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.    

                     

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!

The Triumph of a Humble King: To Wash Away the Remnants of the World

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Triumph of a Humble King: To Wash Away the Remnants of the World

© April 9, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 9, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                         Opening Hymn #134: Hosanna, Loud Hosanna; Choruses                                   Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings             Responsive Reading #625: The Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21 and Mark 11)   

           

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Praise and Worship Service. Today, being Palm Sunday, where Christians observe the launch of Holy Week, leading to Good Friday, and culminating at Easter Sunday.

Speaking of Good Friday, as we have for the past several years, the BLCF Church congregation will join with members of the Toronto Vineyard in conducting a Communion Service to remember the great sacrifice and final given by our Lord to pay the debt owed for the sins of humanity.

For our lesson today, which bears the somewhat long, but self-explanatory title of ‘The Triumph of a Humble King: To Wash Away the Remnants of the World’, we will examine some of the significance and symbolism of the actions of Jesus, the disciples, and those gather at two of the significant events recorded in the days of Easter Week, just prior to the arrest and crucifixion of our Lord.

Those two events are: the account of Jesus riding to Jerusalem, on a colt or donkey, and later the account of Lord electing to wash the feet of his disciples just prior to the Passover meal.

In the Christian church, the Holy Week of Easter begins on Palm Sunday, a day where we observe the triumphal arrival of Jesus to Jerusalem just prior to his crucifixion, which we find in John 12:12-19 (ESV):

 The Triumphal Entry

12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

Many of the actions of the Lord, including riding a donkey into Jerusalem, are fulfillment of prophecies found in the Old Testament, including 2 Kings 9:13 (ESV):

13 Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare[a] steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.”

Footnotes: a. 2 Kings 9:13 The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain

 Another example is found in Zechariah 9:9 (ESV):

 The Coming King of Zion

 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

 We see in Matthew’s account of Jesus arrival, that people in the crowd placed cloaks and tree branches upon the road in path of Jesus, as he rode upon the donkey.

Let us look at the significance of elements of this account, beginning with the use of the palm branch, which we find described at the site, jewishencyclopedia.com:

 

The Palm Branch

At BLCF Church This Palm Sunday 2012

HOSANNA – …The cry which the people of Jerusalem were accustomed to raise while marching in procession and waving branches of palm, myrtle, and willow in the joyous Sukkot festival, especially on the seventh day, when …the willow-branches of the “lulab” procession were piled up and beaten against the altar (Suk. iii. 9, iv. 5). The willow-branch thus received the name “hosha’na” (Suk. 30b, 31a, 34a, 37a, b, 46b); and the …carrying of the palm branches as described in I Macc. xiii. 51 and II Macc. x. 7.According to John xii. 13 (in the Sinaitic codex), which has the story preserved in its original form, the same cry was raised by…
ATTAH HORE’TA – …Tabernacles; and it appears also in the melody sung by the cantor while waving the palm-branch (Lulab) during the Ḥallel on the first days (LULAB – …Name given to the festive palm-branch which with the Etrog is carried and waved on the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). The three constituents of the lulab are: (1) a shoot …twigs and willow-branches are tied to the lower end of the palm-branch—the former on the right, and the latter on the left—by means of three rings of palm-strips. These branches constitute with the etrog the “four …the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook: and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.” Aside from the palm-branch and the willows the passage does not specify what shall be used; and the…
HALLEL – …is given out separately.On Sukkot the palm-branch is shaken in all directions while the first hemistich is chanted (“Hoshiahna”).Hallel is closed with this benediction: “O Lord, our God, may all …In the case of the Feast of Tabernacles the wavingof the palm-branch (see Lulab) is the most characteristic feature of the celebration of the festival; and consequently the…

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&keywords=Palm+Branch&commit=search

Some secular sources reference that, in the time of Christ, the Greeks awarded a palm branch to victorious athlete, while the Romans used either a palm frond or the palm tree to signify a military victory.

Since the arrival of Jesus was not associated with an athletic or military achievement, I think that it is safe to discard associating his arrival with either of the two. This conclusion is supported by the fact that in addition to the laying of  palm branches, the crowed also cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 

But what is meat when they say ‘Hosanna’? Let us again look at our online  reference source, jewishencyclopedia.com:

 Hosanna

Palm Sunday 2011 At Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Church

HOSANNA – …the multitude on the occasion of Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem. They “took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord”—that is, the …verse following “Anna Adonai hoshi’ah-nna” in the Hallel psalm— and then called him “the King of Israel.” Luke (xix. 38), writing for the Gentiles, omits the palm-branches and the Hosanna cry, and changes the …combines the two versions, and changes the words of Luke into “Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh. . . . Hosanna in the highest,” the closing words of which no longer give any sense The same is…
SALVATION – …to release.”Hosanna. The underlying idea of all these words, save the last two, is help extended and made effective in …passionate appeal “Hoshi’ah-nna” (ib. verse 25; = “Hosanna”) ought to be rendered “Give victory,” a translation all the more assured by the certainty that the psalm is Maccabean. He who leads to victory in battle …the head of the army was greeted with the salutation “Hoshi’ah” = “Hosanna,” corresponding to (II Kings x. 19; Neh. ii. 3). This would appear from II Kings vi. 26, the…
HOSHA’NA RABBAH – …recited once in each Hosha’na service (the Hebrew for “save now” is here “Hoshi’ah-na,” which has come into English through Christian sources as “hosanna”>Hosanna”).

