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.    

                     

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Easter Sunday – Walking with the Resurrected Christ

BLCF: Easter_Resurrection

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Easter Sunday:

‘Walking with the Resurrected Christ’

© April 5, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

 Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on September 1, 2013

BLCF Bulletin April 5, 2015

BLCF: christ_is_risen

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #623:’The Risen Lord’ (Matthew 28;John 20); Prayer                                                                         

Opening Hymn #163: Christ the Lord Is Risen Today; Choruses                                                      

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

Today’s Scriptures: Luke 24:13-49, John 14:15-26

BLCF: Augustine-Of-Hippo-faith-reward

Let us pray…

Good morning. I wonder how many of you have seen or heard of the reality TV program: “Undercover Boss”? For the uninitiated, “Undercover Boss” is a documentary style show where the head of a corporation, usually the owner or CEO, disguises him or herself and works alongside unknowing employees to understand any concerns with the boss, the organization and find out any needs of those under direction of the boss. Later, the boss removes the disguise and reveals the boss’ true identity.

BLCF: abiding in Christ

In this morning’s scripture lesson, Christ takes on a similar tact by not revealing himself to two of his disciples. The resurrected Christ approaches the two, Cleopas and a companion, to find out what they were discussing as they walked along. This encounter takes place on the third day after the crucifixion, now called Easter Day. Two disciples were going from Jerusalem to a village named Emmaus. Today, the location of Emmaus is not precisely clear. The name Emmaus may be derived from the Hebrew word hammat, “hot spring.” Luke places it about 60 stadia from Jerusalem. At about 607 English feet or 192 meters per stadion, this makes the distance about seven miles or eleven and quarter kilometers.

Jesus hears an accounting of his crucifixion, the empty tomb and rumours that Christ is alive! The account describes the two as being sad as they had hoped that Jesus was going to be the one to redeem Israel.  This demonstrated  a lack of understanding on the part of the two with the true prophesy of the scriptures, as well as a lack of faith in understanding how the redemption of Israel was to be accomplished. That Christ had to suffer on the cross to fulfill the prophecy of the scriptures.

Christ appears to be continuing on, when the two invite him to stay with them, as darkness is approaching. To which Christ agrees. It is not until Christ blessed and broke the bread at their supper, were the two disciples able to recognize the identity of their house guest. It was only then that the two understood   what Jesus was talking about as they were travelling along the Emmaus Road.

Shortly thereafter, Cleopas and his companion returned to Jerusalem, to share their experience with the 11 disciples. Their experience was validated by the fact that Simon Peter had also encountered the resurrected Christ. Their experience tells us about the importance of the Lord’s revelation to believers. I am not talking about the John’s prophetic epistle we call the Book of Revelation.Any book of the Scriptures is meaningless without the Holy Spirit’s presence to give understanding to those passages of the Bible.

BLCF: walking-to-emmaus

The Greek word for Comforter is “parakletos”. The most familiar translation of this Greek word is “Comforter,” another translation would be “Counselor” or “Advocate”.

Faith in Christ is not simply about our free will decision: it requires a revelation from God to understand the truth.  Please note the timeline of this encounter on the Road to Emmaus. Jesus had been crucified a few days previous. The Lord revealed himself soon after his resurrection from the tomb and prior to his ascension to heaven.  The day of Pentecost was still some 40 days in the future, so the Holy Spirit, as a spiritual guide and comforter was not gifted to believers. Prior to Pentecost Jesus was the comforter.  The Greek word for Comforter is “parakletos”. The most familiar translation of this Greek word is “Comforter,” another translation would be Counselor or Advocate, John 14:15-26 (ESV):

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[a] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[b] in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Footnotes: a. John 14:16 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also 14:26; 15:26; 16:7   b. John 14:17 Some manuscripts and is

Back to our Emmaus account, where we have two dejected, saddened disciples who are walking away from Jerusalem. After all, Christ who was expected to deliver the people of Israel from subjugation by Imperial Rome is now dead, as were their hopes of liberation. In that regard, the two had misunderstood Christ’s purpose and an inaccurate understanding of his teachings.  While Jesus corrects them by referring to the scriptures, it is only after he blesses and breaks the bread do they realize their companion’s true identity.

It is interesting that when we take the bread element of communion, we do it to remember Christ, as we read in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24:

 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

BLCF: Walking With The Lord

I believe that Christ having ascended to Heaven has sent us the Holy Spirit to accompany us on our Christian walk. And we need the Lord’s revelation, too. Whatever our human skills and talents, whatever decisions we are capable of making, the life of faith does not start with us. It begins with God revealing himself to us. For us, as Christ has ascended to the Father’s right hand, that conviction comes by way of God, the Holy Spirit.

What implications are there here for us? It reminds us that for anyone to find faith in Christ there must be a revelation from God. Christian witness cannot be reduced just to us saying the right words or doing the right things so that people will come to faith.  So in our witness we rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s presence and love to people.

This does not only apply to the call to conversion. It involves all aspects of the Christian life. We always need the revelation of God. However much we study a Bible passage, we need the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the truth of the scripture.

Just as Cleopas and his companion discovered the importance of a Christ-centered interpretation of Scripture, we too need to seek an understanding through the Spirit, to avoid misunderstanding what is read.

This brings us to the second part of this morning’s lesson, where Cleopas and a companion return to Jerusalem. Then, having heard of Simon’s encounter with the Risen Christ, the pair shares with the eleven disciples their Emmaus experience with Jesus.  Jesus, again, appears, this time to those gathered saying “Peace to you!”  And just like the two on the road to Emmaus, Jesus is aware that not only do the disciples have doubt in their hearts, they have fear thinking the Lord is a ghost or apparition.

You may recall that the disciples experienced a similar reaction as described by John’s account of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. And those in the boat who first saw Jesus thought the Lord to be a ghost or apparition.

And as in the Emmaus encounter, Jesus continued on his way past the group, until the disciples call out to Him. And like the Emmaus encounter, he chastises the disciples for their little faith. Jesus said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

Having offered to show his wounds as proof of identity, and just to reinforce the fact that he is not a ghost, he asks for food.  And as he had done to Cleopas and the companion, Jesus reminded the eleven of his teachings prior to his crucifixion:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

These two accounts of the Resurrected Christ, teach us a number of lessons:

The first lesson is that it is possible for the disciples to forget what they have witnessed heard and read.

The next lesson is that all of understanding of God’s purpose depends upon how willing we are to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us. It is encouraging, to see that when we do go down the wrong path in our understanding, that through the Spirit, the Lord will guides back on the righteous way.

And last, but not least of the lessons, is that through the Spirit, we “are clothed with power from on high.”

And whether we receive the power of the Spirit depends not only upon a declaration of faith, but the manner by which we seek guidance from the Spirit:

Deuteronomy 4:29 (ESV) But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

BLCF: Emmaus Road Gospel

Let us pray…

Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone

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

Benediction (1 Corinthians 15:20-22):

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

BLCF: He-is-Risen-Indeed