A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas

© November 25, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

 BLCF Bulletin November 25, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #263: Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door; Choruses                           

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

Responsive Reading #610: Christ in Prophecy (- from Isaiah 11 and 42, Jeremiah 23, and Malachi 4)                                                                                                  

Message by Steve Mickelson: A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service for the last Sunday in November, also the last Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent. So, it would not surprise you that today’s lesson is entitled: A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas.For the record, here is the definition of a preamble:

Preamble – pre·am·ble /ˈprēˌambəl/ noun

Definition: preliminary or preparatory statement; an introduction.

 E.g. “what she said was by way of a preamble”

Then you may ask about the Cicada. This is the little insect which lays dormant in the pupa stage for a period of thirteen or seventeen years, (depending on the variety), only to emerge as an adult which generates a loud buzzing noise (up to 106 dB)  as a mating call.

Amazing Cicada Life Cycle | Sir David Attenborough | BBC – Youtube

Both Christmas and Easter are holy days to Christians, preceded by Advent and Lent, respectively. And it seems during both Advent and lent, we see the emergence of bashers of the faith and of Christ Jesus, emerging out of dormancy like noisy Cicadas. Like the Cicada, the Christian bashers make a lot of noise, expending much effort, challenging our faith, often using arguments which make sense only to themselves and fellow Christian bashers. When Christmas and Easter have passed, the cacophony ends, as these bashers seem, like the Cicadas, go dormant. Sadly, unlike the Cicada, Christian bashers do not go dormant for 13-17 years, but only as long as the advent next Christian holy day. My apologies to the Cicadas as at least their irritating noise serves a purpose, as a mating call to other Cicadas.

So let us endeavor to ignore the Christian bashers and focus on dispelling some of the myths perpetuated by those who do not have faith in believing the Gospel of Christ, Jesus. Both the devil and these opponents to the Christian faith, work hard at trying to create doubt in both seekers and believers in Jesus.

This is not surprising, as you may recall from last week’s lesson, that Jesus’ disciples had doubts about the identity of who is their Lord. You may recall that after Jesus calmed the storm on the sea, the disciples had questioned who was this man who could command the stormy sea and winds to stop. It was only after witnessing Jesus walking on the water, leading Peter to do the same, and again commanding a second storm to calm, that the disciples recognized Jesus as the Son of God. Considering the initial doubts of his disciples regarding his identity, it is not surprising that the neighbours and relatives who had not witnessed the Lord’s miracles had expressed the same doubts with respect to the identity of Jesus, as we read in the gospel of Mark 6:1-6 (ESV):

 Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

 6 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.

Modern day Christian bashers try to cast doubt on the identity of Jesus, by claiming that the Genealogy of Jesus recorded in the gospel of Matthew 1:1-17 seem that recorded in the gospel of Luke 3:23-38. Rather than post the two genealogies of Jesus in today’s BLCF Bulletin, I have included a chart showing the same information (below):

Two Genealogies of Jesus: 

Matthew 1:1-17 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ (Joseph)                             Luke 3:23-38 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ (Mary)

 Luke 3:23-38 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,[a]the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 3:27 Greek Salathiel

Matthew 1:1-17 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,[a] and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon,and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,[b] and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah,and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,[c] and Amos the father of Josiah,11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,[d] and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:3 Greek Aram; also verse 4 b. Matthew 1:7 Asaph is probably an alternate spelling of Asa; some manuscripts Asa; also verse 8 c. Matthew 1:10 Amos is probably an alternate spelling of Amon; some manuscripts Amon; twice in this verse d. Matthew 1:12 Greek Salathiel; twice in this verse

In one of the genealogy trees, from Matthew’s gospel, indicates that Joseph as a descendant of David. The other genealogy, from Luke’s gospel, has been attributed by many scholars as showing the lineage of Mary, as being trace from David.