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&keywords=hosanna&commit=search

It seems that the crowd recognized that Jesus had arrived to bring victory and salvation to the Jews. But why did Jesus choose to arrive on a donkey? We get part of the answer from the following excerpts, taken from an article authored by Rebekah L. Holt:

Donkeys in the Bible

Rebekah L. Holt

 Christ as the King of Kings to enter in Jerusalem on a donkey was a lowly action.  In today’s terms, to select a donkey instead of a horse could be compared to a prince selecting a furniture delivery truck over a rare luxury sports car!   Historically, horses are the equine thrones of victorious Kings and Princes.  Haman in the book of Esther considered riding the king’s horse in fine clothes, to be attended by noblemen and to have personal praise heralded to a crowd to be a great honor.   Even today, we would expect such a procession of royalty.  Yet, in Jerusalem, to be astride a donkey was commonplace.  Donkeys typically served as everyday transportation, a long-eared daily sight to be seen in the streets.

 In following Christ’s example, when serving the Lord, our focus should be on obeying Him with lowliness and humility.

http://www.equest4truth.com/equus-in-the-bible/123-donkeys-in-the-bible

In addition to a degree of humility, the arrival of a king riding a donkey, rather than a horse or in a chariot signifies peaceful intentions of our Lord, an idea contrary to some who expected Jesus to lead an army against those who oppressed and persecuted the faithful.

One advantage to reading the historical account of the Lord’s arrival on that Psalm Sunday, is the fact we may fast forward a few days in that Passion or Easter week and read an account that describes where Jesus taught his disciples an important lesson about the way they should minister his Gospel to others, This account is found in John 13:1-20 (ESV):

Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet

 13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,[a] but is completely clean. And you[b] are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled,[d] ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”                                                                         

Footnotes: a. John 13:10 Some manuscripts omit except for his feet b. John 13:10 The Greek words for you in this verse are plural c. John 13:16 Or bondservant, or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface) d. John 13:18 Greek But in order that the Scripture may be fulfilled 

We may find an understanding of why Jesus sought to humble himself as a servant to wash the feet of his disciples in the following article found at   jewishencyclopedia.com:

Washing Of Feet

By: Emil G. HirschWilhelm NowackSolomon Schechter

Since the Israelites, like all other Oriental peoples, wore sandals instead of shoes, and as they usually went barefoot in the house, frequent washing of the feet was a necessity. Hence among the Israelites it was the first duty of the host to give his guest water for the washing of his feet (Gen. xviii. 4, xix. 2, xxiv. 32, xliii. 24; Judges xix. 21); to omit this was a sign of marked unfriendliness. It was also customary to wash the feet before meals and before going to bed (comp. Cant. V. 3); to abstain for a long time from washing them was a sign of deep mourning (II Sam. Xix. 24). Though there are no extant laws for laymen in regard to washing the feet, such laws for priests are given in Ex. Xxx. 19-21. There mention is made of brazen vessels, placed between the Tabernacle and the altar of burnt offering, in which the priests had to wash their hands and feet on entering the Tabernacle or before approaching the altar of burnt offerings: hence at all their priestly functions. Just as no one is allowed to approach a king or prince without due preparation, which includes the washing of the hands and feet, so the Israelite, and especially the priest, is forbidden in his unclean condition to approach Yhwh, for he who comes defiled will surely die.

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6051-feet-washing-of

Jesus while literally washes the dust, remnants of the world, from the feet of the disciples, will soon go the cross to wash away all remnants of sin from humanity.

Let us talk about the “elephant in the room” which is sin, if you excuse the pun as a segue.

Christ sought to teach his disciples a ministry of humility by riding to Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and by washing the feet of the disciples. But these lessons also foreshadow our Lords impending death, where Jesus would pay the price for our sins by forfeiting his life to a brutal death on the cross, as the Apostle Paul described in Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV):

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a]6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Footnotes: a. Philippians 2:5 Or which was also in Christ Jesus b. Philippians 2:6 Or a thing to be held on to for advantage c. Philippians 2:7 Or slave (for the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface)

Another translation of Philippians 2:5-8 goes as follows:

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #349: May the Mind of Christ, My Savior

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.

The Price of Salvation and the Currency of God

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Price of Salvation and the Currency of God

© April 2, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 2, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Opening Prayer

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

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

 Responsive Reading #620: The Church (Matthew 16, Ephesians 5 and 2, 1 Corinthians 12, Colossians)

 Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘The Price of Salvation and the Currency of God

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to our Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church. Our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Price of Salvation and the Currency of God’.

Most of us operate within lines, borders, or thresholds that separate an area where we want to live and function. But history records many such significant geo-political lines.

In 1493, Spanish-born Pope Alexander VI drew a line on the globe, where everything east was open to exploration and exploitation by the Portuguese, and all the lands west would go to the Spanish. This meant that the whole w4estern hemisphere, except Portuguese Brazil, would go to the Spanish. We know that the Danish, Dutch, English, French and Indigenous Peoples might not agree with this line.

