Lord enters one of the two boats and asks the fishermen to go a short distance from the shore; so that he may teach the people gathered nearby and he could be better heard by the people.

At the conclusion of speaking to the crowd, Jesus instructs the fishermen to cast their nets into the water and the nets are brought up filled to the breaking point with fish. The fishermen and crowd are astonished at the great catch of fish.

It is then that Simon Peter tells Jesus to depart from him as he is a sinner.

Jesus tells the fishermen not to be afraid, that he intends to make them fishers of men and women. The three fishermen abandon their boat and fishing equipment to follow the Lord.

Our next Scripture passage comes from Matthew 16:13-20 (ESV), where Simon Peter acknowledges Jesus as the Christ:

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[c] in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:18 The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar b. Matthew 16:18 Greek the gates of Hades c. Matthew 16:19 Or shall have been bound… shall have been loosed

Jesus praises Peter’s perception as being a divine gift from God. The Lord designates Peter to be the foundation for his living church, a foundation that will prevail against Satan’s domain, which is hell. Peter is chosen by the Lord as the one who will inherit the keys to God’s Kingdom of Heaven.

But the Satan, the devil, is not pleased with Jesus’ plan for the establishment of his kingdom on earth. Since the devil had unsuccessfully tempted and tested the faith of Jesus, Satan demands to test Peter, whom he had selected as leader of the disciples and his future church.

Jesus warns Peter of the threat from Satan and foretells of how Peter will falter and deny his Lord not just once, but three times before the rooster crows in the morning, as we read in Luke 22:31-34 (ESV):

Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

 31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,[a] that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”33 Peter[b] said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus[c] said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 22:31 The Greek word for you (twice in this verse) is plural; in verse 32, all four instances are singular b. Luke 22:33 Greek He c. Luke 22:34 Greek He

In spite of Peter’s declaration of his faith to Jesus being so great that the disciple is willing suffer both prison and death as proof of his faith.

However, the prophecy of Jesus is true as we see in Luke 22:54-62 (ESV):

Peter Denies Jesus

 54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. 56 Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” 59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

Peter weeps just as Jesus had predicted, he betrays the Lord three times and in doing so commits sin against the Son of God three times. Jesus is taken away based on the false testimony of Judas Iscariot and then abandoned by his beloved disciple, Peter.

After his resurrection, Jesus seeks his disciples and finds them in the same circumstances as his first encounter with Peter, John and James, being unsuccessful in fishing the night before, John 21:1-19 (ESV):

 Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples

21 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards[a] off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

So great was Judas Iscariot despair over his surrender to Satan’s temptation to sin and betray Jesus in exchange for thirty pieces of silver, the former disciple had chosen to take his own life.

Though Peter had sinned against Jesus, unlike Judas Iscariot, the disciple had not chosen to abandon faith in Jesus and to follow Satan. And Jesus’ death on the cross had provided a path to reconciliation and restoration to Peter for his sins, provided he demonstrated his penitence to the Lord for the three times he sinned against Jesus by denying him, as we continue reading from John 21, beginning at verse 15:

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Footnotes: a. John 21:8 Greek two hundred cubits; a cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters

Three times Jesus asks Peter to declare love for his Lord and three times Peter complies, one for each of the three times Peter sinned against Jesus. And each time Peter acknowledges his love for his Lord, Jesus instructs Peter: “feed my lambs”, “tend my sheep”, and “feed my sheep”.

After foretelling the manner of his death by which the disciple would glorify God, Jesus instructs Peter to “follow me”. Peter’s foundation of faith in grace of God, through Christ Jesus, has been restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established. Finally, on the Day of Pentecost, the Lord’s church will be born.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #403: Walking In Sunlight All of My Journey

Benediction – (1 Peter 5:10):                                                                                        And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Christ Is Risen Indeed!

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for

Easter Sunday:

‘Christ Is Risen Indeed!’

© April 16, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 16, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                         Opening Hymn #163: Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Choruses                         Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings              Responsive Reading #623: The Risen Lord (Matthew 28 and John 20)              Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Christ Is Risen Indeed!’

                                             

Let us pray…

 ‘He is Risen!’ (Reply: ‘He is Risen Indeed!’)

Good morning and an Easter Blessing to all. Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.

To begin today’s lesson on the resurrection, let us read from the Scripture account, from John 20:1-29 (ESV):

 The Resurrection

 20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’[a]head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[b] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

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,[c] 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,[d] 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.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:7 Greek his b. John 20:16 Or Hebrew c. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time d. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

There is a popular expression: “seeing is believing”, as it seems to have been the case with Thomas, who did not believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead until he saw and touched the Lord’s wounds inflicted from the crucifixion.

We see that Jesus makes an observation about Thomas and all of humanity in general about the root of true faith, in 1 John 4:20 (ESV):

 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

There are some legalists, who will only believe the evidence of their own eyes, believing that this contemporary concept that originated from Missouri, as this American state is known by the moniker of ‘The Show-Me State’:

Unofficial State Nickname of Missouri

Missouri’s most well-known nickname is; “The Show-Me State.” Although the nickname has not been officially recognized by Missouri’s Legislature, it can be seen on Missouri license plates. All State Nicknames

There are several stories concerning the origin of the “Show-Me” slogan. The most widely known story gives credit to Missouri’s U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver for coining the phrase in 1899. During a speech in Philadelphia, he said:

“I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”

The phrase is now used to describe the character of Missourians; not gullible, conservative, and unwilling to believe without adequate evidence.

http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/symbol-official-item/missouri/state-nickname/show-me-state

Researching more reveals an earlier origin of the expression, which is rooted in the Gospel of Christ:

Seeing is believing is an idiom first recorded in this form in 1639[1] that means “only physical or concrete evidence is convincing”. It is the essence of St. Thomas‘s claim to Jesus Christ, to which the latter responded that there were those who had not seen but believed. It leads to a sophistry that “seen evidence” can be easily and correctly interpreted, when in fact, interpretation may be difficult.