It should be noted that through her marriage to Joseph, Mary enters her husband’s family and therefore both she and her son Jesus legally become members of the House of David. You may recall that the skeptics of the identity of Jesus in Mark 6:1-6 were apparently unaware that while Jesus and his siblings shared Mary as their mother, the siblings father was Joseph, while Jesus’ was the Son of God, as we see in the gospel of Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV):

The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.                                                                     

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:18 Some manuscripts of the Christ b. Matthew 1:18 That is, legally pledged to be married

Our faith in Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and the Lord’s Gospel account of why he died, on the cross, his resurrection from the grave, his ascension to heaven, and his gifting of the Holy Spirit to those who believe appear as foolishness to those who are without the Spirit. Who knows why they seem so motivated to challenge the Christian faith by selectively choosing Scriptures used out of context, twisting the Bible to make an argument, not unlike the scribes and Pharisees in the time Jesus walked on the earth. These skeptics demonstrate their ignorance, by demanding that Christians put the Lord to the test. The birth of the Christ or Messiah has already been ordained by God’s miracle or sign described in Isaiah 7:10-14 (ESV):

 The Sign of Immanuel

The prophecy was written: Between 701-681 BC
The prophecy was fulfilled: About 5 BC – Jesus is born

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your[a] God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he[b] said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.[c] 

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 7:11 The Hebrew for you and your is singular in verses 11 b. Isaiah 7:13 That is, Isaiah c. Isaiah 7:14 Immanuel means God is with us

To close our lesson today, I would like to remind you that just as Mary and her son, Jesus became members of the House of David, through her marriage to Joseph, all who are baptized into Christ by faith become part of His Church by faith and are considered offspring of Abraham, entitled as God’s beloved children, as indicated in Galatians 3:27-29 (ESV), which happens to be our Benediction today:

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #208: There’s a Church within Us, O Lord                                                                                                              

Benediction – (Galatians 3:27-29 ): For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

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Mary: Mother of Jesus and Disciple of Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Mary: Mother of Jesus and Disciple of Christ’

© May 13, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 13, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on May 11, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin May 11, 2014 

Announcements and Call to Worship, Prayer

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

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

Responsive Reading #657 (Godly Womanhood – Proverbs 31)

 Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                    Mary: Mother of Jesus and Disciple of Christ’

Let us pray…

Good morning and God’s blessings to all, including all the mothers in the congregation, with our best wishes to you on this Mothers’ Day Sunday.

Today’s lesson entitled:Mary: Mother of Jesus and Disciple of Christ’, we will examine the influence of an extraordinary woman, who is well known as the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. However, sadly, scholars generally have not acknowledged Mary’s dedicated discipleship to Jesus, the Messiah.

I remember each time Sophie became pregnant with each of our four children, she would call me at work to share with me the happy news.

By contrast, Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph, the news of her first pregnancy would come in an unexpected way, with the potential of exposing the engaged couple to ridicule and criticism for a pre-marital pregnancy.  We read this account in Luke 1:26-35 (ESV):

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God.   

Footnotes: a. Luke 1:27 That is, legally pledged to be married b. Luke 1:28 Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women! c. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man d. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

We see in this account from Verses 28- 29 of the first Chapter of Luke’s gospel, Mary demonstrating her pragmatic side by her reaction to the angel Gabriel’s initial greeting, 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And when she was told that she was chosen to conceive a son, Jesus, the Son of the God, Verse 34 indicates more pragmatism, when she asks Gabriel, 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

Mary did not demonstrate an overt emotional reaction to the news that she was chosen to be the mother to the Christ, a Messiah that the Jews had waited for over eight hundred years since his birth was first prophesized.

Over the next few years, following the birth of Jesus, the family of Jesus would be visited by a host of angels, three Magi, and be forced to flee for their lives to Egypt.

But how does the responsibility of being a mother to a child destined to become God’s chosen king for her people forever affect Mary? We get a glimpse of how Mary and Joseph chose to treat the child, Jesus in what might be considered to be in a manner no different from any other 12-year-old son, as we see in Luke 2:41-51 (ESV):

The Boy Jesus in the Temple

BLCF: young Jesus in the Temple

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents[a] saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[b] 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:48 Greek they b. Luke 2:49 Or about my Father’s business

In this Scripture  Passage taken from Luke 2, we find an indication of the love and concern Mary had for her son. In an account that sounds a little like the film, Home Alone, Jesus is left behind in Jerusalem, or should I say he elected to remain in Jerusalem, following the annual Passover Feast. The young twelve-year-old Jesus is assumed by Mary and Joseph to be with others in a group of friends and family returning home to Nazareth. However, after a day’s journey, Mary and Joseph then realize that Jesus is missing from the group. Jesus’ parents return to Jerusalem to look for their son. Three days later, Jesus, now missing for several days, was found in the temple, talking to the elders. Those present, including Mary and Joseph, were amazed and astonished at young Jesus’ understanding of the Scriptures. This did not deter Mary, who was worried for her son’s safety, from chastising her son, verses 48 – 50, of Luke 2:

BLCF: Mary_Jesus_Temple

48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.