And there are the lines drawn throughout history, including the battles, borders and walls. One US president gained fame for wanting to build a wall, while another for wanting to tear down another.

You may recall that Jesus drew lines in the sand when he suggested that whoever was without sin had the right to cast a stone of judgment and condemnation at an adulterous woman. In other words we should judge ourselves before we decide to judge others. And the sins of others do not justify our own and vice-versa.

But the problem here is not so much the existence of sin, that is a given, but how we able to avoid the temptation of crossing that threshold between avoiding a sin and committing it.

We find Jesus who had the distinction of both being God’s Son and a son of humanity, was not exempt from the temptation of sin. And just as happened in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve, the devil, whose name is Satan, sought to tempt Jesus from his Godly mission in this world, as we read in Luke 4:1-13 (ESV):

The Temptation of Jesus

 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’

11 and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The influence of the devil’s influence is great and far-reaching. We see that no sooner is Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit and acclaimed by his Father in heaven, do we see the devil working at pulling our Lord across the threshold of temptation into sin.

And if Satan chooses to tempt God’s own Son, we should not be surprised that the devil would temp a disciple of Jesus, Matthew 16:13-26 (ESV):

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.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord![d]This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance[e] to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

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 d. Matthew 16:22 Or “[May God be] merciful to you, Lord!” e. Matthew 16:23 Greek stumbling block f. Matthew 16:25 The same Greek word can mean either soul or life, depending on the context; twice in this verse and twice in verse 26

You may recall that at the closing of the account where Satan tempted Jesus that the devil left Jesus for an opportune time. What better time than when Peter acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and after the Lord blesses Peter, choosing him to be the rock upon which Christ will build His Church? Sure enough, Satan tries to tempt Jesus by placing the seeds of doubt in the mind of this elected disciple. It shows us that if Satan cannot tempt us directly, he will try to influence us through those whom we love and trust.

Some years ago, I worked for a company that chose to have its annual picnic at African Lion Safari. Employees and their families were allowed a discount for tickets to a catered lunch in an area in the park.

After lunch we were invited to participate in a tug of war with an elephant. I remember many of us strong and foolish participants took up a long rope marked by yellow tape. The first side to pull the rope across the line would win. Needless to say, the elephant won with little or no apparent effort pulling 20 strong individuals across the line.

That is the way of sin. We seem to have our lives and boundaries from sin securely protected by the imaginary an imaginary wall held together by the mortar of the strength of our own determination. And as if using the strength of some imaginary giant pachyderm effortlessly pulls us across the line.

It is only with the power of the Holy Spirit of God are we able to safely keep Satan’s temptations behind us and maintain the line from sin.

Let us pray…

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship "May Day" 2011 Communion Sunday

 Communion – Responsive Reading #626: The Last Supper (Mark 14)

 Closing Hymn #130: Tell Me the Story of Jesus

Benediction – Romans 8:38-39:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘The Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor’

© March 26 17, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

Originally Shared with BLCF on Sunday January 27, 2010

BLCF Bulletin March 26, 2017

 Announcements and Call to Worship:

Opening Prayer: Matthew 6:9-14

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done,                                                                   
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,                                                                                       12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,                                                                                       but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses,                                                                   your heavenly Father will also forgive you

Hymn #339: More About Jesus Would I Know; Choruses

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

Opening Hymn #339: More About Jesus Would I Know

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

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome, again, to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Sunday Praise and Worship service, in the heart of Toronto. An important part of a believer’s praise and worship is setting aside part of your day for prayer. In order to sense God’s presence, it is helpful to make that prayer time in the quiet of the day. Often that time is either early in the morning or late at night, when it is quiet and free from distractions.  At times of particular need or concern, for oneself or for others, is another good time to converse with the Lord through prayer. And of course, don’t forget to praise Him at times of victory and to thank Him for answered prayer.

For the Mickelson family, prayer time came at the end of the day, at the very least. Sophie and I started this tradition after we were married, and carried it on with our children. With the kids, the prayer would be a time to remember everyone in the family, and to remember those in the extended family, as well as prayer concerns for our friends. Often, prayer time included reading from the bible. I am happy to see that my eldest child, Athena, now married with three children of her own carries on the tradition of prayer before bed.

The Scriptures indicate that for Jesus, the preferred time for prayer was the evening, in a quiet place, such as a mountain top or in a garden. In this morning’s scripture, in Luke 9, we see that Jesus went up on a mountain to pray.

On one occasion, the Scriptures record that Jesus brought along three of his disciples, Peter, John and James, to pray on a mountain.  It was on this mountain, which many scholars believe to be Mount Tabor, an event described in Luke 9:27-36, that the three disciples bore witness to something more than just the Lord at prayer:

Luke 9:27-36 (ESV)

27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

The Transfiguration

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure,[a] which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One;[b] listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

Footnotes: a. Luke 9:31 Greek exodus b. Luke 9:35 Some manuscripts my Beloved

Jesus brought along with him Peter, James and John, where it is described verse 32 that the three became “heavy with sleep”. The scriptures do not say why they started to become drowsy. You might speculate that it was from the exertion of climbing the mount. A similar thing happened to those who joined Jesus when he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, just before his crucifixion. I believe part of it may be the effect of being in God’s presence. Needless to say, the three awoke to see that Jesus’ appearance had changed: both his face and clothing were transfigured, and he seemed to be floating among the clouds. And Jesus was observed talking with Moses and Elijah.