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

We can see that the application of “eye-witness” evidence is commonly used in secular law.

Even Darwin’s evolutionary theories rely almost exclusively upon conclusions drawn from physical observations, as is described in:

Charles Darwin and Victorian Visual Culture 

By Jonathan Smith. Cambridge University Press

Smith explores how Darwin used images to support his scientific claims as well as the cultural influence of his evolutionary explanation for beauty.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/316/5821/54

While there are those who attempt to disprove the Word of God by pitting the Theory of Evolution against Faith in God’s Creation, there are others who desire to adopt Science as a Theology, with the aim of finding eternal life by way of a religion that worships science and technology.

This godless religion seems to be a modern day example of an approach not unlike the technocrats who sought to reach heaven by way of their ‘Tower of Babel’ as described in the book, To Be a Machine, authored by Mark O’Connell and reviewed by John Gray for the online New Statesman:

 

Dead of the world, unite!” Appearing in a manifesto published in Petrograd in 1920, this arresting slogan encapsulated the philosophy of cosmism, which promoted interplanetary exploration as a path to immortality. Mixing scientific futurism with ideas derived from the 19th-century Russian Orthodox mystic Nikolai Fedorov, cosmism was summed up by the rocket engineer Konstantin ­Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) as “the perfection of man and the liquidation of all imperfect forms of life”. Liberated from the Earth, human beings would become pure ether, bodiless and undying. The belief that death could be conquered by science was embraced by a renegade section of the Bolshevik intelligentsia, including Maxim Gorky, and informed the decision to immortalise Lenin’s cadaver – first by refrigeration, in an early experiment in what would later be called “cryonic suspension”, and then by embalming when freezing failed. Cosmist thinking went on to find a home in the Soviet space programme and continues to influence Russian science to this day.

Nearly a century after the cosmist manifesto, a group of transhumanists gathered outside Google’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California, carrying placards reading “Immortality now!” and “Google, please, solve death”. Death could be solved, the group believed, by the development of “cyber-consciousness” – a task requiring new technologies for uploading the contents of the human brain into cyberspace, which the group called on the tech company to fund. Google was already investing substantial resources in life-extension techniques and, in 2012, the company hired Ray Kurzweil, long associated with programmes aiming to achieve immortality through cryonic suspension, artificial intelligence and mind uploading, as its director of engineering.

The weird mixture of science and religion that typifies much of contemporary culture is illustrated in questing, faintly sad figures who blend transhumanist “anti-deathism” with Buddhism, Mormonism, Wicca or the UFO cult Raëlism, whose members believe the human species was created by aliens.

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2017/04/john-gray-dear-google-please-solve-death

In his review, John Gray seems to recognize humanity’s desire for immortality, but Gray argues that a bio-technological solution seems doom to fail because of its flawed dependence upon some degree of technological infrastructure that is not perfect or perpetual. In other words if science and technology could transplant the mind of a person into a machine, no machine exist that will last forever.

I would argue that such a creation would be profane and would be devoid of any soul.

Back to perfect resurrection of our Lord and the doubts of Thomas because he was absent when Christ first visited the upper room. We should recall that Mary Magdalene, Peter and John were skeptical until they had physically saw Jesus resurrected before each of them.

Let us look at an excerpt from the article, Seeing Is Believing. Really?, by Dianne Bergant, originally published on August 02, 2004 in America, The Jesuit Review:

 

The phrase “seeing is believing” is well known to us all. It suggests skepticism; it implies that we will not accept the truth of something unless we can somehow see it. While the phrase may validly express a concern for verification, it contradicts basic religious ideas. To paraphrase the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Not-seeing is believing.” In other words, we do not believe what we see; rather, we believe what we do not see. Confusing? But then so is real faith.

The author turns to Abraham as a perfect example of such faith. Without knowing exactly what he would find as he followed the inspiration of God, Abraham left his home of origin and journeyed through a foreign land. Abraham did not see, yet he believed. He clung to God’s promise of descendants, even though to him it seemed an impossibility. He did not see, yet he believed. The greatest test of his faith came when he was asked to sacrifice the very child who was to fulfill this promise of descendants. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.”

The instructions given by Jesus in the Gospel require the same kind of faith. But the focus there is not the seeming incredibility of the object of faith, but the need to cling to that faith even when its fulfillment is long in coming. The followers of Jesus are told not to seek security in the realities of this world, but in the treasures that belong to the reign of God.

https://www.americamagazine.org/content/the-word/seeing-believing-really

There were hundreds of faithful, who have witnessed Jesus after he was resurrected, just before he ascended and millions who believe solely on faith. Just because they were not an eye-witness to the Lord’s resurrection does not mean that it did not take place.

We know that the Gospel of Jesus assures that our faith in the resurrection of Christ gives believers the gift of the Holy Spirit, the promise of the resurrection, and eternal life. The Apostle Paul explains this very well in 1 Corinthians 15:1-26 (ESV):

The Resurrection of Christ

15 Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

The Resurrection of the Dead

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Footnotes: a.1 Corinthians 15:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 6315058 b. 1 Corinthians 15:19 Or we have hoped

It is on that final day, when the last enemy is destroyed, death will be destroyed and eternal life will be restored to the faithful.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday He Died For Me

Benediction – (Revelation 1:5b-6):                                                                                   To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.