Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross 2018

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross 2018’

© November 11, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 11, 2018

Based On Messages Shared at BLCF on Nov. 11, 2012, and Nov. 8, 2015

BLCF Bulletin November 8, 2015

Moment of Silence – Lest We Forget 11-11-2018; O Canada 

  

  Official lyrics of “O Canada” (English Version 2018)                   

O Canada!

Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all of us command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,

The True North strong and free!     

From far and wide,      

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.    

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/anthems-canada.html#a1

Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                           

Opening Hymn #99: Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners; Choruses                            

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                        

Responsive Reading #671: God’s Love and Ours (1 John 4)                                    

Message by Steve Mickelson:                   

 ‘Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross 2018’

Let us pray…

The lesson for this Sunday is a study of two symbols of remembrance of sacrifice on our behalf: the poppy and the cross.

I stand before you with one of these symbols, the poppy, pinned above my heart, while illuminated behind me is the other, which is the cross.

Today we have the opportunity to observe, with the aid of the poppy, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, signifying the anniversary of  Armistice Day, which is the day that the Armistice was signed in 1918 to end World War I, ironically called “the war to end all wars”. Sadly, 100 years after the signing the 1918 Armistice wars still happen around the world.

Today, the date is called Remembrance Day in Canada and Britain and Veterans Day in the United States. For us, Remembrance Day is a day where we remember all who died not only in this war but in all other conflicts, to both preserve and protect our democratic freedom and way of life in Canada.

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship - BLCf Church Way of the Cross

We, in the Christian Church, also have a symbol no less important. It’s the Cross of Jesus. One of His great sayings is:

‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’            – John 15:13 (ESV).

And that is what Christ did for us.

Two great symbols of sacrifice are the Poppy and the Cross.

What is so special about a poppy on Remembrance Day? Why not use a pansy? Scarlet poppies grow naturally in conditions of the disturbed earth throughout Western Europe. The destruction brought by the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th Century, transformed the bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers.

In late 1914, the fields of Northern France and Flanders were once again ripped open as the First World War raged through Europe’s heart.

The significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen was realized by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae in his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The poppy came to represent the immeasurable sacrifice made by his comrades and quickly became a lasting memorial to those who died in the First World War and later conflicts. Here are John McCrae’s words:

In Flanders Fields – John McCrae 

John McCrae in uniform circa 1914

 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

When fighting ceased in 1918 the mud of the battlefields was allowed to rest. Nature began to restore the landscape. Before long, the wildflowers grew and bloomed, including the poppy. The colour of red reminds people of bloodshed and the sacrifice by millions of brave soldiers of their lives. And so the poppy became the symbol of sacrifice.

It is a known fact that people are creatures with the capacity to forget personal pain and suffering. Otherwise, women, for example, would be less likely to have more than one child, after having experienced the labour of the first and all of us would be unable to cope with the loss of loved ones. With the passage of time, the memory of the harsh reality of death diminishes and fades with each successive generation, becoming little more than the image of faded photographs or hollow words to a nearly forgotten poem.

That is why it is important to take a minute of silence to reflect and pray for those men and women who sacrificed their lives both in a distant place and time and in times current so that we may enjoy a relatively free and safe life today in Canada. We read the poem ’In Flanders Fields’, where see that even in the deadly field of battle, God transforms the trenches of death with a tapestry of red flowers and the song of meadowlarks, providing the promise of hope reminiscent of that given by His rainbow and dove with the olive branch after the great flood.

On this Remembrance Day, let us also remember the fallen innocents in past conflicts as well: the civilians who were killed in wars and conflicts, as well as the persecuted victims of purges and holocausts. And, we should remember the families of the fallen, for the pain of the loss of a loved one. Finally, we honour those who returned from battle and war, with the memory of death and destruction etched in their memories.

Some of you may still remember a member of our congregation, our friend Leo, a kindly brother in Christ, who sought to share the love of Christ with his brothers and sisters. I remember, when I had applied to work as an operator at the TTC, Leo commented to me, that after the World War II, he was hired by the TTC and trained to drive a street car. He remarked that as a result of the war, the stress of driving was too great for him, and he left the TTC to work as a carrier with Canada Post.

At Leo’s funeral, the chapel was almost evenly divided between sad, grieving uniformed postal carriers, members of the military and police officers on one side of the chapel; with happy Christian believers on the other. While the former mourned the death of a friend, the latter celebrated the fact that another Christian has gone home to be with Jesus at the Lord’s Resurrection.

While Leo did not give his life in war for his country, he did give his life as a living sacrifice unto his Lord. We see that the poppy represents the mourning for those who sacrificed themselves in battles, police actions and conflicts, which continue to this day. By contrast, Jesus gave his life as the final sacrifice for our judgment for sin, which we celebrate and observe continuously, by means prayer, song, Scripture and with the regular observance of Communion.