Transfigured is an interesting word. It is the English translation from the Greek Scriptures of “metamorpho” meaning to transform, literally or figuratively, to metamorphose, or to change. It is a verb and therefore means to change into another form. Christ’s death and resurrection is often symbolized by the butterfly, which changes or metamorphosis’s in a chrysalis from a larva, then to a pupa, and then ending as a butterfly. These changes are similar to Christ began in human form before crucifixion, then as the Resurrected Christ and finally, as the Ascended Christ.

What a sight that must have been to behold! And then to actually hear the voice of God stating: “This is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him!”

It is interesting to note that God appears to make this statement as a response to Peter’s impulsive suggestion that the three disciples should build three tents in honour of Jesus, Moses and Elijah. If you go back to verse 27, you will see that perhaps God’s words were spoken, not as a reaction to the comment by the disciple about building temples. More likely, God spoke in agreement with the statement made by Jesus, as we see recorded in John 9:27“But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

This is not the first time that the disciples struggled to comprehend the meaning and significance of a miracle of Jesus that they had just witnessed. For what they had observed was a glimpse of the glory of Heaven that Jesus alluded to in Luke 9, verse 27.

This miracle, like that where Jesus walked upon the waters of the Sea of Galilee, was another of the rare miracles in the Gospels, where Jesus was the object of the miracle.

Thomas Aquinas considered the Transfiguration to be “the greatest miracle” in that it complemented the baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven.

Another instance in the Scriptures of God speaking occurred just after Jesus was baptized, where the Father spoke from Heaven saying: “This is my beloved Son, with who I am well pleased.” For Jesus, this was his own personal Pentecost, where the power of the Holy Spirit came upon him.

The Transfiguration of Jesus is significant in that we have an account of the promise of Heaven and the Resurrected life. By contrast Christ’s baptism, the Holy Spirit is observed afterwards descending, “like a dove”, upon him. This passage of Scripture recorded in Matthew 3:16-17, we have a presentation of the trinity of God, God’s voice in Heaven, Jesus the son’s baptism, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. All three are distinct, and each being the presence of God.

There is a third account in the New Testament, where a voice speaks from Heaven, which occurs during the conversion of Paul, known formerly as Saul of Tarsus. That account is given in the Book of Acts, Chapter 9, verses 1-7, when Saul of Tarsus hears the Son of God ask “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And Saul, whose job was to arrest the followers of Christ, asks who is speaking? To which Jesus replies “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” indicating that an offence against a believer of Christ is considered to be an offence against Christ. Jesus then instructs him to “rise and enter the city” and that he would be told what to do.

The significance of this passage is how God convicts non-believers of faith, and how even the most stubborn of non-believers can be transformed by the Holy Spirit. Paul, sometimes referred to as the thirteenth Apostle, had his conversion after Jesus’ earthly ministry. It is interesting that before his conversion, Saul of Tarsus was a member of the religious order which had Jesus put to death, and stoned Stephen, the first martyr of the followers of Christ.

Going back to Luke 9 and the Transfiguration, one may question why John, James and Peter, were privy to this Heavenly vision of seeing Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus regarding his impending departure in Jerusalem. By departure, we are talking about the crucifixion as the Chosen One.

Though Jesus died for our sins, to redeem believers, so that they may become righteous and be acceptable unto God. All of the disciples, save John, died violent deaths because of their beliefs and their sharing of the miracles that Jesus performed, the most important being his resurrection, his ascension and his gifting of the Holy Spirit. James was put to death by a sword, by order of King Herod. Peter, being a Roman citizen was not crucified; instead he was beheaded in Rome, at the order of Nero. John, the first of the twelve disciples to follow Jesus, and the last to die, did not die a violent death. The Apostle John did live long enough to see Jesus, as well as the eleven disciples, including his brother, James, die violently because of their beliefs.

The disciple’s individual faith may have wavered at one time or another,  each disciple, save for Judas Iscariot, was put to death in a violent manner, because of the conviction of the faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, which is Christ’s Gospel.

Further support to the notion is found in Luke 9 verse 27, “some standing here will not taste death until they see the Kingdom of God” referring to Peter, James and John, the three who witnessed the Transfiguration, and who later acknowledged having seen the Kingdom of Heaven.

For Peter, we read in 2 Peter 1:16-18 (ESV):

 16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

It seems quite clear that Peter refers to the Transfiguration on the mount as a view of the majesty of the arisen Christ and the voice of God in Heaven.

With John, we read another acknowledgement of glory in the Transfiguration:

John 1:14 (ESV)

14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Most scholars of the Bible agree that in the vision of the Transfiguration of Jesus, that Moses represents the Laws or the Sacred Scriptures of God, as Moses had authored five of the book of the Old Testament, and he delivered God’s Ten Commandments to the Hebrew people. Elijah represents the Prophets of God. Jesus represents both the authority of God, and fulfillment of both the Word and the Prophets.