While not making excuses for Mary and Joseph for being separated from Jesus, as we shall see later in the lesson, it is recorded that Jesus was not their only child. The Scriptures indicate Jesus had at least six siblings, four brothers and at least two sisters, (Mark 6:1-6).

We also see that though the “Son of the Most High“ must be in his Father’s house, Jesus did not forget his place with respect to his parents, as we read in Luke 2, Verse 51 that:

51And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.

As she had done after her son’s birth, Mary treasured all these things in her heart. And though Jesus was raised to honour his parents, he obviously was instructed well with regard to the Scriptures, as he had demonstrated in the temple in Jerusalem.

It should be pointed out that in Luke 2, Verse 49, that Jesus indicated more than an academic knowledge of the Scriptures when he spoke to his parents, 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”, which reveals an awareness of the identity of his Father, as the temple where he was found is considered to be the house of God. Verse 50 of Luke 2 indicates an understanding of his Father’s identity that came from God, and not from Mary nor Joseph  as his parents initially understand the meaning of their son’s words, 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.

This passage in Acts is the last place in the Scriptures to mention Mary’s husband Joseph, who is absent from future gospel accounts of the disciples. I believe that Joseph had passed, as we will see later in our lesson, when Jesus spoke at Nazareth, some present recognized him as Jesus the carpenter and as the son of Mary. Joseph is not mentioned at all (Mark 6:1-6).

Our next Scripture passage, is taken from the second chapter of John’s gospel, has Mary telling Jesus that the wedding at Cana, where they were attending, with the disciples, has run out wine, expecting Jesus to remedy the situation,  John 2:1-11 (ESV):

The Wedding at Cana

BLCF: Miracle_Wedding_at_Cana

 2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters

We see that Mary was more than a mother traveling with her son, she was traveling with Jesus and his disciples, as a disciple of Christ. And isn’t it just like a mother to ask her son to help provide the host of the wedding with wine. You will note that though Jesus had begun his ministry, that at this time he and his disciples accompanied his mother to a wedding. This indicates the human side of Jesus, who on more than one occasion honored his mother, by referring to himself as the “son of man” rather than the “Son of God”. And not to disparage his Father, we see later that Christ honored his Godly side by chasing out the money changers from the temple, his Father’s house.

Our next verse, Mark 6:1-6, shows us that while Mary had to deal with her son, Jesus, who also happened to be the Son of God, she had at least six other children to be concerned with:

Mark 6:1-6 (ESV): Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.

Mary and Joseph, as well as the temple elders, were not the only people amazed by Jesus’ understanding of the Scriptures. We see a similar surprise to the Lord but a different reaction to Jesus’ knowledge of the Scriptures, by those who knew his family, in Mark 6, Verses 2-3:

And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?”

In addition to their astonishment to Jesus wisdom and to the miracles that the Lord had performed, the people identified Jesus as a carpenter, the son of Mary, having four brothers and at least two sisters. Since the sisters of Jesus are not named, we only know that there are at least two. And because the people make no mention of Joseph, we might infer that likely he has passed away.

Jesus, in turn, marveled that neighbors had questioned, with some even offended by Jesus’ wisdom and powers. The Lord indicated his disappointment, when he indicated how they had impugned his honour with their negative response, described in Verses 4-6 of Mark 6:

And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.