The poppy reminds us of the sacrificed lives in battles over the years past, present, and future. By contrast, the cross reminds us of the Lord’s single act of sacrifice and love for all generations, past, present, and future, John 15:10-13 (ESV):

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

The cross symbolizes not only how Jesus sanctifies us from sin, but it is also a symbol of God’s New Covenant of eternal life and is an emblem of His love for us. We are implored to take heart and find joy in the Lord’s gift to us, which are the rewards for our faith, John 16:23-33 (ESV):

23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

I Have Overcome the World

25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.[a] 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Footnotes: a. John 16:27 Some manuscripts from the Father

In addition to the cross, we are instructed by the scriptures to remember the sacrifice of Jesus through the act of communion, until Jesus returns. This points to the main difference between the soldier’s sacrifice to give us freedom as Canadians and Jesus’ sacrifice to give us freedom from sin, as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit and the promise of the resurrection. It is our responsibility as members of Canadian society to honour the soldier’s sacrifice for a peace from a war that is temporary, as long sin exists, we will continue to have war. As believers in the resurrected Christ, our trust and faith in our Savior’s sacrifice which does not end sin, but the consequences of sin: judgment and death, Ephesians 2:13-18 (ESV):

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #81: All Praise to Him Who Reigns Above

Benediction – (Hebrews 13:20-21):

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love’ 

© November 4, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 4, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                           

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

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                          

Responsive Reading #662: Freedom from Sin (Romans 5 and 6)                           

Message by Steve Mickelson:  

‘Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love’  

                                

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church, on this, the first Sunday of November 2018. For those of you gathered here this morning, congratulations for having set your clocks back an hour, in order to make the change from Daylight Savings to Standard time. Please be kind to those who arrive in an hour, as they may have forgotten about the time change. Today, being the first Sunday of the month makes it a Communion Sunday. We invite all present, who believe that Jesus is the Son of God died on the cross to pay the penalty for our, to join us in partaking the elements of Communion. There is no BLCF Church membership requirement to take Communion, only the conviction that Christ, Jesus is Lord and Saviour, who died for your sins, rose from the grave by the power of the Spirit, ascended to heaven, sending us the Holy Spirit to be our companion, forever.

When we talk about taking Communion, we remember the sacrifice of the Lord, whose death on the cross resulted in the forgiveness of all sin, allowed us, by way of faith, the means to avoid the judgment for sin. Jesus came not to fulfill the Law, but to fulfill the judgment mandated by the law, by surrendering his life as a payment for the death judgment awaiting us all.

In John 8, verses 1-11, we have an account how the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman, caught in the act of adultery, asking Jesus how they should deal with her crime, as the Law stipulated death by stoning. This was intended to be not only a test of Jesus’ knowledge of Hebrew Law and the consequences one may expect for violating it. Let us begin today’s lesson reading this passage from John’s Gospel:

John 8:1-11 (ESV)

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

These eleven verses, from the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, provide us with a wealth of knowledge and understanding how violation of the Law, in this case, the seventh of the ten itemized in Exodus 20. In this case Exodus 20:14, 14 “You shall not commit adultery.

The woman had broken the Law and the scribes, Pharisees, and others gathered expected a pronouncement of death to the woman. This was the same judgment that the people of Israel expected when Moses brought the Laws from God down from the mountain, Exodus 20:18-21 (ESV):

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid[a] and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.                                                                     

Footnotes: a. Exodus 20:18 Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate; Masoretic Text the people saw

These Laws came from God to instill a respect of God’s ordinances, and an avoidance of sin by the people, so as to not have Him render judgment upon them. But the people feared that if they heard God speak to them, that they will surely die. The Law was intended to guide the people on a righteous path of behaviour, to demonstrate their love for God and for others.

In the case of Jesus and the adulteress, Jesus indicated that no man or woman is innocent of sin, and therefore none are qualified to act as judge and executioner. That is God’s privy, and as such, He alone has the authority to render judgment or its consequences upon sinners. This does not mean that there won’t be any judgment for violation of the Law, which will be rendered by God, alone.

Did scribes and Pharisees take the words of our Lord to heart? Apparently not, as we see the actions taken against the Apostle Stephen, whom Christian scholars are considered to be the first Christian martyr, as we see in this account taken from Chapter 7 of the Acts of the Apostles:

Acts 7:54-60 (ESV): The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Footnotes:a. Acts 7:57 Or rushed with one mind

Though Jesus had been sent to pay the penalty for sin, we that human tendency to sin had not eliminated. Though Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, in that he saw Jesus standing at the right-hand side of God, the Father, the lord did not intervene. Stephen’s last words before he died were a plea to the Lord not to hold the sin of murder against them. You may note that watching the garments of the murderous mob, was a young man named Saul, better known as Saul of Tarsus.

Saul’s testimony on the matter is recorded in Acts 22:1-21:

Acts 22:1-21 (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.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

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

We see that before his conversion Saul had busied himself by rounding up and persecuting Christians. And in the process of one of the first persecutions, Saul witnessed Stephen’s death by stoning while he stood by watching over the garments of the members of the crowd who killed the Apostle.

But why was there no judgment from God against Saul or the mob who had murdered Stephen?  God had no plans for members of the mob in general, he did have plans for Saul, whose name would be changed to Paul, after his conversion. We see the degree of conviction demonstrated in Paul’s testimony, expressed in the following epistle addressed by the Apostle to members of the Church in Rome, see Romans 10:9-10:

Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)

 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Paul said that salvation comes to those who confess that Jesus is Lord, whom God raised from the dead. This confession comes not from a fear of a judgment by God, but a belief in the heart that Jesus died and was raised from the dead. We know from last week’s lesson, that the heart is associated with the intangible aspect of our beliefs, such as love, faith, and hope. With this belief, comes the tangible response of confession of our belief that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins. And from that expression of faith, God will respond to the tangible sacrifice made by His Son on the cross with the intangible actions of our own justification and salvation through Christ, which in turn leads to the tangible actions of our own resurrection and granted eternal life.

All of God’s actions come as an expression of God’s love for us for us and our love for Him. For only He is able to make manifest the tangible from the intangible, merely by His own Word.

Let us pray…

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

Closing Hymn #286: Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride

Benediction – (1 Timothy 1:17): 

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.