The account of Jesus’ baptism records the presence of the Trinity of God. The Trinity is observed again in the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus, the son, was observed with Moses and Elijah. God’s presence is found when His words were heard. And the cloud that appears represents the presence of the Holy Spirit.

You may ask: Why were Peter, James and John were selected to witness Jesus’ Transfiguration?  Many scholars view that while Moses and Elijah represent God’s Faith in the Prophets and the Laws that preceded Jesus. The three disciples represent aspects of God’s Faith after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension: Peter represents the Faith of the Church, James represents Hope of love (i.e. loving one’s neighbor as oneself), and John represents the application of Charity in the good works of man. Together, we have a symbolic representation of the Trinity the faith in the Holy Spirit, the Hope through the Salvation of Christ, and the Charity of God our Father in heaven who provided a means that we might be sanctified in spite of our sinful nature.

As often occurs in the Gospel accounts, the apostles while witnessing a miracle of Jesus, lose track of its significance. You may recall in a previous message about the miracle where Jesus walked across the Sea of Galilee, following the feeding of the multitude, also known as the “Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes”. The disciples had yet to conclude that this supernatural miracle not only proved that Jesus had the power of God, but that Christ was God.

Only after Jesus easily walked across a stormy sea, against which the disciples had struggled for hours, did he perform the miracle whereby Peter with Jesus treaded water, so long as he had his eyes fixed on Jesus. When Peter does take his gaze from Jesus, and looks upon the sea, he sinks. Jesus performs yet another miracle by raising Peter out of the water: “Oh ye of little faith!”

Eventually, Jesus boards the boat containing the disciples and calms the stormy weather, and transports the boat, according to John’s Gospel, instantaneously across the water. It takes a series of supernatural miracles before the twelve finally acknowledge that Jesus is truly the son of God.

Like the people of Israel who kept losing the faith, while being led from Pharaoh’s Egypt, through the desert, to the Promised Land, the disciples kept forgetting who they were following. Perhaps this was the real purpose of the excursion that Jesus made with Peter, John and James on Mount Tabor:  to remind the disciples that they were following the Son of God. In one account of the Transfiguration, Jesus instructed the three disciples not to tell anyone what they have seen until three days after His crucifixion.

As believers in the Gospel, what can you and I take home from the message of the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor? There are four key points to today’s lesson:

First, we have hope, through our faith, just as Jesus was transfigured into another form in Heaven,  we, too, will be resurrected to heave, by faith in the resurrected Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Second, just like the disciples, in spite of lapses in judgment and though we may continue to sin, if we continue to confess our sins, God will forgive our sins and by His grace and the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, God has a place for us in Heave. “Though we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sin.”

And third, in spite of our inequities, Christ does not give up on us. As many times as it takes, he will patiently take us to the holy places, to remind us that “He will never leave or forsake us!”

Finally, as was observed earlier in today’s message, as Christ was baptized in water and the Holy Spirit, and then be reborn, in spirit and transfigured into a new, that on this earth, as believers we may be transfigured through faith in the Word and the promise of the salvation of the lamb, Jesus. We, too, may have the same vision that what we do on this world in the name of Jesus has the promise and power to transfigure us into a creature that is Holy and Sanctified. However, since Jesus has already died and arisen on the third day, there is no expectation of death’s darkness and silence, but an expectation that we may share the promise of having a new body, transfigured by faith in the fulfillment of Word, now made flesh in Jesus our Savior.

The Scriptures, through the disciples’ accounts of their observation of the   Transfiguration of Jesus, give believers a glimpse of the glorious afterlife we may expect to see when we are resurrected on the day Christ returns in his glory. This will be a day when we will sing, along with the angels of Heaven praises of hallelujah to the glory of the Lord.

The Day that Jesus returns in all of his glory will be a day of judgment; a day of deliverance; a day of our transfiguration.

Until that glorious day that we, as resurrected, transfigured believers are united with the Lord, we ae commissioned by our faith to share the truth of the gospel of Jesus that he died to make us holy and believing the truth of his message will set others free.

Let me finish today’s message by reading from Transfigured by Jay C. Treat, as a prayer (found on the back of today’s Bulletin):

(Dear God in Heaven)

We went up the mountain with Jesus,    

but quite unprepared for surprise.

We never expected to see him    

transform right in front of our eyes!

His face was as bright as the sunlight;    

his clothes were as bright as the skies.

He talked with Elijah and Moses,    

who stood right in front of our eyes.

We thought we could build them three temples:    

one shrine for the giver of laws,

and one for Elijah the prophet,    

and one for this master of ours.

A bright cloud then covered the mountain.    

A Voice echoed deep from within,

Said, “This is my son, my beloved one!    

He pleases me! Listen to him!”

We came down the mountain with Jesus,    

now ready for any surprise.

