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.    

                     

Advertisements

The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for

Good Friday:

‘The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross’

© April 14, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 14, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                               Opening Hymn #252: O Soul, Are You Weary and Troubled?; Choruses

Communion: Toronto Vineyard                                                                                       Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings             Responsive Reading #612: The Lamb of God (Isaiah 55)                                          Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross’

Let us pray…

This morning, we welcome you to the Good Friday Service hosted by both the Toronto Vineyard and Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. Today we remember Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross, an act of propitiation to Father in Heaven, bringing to those who believe reconciliation and sanctification under a new Covenant with God.

Last Sunday, Palm Sunday, we learned that though Jesus arrived in Jerusalem on the back of a colt, a young donkey, just before their meal our Lord humbled himself to wash the disciples’ in order to teach them how they must approach ministering his Gospel. We see that the actions of the Lord were not only important at that moment in time, as they were intended to prepare them for the future.

The actions of Christ were often intended to teach at more than one level, so it is with the death of the cross, which we will look at in today’s lesson, entitled: The History, Victory and Mystery of the Cross.’

Most Christian Churches observe Good Friday with a Service which focuses upon the pain and suffering our Lord experienced as he was betrayed, flogged and crucified, with communion tacked on to the end of the service, almost like an afterthought.

We see an outline of the traditional Good Friday Service displayed within the graphic entitled: ‘This is what Christ Jesus said when he was crucified,’ which gives a chronology of what the Lord spoke after being nailed upon the cross up to the point of his death.

The seven phrases Jesus spoke begin with three that show the Lord asking forgiveness for the wrong doing of others, promising resurrection to a condemned criminal crucified beside him who confessed both his sin and faith  in the Lord, and seeking the care of Mary by entrusting her to the disciple John. The next three phrases indicate the personal suffering Christ experienced as he suffered for our sins, expressing his feeling of solitude, his thirst and his impending death. The final phrase is the faith and trust Jesus maintained until the moment of his passing.

I would like to break with the tradition of focusing on the minute historic details of horrific elements suffered by Jesus. You may find shown to extreme in viewing Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Cross. This movie focuses more on the history rather than the victory of the cross.

I believe that by taking the elements of Communion, as we had at the beginning of today’s service, we have followed Jesus’ instructions to remember his broken body, shed blood, and death, which serves as a final sacrifice for the sins of humanity.

But there is more in communion and life than what we see on the surface.

Many of us will go out to eat a meal in a restaurant sometime this weekend. It is funny how we will be seated, order from a menu, have a meal, with little or no thought to the service involved in preparing, serving, and after meal clean up, until we go to leave a tip after we have paid for a meal. If any aspect of the meal service is poor, some people choose to reduce or not pay any tip. This is too bad, for all the staff is being punished for the failings of one person at perhaps one stage of the dinner service, where the rest of the people had successfully completed their responsibilities towards the dinner service.

The fact that the tip I usually left at the end of the service should not minimize its importance to the success of the meal. The guests, having finished a satisfying meal, hurry to put on their coats to be off to their next destination they pay the bill and leave a token tip, frequently consisting of the loose change in their pockets. In their rush to leave it is easy to overlook that any tip may be not proportional to the service provided. A minimum tip may have to be split by a host or hostess and the server. Others involved in the meal such as the chief, busboy or girl, and bartender may get no tip for services rendered. We often forget or worse, never appreciate, the steps involved by others taken in order to serve us a meal.

Human nature being the way it is, we Christians can easily forget all the sacrifice and the steps involved and the repercussions of the actions of our Lord in order to bring us salvation for our sins.

Good Friday is the one day on the Church Calendar where Christians focus on the Lord’s sacrifice, but may rush past the reasons why Jesus died on that cross.

Part of the blame could fall on us pastors, who practice the institution of tacking communion at the end of the Order of Service. Like the tip at the end of the meal, communion may consist of a brief prayer, serving the elements, and after a short benediction, we are dismissed and on our way.

The death of Jesus on the cross, in addition to being a propitiation to God for the judgment of the sins for everyone for all time, the Gospel or Good News included many other elements that we can easily overlook or take for granted when we take communion.

By the power of the Spirit Jesus rose from the grave. We should also remember Jesus ascended to heaven in order to be our advocate to the Father in heaven. And last but not least, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to believers, first recorded on the Day of Pentecost. These often forgotten aspects of Christ’s sacrifice should be acknowledged as important elements the Gospel Story when we partake in Communion.

It is the unseen works of the Spirit that are true expressions of the sacrifice our Lord made when he willing surrendered to the judgment of the cross. This brings us to the first of today’s Scripture passages, from Acts 3:1-26 (ESV):

The Lame Beggar Healed

 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.[a] And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God,10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[b] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[c] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

Footnotes: a. Acts 3:1 That is, 3 p.m. b. Acts 3:13 Or child; also verse 26 c.Acts 3:16 Greek him

We should not be like the crowd who marveled with wonder at the mystery of the miracles of the Lord. We do not receive the benefit of salvation through Christ, if we do not decide to turn from a life of wickedness.

The other important lesson we should take from communion is that Good Friday Communion is no more important than the other times throughout the year we receive communion. Salvation comes from a single sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross and it continues for all time for all generations of believer. For that reason our remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice must be continuous. This requires faith on our part. Along with salvation, comes the promise of the resurrection, which is part of God’s new covenant. The first example of the promise of this promise is recorded in Luke 23: 32-33, 39-43 (ESV):

 32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[a] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 23:39 Or blasphemed him

No matter where we are in our walk in life, it is faith in Christ that leads us to the undeserved gift of salvation with the promise of eternal life, and it is the Holy Spirit, given as a reward to faith, helps us understand mystery of why he died for you and me.

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.    

Remember: Know Jesus, Know Peace – No Jesus, No Peace!