Just as Jesus had separated himself from his family while he had to be about his Father’s Business in the temple, the Lord had indicated who belonged to him as members of the Family of God, were related not by blood, but by faith and action in support to the will of their Father in heaven, Matthew 12:46-50 (ESV):

Jesus’ Mother, Brothers, and Sisters

Pharisees Jesus temple questioning Jesus

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers and sisters[a] stood outside, asking to speak to him.[b] 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers and sisters?”49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers and sisters! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 12:46 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 4849 b. Matthew 12:46 Some manuscripts insert verse 47: Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you”

You may ask does Matthew 12:46-50 indicate  a lack of devotion to their Father in heaven on the part of Mary and Jesus’ siblings? The good news answer is the Scripture Passage which describes both the Lord’s mother and his siblings  as being identified as part of the body of devout disciples, who obediently gathered in the Upper Room chamber to await the arrival of the Holy Spirit to the believers on the Day of Pentecost. While they waited in the upper room, they went about their Father’s business, as described in Acts 1:12-14 (ESV):

Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas

 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers and sisters.

From the accounts of Jesus’ birth and  of his visit as a child to the elders of the temple,  Mary sought to give Jesus all her the love and dedication a son could ever expect, while maintaining both the faith and devotion expected to be given to Jesus, the Christ, as a disciple of the Lord. Her example of faith was followed by all of her children who assembled  faithfully in the Upper Room, demonstrating how the faith of a mother can, by her example, teach an invaluable lesson of discipleship to her children.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #126: Amen, Amen!

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 1:30):

“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” Go in Peace! Amen

 

Trust and Faith in the Lord: Our Keys to Hope, Joy and Peace

BLCF: faith_in_God

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Trust and Faith in the Lord: Our Keys to Hope, Joy and Peace’

© May 17, 2015 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 17, 2015

BLCF: hope_joy_peace 

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #601(Faith and Confidence – Psalm 27); Prayer

Opening Hymn #235:  “What Must I Do?” Choruses

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

Today’s Scriptures: Psalm 91:1-6, Matthew 13:53-58, John 20:19-29

BLCF: i_believe

 

Let us pray…

For our lesson today May 17, 2015, with Pentecost Sunday just one week away, I would like to discuss the disciple of Jesus who, thanks to a short passage of the Scriptures, been tagged with the unfortunate moniker of a doubter or skeptic. As you have likely guessed, I am talking about Thomas or Didymus, which means “the twin”, who we more commonly refer to as: “Doubting Thomas.” Thomas comes from the Hebrew or Aramaic root which means “the twin.” Didymus is from the Greek and also means “the twin.” It is likely that Thomas was born as a twin hence the unusual nickname.

But the skeptical response by Thomas to the his fellow disciples, as described in the following Scripture in John 20, verses 19-29, helped to earn him the unfortunate title as doubter:

John 20:19-29 (ESV) Jesus Appears to the Disciples

 BLCF: resurrected

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,[a] 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

BLCF: Incredulity of St Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin,[b] 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 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time b. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

To be clear our terminology, I will refer to what I commonly “Wikibits.” So what is meant by the term “skeptic,” often applied to Thomas?

Dictionary.com: skeptic – noun

  1. A person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.
  2. A person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.
  3. A person who doubts the truth of a religion, especially Christianity, or of important elements of it.

 

Both the secular and Christian community, make frequent use of the term “Doubting Thomas,” in reference to Jesus’ disciple. Another idiom associated with Thomas, is “Seeing is believing.”

 

Wikibits: Seeing is Believing

BLCF: Augustine-Of-Hippo-faith-reward

Seeing is believing is an idiom first recorded in this form in 1639 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.

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

The Scripture Verses, featured in today’s lesson and printed in this morning’s bulletin, talk about how important belief, trust and faith are, in our faith walk, as believers in the Resurrected Christ.

The first Scripture, taken from Psalm 91, verses 1-6, we see that trust and faithfulness used interchangeably, describing a mutual regard between a believer and God. Just as we are faithful to God, He is faithful to us:

Psalm 91:1-6 (ESV) My Refuge and My Fortress

BLCF: Psalm_91_1-6

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High     

will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,     

my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler     

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his pinions,     

and under his wings you will find refuge;     

his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

You will not fear the terror of the night,     

nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,     

nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Footnotes: a. Psalm 91:2 Septuagint He will say

The next Scripture passage in the bulletin is Matthew 13, verses 53-58, describes how our Lord was rejected, in spite of his wisdom and miracles, because of the “unbelief” among many of the people in his hometown of Nazareth:

Matthew 13:53-58 (ESV) Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

BLCF: Jesus-preaching-at-synagogue-at-nazareth

53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

While John 20:19-29 does describe the doubts of Thomas, who was absent when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples in the Upper room on the day of his resurrection, the Lord did show the disciples the very same wounds that Thomas asked to see, as well as breathing the Spirit into the disciples, to help them understand the significance of what they were witnessing.