We’re ready to listen and follow    

and change right in front of his eyes                                                                        

(In name of Jesus we pray – AMEN)

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #522: Battle Hymn of The Republic

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

Sanctified by His Word and Prayer

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Sanctified by His Word and Prayer’

© March 12, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

Originally Shared with BLCF on Sunday, January 2, 2011

BLCF Bulletin March 12, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #634 (Christian Unity – John 10 & 17, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4); Prayer                                 Opening Hymn #276: In the Stars His Handiwork I See; Choruses                    Prayer and Tithing – Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayer Requests Responsive Reading: #634 (Chrr of Prayeristian Unity- John 10 & 17, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Sanctified by His Word and Prayer’

 

Let us pray…

                 Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)

 Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.[a]

10 Your kingdom come, your will be done,[b]     

on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]

12 and forgive us our debts,    

 as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,     

but deliver us from evil.[d

Footnotes: a. Matthew 6:9 Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence b. Matthew 6:10 Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done c. Matthew 6:11 Or our bread for tomorrow d. Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

The Scriptures in today’s BLCF Bulletin, begin with Matthew 6:9–13, (described also in Luke 11:2–4), gives Christ gives his answer to the Disciples’ request as to how they should pray. The next Scripture passage, the subject of today’s message is taken from John 17, contains the prayer Jesus gave to God at the conclusion of his earthly ministry, just before his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven.

To understand the significance of the Prayer to the Gospel of Jesus, we must briefly look at how John’s Gospel differs from the writings of the other disciples. John’s writings happen to be a subject of study for several months at our Wednesday’s Morning Bible Study at BLCF. John’s Gospel is particularly interesting, as it differs from what is commonly referred to as the Synoptic Gospels in several distinct ways.

First, we must note that the John’s Scriptures were authored some 30 years after the Day of Pentecost, where the Synoptic Gospels, (Matthew, Mark and Luke), were authored primarily before the Holy Spirit was given to the Disciples in the Upper Room on the evening of Christ’s Resurrection. To better understand the differences, let us look at the following from biblia.com:

Each Gospel account has its own theme, and each account was written to a specific group as noted below:  

  • Matthew was written to the Jews, and it shows Jesus’ Messianic work as a king over His everlasting spiritual kingdom, which is His church.
  • Mark was written to the Romans, and it shows that Jesus is the one with power and strength through His miraculous works.
  • Luke was written mainly to the Greeks, and it shows the human side of Jesus and portrays Him as being a perfect man.
  • John was written to all Christians, and its primary focus is Jesus being Deity, and that He is the Son of God. (John 20:30-31) Consider the following chart: 

 

The Gospels Matthew Mark Luke John
Unique 42% 7% 59% 92%
In common 58% 93% 41% 8%

 http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Jn20.30-31

We see a contrast between the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6 and the personal prayer Jesus gave at the conclusion of his earthly ministry.

Though it is true that other passages of scripture record how Jesus taught believers how to pray, it is interesting that John 17 is that is the only passage in the gospels where we are privy to Jesus’ feelings with respect to His glorification by His sacrifice; the fate of His disciples after His ascension and for the unity of all believers.

The Prayer in John 17 can be broken into three distinct concerns voiced by our Lord:

The first concern is found in verses 1-6 of John 17 Jesus acknowledges his relationship with God, the Father, as well as the unity that we know as the Holy Trinity, which includes God – the Father, Jesus – the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each is part of the Trinity, being distinct from the other, though each is an expression of the same God, a subject that we studied in another sermon at BLCF.

John 17:1-6 (ESV) The High Priestly Prayer: Jesus Prays for Himself

17 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

The second concern is found in verses 6-19, where Jesus prays to God for his Disciples, whom he acknowledges will no longer have his earthly guardianship; also asking for His sanctification, His joy, His protection from Satan, (except Judas Iscariot, described as the son of destruction), and praying for unity among the Disciples not unlike the found between Jesus and God, while Christ was in the world.

John 17:6-19 (ESV) The High Priestly Prayer: Jesus Prays for His Disciples

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.[a] 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,[c] that they also may be sanctified[d] in truth.

Footnotes:  a, John 17:15 Or from evil b. John 17:17 Greek Set them apart (for holy service to God) c. John 17:19 Or I sanctify myself; or I set myself apart (for holy service to God) e.John 17:19 Greek may be set apart (for holy service to God)

And the third concern in his prayer, Jesus prays for all other believers, asking for the same unity with God and the Son, as the Lord asked for his disciples and for His Love, as well.

John 17:1-6 (ESV) The High Priestly Prayer: Jesus Prays For All Believers

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

And how wonderful must the love and unity with God must be, that on the eve of his death, that he gives a prayer for his disciples and the other believers, which includes you and me!

In this prayer, Jesus asks the Father for sanctification, which comes from the Word of God, which is the truth from God, John 17:17.

Sanctified by the Word of God

17 Sanctify them[a] in the truth; your word is truth.

Footnotes:a. John 17:17 Greek Set them apart (for holy service to God

And what precisely is the definition of sanctification?

Merriam-Webster further defines this process of sanctification as:

sanc·ti·fi·ca·tion  noun \ˌsaŋ(k)-tə-fə-ˈkā-shən\

1 :  an act of sanctifying

a :  the state of being sanctified

    b :  the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion

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

Sanctification is growing in grace after being baptised by the Spirit, following a Christian’s conversion. It is important to note that this sanctification or growth in grace, requires commitment on the part of the believer.

Kate Plourde, writing in the BLOG: “Maranatha! The Lord is Coming!” has the following take on sanctification:

I am totally convinced that the born again Christian who keeps claiming “grace” for his continued sin struggles with this verse. How can one who continues to act like the world say he is sanctified?  Is that Christian cleansed from corruption?  Is he purified from his sins?  Is he making himself holy by detaching himself from?  I’m not talking about Christ’s blood covering our sins and salvation.  I am talking about the on-going process of our spiritual walk after salvation.  God is the Potter, we are the clay.  He molds us into Christ’s image through sanctification – through our continued growing process as we read His Word.

Sanctification is a process. When we read God’s Word, the Holy Spirit wants to prick our hearts with conviction. When we respond to that conviction, we begin the process of sanctification.

It is no wonder that today’s “church” is struggling! They are no longer in the act of making their lives holy.  Instead, they are busy with distractions and not digging into God’s Word.  This produces a church that does not separate themselves from the world – they act like the world – they talk like the world – they dress like the world!  All because they look at God’s grace as though He looks the other way when they act like the unsaved!  Christ took His salvation to the people, yes.  He ate with them, He told them truth and He led them to truth.  He always had a purpose and that was to lead them to truth.  He didn’t compromise that truth by “acting” like them.  The world sees Christians like this and they do not desire what they have for there is no difference between the two in their eyes. The Christian’s salt has lost its flavor!

Sanctifying ourselves means that we must daily strive towards being more Christ like. Would Christ use the Lord’s name in vain? Would Christ have a cursing mouth? Would Christ gossip? Would Christ get drunk? Would Christ have a temper tantrum?  Would Christ steal?  Our lives as Christians should be an on-going process of spiritual growth.  Granted, we’re not going to be sinless – but we should sin less!!  The more we hang out with the world and act like them, our standards will lower.  How can one grow unless one sets himself apart from sin? How can one grow if one doesn’t make himself holy?  Just because we are saved does not grant us the privilege of sinning!  If this is what you are thinking, then something is not right with your spiritual walk.

Some Churches today are big on God’s “grace” but they miss out on the other half of it. These Christians want His understanding and forgiveness but they do not want to purify themselves and alienate themselves from sin and the world. Sin brings pleasure and they are not so willing to part with it.  This is the basis of our struggling church today. Man’s heart is desperately wicked and deceitful as we see in Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV):

The heart is deceitful above all things,    

 and desperately sick;     

who can understand it?

Why would we trust our own heart to make decisions when we are not sanctifying ourselves?

Wil Pounds, writing in Message Page makes the following comments on the importance of sanctification to Christians, as vessels of God’s Holy Spirit: 

How do you possess your vessel? Do you protect yourself from the temptations of this world? What are your weak areas? Do you have a pet weakness? Honor God with your actions. Honor God with your mouth. Honor God by sanctifying your life – set it apart from what the world does. Grace has nothing to do with us continuing to sin and act like the world. Grace has everything to do with salvation! Once we have received salvation, we must train ourselves to turn to God’s Word and allow the Holy Spirit to convict us and sanctify us! Wake up Church!

True daily sanctification in this life comes through the ministry of the Word of God. Jesus told His disciples, “Now are you clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3). God set us apart to Himself when He saved us. As we grow in Christ we experience more and more sanctification. We are progressively set apart to God as we grow in our faith, and love for God more than the desire of the world. This being set apart daily comes as the Holy Spirit applies God’s word to our everyday experiences. The Holy Spirit enables us to obey God’s Word. He is the author of the Word and He uses it to enlighten our minds, enable our will and encourage our hearts.

We were made clean through the Word at the new birth. As we obey the Word of God daily the defilement is washed out of our lives. When we sin we do not need to be saved all over again. We will never be regenerated a second or third time. After you bathe, you do not need to bathe again when you get your hands dirty. You wash them off and you are clean once more. God has given us a bar of soap. It is found in 1 John 1:9. Use it daily. Read 1 John 1:9 (ESV):

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

It is our responsibility to apply the word of God daily in the power of the Holy Spirit. It does not come automatically.  

http://www.abideinchrist.com/selah/feb3.html

Jesus’ Prayer in John 17 follows the example that Christ gave to his disciples. The prayer begins by Jesus acknowledging the sanctity and authority of the Heavenly Father on earth and heaven. Jesus prays that both his disciples and all believers continually (daily) receive Divine truth or bread and for the Father’s deliverance and guidance from evil and temptation.

It is interesting to note, that though Jesus was facing his own crucifixion and death on the cross for our sins, his prayer focuses upon the spiritual welfare of both his disciple and all believers, which is you and me. Jesus prayed for us. We should remember that all of the disciples, except John would suffer horrific deaths for their faith. John was exiled to the Island of Patmos, where he authored his Scriptures.