While Thomas was skeptical of the Lord, when he first encountered Jesus, he was by no means the only disciple to have doubts on that day. Let us look at a passage of Scripture, not found in some of the earlier manuscript’s:

Mark 16:9-20 (ESV) Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

[Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20.][a]

BLCF: Jesus_appears_to_Mary_Magdalene

[[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

Jesus Appears to Two Disciples

BLCF: road_to_Emmaus

12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

The Great Commission

The Great Commission Matthew 28:16-20

14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]]

Footnotes: a. Mark 16:9 Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9–20 immediately after verse 8. At least one manuscript inserts additional material after verse 14; some manuscripts include after verse 8 the following: But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. These manuscripts then continue with verses 9–20

In Mark 16, verses 9-20, the remaining eleven disciples demonstrated the same level of doubt and skepticism towards Mary and the two disciples on the Emmaus Road, when they had reported seeing Jesus on the day of his resurrection. And like, Thomas, the eleven were rebuked for their unbelief.

Our previous Upper Room account of the Resurrected Jesus appearing before the Eleven Disciples in John 20:19-29 does not give a reason why Thomas was absent. The diciples had cloistered themselves in the Upper Room because they feared that the angry mob would crucify them as they had the Lord. Whatever the reason for Thomas’ absence, whether it was to get food for the disciples or to attend to the needs of others, it was important enough for him to risk his own personal safety while the other disciples chose to stay behind a bolted door. We do know that the reason Thomas left the the safety of the Upper Room, it was not for doing something nefarious, as was the case of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The Mark 16 account has the Lord returning specifically for the assurance of Thomas, so that the disciple would believe. In the John 20 account Jesus gave a mini-Pentecost, breathing upon the eleven the Holy Spirit which gave them the power of the Spirit and to understand the Lord’s purpose.Thomas being absent did not receive the Spirit at that time. The Lord’s prerequisite to receive the Holy Spirit is that a convert demonstrates faith in the Jesus, which Christ ensured by his returning to the Upper room to reveal himself to Thomas. This was an act of both compassion and faith by the Lord, and shows us that he would not leave any of his sheep behind.

Unfortunately, Thomas bears the brunt of the blame for his skepticism towards the others’ news of the Lord’s resurrection, which overshadows the ministry that Thomas performed in spreading the Gospel of Christ, which is the “The Great Commission” given by Jesus to all the disciples. In the sharing of the Gospel, the disciples became apostles or messengers of Christ. Here is a brief summary of work of the Apostle Thomas, which is really germane to his work:

BLCF: St_Thomas_Apostle

Thomas the Apostle (called Didymus which means “the twin”) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament. He is informally called doubting Thomas because he doubted Jesus’ resurrection when first told, (in the Gospel of John), followed later by his confession of faith, “My Lord and my God”, on seeing Jesus’ wounded body.

Traditionally, he is said to have travelled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, travelling as far as India.[2][5][6][7] According to tradition, the Apostle reached Muziris, India in AD 52 and baptized several people, founding what today are known as Saint Thomas Christians or Nasranis. After his death, the reputed relics of Saint Thomas the Apostle were enshrined as far as Mesopotamia in the 3rd century, and later moved to various places.[citation needed] In 1258, some of the relics were brought to Abruzzo in Ortona, Italy, where they have been held in the Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle.[8] He is often regarded as the Patron Saint of India,[9][10] and the name Thoma remains quite popular among Saint Thomas Christians of India.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_the_Apostle

I feel that by focusing on an account which describes Thomas as having some doubts, which were no more severe than that exhibited by the other disciples, instead of his service in spreading the Gospel as far east as India, we do the apostle a disservice.

The New Testament is full of accounts describing the disciples as having doubts or lapses of faith, particularly before receiving the Holy Spirit. But the work that the disciples, now as apostles or messengers of the Gospel, was accomplished by them, even to the point of their own deaths, is far more significant to the Christian Church of believers, The Apostle Thomas is included as an important contributor to the Great Commission  given to all believers in Jesus, as Lord and Savior.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine

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.

BLCF: believe-without-seeing