In conclusion, as believers at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, we are sanctified by our faith in the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ on our behalf. And as we have read in His prayer in John 17, that it is the desire of our Savior that we continue to maintain our walk as believers, Sanctified by God word and through the Holy Spirit which convicts us of the truth found in that word. We are expected to grow in the truth or understanding of the Word and be sanctified.  This is how we may best glorify our Lord for His gift by demonstrating a unity of purpose, a unity of faith, sanctified as a single body of believers in the precepts taught us by Jesus in His prayer in John 17.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #581: There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit  

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):                                                                              

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

Divine Joy: A Reward Seasoned by His Grace, Illuminated by the Word

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

‘Divine Joy: A Reward Seasoned by His Grace, Illuminated by the Word’

© March 5, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

Based on Message Shared at BLCF on August 23, 2015

BLCF Bulletin March 5, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                   

Opening Hymn #509: Is Your Life a Channel of Blessing?; Choruses               

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

Responsive Reading #617: The Beatitudes (Matthew 3 and 28; Acts 2; Romans 6) 

Message: ‘Divine Joy: A Reward Seasoned by His Grace, Illuminated by the Word’

Let us pray…

For our lesson today at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, I would like to examine Jesus’ Sermon, the longest recorded in the gospels, where our Lord gives his famous “Sermon on the Mount.” As the place where the Lord shared the message is called “The Mount of Olives,” the sermon is also known as the ‘Olivet Discourse’ has Jesus describing who his disciples are, rather than what his disciples do. We see that the beatitudes come from activities motivated from a heart of love, humility and compassion, rather that actions motivated by the expectation of rewards in this world. If the heart is right, then the believer will receive the blessings of a great reward in heaven.

But what do we mean by the term blessing? We can find several definitions from what I refer to as our Wikibits:

Definition (from Google): blessing [bles-ing] noun

  1. The act or words of a person who blesses.
  2. A special favor, mercy, or benefit: The blessings of liberty.
  3. A favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.
  4. The invoking of God’s favor upon a person: The son was denied his father’s blessing.
  5. Praise; devotion; worship, especially grace said before a meal: The children took turns reciting the blessing.
  6. Approval or good wishes: The proposed law had the blessing of the governor.

While we see in the above six definitions, some including examples, that are either secular or faith related. Our lesson today will focus upon the second and third definitions:

  1. A special favor, mercy, or benefit: The blessings of liberty.
  2. A favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.

When we combine these two definitions, we a special favor, mercy or benefit (through Jesus’ sacrifice), which gives the believer the God given gifts of liberty from sin and joy to the heart.

Matthew 5:1-16 (ESV) The Sermon on the Mount

5 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The Beatitudes

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Salt and Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:9 Greek huioi; see Preface b. Matthew 5:16 Or house. 16Let your light so shine before others that

Augustine of Hippo comments on the Beatitudes listed in the first of today’s Scripture verses that is Matthew 5:1-16, posted within an article by Steven Rummelsburg published online at crisismagazine.com.

Jesus give his ‘Sermon on the Mount’

St. Augustine’s Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount

Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg

The Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel are described as “perfect works emanating from virtues perfected by the gifts” of the Holy Spirit. St. Augustine orders and clarifies the relationships between the beatific precepts and their corresponding spiritual gifts:

  • Poverty of spirit corresponds with fear of the lord in which all wisdom begins.
  • Meekness corresponds with piety, honor for the sacred Scriptures and the restrained power to live them out.
  • Mourning corresponds with the gift of knowledge and facilitates the discernment of good from evil.
  • Hunger and thirst for justice corresponds with the gift of fortitude to be truly just.
  • Mercy coincides with the gift of counsel which exhorts us to forgive as we wish to be forgiven.
  • Purity of heart corresponds with the gift of understanding what the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard.
  • Peacemaking corresponds with the gift of wisdom.

St. Augustine explains that “for with peacemakers all things are in proper order, and no passion is in rebellion against reason, but everything is in submission to man’s spirit because that spirit is obedient to God.”

http://www.crisismagazine.com/2014/st-augustines-commentary-on-the-sermon-on-the-mount

The Beatitudes, as listed in Matthew 5, are expressions of the believer’s faith and heart that can be viewed as the seasoning or ‘salt’ that enhances our faith activities, helping to illuminate or shed ‘light’ on The Lord’s Gospel. The ultimate purpose of the salt and light is to glorify our Father in heaven.

The second of today’s Scripture verses, Luke 6:12-26, gives us a background to the events immediately prior to Christ’s Olivet Discourse where Jesus, following a prayer to God, called forth his disciples, selecting twelve Apostles or messengers of his Gospel:

Luke 6:12-26 (ESV) The Twelve Apostles

12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Jesus Ministers to a Great Multitude

17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.

The Beatitudes

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

In Luke 6:13-16, the Lord names the Twelve Disciples:

13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Before Jesus gives his Sermon on the Mount to the multitude, the Lord heals those afflicted with diseases, cure others troubled with unclean spirits, with others seeking to touch and be healed.

The Lord shares his message of the beatitudes, but tempers the expectation of blessings by his disciples, with caution of woe to those whose appearance lacks the salt and light expected from a true disciple of the Lord, Luke 6:24-26 (ESV):

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

These warnings of woe are clarified in Matthew 25:31-40 (ESV), where Jesus describes how we may truly understand how a believer would be separated and judged, based not upon actions, but upon the love, humility and compassion shown to others:

The Final Judgment

Sheep anf Goats

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.’

In order to receive God’s blessing and receive the favor of inheriting the kingdom of heaven, we need to first demonstrate our own favor towards the least of our brothers and sisters, as that is how we truly honor Christ..

Let us pray…

Communion: Responsive Reading #626 (Mark 14)

Closing Hymn #505: Out in the Highways and Byways of Life                                

Benediction – (Philippians 4:19):

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.